In the present political circus it seems that liberals mostly want to tweak the status quo to get better deals (cheaper, less polluting energy, safer water, air & food, universal medical care & education) for themselves and their immediate neighbors. They also want to stop global warming and raise taxes on the rich.
Conservatives seem to want the private sector to manage the economy, control education, health care and prisons; they also want control of women’s bodies, voter registration laws to limit voting by poor people, lower taxes for the rich, cuts to Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act for everyone else. And they expect Ivy League schools for their children, student loans at high interest for the middle classes, and minimal training for poor kids to be obedient workers and consumers or professional killers in the armed forces.
But I see hardly any political commitment on either side to the world’s poor and illiterate, to the billions of humans whose lives are blighted by wars, energy extraction, trade policies and economic myths, to the unemployed and homeless of our own communities, to the "illegal aliens" who cross political borders in search of better lives, or to refugees fleeing floods, droughts or famines.
One of the reasons I can’t spend much time on the gas-drilling/fracking issue is that I don’t see in it the "preferential option for the poor" that I believe should be central to all our social, political and economic activities in a world of seven billion souls – half of them hungry – on a planet that we are literally and figuratively burning up.
The abortion and contraception issues are also all about the poor, especially women. Middle class and wealthy women have money, cars, medical coverage, information systems and other resources to prevent, manage or end pregnancies. But right wing, righteous people – mostly men – want to make sure not a penny of their money goes to help poor women they have already judged to be immoral and irresponsible (if not altogether perverted and evil) and who must not be allowed to exercise their own consciences or make their own choices.
One thing Obama has got right is handing off the costs of contraception to the insurance industry. It’s right because if they get a big piece of the public’s money, they should provide the services. It’s also right, perversely, because private insurers recognize that contraception saves everyone’s money – theirs first, then down the line to saving money on medical services, and finally to saving public money on health care, schools and prisons.
Then there is the black comedy of abortion: Save at all cost the lives of all beating hearts, but allow men in power to target and kill any human being without even the inconvenience of due process or justification; punish women who use contraception, but train young men to be efficient and committed killers.
And so this week an American soldier slaughtered 16 Afghan children and adults. This week the Obama administration justified the murder of a citizen and his teen-aged son without any due process of law or public disclosure of their crimes.
This week the Israeli army killed 25 Palestinians. No Israeli deaths were reported; apparently Israel’s anti-missile system "Iron Dome" (provided by the US) had deflected some Palestinian missiles. The dead Palestinians were referred to only as "terrorists."
Men in power are presently prosecuting Bradley Manning and targeting Julian Assange (not even an American citizen) under the 1917 Espionage Act for "assisting the enemy." What enemy? All of us who have a right to transparency in government?
Middle-aged and old men are competing with one another to determine every aspect of the future in advance – from women’s control over their own bodies to corporate control of elections, from who may be killed without due process to who can profit from oil and gas extraction, from the cheapest way to educate children to what levels of global warming are acceptable for future profits; from the imposition of austerity on the 99% to bailing out banks with public money.
Men in power today are not willing to let women, the poor, or the young determine their own future, choose their own values, exercise their own free will, pursue as much education as they can need, make their own mistakes, experiment with new technologies, explore better ways to manage our communities, states, and resources, or dream new ways of living together on a fragile planet.
By the time you read this, we may have a war in Iran. Or the US may have decided to get out of Afghanistan, or a tsunami may have struck, a nuclear power plant gone critical, or a world leader assassinated. None of those events is very likely, but it is certain that in those four days, some 84,000 poor children worldwide will die of starvation, and about 2,.200 American women will discover unwanted pregnancies. And the US will spend $1,640,000,000 on wars, weapons and waste in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Perhaps President Obama should be forced to watch sonograms of the beating hearts of those he targets for extrajudicial assassination?