Nothing better illustrated the fact that the 2012 version of the Grand Old Party had politically jumped the shark than actor Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair during prime time at that party’s convention. Eastwood, a fine actor, director, and a good and gracious man nevertheless graphically represented what’s wrong with Republicans. He presented the picture of the party in this election year: old, male, white, and tone deaf to the moral calls being made on those who propose to represent the people of the United States in 2012.
Howard Thurman, a black theologian of the fading days of Jim Crow segregation and a man with a keen understanding of the orphans, widows, the oppressed and disinherited of the land in the decades after World War II speaks of the message and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and Christianity as being uniquely aimed at providing “a technique for the survival of the oppressed.” That is just what is going to be needed by hundreds of millions of Americans if Mitt Romney is our President next year with a Congress even partially controlled by his party.
People of faith when faced with oppressive rulers can employ the humility of Christ to deny their oppressors the ability to destroy them. For humility in Thurman’s words cannot be humiliated. Thurman had a close friendship with the father of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights leader claimed to carry Thurman’s seminal work Jesus and the Disinherited on his many journeys in support of social justice for black people in America. It is what is at the inner core of each of us that must be guarded from the oppressor. Jesus taught that they can take your body but not a man’s very soul. For that, the human being must do this to himself or herself as it is most certainly undertaken by God when sitting in judgment.
Lowering our gaze to the plans for America of the Romney-Ryan ticket we find that they do not respect their own women, to say nothing of the rest of the female population of the United States. In dozens of states and in Congress, Republicans have spent their time trying to deny women access to fundamental contraceptive health care. For Paul Ryan, rape is just another form of the conception of children. A Missouri politician claims that women’s reproductive systems shut down if they are raped so there is no danger in that befalling them. Ending legal abortion even in cases of rape and incest shows a blatant disregard for the needs of American Women and their families. Almost twenty million women and children face the loss of Medicaid benefits if what Romney and Ryan say they will do if elected is done.
The poor have been the object of scorn this summer as poverty is associated solely with sloth and criminality. “Dog whistle” politics and venting against the poor is a main feature of the Republican message where millions of dollars are spent on TV ads. And poverty is being associated with being black or being a black President. They’ve made the very people who are the oppressed and disinherited of this land responsible for their plight instead of the wealthy and powerful rulers who cannot see them like the rich man could not see Lazarus lying out at his gate eating crumbs left by dogs.
Ordinary middle class Americans face the limitation of benefits under Medicare when the essential feature of the plan put into effect in 1965 is radically altered to transform it into a voucher system where the money available for medical care is finite. With rising medical costs this will cost the average senior over six thousand more dollars per year. That is what Romney thinks is needed to save the program. Under Obamacare, which the Republicans will repeal if elected, $718 billion dollars of cost cutting and reform is part of the program for rival Democrats. Insurance companies themselves are providing these savings. The money is not being withdrawn from Medicare as Republicans continue to falsely claim. Social Security will be turned into a 401K plan dependent on the vagaries of Wall Street. Both programs are paid for by the recipients themselves all during their working lives. They are not selfish “entitlements” but deserving benefits to people who can no longer work and need care and a dignified retirement.
The middle class of this country have been focused on the creation of jobs and increasing demand for goods and services to bring prosperity back to the United States. Romney and Ryan simply propose to grant huge new tax cuts to the very wealthiest Americans and corporate business totaling upwards of four or five trillion dollars over eight years, according to both the Congressional Budget Office and several independent studies. Since 2010 the focus of the Republican controlled House of Representatives has been limiting abortion instead of job creation. The circus of folly that was the entire Republican Convention could not explain to ordinary people how this will create the jobs they and their children will need to get a good education, have adequate health care and to have what has been defined as the American Dream since World War II.
When President Obama, under whatever motivation, offered respite to several million undocumented immigrant families the Republicans immediately rejected it. Republican Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, specifically prohibited undocumented immigrants from obtaining relief from ICE prosecution and deportation. The Dream Act to them is just a dream or some nightmare where they envision millions of dark skinned people invading the white America of the 1950’s. The multi-ethnic and multi-racial society that the United States has already become is disregarded under the Republican program. The xenophobic nativist hate whipped up against Latinos, Muslims, and blacks is a core element of the party now and has been for some time. White suburban conservative America along with their Bible belt neighbors in white communities stand in horror and revulsion that they may have to share the nation with people of color.
Whatever an individual’s political beliefs are it cannot be denied that the Republican Party is ignoring Biblical teaching on what the responsibilities of the rulers are to the disinherited of the land and those moral demands made on Christian followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Even Mormons follow Christ. And Paul Ryan is a Catholic who bishops of his own church have castigated for the mean spirited attack on the poor the orphan and widow in both versions of the “Ryan Plan” which Mitt Romney labels as “marvelous.” All this future suffering and immorality will go to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and a supposed cutting of the Federal budget and its ability to help ordinary Americans go about the daily task of living a decent life and supporting their families.
In the end it will be God that judges and casts the final and deciding vote in the election of 2012. Howard Thurman pointed out that no man can avoid what he called the “divine scrutiny.” That includes Democrats, liberals and the rest of us too. What will we do in our lives to ensure a just and loving kindness from our rulers toward the disinherited of this land? In November a good deal of this in in our hands. What will you do?
For Thurman writes “Here all men stand stripped to the literal substance of themselves without disguise, without pretention, without seeming whatsoever. No man can fool God. From him nothing is hidden.”
The Republicans have jumped the shark on the oppressed and disinherited and God himself was sitting in that empty chair Clint Eastwood was talking to. If most Americans have not grasped this yet their maker has already written their errors and misdeeds in the great book of life.
Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
for Struggles for Justice