April 30, 2015

A system so stacked against the poor.

GUEST: Natalie Ward, recent Vassar graduate and local activist for the Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson foreclosure rights organization, talks about her work for Community Voices Heard.

Natalie spent much of her time with me reviewing the work she does with Community Voices Heard. Perhaps in another country, this work would not seem so exceptional. But in the US, trying to make the lives of the poor somewhat better seems revolutionary. Nobody else does it, and we have a vast subculture of people living below the poverty line.

We are the only advance country in the world without healthcare for all its citizens. Our health system is like a giant parasite, sucking more than three trillion a year from US citizens, while it makes billions for the insurance, pharmaceutical, and private health industries. That's the highest per capita cost in the industrialized world, yet our country ranks 39th in infant mortality and 36 in life expectancy.

And that is just healthcare. Every facet of our economy is set up in the same way, with dollars flowing to the top, and tens of millions in abject poverty. UNICEF rates countries in "children's material well-being." The US ranks near the very bottom, right next to Romania.

So can an organization like Community Voices Heard really make much of a difference against a system that is so stacked against the poor? While we can applaud and contribute to organizations that help the poor, let us not forget that basic structural change to the two party, corporate run plutocracy will require major changes in our governmental system.

April 17, 2015

Looking into the abyss.

GUEST: Danika Padilla, local young activist recently returned from several months working with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank, talks about ISM's role in the nonviolent resistance to occupation.

We stayed with Danika's day to day work protecting students and baring witness to the brutal Israeli occupation. 

As a parent and a grandfather, I couldn't help thinking of those Palestinian students and what they face every day trying to get to school. Racism makes people monsters, whether it is white police killing blacks on the streets of our cities or white prosecutors and juries locking up innocent African Americans for decades on trumped up charges. Danika could have been a member of the Freedom Bus rides in the late 1950's, or a member of a voter registration drive during Freedom Summer. 

How does one get over hating the oppressor? Maybe the hatred comes from understanding how easily people can be corrupted by privilege and power. To see what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza is surely looking into the abyss. It is a holocaust in the making, as long as our country continues to arm and defend the murderous acts of apartheid Israel. 

April 12, 2015

Cleansing ourselves of hatred

GUEST: Linda Rosekrans, English professor at SUNY Cortland and member of Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, talks about her college course that explores the demeaning of ethnic heritage implicit in the use of Native American mascots and team names.

Racism has many victims, but only one face. In studying racism directed at one race, ethnicity or religious group, we can learn about its universal manifestations. German anti-Semitism in the 1930's is perhaps the most instructive of all. 

People argue about what "never again" really means. If that wisdom is applied only to the rights of one group, then nothing is learned at all. If applied to all people, then it is the illumination needed to guide our actions as moral beings. 

Racism is a disease that erases one's humanity, no matter where it is directed. We are all susceptible, of course. We want to revere our own heritage by taking revenge for past wrongs. We are lured into believing we are "God's People," free to follow our most murderous of inclinations. 

Exploring the racism within ourselves is a necessary first step in asserting our basic humanity. Mascots are a good place to start. And the journey is not about a team, it is about cleansing ourselves of hatred.