Saturday, April 30, 2016

Caring about The Wrong Things

In the midst of election madness, politics can bring out the ugly in people, even turning friends and family members against each other.  I experienced this in a rather peculiar manner recently when I posted a positive comment on my friend's Facebook wall about his beloved candidate, Mr. Trump.  I have never been a big fan of Mr. Trump, although I tried in the beginning of his candidacy.  I wanted to like him because he was a t.v. personality and a businessman, and therefore hopefully "different" from the typical politicians, but the more he opened his mouth, the less I liked him.  I found that I disagreed with him on most issues, and have criticized him for some of those things in the past.  But, the other day I was very pleasantly surprised at his bold (for a Republican) stance on the LGBT discrimination in North Carolina, which he harshly denounced as unnecessary, discriminatory and economically unwise!

Since I generally try to see the positive in people as much as possible, to find common ground, and to give credit where credit is due, I posted on my friend's wall, "Kudos to your candidate for his bold stance on the nonsense in North Carolina!  It is so refreshing to hear a GOP politician standing up for LGBT people in any context."  My post was promptly deleted, followed by a quite rude post by my usually very nice friend that appeared to be aimed at me, although not by name, saying essentially, "People are stupid for supporting candidates for all the wrong reasons!  We shouldn't care about trivial issues affecting different groups, but the safety and prosperity of our country as a whole," or something to that effect.  My friend deleted his own post shortly thereafter so I don't have access to the original wording, but the bottom line was, even though I'd made a favorable comment about his candidate, I was stupid for "caring about the wrong things."

Wow.  Well, you may care about whatever issues you think are important, and please allow me to do the same.  Yes, I do care about civil rights and liberty for individuals, minority groups and for the well-being of our country as a whole!  In my opinion the preservation of civil liberties, far from being a trivial concern, is in fact crucial, and I will explain why.

I have always believed in the fundamental value of personal freedom and civil rights.  As a teenager I became involved with the Libertarian Party even before I was old enough to vote, back before libertarianism was hijacked by the GOP, as I have described elsewhere.  I vividly recall one of my first public speaking engagements where, to the horror of my family, I gave a televised speech in Honolulu at a rally opposing the reinstatement of the draft, in which I argued that a volunteer army is more professional, dedicated and effective than drafted soldiers (a concept with which my military father grudgingly agreed).  More importantly, though, I emphasized that conscription violates the spirit of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits the use of a person's body or labor against their will.  I said:  "While our nation must stay strong in the face of potential threat from evil empires and dictators overseas, at the same time we ought to remain vigilant against the imposition of tyranny within our borders."

Thanks to my subsequent post-graduate attendance at the School of Hard Knocks over the years, I eventually outgrew the so-called "free market" economic philosophy with which I'd been indoctrinated during the very enjoyable summer camps kindly funded by the Koch brothers in my youth.  However, I have remained firmly committed to the value of liberty and civil rights because, as I said on t.v., if we give that up, how are we better than our dictatorial enemies?

What if we manage to destroy ISIS, only to institute Rafael "Ted" Cruz's theonomy, a sort of "Christian Sharia," which would impose religion as the law of the land here in the U.S.?  Like recent legislation in North Carolina, theonomy would allow discrimination against LGBT persons in the name of what Cruz calls, "Religious Liberty," an Orwellian twist on those words.  No, I am sorry Rafael, but "religious liberty" does not give you the right to oppress other people and/or take away their liberties.  One of the few things I like about Mr. Trump is that, unlike Mr. Cruz, he is not very religious, as evidenced by the fact that when asked about his favorite Bible verse, he stammered and had difficulty thinking of one, finally quoting the Old Testament verse "an eye for an eye" which, humorously, Jesus rejected.  I am happy about this because, as an Episcopalian, I do not want a religious wingnut in the White House.

Again, I applaud Trump for denouncing discrimination against the LGBT community - and not because I am bi, the "B" in the LGBT.  For most of my life, I didn't even realize "bi" was a thing; I thought my personal indifference as to gender in romance was just part of my own peculiar (or you could say, "queer") personality.  Being female I can't remember ever being oppressed on this basis, probably in part due to the fact that I ended up marrying a man.  Had I chosen a female partner, perhaps society would have treated me less kindly.  At any rate, my support of LGBT rights is not on account of my own membership in that minority.  Rather, I do not want to live in a society which permits the oppression or marginalization of any individuals or minority groups!

As Niemoller said, "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist..." although I kind of am.  I support libertarian socialism in the specific sense of what Richard Wolff calls, "democracy in the workplace" where the employees (not the State!) are owners and board members of the company where they work.  I take this position because liberty in the broad sense also requires freedom from economic coercion, including what Chomsky refers to as, "wage slavery."  Yes, I care about  income inequality.  Over the last 35 years in America the wealth has "trickled up" into the hands of the 1% and CEOs now make 300 times more than median-level employees.  While corporate profits and worker productivity are higher than ever, wages for most employees have remained stagnant or decreased, so the rich have gotten richer, the poor remain poor, and the middle class is increasingly sliding into poverty.  I am also concerned about the disproportionate tax burden on the working poor and middle class, especially small business owners and independent contractors, who must pay additional Self-Employment Tax.

Republicans usually say that the above economic situation is not a problem; it's just "The Market" appropriately determining what our labor is worth, and we must never question the wisdom of The Market.  I do question The Market and feel strongly that it is a problem when people working full-time cannot afford to pay their bills including housing, food, and "Affordable Health Care," never mind send their kids to college, without falling deeper into debt, and young people graduating from college even with advanced degrees cannot find decent jobs to pay back their enormous student loans.  Other Republicans admit the situation is less than ideal, but blame it on President Obama, choosing to ignore the history of how we got here and the fact that the economy crashed before he took office.

Mr. Trump claims that if elected, he will fix the economy, in part by erecting a wall along the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants from getting in, although it's not clear how much this will help as long as we continue to permit vulture capitalists to devour our domestic companies and send our jobs offshore to exploit cheaper labor elsewhere.  If he were to actually succeed in creating jobs and boosting the economy, this would be an extraordinary accomplishment on the part of the GOP.  Aside from their all-important goal of opposing the President, the focus of the Republican agenda for the past 7 years has been the creation not of jobs, but of low-wage workers and soldiers via the regulation of wombs, the allegedly nonexistent "War on Women."  A female Republican friend commented, "The real War on Women is the war against our wallets!"  I agree that our finances are under attack, but a secure bank account means nothing if my own body doesn’t belong to me.  No amount of money can compensate for the sacrifice of bodily sovereignty, the fundamental civil right without which all other rights and freedoms become meaningless.  And women cannot take full advantage of good job opportunities without access to affordable birth control and/or childcare.

If Rafael "Theonomy" Cruz were to win, his policy would restrict women's reproductive rights, including outlawing some forms of birth control which he [incorrectly] considers to be "abortifacient," such as IUDs, and on this critical issue, unfortunately Trump and Cruz are mostly in agreement along with nearly all GOP politicians.  The current Republican platform states that a fertilized ovum is a person and allows no exceptions for abortion under any circumstances.  Some GOP politicians have even gone so far as to say that forcing a woman to bear the spawn of a rapist is, "a beautiful thing... that God intended."  

Mr. Trump, to his credit, departs from the party line by recommending that the Republican platform should be changed to permit abortion in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.  While Trump does not go nearly far enough, continuing to maintain that abortion for any other reason should be illegal, even these limited concessions have earned him the dreaded insult "liberal" from his GOP peers, including Cruz, and for this he is to be commended.  Not that I have a personal stake in the matter, being past the childbearing years, but I do have a young stepdaughter, a goddaughter and a grand-goddaughter, and even if I didn't, I would nonetheless stand up for the rights of all women.  No person or "potential person" has the right to use another person's body against his or her will.  Forced birth is involuntary servitude.

My concerns about civil rights and liberty are not limited to the allegedly "unimportant" matters of who may marry whom and buy wedding cakes, who may use which bathrooms and call themselves "him" or "her," and have access to what kind of birth control.  I also am not ok with the fact that the United States jails our population at the highest rate in the world, at 1 in 110 adults (and 1 in 3 black males), over 50% due to drug offenses.  I don't want my hard-earned tax money going to keep nonviolent offenders in prison.  Medicinal and/or recreational herbs should be legal.  IMO, people should be free to eat, drink, smoke, snort or otherwise ingest whatever substances they wish, and live as they see fit, so long as they don't harm anybody else in the process.

As a libertarian, I believe that the role of government is not to regulate bathrooms and bedrooms, but rather, to protect its citizens from force and fraud, which would include preventing such things as corporations exploiting employees' labor or stealing their retirement funds, banks gambling away their customers' savings accounts, and insurance companies collecting premiums and then refusing to pay claims.  It would also enforce contracts, e.g. when a county clerk refuses to issue marriage licenses, or congressmen fail to appoint a Justice to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court - tasks which were included in their respective job descriptions when they voluntarily accepted the position.

Because I do care about these things, I cannot vote Republican.  Nonetheless, I give credit where it is due.  Kudos, Mr. Trump, for having the courage to go against the party line by standing up for female and LGBT persons even to a limited extent!  And for you, Mr. Cruz, love your first name, "Rafael" - why don't you use it, too ethnic?  Kudos to your mom for naming you after the archangel.  I would enjoy having a President named "Rafael," kind of rolls right off the tongue.  Other than that, um, not so much.  And I sincerely pray that neither of you will ever become President.

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