The Civil Rights Movement, The Woman’s Movement, The Environmental Movement

Civil Rights In An Uncivil America

 Where did we liberals go so wrong?  The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.  1964.  Think about that for a moment: The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964; 50 years ago. Fifty years.   How, then, can it be that voters’ rights today in 2014 are still a national issue?   Didn’t we settle this matter back in 1964?  The easy answer to today’s abomination, of course, lies in the corruption of our political processes through Republican dominated state legislatures that have been able to reduce the number of likely Democratic voters in an effort to win elections for Republicans.  What?  This is some legitimate reason to disenfranchise U.S. Citizens?  But what about our Constitution that says every citizen has the right to vote, at least since the Civil War when Black Americans were afforded these rights and again in 1920 when voting rights were expanded to include women?  

Not only is this current state of affairs disgusting, it goes against everything America once stood for including fairness and equality under the law. Voting is one of the very few acts we have at our command to determine the future of out nation.   That’s what the Civil Rights Act was all about.  But now we have so-called American legislators trying to undue 50 years of progress.  I call it a tragedy and extremely un-patriotic and decidedly un-American. 

Women’s Rights: How About Taking The Vote Away Like It Used To Be?

 This year Congress once again refused to pass the Equal Pay for Women Act due to conservative Republicans.  Huh?  So back when the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972 after decades of protests and demonstrations, was that just some window dressing?  They didn’t really mean it?  Were Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir simply estrogen challenged harpies yelling about stuff that was irrelevant?  I think not. 

Yet today, in 2014, forty-two years after the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, not only does Congress refuse to pass the equal pay for equal work law, we have Red States passing laws restricting access to abortions.   Last time I checked abortion was still legal.  Of course with the current make up of the Supreme Court, it may not be for very much longer.  Democrats have described this continuing diminishment of the rights of America’s women “the Republican War on Women.”  And from my perspective, that seems to describe what’s happening pretty damned accurately.  I mean, what else would you call it when the Texas state legislature passes a law that reduces the number of abortion clinics by half across the state?   Or the twenty-three states that have passed laws to mandate vaginal ultrasounds for women seeking an abortion? 

In this regard, I have to say that apparently none of the Justices of the Supreme Court in their decision on Massachusetts buffer zone, reducing it to 35 feet, have ever been to an abortion clinic where protestors were demonstrating.  I have.  It is ugly, threatening and vicious.  And why wouldn’t such demonstrations be this way?  They are designed to intimidate women seeking the services of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and scaring off anyone who even thinks of such a thing.   This is not progress.  It is retrogression. 

 The Environment:  Is It OK To Let America Become A National Garbage Dump Again?

The environment.  Earth Day was established in 1970 after years of protests against the dumping of poisons into our lakes, rivers and streams.  Against Acid Rain that was defoliating forests in the East.  Against the wholesale dumbing of garbage in unprotected dumps all over the country.  Against corporations using our land, water and air as free resources into which they could dispose of their poisonous manufacturing by-products.   The EPA was established by Nixon in 1970 and since that time the Cuyahoga River has stopped burning, the Love Canal has been cleaned up, and dozens upon dozens of Super Fund wastelands have been contained and cleaned up.   The progress is cleaning up the country’s environment has been one of the nation’s premier success stories of the 20th Century. 

So why then is there so much vitriol against the EPA today?  Why is the EPA budget been so reduced over the past decade?  Why the continuing dismissiveness of the right wing to climate change?    Why is it that for thirty years we had no national discussion about climate change?  Why is it that for thirty years we had so little research and development into alternative energy sources?  Why is it that today we continue to debate the efficacy of point source water heaters for example, when we know they are much more energy efficient?  Why is it that is nearly every other country on the planet – rich and poor alike – you will see rooftop water tanks, but not here?   What is it that conservatives are afraid of?  It’s going to cost us something?  Of course it will.  It already has and will continue to do so.  But at least we can give thanks for our cleaner environment so that as a result fewer people will die from poisoned water, from coal dust, from carbon monoxide and all the other toxic elements that used to pollute the land and the air and the water.  That, to me, is worth the price. 

The Bigger “Why”

Conservatives have a penchant for rewriting history – or ignoring it.  Or maybe it’s just that they don’t know it.  Exhibit 1: Tea Party Darling Congresswomen Michele Bachmann:  “Our Founding Fathers Worked Tirelessly To End Slavery.”  Now I know that there is no requirement that our elected officials be smart or intelligent.  But what can you say about the Congresswomen’s comment?  Did she forget about the Civil War? 

Another penchant of the right wingers is the nostalgia for a bygone “Golden Age.”  For them, it’s probably the 1950’s or maybe as far back as the 18th Century.  Of course, neither of these eras were Golden Ages of any kind.  Back in the mid 18th Century if you lived to your mid-forties, you were ahead of the game.  And how many newborn infants  - or their mothers – survived the birth experience back then?  Or even in the 1950’s?  Conservatives/RightWingers/TeaPartiers don’t seem to have the capacity to step outside their fantastical, made up views of history and actually see what life was like.  It was not pretty. 

I’m old enough to have fought in the streets for Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and the Environment.  Tear Gas still brings on a wave of nostalgia over me.  But we fought these battles – and we won.  Or at least we thought we did.  But it seems as if today and for the past thirty years the nation is in the grip of some conservative virus.  And it’s not Ebola although the right wingers would have the President stop all people coming to the US from West Africa – U.S. Citizens or no.  Yeah, there’s a solution. 

I viewed the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 as a temporary deviation from the liberal path of progress that would eventually right itself.  But I was wrong.  We have been in the grip of a conservative political, social and economic disease for over thirty years now.    And its only in the past few years that liberals, Democrats and progressives have begun to recognize this fact and do something about it, no matter how limited up until now.  You can’t look at the state of affairs in America today – gun carry laws, no background checks for gun purchases, more people incarcerated (in our privately run prisons, BTW) percentage-wise than any country on earth, state laws requiring vaginal ultrasounds for abortions, new “health” regulations designed expressly to eliminate safe abortion clinics, our youth saddled with soul crushing, lifelong debt, Voter disenfranchisement laws, declining wealth and incomes for ordinary Americans – and the list goes on and on and on. 

As I noted, there has been some pushback over the past few years but until the conservative/rightwing/TeaParty/ReactionaryRepublican tide is crushed, we will continue along this illiberal, unpatriotic, un-American pathway until all the progress we have made as a nation during the 20th Century is turned back.  And that would be an American tragedy of the first order. 

I can express no greater urgency for all Democrats, all ordinary Americans, everyone who actually believes in the promise that was America, to vote in this year’s election and throw the conservative bums out.  


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