Americans: At Long Last, Have You Left No Sense Of Decency?

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Don’t let Republicans take away your self-respect and humanity– your claim to be a decent person. Tell them enough. Stop. Tell the Democrats to stand up and fight back for all of us or get out of the way for politicians who will.

Self-respect, humanity and decency are what is at stake in the Republican give-to-the-rich tax plan, their effort to undo environmental and financial regulations, their unrelenting push for charter schools and vouchers instead of public schools, their efforts to undermine voting and labor rights, their endless attempts to undo the advances of the Affordable Care Act, cut back on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and support for the disabled, their drive to control access to information on the Internet, and their opposition all reasonable controls on guns.

Republican ascendancy in federal, state, and local government marks the triumph of an immoral moral principle: Their gain comes at my expense. Historically, the identity of them (Native Americans, African Americans, the latest immigrants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, women, LGTBQs, the disabled, and always the poor) has been fluid, as suits the political exigencies of the moment, but the core principle and morality is consistent.

In just one day, Donald Trump managed to stir more hatred by re-tweeting extremist anti-Muslim videos and defend proposed tax gifts to the already obscenely wealthy by promising to help struggling workers by curtailing government benefits to people who do not work. “Welfare reform, I see it, and I’ve talked to people,” he said. “I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who is not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off.”

The New Deal and perhaps later the Great Society, marked the American apotheosis of institutionalizing–through collective government action– the moral principle that that everyone is worthy of a decent life. Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and myriad other programs all represented the idea that people should not be left to fend for themselves in difficult times and circumstances. All manner of health, safety, environmental, and financial regulations were all enacted to protect people from unrestrained profiteers without concern for the wellbeing of others. Voting, civil and labor laws were enacted to move the nation closer to its founding principle, the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Republicans aim to undo it all. That is indecent.

The tensions between us and them, between look out for old number one and I am my brother’s keeper are, of course, not new. The strains become more intense and conflictual in times of stress and scarcity. In much earlier times, the stressors were natural– drought, disease, natural disasters, etc. In modern times, the strains on social cohesion are increasingly human creations due to inequality, racism and more recently climate change.

We cannot stop earthquakes. They are inevitable. Hatred and equality are not. There are moments when we need to reclaim our humanity or lose it. We are at that moment.

Arthur H. Camins is a lifelong educator. He works part time with curriculum developers at UC Berkeley as an assessment specialist. He retired recently as Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology. He has taught and been an administrator in New York City, Massachusetts, and Louisville, Kentucky. The ideas expressed in this article are his alone.

Follow Arthur on Twitter: @arthurcamins

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