Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anti-American Health Care Reform Opponents Spew Hatred and Venom

Colonial Baptists, over some 150 years of bloodied backs and prison time, played an instrumental role in establishing America as the world's first nation that, through governing structures, placed primary emphasis upon human rights, freedoms and welfare. To be certain, the ideals of our nation's founding fathers - in no small part inspired by Baptists' insistence upon full religious liberty and separation of church and state - are yet being worked out in the realm of reality: slavery was legal until the 1860s, racial discrimination was legal until the 1960s, gender discrimination was long a part of our nation's history, and to this very day the anti-American spirit of inequality remains embedded within the hearts, minds and souls of many Americans.

Much of American history has revolved around a narrative of individuals who were (and are) far more concerned with their own well-being than that of their fellow Americans. This pattern began in the colonial era, when established state churches (theocracies) respected only those who were of their particular religious faith. For this reason the heretical, liberal, radical Baptists were beaten, whipped, jailed and suffered many other persecutions at the hands of theocratic colonial governments. That Baptists emerged triumphant in the Revolutionary era is a testimony to their perseverance and their unselfish commitment to the championing of equal rights for all persons: their victory in securing America's founding as a secular nation committed to religious liberty for all and separation of church and state was a victory for all Americans. The colonial theocracies lost their power and control, and state churches could no longer use government to force religious compliance, as the United States Constitution created a nation of citizens with legal equal rights and privileges (with the exception of blacks and women, admittedly, for many years).

And yet ... in addition to, and alongside of, racial and gender issues, the colonial-era legacy of power and privilege that refuses to recognize the equality of citizens remains embedded within America.

The opening years of the 20th century witnessed the ascent of corporations to the seats of power and privilege formally occupied by colonial theocrats. By the 1930s, corporate leaders, playing to fears stoked by the Great Depression, convinced many American citizens that any government policies designed to further the "general welfare" of the citizenry as stated by the U.S. Constitution, were in reality attempts to turn America into a socialist or communist nation. This perverse misuse of the Constitution, spearheaded and stoked by corporate interests and fanned into flames by many (primarily) majority white citizens (including many conservative Protestant Christians) who feared immigrants and (later) opposed equal rights for blacks, in the ensuing decades erupted into full blown rage. Opposition (often violent) to Social Security (1935), minimum wage laws (1938), the Civil Rights Act (1964), and Medicare (1965) - all of which were enacted to further the general welfare and equality of all American citizens - was led (to varying degrees) by a combination of corporate interests and white religious indignation claiming (in each instance) that the legislation was either socialist or communist (or both).

While corporate America (increasingly aligned with white conservative Protestants) proved unable to prevent the enactment of the four landmark social legislation achievements noted above, by playing upon the fears of majority whites, corporations further consolidated power and control over America under the guise of free markets (with unfettered free markets held forth as the righteous alternative to godless socialism and communism). By the early 1970s, ongoing fear-fueled fallout from three decades of social legislation reached a tipping point as unfettered free market ideology gained enough influence and power within the national political sphere and on main street to nudge government toward redistribution of the nation's wealth to the rich. And by 1980, the final marriage of corporation, white conservative Protestantism, and federal government was consummated: Ronald Reagan served in the U.S. presidency and enacted policies further transferring the nation's wealth to the rich, while Jerry Falwell formally aligned the nation's white conservative Protestants with the morality-cloaked economic agenda of Reagan Republicans (in the 1960s, Falwell had opposed civil rights as a communist agenda; now he led the rising Religious Right to oppose the "communist" agenda of Democrats and religious liberals).

For the next three decades, corporate America ruled virtually unchecked, served by government. The era of far-reaching social legislation came to an end; government's championing of the "general welfare" of the citizenry was mothballed. White conservative Christians (many increasingly voicing theocratic overtones), having been convinced of the godliness of unfettered free markets, cheered as their money was redistributed to the wealthy, convinced that their Republican allies would reward them by enacting their religious agendas into federal law. The alliance of corporation, religion and government received an additional boost when in 1996 Republican strategist Roger Ailes formed the Fox News Channel to assist in the furtherance of the Corporate/Republican/Religious Right agenda.

Under Republicans, the first decade of the 21st century witnessed an even greater acceleration of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. By 2004, the richest Americans were taxed at a federal rate well less than half of that of 1970, while the remaining population was stuck with a higher federal tax rate than in 1970. By 2007, the 400 richest Americans owned more wealth than 1/2 of the entire United States population (that is, the 150,000,000 least wealthy Americans). And at present, the United States is now the equivalent of a third-world nation in terms of the disparity between rich and poor.

And then along came Barack Obama, America's first black president, in 2009.

Immediately angry white Americans formed the "Tea Party" movement. Suddenly indignant over deficit spending (the trademark of Republican administrations from Reagan forward, and especially under George W. Bush) and tax increases (never mind that Reagan enacted the largest peacetime tax increase in American history), and claiming that Obama was a socialist and a communist - and Hitler reincarnate - and would ruin America through health care reform, the Tea Party movement set out to drive Obama out of office. The racist nature inherent within much of the white Tea Party movement is readily evident: they resort to the same arguments antebellum southern whites used in defending slavery (states rights and freedom only for themselves and like-minded persons) and they repeatedly put white supremacists front-and-center stage in their rallies (both local and national).

Now, with the passage of health care reform (a goal sought by U.S. presidents since Teddy Roosevelt), the hatred of large-scale government actions on behalf of the general welfare of the citizenry - a hatred with colonial precedent in the persecution of religious heretics such as Baptists, its antebellum expression rooted in defense of slavery, and 20th century expressions driven by corporately and religiously-stoked fears of socialism and communism - has again erupted full-scale.

Specifically, Tea Partiers and allied Republicans, serving America's corporate interests, are frenzied with rage (also see here and here) against extending health care access to all Americans, a rage that has also revitalized the Religious Right in the post-George W. Bush era. At least one Southern Baptist pastor is calling upon God to kill all the Democrat lawmakers in Congress, while another insists that in offering health care access to all Americans, the United States has become equivalent to “Nazi Germany, Communist USSR, Communist Cuba, and Iraq under Saddam.” Yet they are only following the lead of Southern Baptist leaders such as ethicist Richard Land, who back in October labeled national health care as Nazism (and continues to rage against health care access), and theologian Albert Mohler who (falsely) claims that health care reform legalizes federal funding of abortions, (falsely) claims that Christ is unconcerned with social reform, and expresses no concern for the tens of thousands of deaths and millions of ruined lives each year that result from America's current system of corporately-controlled, rationed health care.

In short, it has been a long, sordid journey to the present day where many white American Christians (including some national Southern Baptist leaders), now long married to unfettered capitalism and the extreme wing of the Republican Party and politically selfish-minded, are spewing anti-American hatred, venom and lies in their rage against health care access for all Americans.

Yet I am hopeful that David Leonhardt is right in his contention that putting an end to corporately-controlled rationed health care marks the beginning of pulling America out of its descent into third-world wealth-gap status, by reversing decades of economic stagnation and wealth redistribution to the rich, and refocusing government to serving the general welfare of all Americans.

And I want to believe that today's Baptists (in particular) who are at the moment so enraged that America once again is ready to serve all her citizens, will in a future cooler moment reflect upon their own faith heritage of championing equal rights for all, and recognize that selfish individualism is a barrier to America's greatness.

8 comments:

Bruce Gourley said...

Update: Just when you think the hatred could not get any worse -

Now 1/4 of Republicans think Barack Obama is the Antichrist. The same survey reveals that 38% of Republicans think Obama is similar to Hitler, and 57% think he is a Muslim.

Jim Shaver said...

Bruce,

What are we to think when Al Sharpton says we voted for Socialism when we voted for Obama and Fidel Castro praises the Healthcare Bill as a Miracle?

Jim

Bruce Gourley said...

Jim,

It seems to me that a falsehood is a falsehood, no matter who voices it.

And it really is hard for me to believe that you've come to view Sharpton and Castro as authoritative! :-)

Bruce

Jim Shaver said...

What stuns me is that there is a group of people in this country, and I'm certainly not accusing you of drinking the kool aid yet, who think that anything that comes from their particular side of the aisle in Washington is the Gospel Truth.

One of my own senators said she will not be rooting for Baylor against Duke because Ken Starr is now the President of that Univ!

The divide in this country is becoming too sharp and too pronounced for thinking Baptists.

As far as the title of your latest blog - It seems to me it wasn't so long ago that Anti-American War Opponents were spewing hatred and venom against G.W.B. and our Troops.

Did you blog that?

Bruce Gourley said...

Jim,

The health care reform bill just passed is the same health care reform that had been welcomed and championed by Republican presidents and leaders since the early 1970s ... yet when Obama and Democrats began championing long-time Republican health care reform ideas, Republicans suddenly expressed hated of that which they had for years championed. Isn't this the kind of partisanship that you lament?

As to George W. Bush, what are your opinions of an American president who resorted to lies to lead our country into war, bring about the deaths of thousands of Americans on foreign soil, bring about the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens (men, women and children), and rack up record national deficits? Is there any way to describe his deceitful actions, and the terrible consequences of them, as anything other than dishonorable?

Bruce

Jim Shaver said...

Bruce as one who has had experience with all kinds of government programs and initiatives I am skeptical of them all regardless of which party promotes the agenda.

I'm not sure the government can do anything as effectively as can the private sector except perhaps wage war and explore space and I'm not sure many times they even go about those right.

Government's business should be insuring that the private sector is a fair and level playing field and that all participants are dealing honestly with the American public.

They should not be in the business of running auto manufacturers or the health care industry.

They've got a full time job just protecting the nation and dealing with foreign diplomacy and international trade issues.

I shudder to think of what the same government that currently runs Medicare will do with the health care industry which represents 1/6 of our national economy. My wife has been on Medicare for almost a year and I still haven't been able to understand a single Medicare statement yet and I have an accounting degree!!! BTW - Romney's Healthcare program in Mass drove up the individual cost of care in that state faster than any other state in seven out of the last eight years as reported in the NYT in March of 2009.

As far as George W. Bush lying to the American people - I'm not sure he intentionally lied about anything anymore than Obama is intentionally lying about anything.

I think Bush was a sub par president and Obama's first year has certainly headed him in that direction. I hope he will succeed but I don't see how that can happen with the tremendous debt load we inherited from Bush and the Republicans and that Obama and the Democrats have increased substantially.

I'm not a republican or a democrat but sure do think we can do better than what we have in Washington right now on either side of the aisle.

Why don't you run for office?

I'm too old or I would.

Jim

Bruce Gourley said...

Jim,

OK, I am a little slow; I did not realize you are libertarian.

While I appreciate the fiscal responsibility theme of libertarianism, I place far more faith in democratic government than modern, unfettered free market capitalism (which is far different than what Adam Smith advocated).

The American Revolution began, in no small part, as a revolt against British corporations usurping New World governance. American democracy exists to serve the people and provide for citizens' "general welfare" (U.S. Constitution); modern corporations (late 19th century to the present) exist to secure the greatest profit possible, a pursuit that led to our nation's current third-world wealth gap (Adam Smith warned that too reckless a pursuit of corporate profits creates an inequitable wealth gap and destroys nations).

Should I ever run for political office (an interesting thought, that you raised!), my economic platform would be built upon Adam Smith's principles of cautious capitalism: diligent and determined government regulation of banks and free markets, and progressive taxation - collectively in order to avoid excessive wealth gap (and hence economic collapse) and maintain a healthy economy and balanced budget.

Other than that, I would advocate: clear separation of church and state / First Amendment rights (my Baptist heritage); a national defense strategy built upon self-sustaining energy and natural resources, technological superiority, United Nations diplomacy, continued efforts at Middle East peace, and prevention of nuclear proliferation (and no more nation building); progressive immigration reform; single-payer universal health care (with the late Canadian Baptist Tommy Douglas as a good model); pursuit of policies to protect our nation from the effects of climate change (it is likely too late to prevent climate change) ... for starters.

So, there you have it. Not that I am ever likely to enter politics ... :-)

Bruce

Jim Shaver said...

Bruce,

Yes, I'm probably more of a libertarian than even I realize.

I just happen to believe that the founders used the word freedom in the most liberal and literal sense when they spoke about it or wrote about it.

If the government would just do the following I would be a happy camper.

1. Make Just Laws that do not erode our freedoms or deprive us of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

2. Apply those laws equally to all people and all classes of people.

3. Leave us alone.

Jim