Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Congress.org has a couple of interesting paragraphs today.  One notes that the Senate is holding hearings on the Real ID program which requires states to verify the identity and citizenship of anyone getting a driver's license or other state issued id.  The other refers to the Supreme Court decision yesterday upholding state laws (as in Indiana, my home state) which requires voters to show a photo id in order to vote.  Both ask the readers opinion.  I am ambivalent.  About three years ago, when I was working in a small store in a neighboring small town, the state decided to consolidate its driver's license branches eliminating service in some areas.  That small town was one.  From that point to the present, and for the foreseeable future, people have to go to the county seat, where I live, or to other near by larger towns.  Most of those are a minimum of 12-15 miles away.  Not much of a problem, you think?  What if you have no car and no one who can dive you?  Walk, you think? Well, because of a fair number of loose nuts behind wheels I have encountered, I don't like driving on many of the roads one would have to traverse to get to our branch and the other branches may be farther away reachable only by braving even worse traffic.  What if you are elderly or otherwise less mobile?  How do those people get their state approved ID in order to vote?  I expect that, after the primary next week, we will be hearing some stories of people who find that their rights to vote are curtailed by their inability to get the kind of ID required.  

Foreign Policy In Focus had an interesting post, 'The Erased."  It recounts the decade long ordeal of people the Slovenian government erased from its citizenship roles in the early 1990s.  Many had been born in Slovenia of immigrant parents.  Others had spotty documentation.  Some were deported to places with which they had no linguistic or cultural connection.  The Erased persons lost livelihoods and government supported health care.  What scares me is that the same kind of situation can occur in the U.S.  Sometime in the last couple of months I read an account, I think it was in the AARP magazine but wouldn't bet the farm on it, recounting the struggles of Native Americans who were born, raised, and living on Indian lands who have been unable to sign up for Medicaid and other government programs because they don't have 'documents' proving they were citizens.  Getting the required documents have been difficult to say the least.  Native Unity web site has also recounted the difficulty Navajo and other Native peoples in the southwest have had getting access to government health programs for those who were exposed to fallout from nuclear tests and those whose health has been affected by their stint working for uranium mining companies.  Again the crux of the problem was the lack of documentation.  People lived for decades, even their entire lives, in one spot and couldn't provide the documentation to prove it and thereby get the benefits.  This ties into my ambivalence about the Real ID program and the voter ID programs.  Are we setting up a situation where we will have our own Erased?

It has been a long time since I recognized the fact that what was once 'news' has morphed into 'entertainment.'  When I was young we only got half an hour daily of news split between local and national/international.  Now we get 2 and a half hours each week day evening and I am sorry to say little of it is news.  Sometime ago the designation shifted from 'news' to 'news/entertainment' to now, when everything before the / should be erased.  Usually the noise of the news casts goes in one ear and out the other.  If I thought much about what the networks are presenting in alleged news programs I would be constantly irritated at best, angry more likely.  I can't afford the emotional investment to get irritated or angry that frequently.  However I am not immune to periodic bouts of irritation or anger.  Over the couple of weeks two stories have managed to piss me off.  

One is the coverage of a very nasty accident in Chicago in which the driver of a semi truck lost control and plowed into the entrance to one of the mass transit stations killing two and injuring several more.  We get repeated mention of 'details' which may or may not be significant when the accident investigation has finally been concluded.  The news casters have mentioned frequently since last night that the driver has been cited as if somehow his culpability has been confirmed by the citation.  The citation merely means he has been accused NOT that he has been proven guilty of anything.  This morning we 'learned' that the police found a filled prescription for an unnamed drug for someone other than the driver in the cab of the truck and that a compete tox screen was ordered for the driver's blood.  The implication is that the driver may have taken someone else's drug; but, there isn't any proof and may never be any.  They noted that the driver 'missed' his pickup in Champagne, IL and was empty when the accident occurred as though that has some significant bearing on the accident.  The poor guy may simply have been delayed by traffic, missed his assigned window, arrived to find his load was assigned to another driver and then had to dead-head home.  Then, of course, there is the focus on the dead and their bereaved families.  The pathos and human interest has become merely pathetic.  

The second story that has gotten under my skin is the Reverend Jeremiah Wright flap, which I realize has gone on for much longer than a couple of weeks and is likely to continue for more than a couple of weeks longer.  Last night George Stephanopolis covered the latest installment with a particular and insulting reference to Hoosiers and the Indiana primary.  It seems we white, working class, older Hoosiers are scared out of our knickers by the radical Reverend's pronouncements.  Well, let me tell Georgie somethings.  I am white, older, and  female. My daddy was a truck driver and his daddy was a farmer.  And Pastor Wright doesn't scare me one damn bit.  I don't know what George's religious background is but it clearly doesn't encompass experience with Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal or other denominations with a tradition of revivals and charismatic preaching.   That is my background, Mr. Stephanopolis, along with considerable exposure to Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, and Presbyterian churches as well.  

What I see in Reverend Wright's sermons is the ancient revival strain of the jeremiad, named not for Jeremiah Wright but for the Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah.  The role of the prophets was to call the Israelites back to the ways of God.  Through brutally honest and astringent  sermons, they revealed and condemned individual and societal sins; and called down the wrath of God upon both.  Reverend Wright says that we brought 9/11 on ourselves because of our own terrorism abroad and asked, later, how we thought we could engage in terrorism abroad and somehow, magically, think we could escape it at home. We don't like to think of ourselves as terrorists and blind ourselves to how others perceive our actions. We, as Christ said, see the mote in our brothers' eyes but miss the beam in our own.   And we condemn the messenger as unpatriotic.  As a society we have a long history of racism, ethnic discrimination, persecution and outright theft.  To point out that history and underline the persistence of those attitudes in the present isn't to diminish the progress that has been made.  It simply states what should be obvious to anyone: there is more work to be done.  But it is far easier to rest on our supposed laurels and condemn the messenger as unpatriotic.  I won't even go into the fact that the sources of these 'radical' sound bites are the political opponents of a member of Mr. Wright's church and the sole purpose is to devise a way to win at any cost.  

By the way, where was the mainstream media and the pundits when prominent white ministers said, in the days after 9/11, that America deserved what she got because of our tolerance of homosexuals and abortion?  Why were they not accused of lack of patriotism?  Or were they wearing flag pins in their lapels?  

When I was a child my father like to end arguments concerning the shortcomings of the United States with the phrase 'my country, right or wrong' and followed with 'love it, or leave it.' He did that until the day I discovered a different quote: 'my country; when she is right to be kept right and when she is wrong to be put right.'  I think the second notion is a much better measure of patriotism which is why Jeremiah Wright doesn't frighten me. 

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