Sunday, March 21, 2010

Being (Un) Inspired by Others

It has been a tradition here on Sundays to lead with an inspiring piece. But on today, the day the historic health care vote in Washington, I feel compelled to write about the despicable treatment of three African American congressmen, Representatives Andre Carson of Indiana, Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and John Lewis of Georgia, by Tea Party protesters yesterday.

Preceding President Obama's final speech to galvanize House Democrats to vote for health care reform, thousands of Tea Party protesters gathered around the Capitol and shouted "nigger" to these congressmen and spat on them. (Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is gay, was called a "faggot.") I have been saying repeatedly here and elsewhere that while some of the Tea Party members may have legitimate concerns, the underbelly of the movement is racist. Their leaders Tom Tancredo and Mark Williams have both made racist statements. Tancredo's remarks were given at the Tea Party Convention to uproarious laughter.

Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, said "It was absolutely shocking to me. Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday... I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins... And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus."

Rep Cleaver's office issued this statement:
For many of the members of the CBC, like John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver who worked in the civil rights movement, and for Mr. Frank who has struggled in the cause of equality, this is not the first time they have been spit on during turbulent times.

This afternoon, the Congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The Congressman would like to thank the US Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the other Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care. After all the Members were safe, a full report was taken and the matter was handled by the US Capitol Police. The man who spat on the Congressman was arrested, but the Congressman has chosen not to press charges. He has left the matter with the Capitol Police.

This is not the first time the Congressman has been called the "n" word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans. That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name calling and spitting. He looks forward to taking a historic vote on health care reform legislation tomorrow, for the residents of the Fifth District of Missouri and for all Americans. He believes deeply that tomorrow’s vote is, in fact, a vote for equality and to secure health care as a right for all. Our nation has a history of struggling each time we expand rights. Today’s protests are no different, but the Congressman believes this is worth fighting for.
As usual, Republican leaders spoke at the Tea Party protest and as usual none of them have publicly come out and condemn their actions. On the floor of the House yesterday Congressman Ryan of Ohio denounced the protesters' behavior:

Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic Majority Leader, also issued a statement condemning the protesters' remarks and behavior:
Today's protests against health insurance reform saw a rash of despicable, inflammatory behavior, much of it directed at minority Members of Congress. According to reports, anti-reform protesters spat on Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, yelled a sexual slur at Rep. Barney Frank, and addressed my dear friend, Rep. John Lewis, with a racial slur that he has sadly heard far too many times. On the one hand, I am saddened that America’s debate on health care — which could have been a national conversation of substance and respect — has degenerated to the point of such anger and incivility. But on the other, I know that every step toward a more just America has aroused similar hate in its own time; and I know that John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, has learned to wear the worst slurs as a badge of honor.

America always has room for open and spirited debate, and the hateful actions of some should not cast doubt on the good motives of the majority, on both sides of this argument. But Members of Congress and opinion leaders ought to come to terms with their responsibility for inciting the tone and actions we saw today. A debate that began with false fears of forced euthanasia has ended in a truly ugly scene. It is incumbent on all of us to do better next time.
Historically, Republicans have long stoked racial division by using hate in their ads to get out the vote. (Remember the Karl Rove Willie Horton ad and the recent "Call me" Bob Corker ad?) By not speaking out against such despicable behavior, it is clear that nothing has changed. Throughout this health care debate the Republican Party, along with their fringe element--The Tea Party, without whom what would the modern Republican Party be?--have shown themselves utterly uninspiring, unless you count the fact that they have charged people of all races to fight bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head and denounce hatred. We, the people, are many but one.


Pamela said...

After so many years of fighting and so many years of progress to still have to fight this same dead issue of race is ridiculous. At the end of the day it boils down to (for some) someone deeming himself superior to another.

Let's not consider the millions of Americans dying because they do not have healthcare. Let's not stop to consider the millions who have had to go bankrupt in order to pay their medical bills. Let's not consider the fact when we help our neighbor we are helping ourselves.

The face of poverty is not someone trying to manipulate the system as many portray it to be. The face of poverty is the working men and women struggling day to day to feed their families. But it seems beyond us to stop and consider them. It seems beyond us to actually think about us.

I have health insurance I can go to the doctor any day of the week; but my concern doesn't stop with myself and my family.

When we would attend the rallies for President Obama before he was elected and when we attended the inauguration it wasn't about him being the First African-American President, yes that was in our hearts but more importantly the change, the time for change had come. However, change doesn't come without a fight. In order for something to be fixed we must first conclude it is broken.

There were many who of notable status who stood in support of the President who are now too silent. The heat has been increased. We should not allow him to stand alone to take the heat by himself.

We know America needs change. The world is changing! We are a part of a global society and the face of our nation is more diverse than ever.

I understand being conservative. I understand every man working hard for what they have. My parents lived it. I preach it every day to my children. However, I do not understand using these principles and core beliefs as an opportunity to look down on others.

Let's not even talk about the middle class--what about the working class?

What is so ignorant on some tea party followers and some other followers is the fact they will not take the time to educate themselves fully on the issues. They would rather listen to entertainers and slanted news broadcast fill them with erroneous information. And at the end of the day the rich and the greedy have deceived them into believing everyone is trying to get something for nothing and make them pay for it. No, when in fact insurance companies have made tremendous profit for years by raising premiums and cutting benefits. (I know I worked in medical administration for years.) The drug and insurance companies have bought their votes and that's the price the American people has paid.

Judith Ellis said...

Pamela - Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply. It's appreciated. You see the problem with many liberals is an all or nothing at all state of mind. In 1971 Kennedy blew it with President Nixon and I, for one, am happy that President Obama will not blow it now. It looks like the House have the needed votes to pass health care insurance reform.

The passing of this bill is a start. Nothing happens in Washington with sweeping changes. This is a fact. It seems like many would like to deal with fantasy. I would rather deal with reality. Does the fact that some 30 million more Americans will have access to health care matter? Does it matter that insurance companies cannot release you because of so called pre-existing conditions after you have paid your premiums faithfully? Does the fact that this plan reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion dollars according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office matter? Some have called this bill fake. The cancer-stricken mother or father who can't afford health insurance presently will not think it fake. That small business owner whose health care insurance has sky rocketed exponentially will not think it fake. This is not a perfect bill but neither are many other bills. Medicare has been amended since its inception and I suppose that this bill will be also.

Just read on the Huffington Post that the Republicans pledge to repeal if the health care bill passes. Repeal what? Our representative democracy? People, this is why the selection of the Supreme Court justices is so very important. This also seems to be what the Tea Party wants, a destructive revolution of some kind. They seem to want to reclaim a racist past that to them seems only possible through violent revolution. It was not by accident, I fear, that Tea Party members came to many of their protests last summer with loaded guns or why the Louisiana Sheriff is training the middle-aged-pot-belly-militia-like men of Operation Exodus to protect their people. Who these are should be apparent. Personally, I would be scared shit-less, you will please excuse me, if I were pulled over by any of these 200-gun-toting-bible-spewing-hood-less ones. God help us!

zorro said...

Compare what Obama said to inspire democrats to pass health care to what Newt said.

Judith Ellis said...

Zorro - Beautiful words spoken by President Obama and the comparison with Newt Gingrich is alarming. But this kind of language and the negativity and lies over last summer actually brought the polls for health care down but did not affect the reality that Americans largely want reform. I was listening to C-Span this morning and there were some seniors who were afraid about Medicare. This is the damage that the Republicans and Tea Partiers did last summer.

What will be eliminated over time had not worked and had given the insurance company an unfair advantage, essentially adding financial stress on the system. The changes to Medicare if implemented properly should actually better Medicare for seniors. It is the negative "death panel" lies that Krugman wrote of that induced the culture of fear surrounding health care reform. This is shameful and against real reform. I love President Obama's words and Krugman's ending:

"This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. But it is also a victory for America’s soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out."

Bravo Krugman and thank you for the link, Zorro.

CJ said...

It's 2010, for crying out loud. Folks are dying from not having proper health care.

And racial epithets are still being hurled.


Can you say, "trifling?"