Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Community and Political Activist

Karl Marx once remarked, “I, at least, am not a Marxist”. During my nearly 30+ years of community and political activism, I’ve been asked if I was Left or Right wing; conservative, liberal, libertarian, or moderate, and a host of other, what I consider, meaningless labels. For 28 years or so, I was active in the Louisville Democrat Party, serving on many club boards and quite an activist, before being forced out by internal “good ole boy” politics. A decision I made with a heavy heart. For the last 2 years I’ve been a Republican, which comes with its own cliques, though I've never changed my stance on issues. The party may have changed, but my values didn’t. While running for Metro Council as a Democrat, our local newspaper, the Courier-Journal, called me the “progressive voice of Southwest Jefferson County”. Blasphemy to some; a compliment to others I suppose. So, let’s look at my position on some issues.

I prefer a small federal government, but I’d be satisfied with one that is efficient. Common sense in politics is a rarity. We need more of it. Once elected, party politics stop. You’re no longer a Democrat or Republican. You’re a representative of all the people. Act like it.

I believe in more democracy, not less. I believe in the citizen’s right to recall; making voting easier (such as by computer or telephone); the power of a citizen initiative (the power to initiate legislation); and the power of a citizen referendum. I think we should be allowed to vote “no confidence” or “none of the above” if we’re unhappy with how the government is being run or our choice of candidates.

I support term limits of 12 years. If you can’t get it done by then, you’re not going to get it done. I favor ending gerrymandering. Under our current system, we have less of a turnover than the old Soviet Politburo! We need fresh ideas and less arrogant, power hungry, out of touch, old fogies who think those seats belong to them. They don’t. They belong to us. It’s time to throw back the curtains, open the windows, and let some light and fresh air in.

I’m big on individual liberty and responsibility. I don’t want government sticking its nose in my private affairs (“in my best interest” in a pig’s eye). I don’t trust corporations to look after the public’s well-being. Corporations should be closely monitored and/or regulated. Industries which have a profound influence on the national economy (or national security) such as oil and gas should come under national control. And while we’re at it, specific industries groups should be responsible for industry related pollution cleanup, as in Europe, not the taxpayers. Companies should not be permitted to default on their pension funds. Finally, rather than continuing to bail out the airlines industry, let’s join the rest of the world and merge these companies into a national airline.

I believe in a public safety net. Everyone needs some help some time. It just shouldn’t become a career option. It should help you to get on your feet and back in the workforce as quickly as possible. On a related matter, we should eliminate corporate welfare. I think, like in many countries, but most notably Japan, we need to cap the amount of money chief executives make. Many restrict, on a percentage basis, how much a President/CEO can make over their lowest paid employee (something like 100% between lowest and highest). Sure, companies have responsibility to the shareholders, but they also have an equal responsibility to their employees and the community at large. It’s time we put an end to the upwardly spiraling salaries of executives while you and I take it on the chin.

I think the current tax structure, especially the federal, needs to be completely overhauled. Perhaps a flat or consumption tax. Corporations should be required to pay a minimum tax or perhaps as industry groups pay in to a fund for the public usage (i.e.: oil and gas companies funding alternative energy sources research, automobile manufactures contributing to rebuilding roads, bridges, or mass transportation, in addition to more efficient and cleaner running vehicles).

I have no problem with the Pledge of Allegiance as it’s now written. Listen, America is a diverse country in terms of cultures and religions, but overwhelming, most Americans, regardless of where they come from, believe in a god of some sort. If you don’t like it, then I suggest you hum over the “under God” part (which, by the way, was not part of the original but added by President Eisenhower).

I have no problem with the Ten Commandment being posted in school, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s one of the key foundations of Western Civilization.

While I agree with the premise of “intelligent design, it’s not science. It’s religion, and should be taught in a theology or philosophy class. Creationism may be taught, but only as one of the precursors to evolution. But if taught, it should include the creation myths of all religions throughout the ages, not just Judeo-Christianity.

As for prayer in school, as I said, we’re a diverse nation with lots of different religions, so who’s prayer is it going to be? I favor two minutes of silence. If you want to say a prayer, go for it. It’s your two minutes. If you want to put some final touches on a paper, get in some last minute cramming for a test, have at it. Just show some respect for others and be quite.

I support the death penalty when we have absolute proof. I believe prisons should be as self-supporting as possible. I oppose prisoners suing the state, at taxpayer expense, because their mash potatoes are too lumpy or their sheets are wrinkled. You want to sue? You pay for it. Gone too are their cable TV and state-of-the-art gym. This is a prison. Not Club Med. Heck, as it is, they get better medical care than most of us who work for a living. And yeah, I support chain gangs too. We should keep non-violent offenders away from violent offenders. For those who have a chance a paroled, we need to focus on rehabilitation like basic education, job training, résumé writing, and interview skills. We don’t want to see these people back behind bars if possible. Special emphasis should be given to juveniles who may not be in prison yet. It’s cheaper to invest in preventative measures now than incur the higher costs of punishment later on.

I fully support the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms, but not armour piercing bullitts. Not too many deers wearing Kavilar.

I support separation of church and state. Believe what you what. Just don’t require me to believe it too. And while we’re at it, the Founding Fathers had no problem with religion. They just didn’t want a state or official religion like in England. As far as putting religious displays on public property, so long as it’s not an official endorsement, go for it. Just remember, other religions should be afforded the same opportunity.

The older I get, and the more doctors, insurance forms I have to deal with, the more I believe we need a basic national healthcare program like single payer. Why are we the only Western nation (and one of the few nations in general) without one? Why do we have such poor health care in comparison some other industrialized nations, including a much higher than average infant morality rate? Why do we pay more for prescriptions that are identical and cheaper in other countries? We need national healthcare now.

I fully and completely support unions and the right to organize, strike, and collectively bargain. I think we need stronger and more active grassroots unions like we used to have in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s. And, as in Europe, I would like to see a percentage of board seats reserved for employees, union or otherwise. You know, when I ran for State Representative in 2004 on the Republican ticket, I had 30 volunteers, most all of whom were either active or retired union members. They understood that working families need support on both sides of aisle. Unions too need to ignore party label and look at the individual. Oddly, corporations and old union bosses seem to be on the same side when promoting their “us versus them” mentality. All you end up with is divided labor.

I think the area where we fall flat on our face the most is education. Teachers have become glorified babysitters. They’re not. They’re there to teach. Teachers have also been put in a position where they teach kids how to prepare and take one test and one test only. Wrong. Kids should be taught a broad curriculum with an emphasis on writing, reading, science, math in grades 1 through 12. However, they need to know basic history and geography, and exposure to arts too. We want well rounded high school graduates. We also need to pay teachers more, based on their performance. I see no reason why jocks earn millions while some teachers can barely make ends meet. Wrong priorities folks. I also think kids should be required, beginning in the sixth grade, required to take a citizenship or civics class, where they volunteer in the community in order to graduate. Learning to give back to society won’t hurt them any.

I fully support our military. I’m a disabled veteran, and active with the DAV and AmVets. These brave men and women deserve the best America has to offer in terms of equipment, training, healthcare, and benefits. Along the same vein, the same goes for law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS. None of these folks get paid nearly enough to do what they do on a daily basis. God love ‘em all.

Language is the thread that weaves the fabric of a nation together. We are a vast wonderful country, with every race, culture, religion, and ethic group on this planet represented. If every group went off to do their own thing, we, as a nation, would disintegrate. That’s why I believe English should be adopted as our national language. It is this commonality which holds us together. This isn’t to say that folks can’t speak whatever language they want at home, in church, or in their own community. But, it gives them a means to communicate with their fellow citizens. One more thing, a basic level of reading and writing in English should be required of every new immigrant.

We should also protect our borders more. It’s not that we should oppose immigration (after all, we’re a nation of immigrants), but let’s do this legally. Employers caught hiring illegal immigrants should be hit where it hurts the most…in their wallet. You want to work here, but you don’t want to become a citizen? No problem. Get a temporary work permit. Your potential employer can help you, and it’s cheaper than him paying a fine.

Now, it’s time to delve into the social issues a bit. First, let me say these are my personal opinions and not necessarily how I would vote if I had the opportunity. Secondly, many are issues best left to the courts and out of the hands of politicians, who tend to say and do anything to get elected. On the subject of discrimination, I don’t believe anyone should be denied a job based on their age, sex, race, national origin, religion, ethic group, or sexual preference. By the same token, I don’t believe you should be given a job based on any of these either. If you can do the job, you should get the job. As for assisted suicides, I can say without question I will fight death with everything I have. I won’t go easy. I recognize that for some death is a release. If you’re mentally competent, and that’s your choice, so be it. I don’t agree with it, but it’s your life to do with as you please. Just, please consider the lives of the ones you may leave behind. Abortion is perhaps the hottest contested topic there is. There’s no winning this one. All I can say is I don’t support late term abortions. As for when life begins, I’m no doctor, but if death is considered to be the absence of brain activity and a heartbeat, then I see no reason why the same criteria shouldn’t be used in determining when life begins. And if abortions were outlawed, the rich would find away while the poor, who can least afford it, will either have the children that taxpayers may end up supporting, or they’ll find some back alley freak to do the abortion. Again, I think we need to focus on prevention. On the subject to marriage, that’s between a man and woman.

Of all the democracies in the world, of which India is the largest, the American “capitalist” form is generally considered by political scientists, economists, and sociologists as the worse example. Have you ever noticed that there are no democracies based on the American model? Not even in Afghanistan or Iraq, which are based on the British system. A system which, at its core, is based on the accumulation of capital is bound not to last. The fastest growing political registration is by far Independent. Both major parties are continuing to lose members as they lose the trust of the American people. We have more small third parties than at anytime in our history. Sadly, people are turned off by our traditional “winner takes all” political system and have simply stopped caring. Americans, perhaps rightly, see politics, and by extension, government as rotten to the core. Attempts at reform will no longer enough.

So, there you have it. Like Marx, I’m no Marxist either. But, as to where I fit in on the political landscape, who knows? Most consider me a moderate, but regardless, I am my own person. Nevertheless, my opinions are always evolving as I strive learn and understand more.

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