Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hope For A Brighter Future, or, Waxing Philosophical

It being Civil Rights Day, I read MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail today. Here are a few thoughts from a 21st Century, worn-out, Mormon (eek), male(gasp) mind. Maybe we as Utahns, Americans, and people, can be a little better at attempts at dialogue and proving contraries. Then we can pay attention to what actually matters.* I think Mr. King would be happy about that.

From NYT article A Tale of Two Moralities, Paul Krugman (Nobel Laureate):

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.

This deep divide in American political morality — for that’s what it amounts to — is a relatively recent development. Commentators who pine for the days of civility and bipartisanship are, whether they realize it or not, pining for the days when the Republican Party accepted the legitimacy of the welfare state, and was even willing to contemplate expanding it. As many analysts have noted, the Obama health reform — whose passage was met with vandalism and death threats against members of Congress — was modeled on Republican plans from the 1990s.

And from MLK Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood...

RIP Mr. King. Hopefully.

*People, if you're a Democrat, and money, if you're a Republican.

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