Monday, August 30, 2010

Apply ''No Mosque near Ground Zero'' rule to right wing violence

If Democrats like Howard Dean and Harry Reid are going to cede that the right is right about the "no mosque near Ground Zero" rule, we should at least qualify it by saying we should apply the same logic to acts of right wing violence.

But instead of saying ''no Christian churches near sites of right wing violence'' which would be as unfair as the right implying all mosques harbor terrorists, let's pick something closer to the actually inciting right wing violence: right wing talk radio and Fox News.

Certainly, Bill O'Reilly excoriated abortionist George Tiller on TV before his assassination, so applying the mosque rule, out of respect for Dr. Tiller and his family, everyone listening to right wing talk radio or watching Fox News within two blocks of the Church where he was shot should turn it off. Since most people listen to talk radio in their cars, signs should be posted telling people to turn it off before they drive through the zone of exclusion.

The should be done at that Unitarian church shooting, where the culprit said he did it because he hated Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals, and had books by Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly on his shelf. Out of respect for the two dead, seven wounded, and hundreds, terrorized, please turn off right wing talk radio in the two block radius zone of exclusion.

And certainly anti-government rhetoric motivated Tim McVeigh's attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building, which was after all, a federal government building. They have a nice memorial there now. If you are close enough to see it, you should have already turned off Rush, especially since on the recent anniversary of the attack, he spent time talking sympathetically about the government attack on the Branch Davidians in Waco that Tim McVeigh in part felt he was avenging when he killed 168 people and wounded 680 at the OKC Federal Building.

That one was so big, maybe the zone of exclusion should extend to ALL federal buildings.

Ironically, right wing violence has touched the Ground Zero mosque controversy itself. Someone stabbed a Muslim cabbie in New York City after asking him whether he was Muslim. The attackers diaries were filled with anti-Muslim rhetoric that sounds awfully familiar. Since many cabbies are Muslim immigrants and cabs drive all over New York City, please turn off right wing talk radio two blocks before you enter the city.

I say this not asking that the government restrain anyone's freedom of speech (or listening), but ask that our friends on the right do this because they have convinced me that this is the proper way to show respect for the victims of terrorism.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

talking to college kids about Obama & Democrats

I teach college English composition, so my students are all those idealistic kids who voted for Obama and helped put him over the top.

I was impressed with changes made to the student loan program to take the loans away from private banks, formulas that dramatically lowered monthly payments (mine went down 40%), and forgiveness of balances after ten years of payments for those who went into public service.

I expected my students to be equally impressed by this as I was when I told them about it since most of them struggle to work their way through college. Instead, the comments I got were ''Why do we have to pay for college at all?''

''Isn't college free in Europe?''

and of course, "I don't get it. What difference does that make?''

My point is not that the ONLY changes that should be made are sweeping game changers--sometimes incrementalism is the only option--but when you got elected with the support of idealistic kids, you better do something for them that they can instantly understand or better yet, they can clearly see and feel the effects of in their lives.

I suspect that in other areas where kids aren't directly affected, like foreign policy, they see even less reason to be excited since the change is mostly in tone not substance.

I work with my faculty union and see this in the frustration our negotiators have: they are fighting for a small but significant change, but they can't get faculty to take any kind of job action (let alone strike) so they end up with even less. To get people to act on their own behalf, the change needs to be big and clear, not a 3-5% change in their life amortized over a decade.

Kids are definitely not going to be impressed by the Gibbs/Rahm/Axelrod strategy of telling progressive voters (which is what college kids are) to sit down, shut up, and vote for them because their only other choice is the GOP Manson family. That's the kind of thing that pissed off college kids in the 60's, and if they stick with that strategy, Obama will go from being this generation's JFK to to its 1968 LBJ.