hate, part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about the theme of hate in the Republican party and how it somehow became the platform of the party in this past election.

I was waiting for the response that this is not indicative of the feelings of the individual voters. And while that argument did not come, I still feel the need to say that voting for someone who expresses beliefs is a vote for said beliefs.

Even still, I could anticipate the argument that I am reaching. And all would be well, except for the fact that the outward expression of hatred and racism after the reelection of President Obama was delivered to my news stream this morning.

First, there is a lovely map of the racist tweets immediately after the election. I’m linking the map rather than the tweets, but you can find those quite easily in this ZDNet article.

My point yesterday, and I’ll reiterate it here, is that it is perfectly acceptable to argue policy. It is perfectly acceptable to have differing views on the economy, on our military presence around the world, on our educational policies. It is even perfectly acceptable to have greed drive those policies. At this point, greed would be a welcome offense.

For a party that professes moral outrage every other day, it would be a great time to hear some outrage.

Then, there is the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). At the point that college students, our young people, are still buying into racist beliefs of the pre-Civil Rights Movement, we know we have a problem. A huge problem.

This is not just an issue of an older block of white voters — or white Southerners — who are still holding onto antiquated racists beliefs.

Our young people are infected. Infected with a bitter hatred that we should be well past.

During an eight-year presidency, I don’t recall GW Bush hung in effigy. I don’t recall racial slurs being hurled against him. And we’re talking about a man who voluntarily sent thousands upon thousands of our young people to their death in wars he fabricated.

So, I don’t think I’m being unfair. Politics is ugly. It is. But in some ways it’s uglier on one side than it is on the other.

And I bet. I bet that Bush never had to explain to his daughters over dinner why people would call their father a n—– or why they would violently protest against him.

Politics is one thing. Policy is one thing. Protests are one thing.

But hate.

Hate should be unacceptable.

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assignments & things

I assigned my students a poem to read for homework. I didn’t choose the poem directly–I’m a substitute right now. It was one of the poems left by the teacher.

Adrian Mitchell’s “Norman Morrison.”

The suggestion was to teach it as a reason people write poems about true events, which I fully intended to do. But, then I got in my own way.

Before I tell the story of what happened, I have to put a disclaimer on this. I’m politically a liberal. But not the kind of common liberal that you find everywhere–you know the one that believes in gay marriage, is against the death penalty, and overall just thinks things should be “fair.” Socially liberal. All of which I am. The bigger problem is that I am economically liberal as well–which almost every liberal I know is not. I DO think I should pay for other people’s health care. I DO think I should pay for other people’s social security. Whatever the reason you can’t do this for yourself is not my place to judge, and I think we’re supposed to share.

So a couple of weeks I was talking with a friend and the first thing he said about my subbing job was “just another place for you to spread your socialism.” And, I laughed, but it’s so very true.

When I taught math, I taught about health care. We analyzed budgets and figured out how it would be possible to keep public hospitals open, insure more people, and provide preventative care.

When I taught American Literature, oh my goodness. It was a free for all.

Social Justice? Why would you even give me that class?

But for some reason, I thought I could keep it out of a class if it was not my intention to do it.

Which brings me back to the story about Norman Morrison. After my students read the poem, I asked them three questions:

  1. What did Morrison do?
  2. Why did he do it?
  3. Hero or Fool?

We had a pretty engaging discussion until it turned to why not choose a different form of protest (which is really insight about the next generation for another time). So, I said, well, why would lighting one’s self on fire be the perfect protest for this particular war.

Blank stares.

Does anyone know what napalm is?

Blank stares.

So they had an assignment tonight. One was to look up napalm. The second was to look up Robert McNamara.

And presto! Without even thinking about it—lesson plan gone. And political feelings right back into the forefront.

I think I’m kinda hopeless.

On Identity & The Public Option

The problem is not those who think that health care is a privilege. No, they are so far out of my realm of comprehension that I wouldn’t even know what to say to someone who genuinely believed that to be true.

No, the problem lies with people who think health care is a responsibility.

It’s not.

It’s a right.

It is such a basic human right that I sit here cursing with every other word out of the sheer anger that we, as a nation, are so unbelievably selfish that we cannot see that it is not any one of our responsibilities to decide who should receive health care and who should not.

I have made no secret that I was not in favor of the public option. I’m not. I think it was a concession to begin with. However, it should have served as a good first step to a universal system.

Yet again, Democrats in Senate are so unbelievably spineless that they are unable to present to our President a bill that would increase the number of people covered by health care in our world.

I was deeply bothered on Sunday by a line from a play I saw: Can an entire nation lose its identity? It was a heartfelt moment in Palestine, New Mexico, at the culmination of a discourse on the muddling of identity.

We are so twisted in our views of who we are and what we do that we cannot even act for the common good of our own people.

And as I was driving home yesterday, I thought silently that I needed some sort of breakthrough. My frustration with my work is boiling over. The idea that I have 11th grade students who read and write five and six years below their grade level is taking its toll on me. Not because it’s difficult to correct, but because somewhere there has been such profound failure in our values that we leave so many people out in the cold.

We purposefully, literally leave people behind. We leave them to fail. We leave them to die. Without so much as a second glance.

Our identity is so deeply distorted in the cruelty to which we subject our neighbors. And so easily. With a stroke of a pen. With a deferment of funds. We make judgments. And we make condemnations.

A nation that was so filled with hope a year ago at this time seems to me  so badly off course.

And I came home yesterday afternoon and read a story in the Los Angeles Times. As always, it was simply what I needed to hear.

The words came from a man I used to work with: “It’s all about staying committed to the truth that we belong to each other.” It brought to mind the words I hold as a mantra. The words of Bobby Kennedy: “But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”

It’s the simplest thought of all. And yet so very hard to live up to.

We seem to forget, again and again, that we are each other. We are the ones who are called to be the “better” for our neighbors.

So, yes, an entire nation can forget it’s identity. It can forget its simple foundation. A banding together by some rebel spirits against an oppressive government that was denying freedoms and stripping rights.

And we sit again. At another point in our history where our government is again denying basic rights. We need an answer. An identity. A commonality.

And a simple belief that we are one.

The Little One

I received a text message today from my young brother who is a senior in high school. He was preparing for a debate in his U.S. Government class tomorrow.

“I told [my teacher] that if I had to be a Republican, I would just mock myself.”

I couldn’t help but laugh because sometimes when I talk to him, I want to apologize to my parents. Not for him, but for me. And I would except for the fact that I’m sure they were as tickled by my opinions as I am in my brother’s.

He went on to describe the entire project. They were supposed to write bills that they would present to Congress. He described his classmates’ bills: vegetarianism for all, handguns for all, and other similar mandates. I had to nod because he is in the same grade as my students, and I’m sure the bills would be similar if I gave the assignment.

My brother?

A tiered tax plan that would, in essence, raise taxes for the richest Americans. He had an added provision that the added tax revenue could not be used for the military. His argument? A historical look at taxes starting with Reagan. In his words: “I’m just going to talk about how Reagan ruined everything.”

It made me think of a conversation we had in the car about a month ago. “Don’t tell, but I think our parents made me a hippie.”

“Umm,” I replied. “I think they know, and I think that’s what they were trying to do.”

“Oh, and I think they were trying to make you a Socialist.”

Joy.

Senate Finance Committee

This is not about my personal beliefs on “death panels.” This is about the fact that the Senate Finance Committee has yielded to lies spread by Sarah Palin. We cannot even begin to have a true discussion about health care until every issue is out on the table. When President Obama was elected to office, it signified a change in American politics. A change that showed that for once people were reading about the issues. They were understanding. They were engaging in lively debate based on fact.

Now, we’ve reverted to scare tactics and lies. And the worst part of all is that the lies are coming from someone who doesn’t even hold political office. The Senate Finance Committee made a major mistake. Not because they decided to remove end-of-life counseling from the national discussion.

No. They made a huge mistake because, yet again, they have succumbed to dirty politics, lies, and have shut down healthy debate in the name of unhealthy compromise. If, at the end of the day, end-of-life counseling was not covered under the public option, that would be fine. But to remove it simply because someone started screaming about Nazi Germany and death squads is a disgrace to the political process. If you say the American people don’t understand, then educate them. And re-educate them. And tell them again. Then, and only then, should any element of this debate be removed.

So, here are the members of the Senate Finance Committee. Contact them. Tell them what you support and don’t support. But most of all, tell them that democracy thrives on debate, not fear, and their actions were cowardly and grossly disappointing.

Matt Baucus, D-MT
511 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-2651(Office)
(202) 224-9412 (Fax)
http://baucus.senate.gov/

Jay Rockefeller, D-WV
531 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510
(202) 224-6472
(202) 224-7665 Main Fax
http://rockefeller.senate.gov

Kent Conrad, D-ND
530 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-3403
Phone: (202) 224-2043
Fax: (202) 224-7776
Online: http://conrad.senate.gov/contact
E-mail: https://conrad.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

Jeff Bingaman, D-NM
703 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-5521
http://bingaman.senate.gov

John F. Kerry, D-MA
218 Russell Bldg.
Second Floor
Washington D.C. 20510
(202) 224-2742 – Phone
(202) 224-8525 – Fax
http://kerry.senate.gov

Blanche Lincoln, D-AK
355 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510-0404
Phone: (202)224-4843
Fax: (202)228-1371

http://lincoln.senate.gov

Ron Wyden, D-OR
223 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3703
Phone: (202) 224-5244
Fax: (202) 228-2717
http://wyden.senate.gov

Charles Schumer, D-NY
313 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-6542
Fax: (202) 228-3027
http://schumer.senate.gov

Debbie Stabenow, D-MI
133 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4822
e-mail: senator@stabenow.senate.gov

Maria Cantwell, D-WA
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
202-224-3441
202-228-0514 – FAX
http://cantwell.senate.gov

Bill Nelson, D-FL
United States Senate
716 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-5274
Fax: 202-228-2183
http://billnelson.senate.gov

Robert Menendez, D-NJ
528 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
202.224.4744
202.228.2197 fax
http://menendez.senate.gov/

Thomas Carper, D-DE
United States Senate
513 Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2441
Fax: (202) 228-2190
http://carper.senate.gov/

Chuck Grassley, R-IA
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-1501
(202) 224-3744 (O)
(202) 224-6020 (F)
http://grassley.senate.gov

Orrin Hatch, R-UT
104 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-5251
Fax: (202) 224-6331
http://hatch.senate.gov

Olympia Snowe, R-ME
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5344
Toll Free: (800) 432-1599
Fax: (202) 224-1946
http://snowe.senate.gov

John Kyl, R-AZ
730 Hart Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4521
Fax: (202) 224-2207

http://kyl.senate.gov/

Jim Bunning, R-KY
316 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202.224.4343
Fax: 202.228.1373
http://bunning.senate.gov

Mike Crapo, R-ID
239 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
http://crapo.senate.gov/

Pat Roberts, R-KS
109 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-1605
Phone: (202) 224-4774
Fax: (202) 224-3514
http://roberts.senate.gov

John Ensign, R-NV
119 Russell Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-6244
Fax: (202) 228-2193
TTY: (202) 228-3364

http://ensign.senate.gov

Mike Enzi, R-WY
379A Senate Russell Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main: (202) 224-3424
Fax: (202) 228-0359
Toll free: (888) 250-1879
http://enzi.senate.gov

John Cornyn, R-TX
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2934
Fax: 202-228-2856
http://cornyn.senate.gov

Why I'm Not Impressed with the Seniors' Drug Agreement

So as part of the health care reform I expect Congress to enact this year, Medicare beneficiaries whose spending falls within this gap will now receive a discount on prescription drugs of at least 50 percent from the negotiated price their plan pays.  It’s a reform that will make prescription drugs more affordable for millions of seniors, and restore a measure of fairness to Medicare Part D.    It’s a reflection of the importance of this single step for America’s seniors that it has earned the support of AARP, which has been fighting for years to address this anomaly in the system on behalf of older Americans.  AARP is committed, as I am, to achieving health care reform by the end of this year.  And I’m committed to continuing to work with AARP to ensure that any reforms we pursue are carried out in a way that protects America’s seniors, who know as well as anyone what’s wrong with our health care system and why it’s badly in need of reform.
Our goal — our imperative — is to reduce the punishing inflation in health care costs while improving patient care.  And to do that we’re going to have to work together to root out waste and inefficiencies that may pad the bottom line of the insurance industry, but add nothing to the health of our nation.   To that end, the pharmaceutical industry has committed to reduce its draw on the health care system by $80 billion over the next 10 years as part of overall health care reform.

The White House – Blog Post – A Significant Breakthrough to Assist Our Seniors.

I am highly disappointed to read the provisions of this portion of the health care “reform” that was announced today.

What President Obama understands as outlined in several things he’s written, most notably “The Audacity of Hope”, is that true drug reform in this country is only going to come through stringent regulations placed on the pharmaceutical companies. While I understand that these companies have a wealth of power because they have a wealth of income, it’s really time to take a stand. It’s time for a politician to stand up against Pfizer, Bristol Myers, Procter & Gamble, Amgen and all of their counterparts. It’s time for someone to have the courage to say that these band-aid fixes simply aren’t enough.

The drug companies get off so easy with this agreement they have made.

First, a majority of seniors don’t even use Medicare D. For a variety of reasons, Medicare D has just not caught on. They either don’t understand it, have alternate coverage or can’t afford it. So, the total percentage of the American population who are benefiting from this agreement is probably minuscule.

Second, drugs that are most popular with seniors are also popular with other age groups. So, the chances are that these pharmaceutical companies are going to make plenty of money off the same drugs without even considering those prescriptions filled by seniors. Meanwhile, they get to look like the good guys while shipping off these 50% checks to Medicare. So, now they have a few good years where they get to say “remember when we gave you 50%??” Heck, it might last for the whole Obama administration. Bad, bad move, Mr. President.

Third, as a person who lived with an elderly uncle, delivered prescriptions to my great-grandmother, and has grandparents who all had various prescriptions to fill, I can tell you for certain that a half price discount is not nearly enough to make the extremely over-inflated drugs affordable. In the case of my grandparents, you can’t tell me that reducing their monthly prescription needs from $900 to $450 is going to help. Guess what? They don’t have the $450 either.

We are again at the root of many of the major problems in this country: corporate greed.

Health care and medicine are not the places to make a profit. Not at the cost of someone’s life. Next time you pick up a prescription, note the full price. The last prescription, I picked up for myself had a sticker price of $472. I paid $32, but I will tell you without a shadow of a doubt that even working full time, there’s no way I would have been able to pay half price for those antibiotics.

The true, true reform is going to lie in standing up to these pharmaceutical companies, providing public financing and requiring them to sell drugs AT-COST to the American people. So all people, not just seniors, can benefit from a true reform agreement that does not penalize people for illness, genetic defects, terminal illness, or accidents.

Until that moment, I will not be impressed. I will not rally behind this “reform.” And, I will not say this is progress.

Filter-Free News

Politico featured a great story about how President Obama is “seek[ing] filter free news.” The idea behind it is that some people aren’t news junkies (they aren’t?!?) and could potentially miss out on news that is important to our politics and our society.

The concept behind it is an interesting one to me. It seems that the idea is to communicate constantly to an array of people in an array of mediums. This includes tv, radio, internet, print, traditional, nontraditional, bloggers, twitter-ers. You name it, and I’m sure it’s covered in one way or another.

Even with all of this and my relative faith in Obama, I still have to wonder what is exactly that we don’t know. I mean we are working on a backwards trajectory in some cases. A lot of what Obama has to talk about regarding wars and economics is rooted deeply in an administration that is not his and did not value the constant stream of communication with the general public.

I’d like to say that President Bush spoke just as much as President Obama does and that I just wasn’t paying attention, but the more I think about it, the more I’m sure that it genuinely is not true. I know for sure that it didn’t filter into any of my liberal news sources. You would think, at the very least, I would have read and heard a wealth of criticism.

When I began studying journalism 9 years ago, the internet was a relatively new phenomenon in the journalism world. It was new, and it was mostly untrusted by the veteran reporters I was privileged to call professors. At the time, I could completely understand why an “online journalism” emphasis was not given much credence by these writers who could count the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times amongst their employers. The internet, to them, was diluted. It was something that “anyone could do.”

And it is. It’s something that anyone can do. Anyone can sign up for a blog just like this one and write. Anyone could start up an online magazine, newspaper or (heaven forbid!) a blog.

I can see the positives and negatives. The biggest negative for me is that there is no editor for an online blog such as mine. Presumably, I could make up just about anything and publish it. I wouldn’t do that, of course, but who’s to say it doesn’t happen? The positives though? There are many from my vantage point. Online writing gives someone like me a medium to express myself. It provides yet another layer of that “watchdog” quality that journalism is known for. All of these bloggers and online reporters can instantly post their work and disseminate information much faster than any print newspaper could. I think that’s pretty cool. I think it also gives people (i.e. elected officials) less leeway to lie. Tell a lie? It’s all over the internet pretty much instantly. I think people my age and younger pick up on these things within seconds, and seconds later you have a viral situation going on where millions of people not only know what President Obama said in his news conference this evening, but millions of opinions have already been posted.

For me, that’s the best part of all. One of the lessons that I have carried with me from my journalism education was one taught by a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist of the New York Times. He covered the Vietnam war in Vietnam for several years. When he left for Vietnam, he asked his significant other to collect copies of the Times with his articles in them so he could have an archive of his work upon his return to the U.S.

In class, he described to us some of the most horrific firsthand descriptions of war that I have ever heard. Strangely, the most disturbing part of his story was that upon his return he read each and every article printed in the Times with his byline only to find that they had been edited, altered, “cleaned” up, sanitized and otherwise violated.

“I didn’t write for 12 years after that,” he told us. Thinking about it right now, I still want to cry. I bought his book on Vietnam when I was a junior in college. He signed it for me, and I still have it on my bookshelf. It took him 30 years to be able to write that book, and it is a very moving and very true tale of what it was like to be a reporter during one of the darkest periods of our recent history.

When I think about that story, I always think about Iraq and how little we really know. What makes me even sadder is that the little we know is probably much more than people knew in the 60’s. Even with the advent of the instant “news” online, I think in some ways we’re still pretty censored, even if it is self-censoring.

It just gives me a little comfort to know that we are making strides. The more often that news is disseminated to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible, we are finally making headway on a problem that genuinely plagues this country.