Commentary by Phyllis Stenerson in Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN October 2012
Once every four years, the American people vote to elect a President to be their leader. Ideally this person will reflect, articulate and seek to advance the best values at the core of America’s experiment in democracy.
The founders were abundantly clear that democracy meant opportunity and justice for all – a revolutionary ideal never before written into a nation’s governing principles. Embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are major declarations of this belief that are repeated in many ways throughout our history.
Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American…America is the only idealistic nation in the world.
We now have multiple crises so serious that democracy itself is genuinely threatened. The media is focusing on one of the major issues – jobs and the economy. Poverty is almost never mentioned. We have the biggest gap between the extremely rich and the rest of us since the Great Recession of the 1930’s. Some say its worse. Record numbers of poor are living in poverty while the rich get richer.
This mess didn’t just happen. Republicans made it happen, Democrats let it happen and we citizens watched it happen, or not.
When searching for causes, money tops the list. Corporations can now legally contribute an unlimited amount of money to influence elections. Although both of the major political parties are at the receiving end, there is no doubt that much more money goes to Republicans.
America’s corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own
and they’re privatizing democracy.
All the benefits – the tax cuts, policies, benefits – flow in one direction: up.
Continuing the quest for cause and effect, religion is high on the list. Freedom of, and freedom from, religion traditionally guided our experiment in democracy and was staunchly defended by both parties until recently.
I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers
to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.
We establish no religion in this country.
We command no worship.
We mandate no belief, nor will we ever.
Church and state are and must remain separate.
Now religion is being used selectively to sanctify or vilify public policies. The primary election process, including the party platform, for the Republican Party in 2012 was dominated by conservative extremists with a very narrow definition of religion. Presidential candidates adhered to this rigid ideology to survive the selection process. Republicans are traditionally associated with conservatism which has meant adhering to the tried and true and holding back radical change. That has been flipped on its head with party positions radically at odds with tradition, including thatAmericais a Christian nation and the wall of separation between church and state is wrong. However, this seems to apply more to social issues like women’s health and reproductive rights and marriage equality than it does to economic justice.
If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor,
either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are,
or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love
the poor and serve the needy without condition and
then admit that we just don’t want to do it.
You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor.
You can’t be neutral.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
It has taken a long time to fully accept this sorry situation as reality and to express it publicly. I’m fervently hoping that Americans will reject this extremist conservatism in the November elections. It will most likely be difficult for many who have cherished recollections of moderate conservatism, and perhaps negative feelings about the other party. I also plead with voters to devote hearts, minds and energy to restoring balance in the coming years.
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.
Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.
Righteousness exalts a nation. Hate just makes people miserable.
Fannie Lou Hamer
Phyllis Stenerson is the previous Editor of the Uptown Neighborhood News. Information providing context can be found at www.ProgressiveValues.org. Comments can be sent to Phyllis@progressivevaluess.org.