Tag Archives: social justice

He believed in our better natures

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble Nelson Mandela6a00d83451f25369e200e54f0c830c8833-800winelson_mandela-               go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

“I am not saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice”

MANDELA6X432(Sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with his one time jailer, South African President de Klerk.)

Something else to be thankful for

Pope Francis – yesterday:

The pope also denounced “trickle-down” theories of economics promoted by many conservatives and politicians who espouse an unregulated free market.

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he said. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Perhaps the professional Christians in our Congress – and especially in State legislatures – should give a listen. Possible? I’m not placing bets on that, but if Francis keeps it up I could become – whilst still unbelieving – a practicing Catholic again.

This is how we roll down here in The Sunshine State

Will someone explain this to me please.

(CNN) — Saying he had no discretion under state law, a judge sentenced a Jacksonville, Florida, woman to 20 years in prison Friday for firing a warning shot in an effort to scare off her abusive husband.

Marissa Alexander unsuccessfully tried to use Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law to derail the prosecution, but a jury in March convicted her of aggravated assault after just 12 minutes of deliberation.

(Lost in the circus these last weeks: the Zimmerman case first made national headlines, not just because of racial overtones, but because it was the case wherein the rest of the country was introduced to Florida’s twisted “Stand Your Ground Law”. Most of us were repulsed. But hey . . . )

An elegant and kind man with a poet’s touch

roger_ebertRoger Ebert, who died yesterday, began blogging in earnest some years back after cancer robbed him of speech. He racked up millions of hits and every post generated hundreds of comments.  I’ve written about him a few times. From March of 2010:

I discovered his blog a few months ago and was enchanted – a fine writer, a profoundly human man and very very brave. He’s wasting away from cancer – can no longer speak or eat. He doesn’t even have a jaw anymore. And yet he blogs. And he cares. And he has his finger on the pulse of the humanity that is us. I wish I knew him.

Roger Ebert’s Journal was much more than movies; while he chronicled the challenges of his illness he also wrote – always elegantly – of so many other things – of politics, music, art, children and cooking.

He and I were born in the same year, so when he wrote of his own youth, which he often did – as often happens with those battling terminal illnesses – I went back in time with him. Like in this passage from a very recent post titled “How I am a Roman Catholic”:

The nuns at St. Mary’s were Dominicans. They lived in a small square convent behind the school, holding six nuns (some taught two grades) and a cook and their housekeeping nun, who kept a sharp eye trained on us through her screen door. We had humble playground equipment, a swing set and two basketball hoops. Our principal sport was playing King of the World. This involved two boys standing on a log, each trying to push the other off. The housekeeper would open the screen door and shout, “If you break your necks, you have only yourselves to blame.”

It was from these nuns, especially Sister Nathan and Sister Rosanne, that I learned my core moral and political principles. I assumed they were Roman Catholic dogma. Many of them involved a Social Contract between God and man, which represented classical liberalism based on empathy and economic fairness. We heard much of Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum”–“On Capital and Labor.”

I’ll miss him and his writing but I’ll go back now and again to the archives. There is wisdom there.

Bill Moyers talks to smart people

M y brother was here last week. We talked a lot about many things. He’s a fine conversationalist he is. And I’m not bad, so we had a good time. But he’s got an edge on me with the depth and breadth of his knowledge. And personal experience wtih much of which he speaks.

He’s a PhD in Philosophy, a former priest who studied texts in Latin and Hebrew. He’s a father and a grandfather. He’s a sailor and a superb do-it-yourselfer (a longtime fantasy of mine is to have him prisoner for a week in my house with his tools and no books. That would be sweet.)

He’s a lecturer, a college professor, a prolific author and travels extensively to meetings and workshops here and in Europe and in Africa. I’ve no idea how he has time to do any of these things. It’s annoying.

One of the things we talked about was labor and labor unions. I said I thought that the union model, as practiced today, has failed. It was the right model for a long time but is the wrong model for these times and needs to be reinvented.

He disagreed. But here’s some evidence that, for maybe the first time ever, because some very smart people are saying the same thing, I was right and he was wrong.

The relevant discussion is the first 20 minutes or so here from yesterday’s Bill Moyers’ show. It’s fascinating.

Until 1974. They did it until 1974.

Between 1929 and 1974, the North Carolina Eugenics Board sterilized thousands of men and women without their knowledge or consent, most of whom were poor, black, disabled, institutionalized, or undereducated. According to TPM, an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 of them are still alive, and 146 of them have been found and verified. After years of working with victims to come up with an acceptable solution, the state’s House, led by Republican speaker Thom Tillis, proposed paying $50,000 to each of the living victims of the state’s foray into messing with the gene pool. A total of $10 million was set aside for currently known and to-be-discovered victims.

Upon reflection however, today’s Senate Republicans would rather not do that. After all, it was just sterilization.

Sen. Don East said, “I’m so sorry it happened, but throwing money don’t change it, don’t make it go away. It still happened.”

Sen. Austin Allrand  “I’m not so sure it would lay the issue at rest because if you start compensating people who have been ‘victimized’ by past history, I don’t know where that would end.”

After all,  these people were ‘feeble minded’ and illiterate guardians signed their X’s, so it was all legal.

Elaine Riddick Jessie is an African-American woman who, as a 14-year-old girl in 1968, was forcibly sterilized by the Eugenics Board of North Carolina, which argued that she was “feebleminded” and “promiscuous.”

Prior to the sterilization (at age 13), Jessie had been kidnapped, molested, and raped.

The South rises again.

Bob Herbert: An essential voice goes silent

Bob Herbert has been one of the treasures at The New York Times for the past 18 years. My ‘must reads’ among the Times’ stable of op ed writers has been dwindling in recent years; but Herbert kept me coming back. His voice always clarified complex social challenges; he always pulled me back to earth. He says he’s “off to write a book and expand my efforts on behalf of working people, the poor and others who are struggling in our society.” Good for him. But oh, he’ll be missed.

Today’s column, Losing Our Way,  is his last. It is, of course, pure Herbert.

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home. . . . Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st Century. . . .  The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

. . .  [Today’s income] inequality . . .  is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

. . . Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power . . .So the employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.

Among the comments was this. Well worth a read.

Keepin’ us safe

It is the growing inequality between societies that generate so many social pathologies. And grotesquely unequal societies are also unstable societies. – Tony Judt, “Ill Fares the Land”

Thank elvis for our wars. Were it not for our valiant fight in Afghanistan and Iraq to preserve American democracy, were we not over there spending blood and treasure and pissing off a billion or so people, we might find ourselves in trouble here at home. Why, were it not for our wars, we might see an erosion of our way of life.

Ahh, that's more like it!

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.

“C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

So says Nicholas Kristoff (whom commenter Alan considers a girly man) – he had more than these few words on that subject in yesterday’s Times.

Words like these:

“Economic polarization also shatters our sense of national union and common purpose, fostering political polarization as well.

“So in this postelection landscape, let’s not aggravate income gaps that already would make a Latin American caudillo proud. To me, we’ve reached a banana republic point where our inequality has become both economically unhealthy and morally repugnant.

Oh – in Afghanistan, today is the 33rd day of the tenth year of the war.

There is no accountability anywhere

Here in the US, we have about the highest incarceration rate in the world. But Wall Streeters and regulators who destroy the lives of hundreds of  thousands, and priests who abused children for decades walk free. They’re not decorating jail cells.

Today the NY Times has a story that makes a lie of all the ‘apologies’ coming from the Vatican to Catholics around the world.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal. . . . Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.

In case anyone is wondering what ‘social justice’ means, I point out that this is a perfect example of  ‘social injustice‘.

How tidy that a fan has fans

Roger Ebert. Former movie critic, Chicago Trib and syndicated TV. I discovered his blog a few months ago and was enchanted – a fine writer, a profoundly human man and very very brave. He’s wasting away from cancer – can no longer speak or eat. He doesn’t even have a jaw anymore. And yet he blogs. And he cares. And he has his finger on the pulse of the humanity that is us. I wish I knew him.

This morning I checked in to see if he’d posted since his absolutely definitive take down of Glenn Beck following the TV star’s absolutely astonishing ‘social justice’ rant and was very glad to see he’s still bangin’ them out.

And his Glenn Beck post has 693 comments! So don’t even bother. 693 comments.

I’ll bet some of them came from the Americans on the ground in Afghanistan where it is the 167th day of the ninth year of the war there.