Social Justice

Think about the many aspects of our lives that fit under the social justice umbrella. Of course, these important issues are intimately connected with the other four “Justice Categories.”

The ‘Women’s March’ that we witnessed across the globe on January 21, 2107 exemplifies the concern about social justice worldwide. My wife, Kelly, and I attended the awesome Women’s March in D.C. It was an experience of a lifetime to partake in such an event. Mostly women, but plenty of children and men, marched in solidarity to resist the sexism, bigotry, and racism that has been given license to creep out into the light of day.

When the ‘leader’ gives a thumbs-up to bullying, intimidation, violence and misogyny, through words and actions – what is to be expected? Although it is true that so much progress has been made in America during the past 50 years – it is also true that progressive ideals have suffered setbacks during the last 50 weeks. Yes, the most recent twelve months teaches us that social justice activism can never be complacent; the clock of progress can be temporarily arrested and the lives of Real People impacted in deplorable ways.

Look at the families of peaceful, industrious immigrants that are being torn asunder without an ounce of compassion. Consider the attack on women’s health by demonizing Planned Parenthood. How about mass incarceration in private prisons, with little regard for rehabilitation?

The fight for social justice reaches into every neighborhood, every family, in our nation. Each of us has a responsibility and an opportunity to take a stand for justice every day. Let’s lock arms and make certain we seize that opportunity!

Social Justice

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

I believe in strong protections for Religious Liberty. I also believe in the American tradition of Separation of Church and State. Yet, recently the line between these two beliefs has been blurred. Trump’s Executive Order titled, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” is a smokescreen that will ultimately damage the true foundation of Religious Liberty. This Executive Order undermines the Johnson Amendment that bans tax-exempt organizations such as churches from political speech and related activities. This proclamation is nothing more than a cash windfall for religious organizations that want the privilege of being tax-exempt, but also want to engage in politics, just like secular Political Action Committees, (PACS). Many of these ‘conservative’ religious organizations fall in line with right-wing Republican politics. The traditional bright line between Church & State has been dangerously dimmed by this Executive Order. The longstanding tradition in America that kept Religion at arm’s length from Government was a wise precept articulated by most of the Framers of the Constitution. They realized that for religious entities to be truly free from government interference or domination, a solid separation was required. This executive order, that relaxes IRS enforcement banning overt political speech, will have significant unintended consequences. Religious Liberty will be the loser. And, in the process, a new aggressive form of corruption will flourish as churches begin to function like Political Action Committees (PACS). Count on it.

SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION

As a former Public School Educator, I understand the value of public education, and also the challenges our school systems face. There is no profession in this world as important to our economy, our social fabric, or our future, as the education profession. And, relative to its premier importance, I think it is safe to say that there is no profession in America that is more under-appreciated and underfunded. Our conservative friends like to rationalize the gross underfunding of public education by saying, “Throwing money at education is not the solution.” What they are really saying is, “We prefer to throw money to the 1% and special interests whom we are indebted to.”

More money is not the sole solution to any problem we face, but – sufficient funding levels are absolutely essential. Public Schools are facing their biggest challenge from extreme believers in privatization. Simply stated – there are many aspects of ‘public interest’ and ‘public responsibility’ that must not be auctioned off to private profiteers. Charter Schools have their place, but, too many Charter Schools jumped into the education ‘business’ strictly for profit motives. There are some things in the public sphere of interest that should not be sold off to profiteers. Public education is one. Historically, in America, the steady development of public education systems has been a source of strength to our nation. In some ways, like the racial integration of the Armed Forces, public education, has served as a ‘great equalizer’ across the socio economic strata of society.

Two words about school vouchers – NOT GOOD. The voucher idea has been sold to the general public by privateers as the savior to disadvantaged families. Vouchers are a scheme to benefit upper income folks, ‘segregationists’, and parochial (religious) schools who choose to ignore an America bedrock principle: Separation of Church & State.

It’s all about setting our spending priorities, and reallocating financial resources to accomplish worthy education goals.

AFFORDABLE COLLEGE TUITION

Public College and University tuition should be Free to Most, Affordable for All.
The sky-high cost of higher education is out of control. This has become a national nightmare, with college debt piled so high for so many – it is difficult for students or graduates to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This financial burden has a cumulative effect on our entire economy, and an adverse effect on creating educational opportunity for the next generation. Think how much talent is lost forever as capable scholars do not purse their higher education dreams.
What is the fix? A 5-Step Solution:

Declare Higher Education a National Economic Goal, and make the funding a high priority. (Hint: Occupy Wall Street may provide answers)

A sliding scale for Tuition, Room & Board, Books, etc. should provide the lowest-income students a free package. Others should pay an amount that is completely affordable based on the student’s ability to pay – And, not one person should graduate with a mountain of debt. If the graduate’s debt cannot be comfortably repaid within 3-4 years, then the Sliding Scale is not working properly. Retool the formula!

Anyone who is currently buried in Educational debt, should be able to re-finance those student loans at a low-low rate (e.g. 3%) immediately – regardless of delinquent payments.

New student loans must comply with a federal standard rate of no more than 3%.

End immediately the crazy situation that permits the federal government to make a profit on the backs of students!

High cost barriers to higher education creates a huge drain on national resources and puts us at an economical disadvantage around the world.

PROTECT MINORITY RIGHTS

In a constitutional democracy decisions are reached by majority rule. However, majority rule is tempered with minority rights. It is imperative that minority rights are protected, otherwise majority rule loses its moral authority. Decision-making by majority vote carries legitimacy to the extent that minority rights are acknowledged, respected, and accommodated. Minority rights – racial, ethnic, religious, gender, etc. must be respected, treated in a dignified manner, and adjudicated as equal under the law. Balancing majority rule with minority rights is part & parcel of democracy.

HEALTH CARE FOR ALL

Astonishing! The USA in 2017, in the 21st Century, has not implemented a health care program that ensures coverage for all citizens. Absolutely astonishing!

Here’s the irony. The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) actually preserved the private health insurance industry. State and Regional Exchanges were set up, and coverage was expanded to approximately 20 million people. If Congress had cooperated with President Obama, we could have created a ‘public option’ or simply expanded Medicare coverage to all citizens not covered by private insurance. This could have been accomplished – the creation of a hybrid program – public and private to cover 100% of U.S. citizens.

The irony is that it just might be extreme greed that will hasten the collapse of the private health insurance industry. Americans may be so fed up with the right-wing nonsense we witnessed during the summer of 2017, that a single-payer national health care plan could be finally enacted. Like never before, the majority of citizens understand that health care is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Each and every citizen in the USA should have quality health care – period. Now is the time to declare, “We will not be held hostage by greedy health insurance power brokers and their enablers in Congress.”

Perhaps every member of Congress and the President should CANCEL their health insurance coverage – that’s right, NO health insurance for them or their family – until a program for Universal (100%) Coverage for all Americans is enacted into law. That would get the job done – guaranteed.

HUMANE IMMIGRATION POLICY

One of the most powerful American icons and symbolic visuals is The Statue of Liberty. What does it symbolize? A NEW BEGINNING
For newcomers to our shores, to immigrants, the Statue of Liberty represents a new life, new opportunities, dreams and aspirations. The Statue is America’s big beautiful WELCOME sign! The faith & promise newcomers place in Lady Liberty is awesome & inspiring. In 1903 a poem written by Emma Lazarus, entitled “The New Colossus” was placed on the base of the statue. Remember the most famous line of her poem? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”
These words eloquently capture the essence of who we are, of what America stands for — or, do they? Does America still represent those core principles of liberty and justice? I for one, want to believe that the United States of America in this 21st Century remains that beacon of hope to the rest of the world, but I must admit – when I see the level of bigotry and hatred aimed at Muslims; or the scapegoating of immigrants of color, especially Mexicans; and that level of disrespect & racism modeled by the President toward American citizens such as the Kahn Family (Muslim) who lost their courageous son in Iraq; or Judge Curiel with a proud Mexican heritage — that behavior coming from the Leader of our nation — well, it is disgraceful.
This same xenophobic prejudice is manifested in the irrational fear that bigots promote to persuade public opinion not to respond with compassion and open arms toward Syrian refugees. These are the times we live in. We can be proud of our rich American heritage symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, but the current climate of racism, bigotry, & fear we see all around us serves as a stark reminder that liberty & justice must never be taken for granted.

U.S. Immigration Policy has been a hot topic for a couple of decades. And, of course, Arizona as a SW border State, is keenly aware of this issue’s importance. Immigration Policy, as with any complex public policy, presents many crucial details that must be carefully considered. However, the over arching concern and goal should be to address this important matter in the spirit of fairness and humaneness. We hear often elected officials say, “We are a nation of immigrants”. Perhaps those words are repeated so often by politicians, that they have lost meaning for some of our citizens.

An immigration policy that focuses on fairness, humaneness, and security will produce a balanced solution that most Americans would support. Such policy must respect the sacredness of the family unit; require due process proceedings grounded in civil rights and justice; and balance these American ideals with a smart, effective border security policy that keeps the homeland safe. The crucial components to craft a comprehensive immigration policy have been formulated by Congress years ago! It is now a matter of building consensus and harnessing the political will to ACT.

PROTECT PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Planned Parenthood is under attack from a Republican-led Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives continues to push legislation that would stop millions of citizens from utilizing Planned Parenthood for their basic health care; it would eliminate Planned Parenthood’s family planning program; and, it would cut the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative that provides sex education nationwide. This House bill would disallow Planned Parenthood from being part of any government-funded health care program. It would terminate the Title X Family Planning Program that millions of people depend on for birth control, cancer screenings, and STDs diagnosis and treatment. And, the vast majority of Title X patients are low income people of color. Finally, this extreme legislation would place negative limitations on access to safe, legal abortion. Planned Parenthood has provided essential health care services, primarily to women for 100 years — we must support every effort to preserve this trusted provider of reproductive care.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY

Same-sex marriage in the United States became legal in 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional based upon protections afforded citizens in the 14th Amendment. I whole-heartedly support this historic high court decision.

GUN SAFETY LEGISLATION

Common sense gun safety legislation is blocked at every turn by elected officials who are beholden to the firearms industry. Even though a clear majority of citizens desire reasonable restrictions on guns, the powerful lobbyists representing gun manufacturers have successfully thwarted most attempts to enact even modest gun safety reforms. This political nightmare in our society is the clearest example of how big money corrupts our democracy. It is extreme greed that enables the gun industry to wield such power. Gun lobby super PACS spread false propaganda about the true intent of the 2nd Amendment. They want Americans to believe that the original intent of the framers our our Constitution was to permit weapons manufacturers 250 years later to sell any kind of weapon, to anyone, at any time. What absolute rubbish! The solution to this deplorable blight of our country is to actively support groups such as Americans for Responsible Solutions, a political action committee, whose goal is “to encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership.” I’m with Gabby Gifford and Mark Kelly 100%! Secondly, we must ignite people power to rise up and vote to replace every single extreme state legislator or member of Congress that so blatantly ignores the common sense wishes of citizens. I respect the true intent of the 2nd Amendment, and I have always owned guns. I also fully appreciate the emphasis on ‘gun safety’ and I would support legislation that required every gun owner to pass a certified gun safety course. It’s time we treat firearms with respect, and require gun owners to demonstrate proficiency, safety, and awareness of their legal obligations.

NATIONAL DEFENSE – ALL SHOULD SERVE

Once upon a time (1949-1973), during peacetime and war, men were drafted to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Our current all-volunteer military has a serious shortcoming — it is anathema to the concept of ‘shared sacrifice’, thereby promoting divisions among segments of society. It also isolates or spares elected officials (and their family) from the potential hardships and risks of military engagements. Therefore, I believe all should serve. However, the military should be just one option of National Service. Young adults between the age of 18- 25 should sign-up for a 2-year tour of duty in a National Service program, or the military. This would facilitate a cohesiveness and patriotism that would serve our nation well.

RESPECT NATIVE AMERICANS AND THEIR LANDS

For 100 years the U.S. Government negotiated treaties with individual American Indian nations. This practice ended in 1871. Tribal sovereignty was established in U.S. law through a 1975 court case that asserted tribes are sovereign over tribal members and tribal lands. Although issues of sovereignty have been litigated and clarified over many decades, it remains a complex legal relationship. One historical fact is clear, Uncle Sam’s posture and policy toward Native People has often been discriminatory and devastating. Treaties have been broken and Native Peoples have been forcibly relocated. Even today, in 2017, the U.S, Government looks the other way while corporatists treat peaceful Native protestors at Standing Rock with utter disrespect. As usual, the disregard for Native Americans concerns is rooted in special interest money and greed. The obstacles to ethical and fair dealings often centers on the value of natural resources on Tribal land. If not gold, then silver; if not silver, then copper; if not copper, then oil or coal… If the corporatists see treasure on Tribal Lands, they will find a way to grab it. My position is this — whenever an issue of concern arises regarding natural resources on Tribal Lands or on lands possessing Native cultural significance, the U.S. Government should guarantee Tribal Leaders their rightful seat at the table, and that their voice is received with the dignity and respect deserving of a proud First American.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS = HUMAN RIGHTS

At the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, First Lady Hillary Clinton asserted, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
I salute Hillary for being a true champion of Social Justice her entire life. Fighting alongside Hillary is former President Jimmy Carter. Carter has made Women’s Rights the cornerstone of his justice platform. In 2015, Carter declared, “The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.”
At the historic Women’s March in January, 2017 my wife, Kelly, proudly carried the bright orange and white resistance sign provided by Emily’s List that reads, “WOMEN WON’T BACK DOWN.” Now, that sign decorates our family room! The march toward justice is a long & winding road — all of us must take a courageous step forward each day and never, ever BACK DOWN.