I am Reprizing a blog piece I especially like (if I do say so myself) in honor of Martin Luther King on King day. I am not sure if I mention him in this but surely it's obviously pertaining to what he was about and so I present it in his honor. (originally published June 26, this year in repsonse to supreme court decision on voting rights act).
New York Times,
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.
The court divided along ideological lines, and the two sides drew sharply different lessons from the history of the civil rights movement and the nation’s progress in rooting out racial discrimination in voting. At the core of the disagreement was whether racial minorities continued to face barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination.“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”The decision will have immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.
So the question is, is this just more political hot air, or is this a time to take a stand? To answer that question I ask "what is the relationship between this questoin and the Gospel?" Is doing away with the voting rights act a matter of not living up to the truth of the Gospel? What Jesus say about politics? His statement "render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's, and unto God that which is God's" (Mark 12:17, Mat 22:15-22) should be a clue. Funny thing about that, he didn't seem to be ready to start a tax revolt. He seemed to think they the Romans do some stuff for us, (ever see the Life of Brion?) so springing for some Taxes to pay for it shouldn't be that big a deal. Yet, what belongs to God? Human life belongs to God, so things that destroy life, or that make it impossible to preach the Gospel or keep it from being heard, one would think do not belong to Cesar. But surely the voting rights act has nothing to do with that stuff, it's just a little voting. We might think voting belongs to Caesar because it's politics, and Cesar is king of politics, politics is of the world. Is that the answer right wing fundamentalists use when they field armies for the Republicans? Caesar is not a democratic figure. He's a symbol of power, becuase the real Cesar was a dictator. Cesar is a symbol of the power elite, the temporal realm. We have to decide weather or not democracy is more than just a silly little game of politically minded pundits, or is it a sacred right and duty to allow people the dignity that goes with being made in God's image?
Paul tells us there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28). We might infer from this that class divisions and race divisions are wrong. Discrimination is wrong. We might infer that "love your neighbor as yourself" means don't take away her civil rights? We have forgotten the horrible price that was paid, the struggle, how long it took, it bitter and divisive it was for whites who watched it on tv, and for blacks and the few whites who dared who lived it and died for it in real life. The dogs the fire hoses all things of the past no one thinks about that the young of tv of today never new. I actually watched live as cops in Alabama sicked dogs on defenseless women and sprayed them with fire hoses to keep them from sharing the same rights that white men enjoy.
Of course the court denies that we will have to do this again. The court's logic is based upon a sham argument about how we have changed:
“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”(see NYT Link above)
The redistricting plan that Texas is putting into effect means that the Replicans will never be out of office in Texas. It will change the balance of power in congress. Texas is notorious for Gerrymandering (we call it "Perrymandering."--that's really how Rick Perry got in office). They re-draw the distinctions every time the Democrats do better in an election.
As for the argument that the country has changed, I have a black friend who was denied a hair cut in barbershop in Farmer's Branch Texas in 1992. That is the same community that tried to start it's own immigration service to kick out Spanish speakers and tried to make English the official language. How long before decisions regarding those things get reversed? This is a right wing coup d'etat. The same kind of mentality I talked about before, perhaps a bit more rational. But the same refusal to admit the people want the other guys. We don't care what the people, we are the country not the people. We the rulers, the elite, "the good Chrsitains," the right wing, we are the real people, the poor don't count.
It's going to take a long time to build up to the point where we can have another civil rights movement. We had a election stolen from us in 2000. They did everything they could to stop blacks form voting in Floria so they could steal the election and put Bush in.
Independent investigations in that state revealed serious irregularities directed mostly against ethnic minorities and low-income residents who usually voted heavily Democratic. Some 36,000 newly registered voters were turned away because their names had never been added to the voter rolls by Florida’s secretary of state Kathleen Harris. By virtue of the office she held, Harris presided over the state’s election process while herself being an active member of the Bush Jr. state-wide campaign committee. Other voters were turned away because they were declared--almost always incorrectly--“convicted felons.” In several Democratic precincts, state officials closed the polls early, leaving lines of would-be voters stranded.Under orders from Governor Jeb Bush (Bush Jr.’s brother), state troopers near polling sites delayed people for hours while searching their cars. Some precincts required two photo IDs which many citizens do not have. The requirement under Florida law was only one photo ID. Passed just before the election, this law itself posed a special difficulty for low-income or elderly voters who did not have drivers licenses or other photo IDs. Uncounted ballot boxes went missing or were found in unexplained places or were never collected from certain African-American precincts. During the recount, GOP agitators shipped in from Washington D.C. by the Republican national leadership stormed the Dale County Canvassing Board, punched and kicked one of the officials, shouted and banged on their office doors, and generally created a climate of intimidation that caused the board to abandon its recount and accept the dubious pro-Bush tally.
In the next election, 2004, there were irregularities that help up blacks form voting in states like Ohio and Missouri. But as injustice mounts it will take time to prove it, time to prove the extent of it, time for the next court to conclude "ma bye things aren't that different after all." In the mean time a lot of "eschatology" is going hit the fan.
As Phil Ochs said "let it never be again." Now it will be.
 For these various irregularities, see New York Times, 30 November 2000 and 15 July 2001; Boston Globe, 30 November 2000 and 10 March 2001. A relevant documentary is Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election, L.A. Independent Media Center Film, 2004. (the author's fn form his site).
I fee I should include the comments made back in June when this first appeared:
I fee I should include the comments made back in June when this first appeared: