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URBAN LIFE POLITICS

By Dr. Lora-Ellen McKinney Students have returned to school in recent weeks. As a first assignment, many will be asked to answer a familiar question: “What did you do for your summer vacation?” Depending on who they are, their answers may turn out to be surprisingly political. Though we often forget the power inherent in who we are and what we do, children think their parents set the sun in the sky every morning. Teens, while hormonally designed to distrust parental authority and occasionally behave badly, nonetheless count on us to set the limits that make them feel safe. Parents have as a foremost responsibility the modeling of appropriate behavior. One of the beauties of American freedom is our ability to speak and, to some extent, behave freely. But in summer town hall conversations that were to have been about health care has emerged a virulence of feeling for President Obama too profoundly deep to have been about health care alone. People claiming their Second Amendment rights took automatic weapons to meetings close to where President Obama was speaking. CNN’s Rick Sanchez reported a sermon titled, Why I Hate Barack Obama given by an Arizona preacher: Turn back to Psalm 58 and let me ask you this question -- why should Barack Obama melt like a snail? Why should Barack Obama die like the untimely birth of woman? Why should his children be fatherless and his wife a widow, as we read in this passage? Well, I'll tell you why. Because since Barack Obama thinks it's OK to use a salty solution, right? -to abort the unborn, because that's how abortions are done, my friend. We're using salt. And I'd like to see Barack Obama melt like a snail tonight. Aired August 28, 2009 - 15:00 This is free speech that rides the line of incitement to violence. Following this sermon, Chris Broughton, a young black man who was a member of this congregation showed up toting an automatic weapon at a meeting on health care held by President Obama in Phoenix (http://ow.ly/ruDh). When a guns right lobbyist was asked later that week on the Chris Matthews Show about whether gun owners should have been allowed concealed weapons in the arena with the president, the answer was yes. The reason: they are trustworthy and wish to support the rights of their country. The summer’s town meetings differed by party. While I must make the disclaimer that I am a registered Democrat, there did appear to be a difference in the town halls held by Democrats and Republicans politicians. Democratic meetings, while not without some noise, let people tell stories of no insurance and bankruptcy and made the most noise about whether or not there should be a single payer versus public insurance options. People on the far left expressed their anger at the president’s unwillingness to firmly state a position for single-payer health care, a great system for coverage that could never get voted in. Most anger was expressed toward insurance companies. No individual who told a personal story was shouted down and the president was called no unseemly names. His process was sometimes criticized but never his character. The Republic town halls were decidedly different. The president was called a socialist, a fascist and a Nazi. Working people with significant medical conditions who told stories about losing health care insurance were denigrated. They were often told to get charity care or Medicare or Medicaid – two much talk about encounters, occurred with Party Chair Michael Steele and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia. In addition to be inhumane, these responses did not take into account that there are circumstances when one can be broke and yet not qualify for government programs. Nor did they acknowledge the inconsistency of the typical Republican small government argument – it seems unreasonable to recommend increasing numbers of people to programs that are anathema to one’s political philosophy. Additionally, lots of the shouting from the crowd at the Republican meetings misunderstood basic truths of health care as it currently exists; for example, people insisted that no one mess with their Medicare without the knowledge that it is a well-run government program. One conservative response to government was tea parties. While tea parties have often been thought of as the games we play with our children or the elite white-gloved, crustless sandwich functions of ladies who lunch, they also have a distinctly revolutionary history in America (http://ow.ly/ruJK). Many far right conservatives and some independents have spent the summer traveling on the Tea Party Express (www.teapartyexpress.org). While touted as a grass roots organization, this is, in fact a well-funded, highly structured organization that has a new revolution as its goal (http://ow.ly/ruu1). People state that they want limited government (rather than responsible government. So how are roads, schools, parks managed? What is the purpose of an elected government or laws? How is civic chaos avoided?). Many tea party attendees also appear to believe Obama’s presidency to be illegitimate. At these tea parties could be seen placards of the president dressed as a bone-nosed witch doctor, telling the president that he and the recently deceased Senator Kennedy belonged together in death, and photos and shirts of Obama as Hitler. Parents and their children held these signs and shouted incendiary slogans. This is not a model for raising polite children. It’s a model that leads to fights on school buses and kids who don’t understand what they have done wrong. 12

Our Anniversary Issue - October 2009  

Celebrating our first year in circulation.

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