I hate to keep repeating myself, but the issue won’t go away. Torture is morally wrong, and it is clearly prohibited by international and American law. Thus, I find it shocking that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld openly admit to authorizing torture, and that they do so with impunity. And if Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libbi — who allegedly provided information that helped us locate Osama bin Laden — were prisoners of war, then their torturers committed war crimes.
Now, in the wake of bin Laden’s death, right-wing ideologues are once again defending the use of torture.
In response, opponents of torture are trying to prove that it did not play a positive role in the capture of bin Laden. For example, Eugene Robinson says in today’s Washington Post that “torture wasn’t the key to finding bin Laden.”
Well, it doesn’t matter if it was. Torture is wrong. Period. And it is a crime.
Bin Laden’s capture does not justify torture. Terrorists do not need him in order to operate. I am happy we got him, but sadly it probably doesn’t really matter that much.
I have to admit that I am an angry American. I am angry that the Republican Party has been successful at undercutting the country’s revenue base by giving huge tax reductions to the extremely wealthy and has now seemingly convinced the country that the resulting deficit must be addressed immediately and by systematically destroying government-supported programs aimed at the middle and working classes and the poor. I am furious that President Obama supported the tax give-away and now concedes the need to radically slash social programs, even if he claims to be less draconian. And I am livid that some Democrats are now starting to side with Republicans who want to use the debt ceiling issue to advance their radical budget-cutting agenda.
And of course no one is talking about the cost of the three wars. View the documentary Iraq for Sale if you want more information about the billions of dollars we have poured right into the pockets of the “war profiteers.” It will enrage you. You can stream it on Netflix.
Despite all that negativity, however, I am heartened to find out that the American people do not actually support the political agenda of our self-serving elites. According to Ezra Klein, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll reveals that 65 percent of Americans oppose the Ryan plan to destroy Medicare as we know it. “And if they’re told that the cost of private insurance for seniors is projected to outpace the cost of Medicare insurance for seniors — which is exactly what CBO projects — more than 80 percent of Americans oppose the plan.” Moreover, 70 percent oppose cutting Medicaid. “The only deficit-reduction option that is popular? Raising taxes on the rich…. In general, the poll shows overwhelming opposition to the main Republican approaches for reducing the deficit — even when they’re posed vaguely. Almost 60 percent of Americans, for instance, want a mix of tax increases and spending cuts in the final deal, while only 36 percent think spending cuts should be deployed on their lonesome.”
I attended my elderly aunt’s funeral in the Deep South last week and met some of my cousins’ children for the first time, which was great. Over dinner one of them, a young man in his 20′s, starting sharing with me about his “walk with Christ.” At first, I was worried, being a progressive Jew by choice and all, which none of them knew. Well they knew about my politics, just not my religious affiliation. It turned out to be a good conversation, and I did end up sharing with him that I am Jewish. At that point we just looked at each other and said “Jesus was Jewish.”
Anyway, in the course of our conversation, he told me that he is involved in a prison ministry. This struck a chord with me because I am very concerned about prisoner abuse, particularly at the hands of the US government. In fact, I’ve posted about it on this very site. I told him about an article I had just read in The Nation, called “Gitmo in the Heartland.” I told him I was particularly upset about the fact that prisoners are often moved away from their families, and the prison will sometimes not even let the families know where their loved ones are. He was unaware of the issues raised in the article, so I said I would send it to him.
Of course, I also asked him if he was familiar with Chuck Colson’s prison ministry, explaining how Colson did time for his role in the Watergate break-in, but found Christ in prison. While Colson is on the Christian Right, his organization is very concerned about the problem of prison rape, another concern of mine. Prison rape is openly acknowledged and commonly joked about. I think it is appalling.
I’m sure my cousin and I would not see eye to eye on many political issues, but the conversation did give me hope that religious people across the political spectrum might be able to work together to stop prisoner abuse — maybe even when the prisoners are Muslim. Too bad nobody is Washington seems to care about it.
I do not consider myself naive, but it still surprises me, in my heart, that the United States of America continues to discriminate against lesbian and gay people and that so many of my fellow Americans are OK with that. In thinking about the issue of same-sex marriage again today, in light of the struggle for marriage equality in Maryland, Delaware, and elsewhere, and the Christian Right’s opposition to that struggle, I would like to make five quick points.
1) The term “marriage” as it is commonly used actually conflates two very different aspects of the conjugal relationship: the spiritual union of two people and the civil contract validated by the state. The political and legal struggle for marriage equality concerns only the latter.
If the Left is ever to rebuild support for a progressive agenda, we need to persuade more folks to support us. Certainly, we should try to mobilize people who are not currently involved politically, but we should also try to find common ground with people currently on the Right who support a populist economic agenda – those who really should not, on the basis of economic self-interest, be voting Republican, the party of corporate oligarchy.
It’s important to note that when I advocate finding common ground with Republican voters, I do not mean moving to the Center. To the contrary, I mean trying to pull working people who currently vote Republican onto the progressive side by actually generating and working for a Left agenda that they would support. To do this we have to get the focus off of abortion and gay marriage and onto policies that help working and middle class people and their families.
My hope for this strategy deepened this morning, as I read the opening passage of To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Harvard University Press, 2009) by Bethany Moreton:
In 1999, the Pew Research Center announced the appearance of a new force in American politics. The key to electoral success in the new millennium would lie with a voting bloc that Pew called “Populists.” These voters were largely white Southern mothers, conservative Christians trying to care for families while wages stagnated and public services dried up. They staunchly opposed abortion and gay marriage, but overwhelmingly welcomed government guarantees of higher minimum wages and universal access to health coverage. Pollsters quickly assigned Pew’s Populists a more contemporary moniker: The fate of the nation, they asserted, lay in the hands of the Wal-Mart Mom.
The Christan Right organization Concerned Women for America finally posted a new article on its website this week — “Marriage Doesn’t Count; Feds Tabulate Same-Sex Behavior.” While the title might sound alarming to some, to me it seems to be another example of trying to make a controversy out of nothing.
Apparently, Crouse is upset that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is no longer tracking marriage and divorce rates — “information on age of bride and groom, rates of marriage by previous marital status, remarriage, etc.” Instead, the CDC is researching sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity.
For those who are interested, here is how the CDC report summarizes the latest findings of their National Survey of Family Growth:
According to a recent post by the Family Research Council, “the Christian Left is a rising power in American politics, finding allies at all levels of government. Arguably, the movement played an important role in electing Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008.”
In the following video, Dr. Mark Smith of Cedarville University gives a very interesting and informative (albeit long) lecture on the differences between the Christian Right and the Christian Left.
At the end of the talk, Smith offers his own critique of the Christian Left’s call for government intervention to create a more socially just society:
How can anyone oppose Michelle Obama’s campaign to combat the childhood obesity epidemic by educating children about healthy eating and exercise? How can anyone not rejoice about recent changes in USDA policies that will make school lunches healthier? Wouldn’t most people agree that it would be a positive thing to use government subsidies to encourage the production of healthy foods and sustainable agriculture, instead of the opposite?
Agricultural subsidies have helped bring us high-fructose corn syrup, factory farming, fast food, a two-soda-a-day habit and its accompanying obesity, the near-demise of family farms, monoculture and a host of other ills. Yet – like so many government programs – what subsidies need is not the ax, but reform that moves them forward. Imagine support designed to encourage a resurgence of small- and medium-size farms producing not corn syrup and animal-feed but food we can touch, see, buy and eat – like apples and carrots – while diminishing handouts to agribusiness and its political cronies.
Eating healthier foods and exercising more are hardly controversial goals, yet some people on the far right are trying to politicize these common sense recommendations in order to score political points. Does Mrs. Obama’s contention that people should skip dessert once in a while really deserve Palin’s derision? Since when is trying to educate children about health and nutrition coercive? Should children really be allowed to eat whatever they want? Should any of us choose to indulge in whatever we want anytime we want?
The Washington Post reports that according to a recent survey, “fully half of all whites without college degrees identify as Republicans or are GOP-leaning independents, and 42 percent call themselves conservatives, more than other groups.” How can this be? Why would presumably working class whites support the party of Big Business that favors outsourcing, benefit-cutting, and other policies that immiserate working people? Indeed, it was Republican policies that got us into this economic mess, and the GOP is currently trying to make things worse with their job-killing budget cuts and cold-hearted attempts to shred what little remains of the safety net. Is it time to revive the term “false consciousness”?
According to the article in the Post, “whites without college degrees also are the most apt to blame Washington for the problems, and are exceedingly harsh in their judgment of the Obama administration and its economic policies.” More specifically, the data reveal that 64% of whites without college degrees blame “the government in Washington” for the current economic situation, as compared to 52% of college-educated whites. Among non-college-educated whites, 37% think Obama’s economic program is making the economy worse (compared to 34% of college-educated whites) and 42% think it is having no effect (again compared to 34% of college-educated whites).
While on its face, this seems to bode ill for the possibility of creating a progressive movement, a closer look at the survey data reveals a less demoralizing picture of public opinion. While it’s true that 89% of whites blame “the government in Washington” for “the economic challenges facing this country today” either a lot (60%) or some (29%), 78% blame Wall Street institutions either a lot (48%) or some (30%). So while whites are more negative towards the federal government (89%) than blacks (73%) and Hispanics (71%), whites are also more negative towards Wall Street (78%) than blacks (68%) and Hispanics (64%). This is somewhat heartening for those of us who favor populism.
Is it possible for pro-family conservatives and pro-human progressives to come together to block the job-killing, recession-reviving agenda of pro-corporate Republican elites? A perusal of conservative Christian websites makes me think it might be.
As you may know, every week I monitor as many Christian Right websites as I can find for “Tikkun Daily,” and again this week the websites continue to be dominated by anti-health care, anti-abortion (including attacks on Planned Parenthood), and anti-gay posts.
With all the problems this country is facing — with high unemployment and heartless budget-cutting threatening ordinary Americans, with health costs sky-rocketing and expectations of secure old age dashed, with young men and women dying in a war that has no clear purpose and no end in sight — why would conservative Christians support the Christian Right’s narrow agenda? I can understand the moral imperative for conservatives around abortion, but why the virulent attacks on making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans and on legal equality that would help gay and lesbian couples and their children? I understand that Christian conservatives think homosexuality is morally wrong; I just don’t understand their obsession with it.