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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Politicians Say The Darnedest Things

Attorney General Eric Holder, State Senator Alan Lowenthal, Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger

This past week three politicians had some real doozies, two I thought were just plain dumb statements and the third has caused quite a stir from some on the right but I thought it was truthful. Here they are, you be the judge.

First come California State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D) on the floor of the Senate during the marathon session to pass a bill to bridge the cash crunch facing the state. As you may recall the bill was held up because our state wisely requires a two-thirds majority to pass tax hikes and the Democrats needed three Republican Senators to vote for the bill on the floor. What Lowenthal said was, in my opinion, not only quite dumb but very indicative of why California has the constant fiscal problems it does.

“It doesn’t matter how we got here.” Our state is on the verge of bankruptcy, tax payers are not receiving refunds from money already paid to the state, workers are being furloughed on an every other Friday basis, a $42 billion deficit is on the horizon, and “it doesn’t matter how we got here.” Um, yes it does; it matters very much how we got here and the fact that Lowenthal, and no doubt plenty of other Democrats in Sacramento and across the state, think it does not matter is about ninety percent of the problem. We got here because despite holding out for less spending increases the past five years Republicans were still unable to stop a 40% increase in spending by Democrats—enabled by our SaysHeIsARepublican Governor. It matters because willy-nilly without concern as to the future our gerrymandered-term-limited-Democratic dominated Assembly and Senate spent money like whores in a lingerie store on pet projects and pork benefiting their main financial contributors: unions, particularly public employee unions. Mr. Lowenthal it does matter and it will matter and if you and your colleagues do not recognize this then please step aside and let someone else with an understanding of cause and effect take your places.

Next up comes our Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-sort of). After the catastrophic bill was passed he called Sacramento legislators “courageous.” Um, no it was not courageous it was in fact quite cowardly. Cowardly because it addressed none of the systematic problems that created not only this fiscal crisis for our state but guarantee future fiscal crises. Cowardly because our elected officials refused to face down those who bought their seats for them with millions and millions of dollars of campaign contributions and tell them they had to give something up for this state to get on the road to financial health. Cowardly because they know the system remains broken and rather than actually be somewhat courageous and fix the problems they passed them off to the next generation of lawmakers, and the one after that, and the one after that. “Courageous” is one of the few adjectives that would come to mind for me when it comes to describing our state government and its approach to their fiscal duties. Cowards hide problems or blame them on someone else, that is what our state legislature has done, again.

Finally is a statement made this week by Attorney General Eric Holder. During a speech for a ceremony celebrating Black History Month, Holder spoke about race relations in our country and said the American people“are essentially a nation of cowards.” Important in framing this topic is that Mr. Holder is black This through Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter and many other talking and writing heads on the right into a snit. Comments ranged from “maybe he did not notice we elected a black man as President” to “perhaps he has forgotten that even forty years ago he would not have been able to eat in many of the restaurants in the city where he gave this speech” to “this is just like Michelle Obama saying she was not proud of her country” blah, blah, blah. They rose up and essentially said the Holder’s comments were dumb.

I happen to agree with Holder’s comments, when it comes to race relations and dialogue we are cowards. I know I often am. I am a coward because often in a group I will not say what I want to say, or will change it because I do not wish to offend, or worse be labeled. Race dialogue in this country has become almost non-existent unless given by the Jessie Jacksons, Al Sharptons or Rev. Wrights who shape the dialogue by castigating all that is not their version of black-white relations. Often those, who are not people of color—i.e. white—attempting to speak about race, or have a dialogue inevitably make a statement or use a word or somehow have their comments intentions misunderstood and are torn apart by those with an interest in perpetuating racial divisions (see Jackson, Sharpton, Wright, et al). While trying to have an honest dialogue those who disagree with their viewpoint will attack them, will label them racist, will demand retractions and dismissals. Against this backdrop of possible repercussions, fear is created for many white people who then become afraid to discuss race relations and openly ask questions and share their thoughts and feelings. So yes Mr. Holder we have become a nation of cowards, what are you going to do to change this? How are you going to give me the courage to speak my thoughts without fear of retribution, labels and misconstruing of my comments to fit someone else’s agenda? How will you allow open and honest dialogue between all blacks, all Asians, all Hispanics, all whites? It is easy to label someone and dismiss them because of the label—a favorite tactic of some commentators on the left. It is much more difficult however to create and respect an environment of openness that allows everyone to speak their opinion, to learn other’s opinions, and come to understand that unity does not mean uniformity, nor agreement.. Unity means the ability to live together, respect each other and be able to have discussions, conversations, disagreements and experiences together—openly, freely.

Two dumb statements and one truthful statement. Two statements that foreshadow more of the same bad governance in our state and one statement that, if properly interpreted and acted upon, can forever change our nation and our ability to interact and live in Unity.

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