Looking over the angry, polarized politics of the United States of America and the increasingly battered and torn social fabric of our nation, it is clear that much of the energy for this condition comes directly from the right of the political spectrum with a common humanity as its target.
The political discourse and actions of the past six months betrays this anger and the dangers confronting that humanity, of concern to anyone who professes that we love one another, and do unto others as we would do unto ourselves.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio placed before our nation the idea that Social Security and Medicare make the people of our nation weak. The programs serve the elderly who no longer can labor as they used to, the disabled who simply are unable to work, and the children of those suddenly taken from this world leaving those children destitute and in need. It can be argued that a strong people do what is necessary to ensure that the weakest among us are provided for.
Talk Show Host, and a leading thinker on the political right, Rush Limbaugh, has said “screw social justice.” He expressed the view that the essence of social justice was to “make everyone equal.” The view is that even a modicum of social justice would force everyone to be equal; require we all live in identical homes and wear identical clothing and have precisely the same number of dollars. In a nation that declared to the world that “all men are created equal” and that such a people are entitled to “the equal protection of the laws,” this is strange. No advocate of a socially just American society on the left has suggested we be equally cursed with great wealth and the human greed that often goes with it. What has been demanded most broadly is that the wealth created by our society be employed in a more socially responsible manner that draws human beings together in community with one another and recognizes the contributions of the masses of the people and not currying favor to a select few.
A modest and just balance rather than absolute equality is argued for. It does not entitle people equal societal resources without work when they have the ability to do so, or to take form others that which does not belong to them. And the principle of equality among the men and women of the nation is central to the principles which it was founded upon.
South Carolina Senator Jim Demint on the eve of the Labor Day Holiday has told the nation that Unions must be attacked and destroyed if our economy is to recover. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Kasich of Ohio have passed through their legislatures measures taking fundamental rights for public servants to bargain collectively with powerful state governments.
Associations of working people seeking merely to have a voice in the workplace, to earn a living wage for their labors to support their families, to labor in safe, healthy conditions and to work a number of hours to obtain both the bread and the roses of life find themselves demonized.
We live in a nation this Labor Day 2011 where honest hardworking common ordinary Americans whether they be union members or not are under attack. Economists can graph for you the erosion of the American middle class and that of American labor unions—two lines that slide downward to the right in a kind of death grip for most of the people who work and live in the United States. Non-union working people in this country often are the most hostile to labor unions and the labor movement not realizing this intense correlation between their own welfare and that of the labor movement as expressed in unions.
Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and her husband operate a clinic to “pray away” homosexuality. The point where any of their patients must begin is to see who they are as being evil. Other such clinics have been shown not to help the overwhelming majority of those who use them. God made those in the LGBT community the way they are. Our sexual orientations are entirely chosen for us at birth. Those of us who are heterosexuals merely have to recall how we first became aware that we were attracted to the opposite gender to know that it was not a choice of intellect or morals but a biologically driven human condition. Imagine for a moment if you became aware as a young teen that you had the opposite human drive; that you did not choose either of the major sexual orientations or that somehow you were trapped between them. The contention of many on the right toward the LGBT community is that their sexual orientation is a “lifestyle choice” of the most immoral kind. Tolerance is the great missing element here. Better yet, to embrace these people and celebrate their entire human identities.
We commonly understand that harmful sexual behaviors such as pedophilia, rape, and profligate sex with no commitment to the soul and being of others present real dangers. But these behaviors are most commonly engaged in by persons bearing the majority sexual orientation. Gay people have been with us since the inception of the human species, or at least of recorded history, and these people are not automatically going to engage in anti-social behavior. In fact, many Gay people are unusually compassionate and caring for others in ways that enrich us all. What most motivates those who hate this sexual orientation is borne of a gross ignorance, fear and hate.
Just about the entire Republican voting block fear and hate foreigners and immigrants. Christian teaching which so many of them profess so vociferously commands, and does not merely suggest, that we welcome the stranger among us. That means taking them into our homes and giving them rest; even sanctuary.
Christ makes it very clear in the Gospel to all of his disciples then and now that when he judges the world he will note those of us who have welcomed strangers, visited others in prison, given water and food to others in need of it. In the book of Esther we have the great story of a Moabite woman who made her home with the Jewish people and honored them. The political left and the advocates of social justice do not celebrate the violation of the law undertaken by the undocumented among us. Instead we simply join in solidarity with other human beings whom we love.
Real criminality: the kind that harms others is not accepted even among the undocumented people themselves. If we look beneath the surface of this hostility to the foreigner we find it rooted primarily in a racially discriminatory set of attitudes. Mexican immigrants often are not distinguished between those who have obeyed and those who have broken our immigration laws but by their skin color, mode of speech, dress, and customs and not our common humanity. Christ taught the faithful that we ought not to conform ourselves to this world. His love and the love we show others as his disciples must be able to cross artificial man-made borders and overcome a hyper-nationalism and nativist stance taken by so many people calling themselves conservatives and Republicans and Tea Party members, and yes Christian followers of Jesus Christ. Immigration reform must make it possible for those migrants who otherwise obey our nation’s laws to become citizens or to obtain the Green Cards that make them documented and legal. They come here to our nation to find work, to support their families, and to live like any other human being. The refusal to fully recognize and embrace our common humanity here too is a product of the anger politics of the far right that is now the political center of American politics.
The battle over raising the debt ceiling this summer revealed a great deal about the political right. The Tea Party and its operatives in the Republican controlled House of Representatives not only placed political gain over that of the welfare of the United States of America, but they have made it clear that they are not interested in cooperation or compromise. A pastor at a church this weekend said from the center aisle of her church in her sermon that compromise and cooperation are now seen as weaknesses; a thing to be avoided at all costs. Without cooperation and compromise, our politics and our people can not help to be further polarized and fractured. Our conservative, Tea Party and Republicans leaders now seek to destroy their political opponents. Worse yet, occasionally their opponents seek to do the same simply to survive in this new polical environment of anger and fear and hate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced to the nation that his party had one idea and goal for the next two years: to make President Obama a one term president and nothing more. To do this the economy must be permitted or even helped to fail. Our endeavors to defend the nation in time of war must be secondary. The general welfare which all members of Congress swear to uphold as part of the Constitution conservatives tout so highly is disrespected and completely disregarded. That minister in that Church reminded all of us that cooperation and compromise are part of our common humanity and love toward one another. We are commanded to love our enemies but the Mitch McConnell’s and John Boehners of this world evidently are not Christians at all. For if they were they would not behave the way they do. Rather than being a weakness, compromise and cooperation are hallmarks of human survival and strength for our human species and supporting the common humanity we ought to seek.
Despite the election of a black man, or rather, because of it, the political right and its anger politics are directed at our president. No white president of either party would have had their basic legitimacy to serve and to occupy the office questioned so vehemently. Despite protestations to the contrary, racial bigotry is at the heart of the hatred for President Obama shown to us by his opponents even before he took office.
Much of the inception of the Tea Party itself drew its energy from a hatred of Obama. And looking beyond this man in the White House we can see that race relations in the United States are deteriorating and the hate and fear of previous generations may be making a return. Certainly, people of color in the United States suffer more than their white counterparts. White people do not go to prison nearly as often, and even when ensnared in our justice system for real criminal offenses. Blacks, when considered as a proportion of the entire population, occupy our prisons to the point where young black men are more likely to be incarcerated as adults than to go to school and finish with a diploma. More than twice as many people of color are unemployed as are whites. The poorest and most troubled schools are those which are occupied by inner-city or even rural populations of minority people.
Latinos find themselves more likely to see their children given a second-class education with graduation rates and test scores lagging. Black children experience the same achievement gap as do Latinos. These gaps in achievement between the races are not inherent in race itself. In fact, the American Anthropological Association now declares that there is no such thing as separate races among human beings, seeing as how the differences in our DNA and our species are so closely aligned. But ordinary white people don’t see things that way in such an enlightened fashion. A malign and lingering racial bigotry, and attitudes that people of color are inferior that go back centuries to slavery days, and a grinding poverty, are responsible. The difficulties of maintaining or rebuilding strong black families are hampered at every step by white conservatives whose moral antennae are not working or simply are not present.
Religious freedom and toleration are in grave danger. The condition of American Muslims may serve as one of any number of examples. Those people who are atheists, or agnostics or members of any number of minority religions in America face persecution for those differences. The frenzy over Sharia Law, the assumption that Muslim equals terrorist, and the Ground Zero Mosque controversy all highlight these problems. The American left is not attacking these people. Now, millions of American Catholics stand to lose if either Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry are elected President and should the Tea Party gain strength. Increasingly it is apparent that the Christian right in America is a protestant movement and not one that is either catholic or Catholic in character any longer. Bachmann was for over ten years a member of a church that proclaimed the Pope as the antichrist, and Catholics as evil. Perry has received advice and led a prayer service in Texas with elements of protestant clergy who hold the same views. Their acceptance of these people raises deep concerns.
It has been the experience of the writer of this reflection that no longer is professing Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, and being part of a body of believers who employ the Holy Bible as a guide for life enough to shield you from the hatred and bigotry of others professing the same faith. If you follow Christ’s commands as expressed in the Gospels, especially Matthew 25, passages in the book of Isaiah and Micah, you are seen as promoting a dangerous social justice. You might be told that you are not a real Christian. Or you may be informed you are possessed by demons. You may be told that your repentance in Christ is not genuine. In these conditions it is easy to imagine what someone with a moral center and conscience but without a religious belief is going to face or may be facing in the America of the Tea Party and the zealous religious right. Those of us promoting social justice adhere to religious toleration and thank God or simply enlightened thinking for the First Amendment and the fact that our government should not favor any particular religion or become theocratic and oppressive to those who do not follow the belief of the ruling group and authorities.
The power and energy of anger politics, and its exclusionary vision of America, where communitarian values are despised in favor of an atomized society where individuals pursue their selfish self-interests without regard to others is central to the political ideology of the American right. This kind of politics feeds off of intolerance, fear, and hatred of other human beings.
Struggles for Justice completely rejects and condemns this political environment and those who promote it. We stand in complete opposition to it and as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “stand at Armageddon and battle for the Lord.”
We express the strongest possible dissent to the political right and the organizations that they employ to do harm to human beings and the common condition of all humanity. A nation and world where we can reach across national borders and to simply love one another as that ancient Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth so wisely commanded, would be a glorious thing indeed. What is supported with all the vigor at our command is a set of values based on love, and community, and compassion and which rejects exclusion and selfishness, fear and hate. Love one another and do to others in all things as you would have them do unto you.