Sunday, April 30, 2006

Why Am I Telling You All This?

by Rich Miles

There's a point to all this. The point is that there is almost always a larger point underpinning the news you see every day - or sometimes a smaller point hidden in the weeds of our leaders' rhetoric. I try to establish and expand on these whenever possible. I'm not the only blogger doing this sort of thing, in fact my blog links will connect you to folks who may do it a lot better than I do. But I promise this - no one does it just like you'll see it done here.

And as time goes on, you will I hope see some of my friends and colleagues, and perhaps even you on this blog. Because while I am the lead voice here, I don't even want to be the only one. There are a lot of people who feel their voices aren't heard in the world today. If I can let a few of them speak here on my little corner of the Web, I will do so happily and proudly.

Because we live in a time when, to a greater degree than at any time in America's history, our alleged leaders bank on our not paying very close attention to what they do, and when on rare occasions we call them on their lies, they behave as if it's our fault for being foolish enough to let ourselves be lied to.

Or they tell us that what we see and hear is not reality, that we didn't really hear them tell us one thing and do another, or tell us one thing today and another two weeks later, or any number of other ways our leaders have of treating us like abused spouses who are so addled from the repeated blows that we don't know reality from fiction.

And we keep letting them do it to us - keep letting our leaders lie to us, in fact often seem to INSIST that they lie to us so we needn't face the painful truths, and only once in a while do we get brave enough to say, ya know, that doesn't quite seem true - right before they slap us down again, and tell us that black is white, and up is down.

A lot of people think I'm too old to be this earnest (I'm in my mid-fifties). A lot of them think I should have figured out by this point in life that no one person can really make any difference in what goes on in our country. And I suppose that's true. But I'm not just one person - as you know if you're a frequent web-crawler, there are an awful lot of us out here, and together, maybe we can make some kind of difference, change one mind, debunk one lie, something.

So I and the zillion other bloggers all over the U.S. who take an interest in matters political and social will try to bring some light to the dark experience that is being a liberal and/or progressive in America these days. We'll keep talking till someone listens, I guess.

Rich Miles
April 30, 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Render Unto Caesar

Fletcher Administration Has Its Priorities Set - For An Election Campaign, But Not For The People of Kentucky

by Rich Miles
April 26, 2006

OK, Let me see if I’ve got this right:

The reasons to deny University of the Cumberlands an $11 million state funding package for a new pharmacists’ school are basically these:

1) The giving of state funds (OUR money) to private, faith-based organizations of any kind is expressly forbidden in Section 189 of the Constitution of the State of Kentucky, and in various specific laws as well.

2) If it were a federal matter, it would be against specific federal anti-discrimination law, and in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution of the United States as well. ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.")

3) 80% of people who contacted the Governor’s office with an opinion on this matter (a self-selected sample, it’s true, but it’s self-selected in both directions) opposed the funding

4) University of the Cumberlands cannot get any new pharmacy school they may build accredited nationally because of the very discrimination they practice that brought them to statewide notice in this matter.

5) While Gov. Fletcher refused to line-item veto this $11 million, he DID veto as much as $370 million in other budget appropriations, much of it taken away from our established, open-to-all-KY-residents state universities, as well as social programs for the poor, the elderly, youth programs, and environmental improvements..

The reasons to go ahead with the funding, and not exercise the line-item veto are these:

1) The governor is courting the radical fundamentalist religious right, in the mistaken belief that they will carry him to re-election next year.

2) Senate President David Williams says, in essence, that the will of the people doesn’t make a bit of difference in this matter - that it is not a “pick-a-star” contest. Also see #1 in reference to Williams as well.

3) The governor has decided that the courts must waste an immense amount of time and money answering a question that, in this separation-of-church-and-state republic, should never have been asked, and indeed that no one but him and Sen. Williams have asked now: we must know, once and for all, if it’s unconstitutional for Kentucky to fund faith-based institutions, and the money isn’t going to be released for use till that question is answered.

So is this a real dogfight, or are we, the people of the state of Kentucky, being taken for a ride again, with elected representatives alleging to represent the will of the people, while doing nothing of the sort, and pandering to a small slice of the electorate for what they perceive to be their political gain?

Before I proceed, let me clarify a couple of points here: First, I don’t deny the right of the University of the Cumberlands to refuse access to their educational gifts to anyone they want to - as long as they’re self-supporting through tuition and private, non-governmental donations. I think it’s particularly nasty and un-Christian of them to do so, but they have the right, as long as I and other state residents don’t have to pay for it. But when they take MY money, and yours, then WE get to say how it’s used, and WE get to object if it’s used to promote bigotry and intolerance.

Secondly, the young man, Jason Johnson, who was expelled from U Cumberlands because he’s gay should have known better - if he wasn’t willing to abide by the rules at UC, he should have gone elsewhere to school. He can be gay if he wants, but why deliberately start this kind of fight?

But having said that, I have to ask: how much longer do we have to put up with this?

How much longer will our government, our elected representatives, subvert the expressed - EXPRESSED - wishes of the majority of the people of our state, in order to kowtow to a small but highly vocal minority of radical religious nutjobs, which by the most optimistic estimates represent at most 20% of the electorate, of whom not all even agree with the governor and senator on this issue?

Dump the appropriation for University of Cumberlands, Gov. Fletcher - or I promise you, that 80% who oppose this nonsense are going to remember this ignoring of the will of the people, this perfidy and political posturing in November of ‘07. I for one will do my best to make certain they do.

Render unto Caesar, and all that. And yes, that's from the Bible.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Tribute to Anne Braden

By Rich Miles

Anne Braden passed away last month, on March 6, 2006. She was 81 years old, what the country folks sometimes call a “goodish age”. She worked virtually till her dying day, and was said to be “annoyed” when the doctors told her she’d have to go into the hospital. She lived more life in those 81 years, made more friends (and enemies), served more causes and more just plain folks than most of us could hope to if we were given 5 times that many years.

I’m not going to sit here and give a rundown of the many accomplishments of the life and career of Anne Braden – a career that started in earnest when I was about a year old, and continued unabated until just last month. Pretty much all of it is part of the public record, and I encourage you to seek it out if you haven’t already done so. Her life, her truth, makes a good read.

Instead, I’d like to tell you about what Anne has left us: what she created for us in life, and what she has bequeathed us at her passing.

Anne McCarty Braden was, to all appearances, no one’s idea of a formidable opponent. She stood about 5 feet tall, even a bit shorter in her later years, and was a slim girl of 23 or so when she arrived back in Louisville in 1947, having been born here but raised in Anniston Alabama. But despite her diminutive physical stature, she had something about her that would not be beaten down, not for the entire 52 years during which she worked for civil rights and racial equality - and that something is the real gift she has left us here today, and for years to come.

For if a life such as Anne Braden’s can be summed up in one word, that word would be: courage.

Not the kind of courage that a soldier needs to face battle and possible death, though she received more than her share of death threats. Not the courage of a firefighter or a policeman or woman, to protect us from the accidents and ills of daily life. But courage all the same.

Courage to see wrong, and do all in our power to right it. Courage to see social institutions in need of change, and do what we can to effect those changes. Courage to see that there are people who will never believe what you believe, and yet keep putting out your message of peace and understanding and harmony among all races and nations, knowing that some will hear and scoff, but every once in a while, some will hear and change, some will join your fight, and some will, with luck and God’s help, even surpass you, and make the world a better place to live in for all of us – even the scoffers. Even the threateners. Even the haters.

The things Anne Braden did almost daily, and more importantly the reasons for them, have lost currency in our world today – it’s become almost unbearably “corny” to speak of changing the world, of creating a space where peace may thrive among individuals or among nations. Those who do this work are called hippies, dreamers, idealists, and worse. Anne was often called a Communist back when that term was the bugbear of the day. She was arrested twice on charges of sedition – a word we hardly hear today, whose antiquated roots embrace the very ancient and ongoing practice of governments attempting to silence their opposition. And still she kept at it. Still she saw that, no matter how much we might SAY that racial equality was growing and thriving in America, we did not always, perhaps did not often live up to our own standards. She saw this right up to the day she died, and she never stopped working and fighting for what she believed was simply – right.

And that – more than anything else she could have given us – is what she has left for us to do. We must have the courage to speak truth to power, as she did. We must have the courage to make it clear that war is never the answer, that racism is never acceptable, that hatred is its own reward – all we get from it is more hatred.

This is in large part why I feel the need to write these words. Our issue of the moment is not that of Anne Braden, but we need her courage and dedication to address our issue as well as to continue addressing hers. No one person, not even an Anne Braden, ever solves these problems all by herself, or all at once. It’s a long, hard job, and there’s not likely to be a break or an endpoint, or a place where we can say, the job is done - not in our lifetimes at any rate. But the more of us there are, and the more we can muster the courage of an Anne Braden, the greater the chance that some day, long after we’ve all gone to dust, our children or our children’s children may be able to say “I wonder why those people so long ago thought racism and war were so important? We don’t do that any more.”

It’s a fond dream, and perhaps mankind can never get there – that’s what a lot of so-called experts think, that we as a species can never get beyond hatred. But Anne Braden believed we could. Her whole life was dedicated to the proposition that we could. And the best we can do as her survivors is to do all in our power to prove her right.

If your beliefs include the idea of an afterlife, perhaps we can envision Anne now, finally getting to rest and finally seeing her beloved Carl again after 31 years without him. But Anne is still with us in spirit, in our hearts and minds and actions even now that death has taken her out of our sight. If there’s a better measure of immortality available to any of us, I can’t imagine what it would be.

Rest well, Anne – you’ve earned it.

And to those who read these words, keep the faith – what you do matters. If nothing else, the life of Anne Braden proves that.