Monday, July 03, 2006

July 4th: A Call To Values

July 4th is the anniversary of the birth of our nation, a nation founded on principles of justice, equality and freedom.

Yet, as we prepare to celebrate - if we are honest - we must admit that our nation has strayed from these principles. If you want to know how far, consider that 77% of the people in Great Britain - one of our staunchest allies - have a very bad opinion of us and "...disagree with the statement that the US is 'a beacon of hope for the world'".

"A massive 83 percent of those questioned said that the United States doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks. More than two-thirds who offered an opinion said America is essentially an imperial power seeking world domination. And 81 per cent of those who took a view said President George W Bush hypocritically championed democracy as a cover for the pursuit of American self-interests."

Although it is, generally, unreported by corporate media, more and more people we respect are speaking up about what has happened - and is happening - to our national character and values. Yet we don't hear about it.

For instance, NBA player Etan Thomas of the Washington Wizards delivered an impassioned speech to 30,000 people on this issue during an anti-war protest in Washington D.C., yet it was never reported in any of our major media outlets or papers, including the Washington Post.

I happen to believe the American people are good people. But we can't make good decisions when the hard information is kept from us. We can't make good decisions when a perpetual war is started to distract us from pressing domestic problems.

As a person of faith, I strongly believe that our nation should value work and that working at a job should keep a person out of poverty, not trap one inside it. The Bible calls us to show justice to the worker by paying him or her a fair wage for a day’s work and by providing safe working conditions.

Yet our current federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. This is a disgrace, a wage that forces families to choose between buying groceries and paying rent.

A person who works a 40-hour week earns $10,712 for a 52-week year. That's six thousand dollars below the poverty line.

You know, yourself, the cost of rent, gas, food, clothing. Could you live on just over ten thousand dollars a year? If you have a child, could you care for and raise that child on that amount?

You know the answer.

Therefore, I urge you to support Senator Ted Kennedy’s amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

As the number of Americans living in poverty continues to increase at an alarming rate, now is the time to take action to prevent this desperate spiral of unreasonable choices and despair. Increasing the federal minimum wage is an important step toward slowing the poverty growth rate in America.

Bear in mind that, even as Congress sells out the American people to corporate interests and has received record low approval ratings for doing so, House lawmakers gave themselves a $3,300 pay raise on Tuesday, June 13, 2006, that will increase their salaries to $168,500. They have full medical and dental plus countless perks that a simple working man or woman earning minimum wage never has.

These gross inequities are not right. Christians are the ones - if we take our God at His word - who must step up to the plate and make a difference.

Write to your Senators and Congressional Representatives today.

For more on the minimum wage issue, visit Living Wage Campaign.

For more on economic justice issues, such as the inequities in the 2007 Federal budget, the need for labor unions, and the move by 18 billionaires to repeal the estate tax, visit United Church of Christ's Take Action Page.

Here's an excerpt from the transcript of Etan's speech regarding the politicians and pundits who dominate the news and are shaping our values and policies today:

I'd like to take some of these cats on a field trip. I want to get big yellow buses with no air conditioner and no seatbelts and round up Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Trent Lott, Sean Hannity, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Bush Jr. and Bush Sr., John Ashcroft, Giuliani, Ed Gillespie, Katherine Harris, that little bow-tied Tucker Carlson and any other right-wing conservative Republicans I can think of, and take them all on a trip to the ‘hood. Not to do no 30-minute documentary. I mean, I want to drop them off and leave them there, let them become one with the other side of the tracks, get them four mouths to feed and no welfare, have scare tactics run through them like a laxative, criticizing them for needing assistance.

I’d show them working families that make too much to receive welfare but not enough to make ends meet. I’d employ them with jobs with little security, let them know how it feels to be an employee at will, able to be fired at the drop of a hat. I’d take away their opportunities, then try their children as adults, sending their 13-year-old babies to life in prison. I’d sell them dreams of hopelessness while spoon-feeding their young with a daily dose of inferior education. I’d tell them no child shall be left behind, then take more money out of their schools, tell them to show and prove themselves on standardized exams testing their knowledge on things that they haven’t been taught, and then I’d call them inferior.

I’d soak into their interior notions of endless possibilities. I’d paint pictures of assisted productivity if they only agreed to be all they can be, dress them up with fatigues and boots with promises of pots of gold at the end of rainbows, free education to waste terrain on those who finish their bid. Then I’d close the lid on that barrel of fool’s gold by starting a war, sending their children into the midst of a hostile situation, and while they're worried about their babies being murdered and slain in foreign lands, I’d grace them with the pain of being sick and unable to get medicine.

Give them health benefits that barely cover the common cold. John Q. would become their reality as HMOs introduce them to the world of inferior care, filling their lungs with inadequate air, penny pinching at the expense of patients, doctors practicing medicine in an intricate web of rationing and regulations. Patients wander the maze of managed bureaucracy, costs rise and quality quickly deteriorates, but they say that managed care is cheaper. They’ll say that free choice in medicine will defeat the overall productivity, and as co-payments are steadily rising, I'll make their grandparents have to choose between buying their medicine and paying their rent.

Then I'd feed them hypocritical lines of being pro-life as the only Christian way to be. Then very contradictingly, I’d fight for the spread of the death penalty, as if thou shall not kill applies to babies but not to criminals.

Then I’d introduce them to those sworn to protect and serve, creating a curb in their trust in the law. I’d show them the nightsticks and plungers, the pepper spray and stun guns, the mace and magnums that they’d soon become acquainted with, the shakedowns and illegal search and seizures, the planted evidence, being stopped for no reason. Harassment ain’t even the half of it. Forty-one shots to two raised hands, cell phones and wallets that are confused with illegal contrabands. I’d introduce them to pigs who love making their guns click like wine glasses. Everlasting targets surrounded by bullets, making them a walking bull's eye, a living piñata, held at the mercy of police brutality, and then we’ll see if they finally weren’t aware of the truth, if their eyes weren’t finally open like a box of Pandora.

I’d show them how the other side of the tracks carries the weight of the world on our shoulders and how society seems to be holding us down with the force of a boulder. The bird of democracy flew the coop back in Florida. See, for some, and justice comes in packs like wolves in sheep's clothing. T.K.O.d by the right hooks of life, many are left staggering under the weight of the day, leaning against the ropes of hope. When your dreams have fallen on barren ground, it becomes difficult to keep pushing yourself forward like a train, administering pain like a doctor with a needle, their sequels continue more lethal than injections.

They keep telling us all is equal. I’d tell them that instead of giving tax breaks to the rich, financing corporate mergers and leading us into unnecessary wars and under-table dealings with Enron and Halliburton, maybe they can work on making society more peaceful. Instead, they take more and more money out of inner city schools, give up on the idea of rehabilitation and build more prisons for poor people. With unemployment continuing to rise like a deficit, it's no wonder why so many think that crime pays.

Maybe this trip will make them see the error of their ways. Or maybe next time, we'll just all get out and vote. And as far as their stay in the White House, tell them that numbered are their days.

We must stand up and spread the word that our enemies are poverty, ignorance, overpopulation, greed and war. Our allies are justice, equal opportunity, awareness, compassion, generosity and gratitude.
As my Father sent me, even so send I you. John 20:21

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. John: 10:11

Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. 2 Corinthians 3:3

Approve ourselves as the ministers of pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned. 2 Corinthians 6:4,6


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