Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What is 'moral,' anyway?

About three years ago, a letter appeared in the Winslow mail, in which the writer pretended to be neutral, then asked people to figure out if they were Democrats or Republicans and couched the letter in strongly moralistic terms. In fact, the writer was not neutral at all, it happened that he was the Republican candidate for County Assessor (which he thankfully lost for in November). At the time I wrote back a letter. It was edited for length, and much of it was edited out (though luckily they left in the place where I called him on his disingenuity, proclaiming himself a neutral observer while in fact seeking elected office as a Republican.)

This week, there has been a bit of a controversy stirred up by General Pace, the chief of the army, as he condemned homosexuality as 'immoral.' He is of course entitled to any belief he wants, but to proclaim it publically is an insult to an estimated 65,000 gays in the military who are following the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy and in many cases are in the front lines, laying it all on the line on behalf of their country, and expecting leadership instead of personal condemnation from their leaders. There has also been other recent discussion of 'morality,' especially since Al Gore placed it front and center by describing climate change as a 'moral' issue.

So, I've decided to post here some of the parts of the letter I wrote that were edited out by the paper:

... a friend of mind pointed out his letter to the Winslow Mail. To begin with, it was disingenuous, with him purporting a veneer of impartiality in defining what Republicans and Democrats are for and against, ostensibly for the benefit of new or undecided voters. He did not even mention that he is running for public office as a Republican. Then he went on to define Democrats in a mostly negative light, focusing heavily on moral arguments.

So, as a Democrat, I would like to respond in context.

I am a Democrat because it is immoral that we deny or limit the care people (even children) can receive in hospitals, if they don’t have insurance.

It is immoral that we pay companies to ship jobs to Asia instead of helping small businesses create them in our communities.

It is immoral that we hold up ‘big box’ stores as models of job creation, when they pay little more than subsistence wages and frequently force businesses to close that pay people well enough to feed their families.

It is immoral that we send our young people to fight in a war half a world away, when we can’t tell them why we are there, how long we will be there, or how we plan to get out.

It is immoral to cut funds for our national parks, so that little will be left of some of them by the time our kids are old enough to inherit our national treasures.

It is immoral that we save a few dollars by knocking some people off of food stamps, yet spend many times that amount on corporate welfare while very few people say anything.

It is immoral that we block the importation of drugs from other countries, thereby supporting the drug companies in their selective gouging of Americans compared to Canadians and Europeans. Shouldn’t our government be protecting us from those who want to put the screws to us, instead of helping them do it?

It is immoral that we have homeless children in the richest country on earth and some claim they are there by ‘choice.’ Adults may choose to be homeless (although many didn’t), but how can a child choose to be homeless? This is a cop-out that some conservatives use to duck having to face that reality or spend a few dollars to do anything about it.

It is immoral that we hire degreed professionals to teach our kids in K-12 schools, yet pay them so poorly that it is unlikely that they will be able to send their own kids to the colleges that they went to.

It is immoral that we make things as difficult as we can on both documented and undocumented workers, while giving a slap on the wrist to the businesses that hire them.

It is immoral that we block research that could cure many diseases, when the blastocysts that could be used are tossed in the garbage every day.

It is immoral that we mandate tests like AIMS and fulfill other requirements of the NCLB act, and then ask local school districts to pick up the tab.

It is immoral that we work to cut the authority of governmental regulatory agencies designed to protect the health of workers and the public as an ‘unnecessary intrusion,’ but we allow the same government to massively increase their surveillance of the American public and the right to conduct secret trials, and then ‘trust’ their word that these powers will never be abused by either the current or any future administrations.

It is immoral that we give more duties to our police officers, but don’t fund them.

It is immoral that we build infrastructure in Iraq when many people here in Navajo county still don’t have electricity.

It is immoral that we say, ‘support the troops’ and then close VA hospitals and cut other veterans programs.

It is immoral that we give massive tax cuts to billionaires and then leave the debts for our young people to pay later on in life.

It is immoral that, despite having the technology available, we don’t raise vehicle fuel standards and instead have to depend for our security and livelihood on the political stability of a few slaveholding, misogynist, dictatorial feudal monarchies. George Washington is surely spinning in his grave.

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