Friday, May 22, 2015

Gardner makes good on campaign threat

Katie McDonough calls it like she sees it, and last Friday McDonough saw Cory Gardner as a fraud and called him out.

Full disclosure here: McDonough one of my favorite internet writers. She is the political writer for the webzine According to her credit blurb she "(focuses) on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice." If Salon were an 1850s whaling ship, McDonough would be the chief harpooner. And on Friday, she scored herself a white whale.

It seems Gardner is making good on a threat he made during his election campaign. If elected, he threatened, he'd make it harder than ever for poor women to access any kind of birth control. He wasn't shy about how he'd do that, either. First, he'd introduce legislation to make over-the-counter birth control legal. Then, he and his Republican cronies would make sure that the Affordable Care Act wouldn't cover birth control at all.

You may remember that I warned you about this back last fall. Of course, Gardner himself didn't state it quite that way. No, he trumpeted the first part of his plan in his campaign ads, disguised as something good for all women. You remember those campaign ads, don't you? They were the ones he scrambled to pull together to replace the ones about how his family's health care coverage had been cancelled because of "Obamacare." I called bullshit on that one, too, remember?

They were nice ads, too, full of Yuma County Republican women nodding agreeably as Cory laid out his bullshit plan before they all went back to baking cookies or selling insurance or whatever Republican women in Yuma County do when they're not having political smoke blown up their skirts.

And you may remember that I said at the time the plan smelled like what they scoop out of feedlots and spread on crops to make 'em grow faster. You also may remember that, while I warned you about the second part of his plan, Gardner didn't say a word it.

Well, on Friday, Gardner launched the first part of his nefarious scheme, and it didn't take Katie McDonough long to learn about it. Rather than quote extensively from McDonough's piece, I'll urge you to read it yourself. No, really, click on those last three words and read the article. I'll wait.

See what I mean? I won't pretend that Cory Gardner believes that the bill he introduced in the U.S. Senate will really help women. Frankly, Scarlet, I don't think he gives a damn. He wants votes from relatively affluent rural Coloradans (and if you own a $100,000 tractor that Gardner's dad sold you, you're his prime demographic) because they are the ones who vote and poor people aren't. People like Gardner have no clue what it's like to be poor, even in Yuma County.

I do.

I grew up in Yuma. My family's roots there go as deeply as Gardner's, but my family never rubbed shoulders with his. Unlike some of his constituents, Cory Gardner didn't grow up going to bed hungry. He's never known what it's like to have to choose between food and rent. He went to school with poor people every day of his life, and never saw them.

People like the Gardners never do.

But I saw them. Some of them were my friends. They were the kids whose dads trudged up and down Main Street looking for a day's work, starting at Hoch Lumber on the north end and ending with the Gleason Motors on the south end, and constantly being turned away. My family counted itself lucky to be one step ahead of the truly poverty-stricken in Yuma. They were the families who had the most kids, and could least afford them. They couldn't even afford, at 1960s prices, the only form of birth control available at Brownlee's Rexall Drug Store back then.

I won't bore you with a lesson on why some people are stuck perpetually in a cycle of poverty and despair. Usually, they aren't very likeable people, and if you don't know why, I don't have time to teach you. But what they suffer is not their fault, and free birth control under the Affordable Care Act is one of their few hopes of breaking that perpetual cycle.

Cory Gardner wants to deny poor people that hope. Either he's so clueless that he really doesn't understand why poverty exists, or he understands but he's cynical enough to put political ideology before the real needs of human beings. Either way, he's not fit to represent us in the U.S. Senate.

I've told you that before, and now Gardner is proving me right. I promise that I'll keep telling you as long as you keep voting for him.

An edited version of this blog appeared in the Sterling Journal-Advocate Monday, May 25.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

We must 'bring it up' forever

DENVER – One of the proudest moments of any parent’s life is watching one’s robed offspring stride across a stage and accept a college diploma from a beaming administrator. My wife and I enjoyed such a moment this spring as we watched our oldest son – at the tender age of 38 – accept a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality, Tourism and Events Management from Metropolitan State University of Denver. Combined with his years of experience as a chef and caterer, his degree positions him to enter the executive ranks in Colorado’s tourism industry.

 But his degree is more than just job skills in a growth industry; he got a good grounding in liberal arts, too, and spent more than a little time taking history classes. If his vocation is inn keeping in all of its permutations, his avocation is military history, specifically World War II and its causes. And his particular area of interest, and one on which he wrote several papers while in college, is the Pacific theater of that war and how the U.S. got dragged into — and then won — a two-front war. What he found wass somewhat unsettling and caused a bit of a heated discussion over that weekend.

 The topic of conversation was James Bradley’s “Flyboys,” the lesser-known but brutally honest follow- up to his bestseller “Flags of Our Fathers.” I’d found the book on my son's bookshelf and he recommended it, so I took the book with me and started reading while waiting for the commencement to begin. I was a little startled by Bradley’s frankness about how the U.S. came to be embroiled in war with Japan.

Bradley starts the book by giving a detailed and unvarnished account of the brutality with which Europeans conquered and exploited the North American continent and compares that conquest with colonization efforts all over the non-European world. He also explains, succinctly but comprehensively, the history of Japan that put it at odds with the United States of the 20th century.
While he gives the Japanese no pass for their narrow-minded and short-sighted pursuit of Pacific dominance, neither does he let Americans off the hook. He makes it clear that, in invading first China and then Korea, Japan was simply instituting its own form of the Monroe Doctrine. If the U.S. could claim suzerainty in the Americas and adjacent islands, Japan felt justified in claiming the same in Asia and the Pacific. Bradley further explains that all Japan wanted was to join the imperial club, to be treated as an equal among nations that could subjugate other peoples in pursuit of wealth and power. And he justifiably accuses Americans of racist hypocrisy in condemning Japan for its rapacious conquests in China and Korea, when Americans modeled that very behavior in conquering … well, America.

None of this was news to me; what was surprising was my son's enthusiastic recommendation of the book in light of his known conservatism. Throughout his adulthood, he's believed that everyone has the same opportunities, that the differences between success and failure lie in the decisions we make, and that the primary reason for long-term unemployment is simply laziness. He also has always believed the fairy tales he was taught in school about how this country was developed. So it occurred to me that, when faced with an authorative accounting of the real history of the United States -- and, in no small part, his own heritage -- he might be willing to talk about the disparity between history as he learned it and history as it really happened.

I was wrong.

Having learned what he has learned, my son now wishes to not discuss it any more and “move on.” He is tired of having white males constantly blamed for every bad thing that ever happened to the rest of the world. “I don’t know why people have to keep bringing it up,” he said.

It took me a while to formulate an answer, but I do have one and it is this: “Bringing it up” is called teaching. If the United States of America is ever to become the land of the free and the home of the brave, we have to start teaching our children an accurate, honest history of our nation’s beginnings, and there is much to be ashamed of in those beginnings. The eradication of the continent's original habitants was a stated government goal from Abraham Lincoln forward. The enslavement of them and later genocide practiced against them wasn't just the result of a few misguided hotheads in the Old West -- it was official government policy. That policy included christianization of all native people, wherever Americans found them, a direct contravention of the nation's foundational law.

Not that there weren't some nice ideals expressed in our nation's founding documents. Equality, justice, and liberty are good policies for any government to pursue, but in the 19th century, the French did a better job of it (at least inside their own borders) than we Americans. There's no doubt that the men and women who founded this nation were enlightened, progressive, liberal, courageous and often brilliant. They were also hypocrites, slave-owners, racists and elitists. The problem is that generations of Americans have lionized these people to the point that we believe they were perfect, or nearly so, and that they actually did create a "more perfect union," which somehow has deteriorated into something less than it once was.

What we need to continuously "bring up," as my son put it, is the imperfection of the people who founded our country. We must be honest about the motivations that created our revolution and admit to the hypocrisy of a people that demanded equality and freedom for its citizens while maintaining millions in the abject misery of slavery. We need to tell our school children that, while Thomas Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence, he was also calculating the profits of breeding and selling black people the same way a farmer calculates the profits of breeding and selling livestock. Our goal in educating tomorrow’s leaders should not be to make them like yesterday’s leaders, but better than that. Only by constantly “bringing it up” can we teach our children how to mold the homeland we’ve always wanted but never had.

 I hope, in time, my son will realize that earning his college degree was not the end of his life of learning, but a beginning. I hope that, as he pursues his personal quest for success and fulfillment, he uses the other things he learned in college to care about other people’s quests for success and fulfillment as well. What makes me proudest of him is not just the man he is now, but the man he is becoming and will be.