The below piece was written nearly 12 years ago on the heels of the neo-con takeover of Congress...
As we creep up on the close of a century, a time of re-evaluation is in order. Last November, the greatest country on earth witnessed a changing of the guard. No ordinary shift for an extraordinary nation---indeed, a reaction, not unlike a nuclear explosion, that will be felt for many years to come.
If given the chance, in its first hundred days, the Republican majority in Congress will turn the clock back to a time when the privileged enjoyed their privileges unabashedly, and the impoverished, lacking government subsidy, roamed city streets begging for food. If given the chance, the Republican majority in Congress will take us back to the time when women resorted to back alleys for relief from unwanted pregnancies. This insurgency will do more, in its infancy, to destroy any efforts at human decency as well as all strides in social equity made in the past hundred years.
In response to the question "whose revolution is this," one has only to look at the so-called Civil Rights initiative being proposed by two Berkeley professors. This initiative does nothing less than advocate the abolition of affirmative action. It stipulates that employment selection be made based on merit only; without regard to one's race, religion, or gender. It is a proposal created by white males, for white males, springing from a bottomless pit of fear which is the basis for why many who voted in November, voted Republican.
Clearly, in the best of all possible worlds, employers would hire solely on merit. But, in the best of all possible worlds, men wouldn't earn approximately 32% more than women, based on the archaic presumption that the male is the breadwinner. Likewise, in the best of all possible worlds, black and Hispanic unemployment would not be nearly double that of whites. The question, thus, is inescapable—from where does this dread of loss of power derive? Evidently, current statistics don't support such angst.
In November, California, a harbinger of national trends, passed Proposition 187 making life, already difficult, a living hell for anyone who is not a legal immigrant. Approved by a wide margin, it deprives illegal immigrants of health care, and public school programs; and a GOP plan is currently in the works targeting legal immigrants, as well.
The issue is not whether this proposition is right or wrong, but why it met with overwhelming voter approbation; just as with the Civil Rights initiative in northern California, the question is why this egregious climate of apprehension.
An impressive amount of time, energy, and money is being spent to keep power exactly where it is and has been for the past 200 years—squarely in the hands of a tiny percentage of the population.
While a vocal minority of white males are afraid of losing their tenuous grip, the white majority is horrified by the idea that even one tax dollar winds up in the pocket of an illegal immigrant. This is a grave paradox given the fact that America is a nation of immigrants, and our forefathers were about as illegal as an illegal immigrant can be. Indeed, it may be said that the only people who have any legitimate claim to this country are the so-called Indians, a misnomer Native Americans have, until only recently, been forced to endure.
One finds oneself in the awkward position of taking a look back at the future when considering Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," a contract which supports the politics of exclusion rather than inclusion, and threatens the arts, aid to dependent families as well as a woman's right to choose. By extension, Gingrich's "Contract" all but eliminates the Fourth Amendment. Here, again, it is not the legislation that is ominous, but the thought behind the legislation.
Not insignificantly, the word "reform," which once suggested positive change, has come to be synonymous with rescinds. When the conservative majority talks about reform, it is a euphemism for elimination. Further, if their "reforms" are realized, there won't be an American earning less than $200,000 a year who won't feel the pinch.
An even greater menace than the tangible changes in programs being proposed is the central world view; a world view that reinforces sameness out of dread of difference, conformity, out of fear of social ostracism, and a survival of the fittest mentality. More precarious still is the underlying assumption that one's fitness is predicated more on one's net worth than on one's value as a human being.
America voted in November and, in December, in Massachusetts, a mirror was held up for all who bothered to look to see how demented we, as a nation, have become. A gunman, entering pre-term clinics, randomly targeted clinic workers—the taking of life in the name of the unborn. What monstrous irony to assert the validity of any act of terrorism in an abortive effort to preclude what one considers terrible acts.
If we must go back in order to go forward, then the election may have taken us just far back enough that we can see, from over our shoulder, that the century being presented to us, by proponents of the right, is nowhere near where we should be at this point in Western Civilization.
by: Jayne Lyn Stahl
March 23, 1995
(Delighted to say that Congressman Barney Frank was among the first people to read the above piece. Thanks to Barney for his wonderful work on behalf of free speech, and for his lifelong support of progressive change.)