Friday, May 5, 2017

When Will Healthcare in the U. S. Be a Human Right?

I wonder what Trump means by "make America great again"? If he means sending us back to the Gilded Age, when Robber Barons ruled with unfettered capitalism that benefited only a few, when government only intervened in society to break strikes and support industrialists, when there were no social services for the poor or elderly, then he is definitely on his way.

Once again Republicans in the House portray themselves as the meanest people in America. They just passed a bill that would gut basic health insurance standards set up by the Affordable Care Act, such as protecting people with "pre-existing conditions" (i.e. sick people), massive cuts to traditional Medicaid coverage, and roll-backs on women's healthcare. The bill does nothing to build anything for Americans' healthcare coverage; but serves only to tear down and to push the country decades behind most developed nations. With it's massive cuts, it is very difficult to see this bill as anything but an attack on poor people and perhaps one of the cruelest pieces of legislation passed in recent decades.

 While the rest of the developed world has determined that healthcare is a natural monopoly outside the realm of the market, America's for-profit system continues to bankrupt middle and working class people, putting the profits of pharmaceutical, insurance and healthcare executives ahead of the basic needs of humanity. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
The House bill steers America farther from that goal. Paul Ryan states that Republican healthcare "reform" is about choice. Yes, the choice between bankruptcy and death. The richest country in the world can do better that Trumpcare, and frankly much better than Obamacare. America needs to begin to see healthcare as a fundamental human right, completely accessible to everyone.

Protests after House Republicans pass healthcare bill, Democracy Now, 5/5/2015
Everybody has better health care than the U. S., The Guardian, 5/5/2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Insightful analysis of the U. S. bombing of Syria from Democracy Now with Alia Malek, Lina Sergie Attar, and Phyllis Bennis.

Democracy Now, April 7, 2017
John Quincy Adams's
Warning Against the Search for "Monsters to Destroy," 1821

And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....

[America's] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Teaching Black Consciousness and White Privilege

One matter we've gotten over very quickly as a country is the notion, beginning in 2008 and carried throughout the Obama presidency, that we now live in a post-racial society.  The fact that an African American was twice elected to the nation's highest office gave rise to the idea that racial discord can now be a thing of the past; that race was obviously no longer an inhibition to achievement or access to opportunity.  That, in fact, all Americans were treated equal.

It did not take long for this phrase to dissolve in the midst of social realities.  The growing attention to police violence and the onset of the Black Lives Matter movement served as reminders that the U. S. has some way to go before it is "post-racial."

I usually include a unit on white privilege after our discussion on apartheid in South Africa. A study of the extreme nature of segregation there, I hope, helps students recognize the nature of segregation and racism in America, both historical and contemporary.  A focus of our study of South Africa is the writings of Steve Biko and his philosophy of Black Consciousness.  As we move to our own society, we read Peggy McIntosh's classic essay on white privilege, "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" and a short thought-provoking article by Gina Crosley-Corcoran, "Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person."

I teach in a school of predominantly white students, so discussions about white privilege can be intense. It's difficult, especially in American culture where we live under illusions of equality, easily accessible class mobility and rugged individualism, to convince others that they might be in a position of privilege.  So I usually give students a more structured discussion, usually around a set of questions on the reading.  Also, I set more clear ground rules for the discussion itself.  Some of these may include:

  • Every student has the opportunity to contribute to the discussion before someone speaks twice.
  • Questions or comments directed to other student's statements must focus on the content of the statement and not the student herself.
  • All statements and questions must be courteous and non-accusatory.
  • Of course students will personalize these readings; however, in the discussion, ask students to try to avoid "I" and "me" and focus on the larger society.
  • Similar to how the conversation started, end by giving students the opportunity to state one thing that impacted them the most about the readings or the discussion with no other student feedback.
Lessons on white privilege can be an uncomfortable topic for many students, but one that gets students to think about the complexities and subtleties of racism and to help them understand their own ideas and attitudes.

Steve Biko, "Black Consciousness and the Quest for True Humanity"
Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack"
Gina Crosley-Corcoran, "Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person"

The GOP plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act has failed!  Which is a good thing.  But this country is still very far from declaring health care a human right.

Donald Trump blames Democrats

It's Time for a Single-Payer Healthcare System

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Obama has a pretty long list of presidential pardons or clemency.  Most were low level drug offenders with long sentences; some surprises too, such as Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera.  Sadly, Leonard Peltier denied clemency.

Democracy Now!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Very much looking forward to the new documentary on James Baldwin.  Timely and necessary.

I Am Not Your Negro Trailer

Review in The Guardian