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Opinion and Analysis from the Grassroots

Freedom and the 4th of July
By Leonard Adame

Leonard Adame

On this 4th of July, hot dogs will blacken on a grill sending smoke signals to people with beers stuck in their hands.

A few Americans will invoke, as they sip, Washington, Franklin and Paul Revere as paragons of freedom. But most don’t know that Washington defended slavery, Franklin detested blacks and Paul Revere lost a big naval battle, Penobscot, and was tried (later cleared) for cowardice and ineptitude. But they probably won’t discuss these events, or freedom’s history in human affairs or whether freedom exists.

To celebrate Independence Day, people will light firecrackers, legal and otherwise, whoop loudly as they whistle and explode, scaring dogs and little kids. Some patriots will drink more than usual, again, argue violently with spouses, send kids to bed wailing and pass out on a lawn chair. Not much discussion about freedom.

Yet for some, freedom simply means road trips or choosing what to buy and eat at local malls, ignoring that the United States is constantly at war, that jobs are being lost and whether there will be a decent future for today’s children. A scattering of souls may talk superficially about the First Amendment, believing that it protects any speech except that with which they disagree. That may take a couple of minutes.

So what is freedom? A philosophy? Is it amoral, pliable or what anyone wants it to be?

So a few questions: Should freedom mean being able to critically define one’s life in culture and society in order to see how arbitrary laws, usually favoring the wealthy, are forced upon one? Should a person be able to articulate how consciousness, intelligence and self-awareness might conspire to create an individual who can recognize how and why one’s freedom is stolen?

Orwell says, “Liberty means…[having] the right to tell [corporatists] what they do not want to hear.” So then should freedom also mean finding and revealing the camouflaged motives of those who control institutions, the economy and the government? And to assure ourselves freedom, should we ordinary people learn to become knowledgeable readers, thinkers and speakers in order to recognize propaganda’s civic and social corrosiveness and how that diminishes our humanity?

Should freedom mean that one shouldn’t be branded an anti-American subversive if one suspects leaders and corporatists of illegalities and corruption, or if one disagrees with the government when it says the enemy is anything that the government doesn’t advocate? Should George W. Bush’s “you’re either with us or against us” become de facto law?

Tragically, it seems we’ve lost our most important freedom, the First Amendment. Conservative judges, supreme and otherwise, routinely decide what newspapers can publish, routinely support the Patriot Act, routinely protect any Attorney General who’s sanctioned torture and domestic spying, and routinely bestow upon corporations whatever they wish. All of these things have served to nullify the First Amendment.

The heart of the matter is this: We’re afraid to demand liberty because we don’t know how to define it. Worse, we’re unable to understand that our government aims to take all personal freedom away and will do all it can to make us a populace that won’t object to more and more governmental control, more and more erosion of our civil rights. And we don’t understand fully that it does these things at the behest of corporations, who are deathly afraid of workers asserting their freedoms and their rights.

Perhaps we should remember what Emiliano Zapata said about the need to battle for the survival of freedom: “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” For us, this should mean that we employ any civic powers (voting) that we have left to regain our freedoms and our democracy.

Not once at any 4th of July picnic that I’ve been to has a critical discussion of liberty been undertaken. Perhaps I just didn’t hear it, or perhaps many people would rather live on their knees.

*****

Leonard Adame has retired from teaching college English. He now plays drums in various bands, takes photographs, reads mystery novels to a fault and has published poetry in college anthologies. He most enjoys re-learning about human beings from his grandkids. Contact him at giganteescritor@hotmail.com.

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No Time To Relax
By Ruth Gadebusch

Ruth Gadebusch
Ruth Gadebusch

July 4 is this nation’s Independence Day, but women must look to other dates to celebrate full citizenship. It was a sultry July 19, 1848, when an intrepid group of 300 women and men gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, to launch the battle for women’s vote.

Requiring 75 years of hardship and sacrifice, the vote was not “given.” It was Tennessee’s ratification in August 18, 1920, that enabled the Secretary of State to certify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on August 26. With skullduggery prevailing, the effort seemed lost until young Harry Burn took his mother’s advice and voted yea―forcing him to hide. Suffragists had been jailed, beaten, treated as insane and otherwise abused before receiving President Woodrow Wilson’s support as a trade-off for their help in the war effort.

In the ensuing 91 years, changes have occurred but hardly what those who fought for the vote expected. Most likely they thought more than 25%, 17 in Congress, of political offices would be female held. All these years following Title IX regulations, some sports aficionados are still bemoaning the intrusion of women into their macho world.

In 1963, when President John Kennedy signed the first comparable pay/comparable work legislation, he doubtless expected the 53 cents per dollar would rise to more than the current 77―about a half penny per year! Nor does the prospect for the Paycheck Fairness Act now before Congress look promising.

In fact, in today’s political climate we are more in danger of losing rights than acquiring full equality. The controversy surrounding women’s control of our own bodies would astound the suffragist. Margaret Sanger devoting her life to fighting for birth control warned us, “Though many disputed barricades have been leaped, you can never sit back, smugly content, believing that victory is forever yours. There is always the threat of its being snatched from you. All freedom must be safeguarded and held.”

In truth, it is women’s ability to control reproductive life that opened the doors for full equality though every step was contentious. June brought the anniversary of the Griswold decision allowing birth control for married couples. Probably no one deserves more credit for women’s emancipation than Dr. John Rock, a devout Catholic and a lead collaborator of developing and promoting the pill. His motivation, as did Margaret Sanger’s, came from the plight of poor women in relentless childbearing.

Beyond belief proposals are being bandied about the House of Representatives today to control women’s reproductive life. It is as if health for females means only reproductive organs, in turn reduced to one word: abortion. It then moves to women being too ignorant, too weak to appreciate pregnancy; therefore, it is necessary to put all manner of roadblocks to abortion with the ultimate goal of outlawing it. One Supreme Court vote is all that stands in the way.

Little education is allowed in our public schools re sexual matters making it titillating opening the door to horrible misinformation regarding political party stands as recently distributed at a citizenship ceremony in Fresno. As Faye Wattleton, former Planned Parenthood president put it, “If you cannot control the risk of pregnancy, then your life is out of control. There is a great misperception that the debate about choice is about moral conflicts. But it’s about whether women have the right to decide these moral conflicts for themselves.” It is that simple. Capable women have the right to control our own bodies and must vote to make that crystal clear.

These examples only highlight the situation, calling attention to how the faith has, or not, been kept with those who worked so diligently for the vote. Anyone for the Equal Rights Amendment? Don’t laugh. It was thought the “citizens” of the 14th and 15th amendments included women until ruled otherwise. It was another half century before the 19th was added. We are nearing a century since. Can we make the ERA number 28? What is so difficult about “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”?

*****

Ruth Gadebusch is a veteran and a community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified Board of Education, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.

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What Is Anarchism?
By Josh Cranston

Josh Cranston

Have you ever thought that you could do your job better without a boss? Or maybe that politicians say one thing and then do another and never really represent the interests of you or anyone you know? Have you ever considered a world where people have the power to decide how to live their own lives instead of having a small group of out-of-touch people deciding for them? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be an anarchist.

Anarchism is the belief that humans can come together and form communities that, through cooperation and self-management, thrive without the need of leaders or authorities. The very idea of government and authority is that the average person is a child who needs a parental figure telling him/her what he/she can and can’t do, as if we can’t figure out how to live on our own.

The responsibility of the governed is not to do what is right or what is best for society and themselves, but rather it is their responsibility to follow the law regardless of whether it is moral or beneficial for society. Slavery was legal in the United States for almost 100 years, until 2003 there were still anti-homosexuality laws in the United States, recent anti-immigration laws like Arizona’s SB1070 and Alabama’s HB5 are nothing but hate and fear mongering against people with brown skin. Laws are made by those in power and benefit those in power and their funders, so if you aren’t rich, laws are generally against you.

To get people to submit to these laws, the development of critical thinking skills is discouraged. We are taught from birth to obey the authorities: first our parents, then our teachers and finally our bosses, politicians and law enforcement.

The rules are enforced through either the threat of violence or actual violence. Physical violence like the belt of a parent, the gun of the police officer or the threat of starvation and homelessness if you don’t keep slaving away at your job, making your boss and the owners richer while you work your fingers to the bone and can barely survive. How can we have a healthy society as long as people are primarily motivated by threats and fear?

I think there is an irony in the idea that people are naturally bad but that by putting bad people in charge things will somehow be good. The idea that power corrupts has been proven over and over again; any time power is given solely to any individual or group of individuals they will almost always abuse that power. It is not even necessarily that these are bad people to begin with; it’s just that few, if any, can overcome the temptation of abusing power.

The idea of voting in better politicians or having a revolution to replace one group of bad guys with another doesn’t work. It is the actual position of authority that corrupts. Because of this, we need a social arrangement where these positions of authority do not exist and cannot be abused: This is anarchism. That’s the thing which makes anarchism different from any other idea or social arrangement; it’s about letting each community decide how to run their own lives rather than forcing a “one-size-fits-all” structure onto them―self-sovereignty rather than a conquered and colonized people. Living with respect for our neighbors and earth is the only way there can be justice.

The current capitalist system is the cause of most social ills. Capitalism insists on a mind-set of individualism and competition.

When we look at things like street crime, we see that the mind-set is the same as that of CEOs and people on Wall Street; trying to come up, and all too often not caring who gets hurt. The difference is that those on the street don’t have access to the same resources as their white-collar counterparts. If the resources are spread out and the mind-set is changed to one of mutual aid and cooperation then the reason for crime would be gone.

Capitalism puts profit over people and promotes greed. One way to maximize profit is to minimize the wages you pay out. By creating and promoting things like racism and sexism (as well as many other isms), they can pay both groups less and the privileged group is happy because they’re still making more than the “minority” group. Meanwhile, the bosses and owners are getting even richer.

We need to live in harmony with each other. We can’t keep fighting each other while the ruling class keeps getting richer. Until we live in harmony with each other and with the earth, there can be no peace and we will not be able to realize our real potential as individuals and as a species.

Reform is not enough, the problem lies in the system. It cannot be fixed because it will always serve those in power. Revolution is the only answer; a real revolution of the people wherein the end the power lies in the hands of the people, not a new ruling class.

*****

Josh Cranston is a Fresno activist who is involved in many local struggles and issues. He spends most of his time in Chinatown experimenting with alternate living arrangements and doesn’t own a car. Contact him at calcran@yahoo.com.

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We the People Are the Enemy
By Tim Young

We the people are the enemy…“We,” the poor and the middle class. Some may disagree, but blind patriotism is typically the root of their disbelief. Black folks need no convincing because racism and discrimination are continual indicators that their perceived enemy status is indeed real.

America is at war with its underclass, but many are so stupefied by mainstream media that they fail to see their own demise. The average citizen is well versed on the latest shenanigans of Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen but vaguely aware of the labor and budget battles that are being waged throughout the country.

It has been more than three years since Wall Street and the American economy imploded. The banks got bailed out and bounced back nicely; the folks on Main Street did not! As of February 2011, the U.S. deficit was $223 billion. The national debt exceeds $14 trillion. Simply put, America is bankrupt. As for recent reports touting economic recovery and lower jobless claims, don’t believe the hype! Unemployment rates are still high—16.5% for African Americans. In addition, more than 2.5 million homes have gone into foreclosure since 2008.

America’s economic implosion is still billowing, leaving a mushroom cloud for all the world to see. The fallout from this cloud has been devastating; jobs have dried up, schools have closed and states have been forced to make deeper and deeper budget cuts. Despite public outcry for justice and accountability, a scapegoat is being vamped up to deflect culpability. Ironically, as the crooks on Wall Street walk away scot-free, teachers and public employees are being vilified as “overpaid and greedy.” This smear campaign against the working class is being headed by corporate-owned media; the powers that be are using it as a pretext for pay cuts and public pension reform.

That leads us to the unions. Despite being a gateway to the middle class, the media has sought to malign and undermine them. This is because corporations are fighting to limit the political power of public employees’ unions. Second, globalization is at play, meaning that union jobs are being supplanted by cheap global labor. Perhaps a day late and a dollar short, Americans are finally beginning to see the devastation and the duplicity behind NAFTA and other such free trade agreements.

Where does President Obama stand on all of this? As far away as possible! With the 2012 presidential election right around the corner, Obama is clearly hitching his wagon to corporate America’s caboose despite the fact that the union movement played a vital role in getting him elected in 2008.

In what can be construed as judicial backlash for “we the people” electing a black President, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in the Citizens United case that corporations are people and thus able to make direct campaign contributions. For unions, this ruling was a competitive death knell as corporations possess more money and political influence. Inclusively, this may explain why Obama turned his back on public workers’ unions.

The wealthiest 10% of Americans own about 70% of America’s wealth. These are the people that have the President’s ear, and these are the people who benefited when he extended the Bush tax cuts. Thus, it is safe to say that these are the individuals who will be funding and directing his 2012 reelection bid. Whether victory or defeat, the political blueprint remains concrete: Ignore the poor, pander to the middle class and cater to the elite.

“We the people” hereby attest that the foreign and domestic policies of the first Black president are no less oppressive than those of his predecessors. If there is to be “change,” stop spending more than $700 billion a year on the defense budget. Stop sacrificing public education. Stop imprisoning more people than any other nation. Lastly, stop allowing corporate America to send jobs overseas or the day may come when revolution is the only remedy.

*****

Tim Young is a prisoner at San Quentin. Contact him by writing Tim Young F23374, S.Q.S.P., San Quentin, CA 94974.

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It’s Green to NUKE Nuclear!

By Richard Gomez

Richard Gomez

The Green Party has always condemns nuclear energy and advocates renewable energy like solar and wind power as alternatives.  It seemed clear to most people that Nuclear Energy is dangerous, dirty and expensive to the taxpayers but why should anyone support this madness?  It should be roundly criticize like many who’d condemn a pedophile?  An accusation can destroy a person life and any suggestion of compassion can cause chaos.  Yet politicians walk a strange tightrope on nuclear energy as if unwilling to discount any opportunity to excuse its use on the American people.

Posted for the June 7th, Fresno County Board of Supervisor meeting was a letter of support to promote an energy park to John Hudson, CEO of Fresno Nuclear Energy Group.   At the meeting, the three supporters, Supervisors Phil Larsen, Judith Case and Debbie Poochigian, had begun back- peddling like circus bears.  According to the letter now changed to a more neutral note would now endeavor to encourage industries;

“…to develop clean, safe environmentally sensitive alternative sources of economical energy through the use of the most safe and modern technologies…”

This failed to calm an audience upset with nuclear energy.  As rewritten, this letter should reject nuclear, oil, natural gas and bio-mass energy since they violated everything that letter desires.

Board members, (Larsen, Case and Poochigian) strove for some compassion by noting no actual mention of nuclear but as one speaker noted, “It was addressed to Fresno Nuclear Energy Group!”   Supervisor Case countered folks not to “put their head in the sand,” as to warn us that we may foolishly overlook the safety benefits of nuclear energy.  Yet both Supervisor Henry Perea and Susan Anderson were careful to restrain their discontent to nuclear energy.   Opposing the letter but timid in any condemnations maintaining that they neither opposed nor supported nuclear energy leaving open possible change to their judgment.

Greens believe that support for solar and renewable energy means making it accessible for business and homeowners.  Solar panels on residences or business can make their place an energy making engine that creates safe, clean and reliable energy for families and work.  PG&E and utility companies wish to use solar and still make a huge profit.  They’d need huge tax payers’ subsidies for site to create a huge amount of energy.  Energy loss will be great in the traveling from the plant to the city or town.  Thus regulating the bill based on the amount of energy a household or small business uses, plus what is lost in transmission and never used, plus labor and administration.

Saturday, July 9, the Green Party from Tulare, Fresno, Madera, Kings, Merced & Kern Counties of California,
are hosting a retreat for their families and friends at the Quaker Oaks Farm in Visalia for fun starting at 10:30am until 5pm.  It’s free and potluck.  There’ll be a small business meeting concerning our opposition to Nuclear Energy, our Support for Renewable Energy and support to Bring our Troops home from War!  Contact me or email the Tulare Greens at tularegreens@gmail.com or call us at (559) 781-6296 for more information.
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Richard Gomez is a council member of the Fresno County Green Party.  They meet at the State Department Building in downtown Fresno on the 2nd Thursday of the month (July 14th) at 7pm.  Contacted at (559)408-3320 or e-mail at nate136_66@yahoo.com

 

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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