Wednesday, January 30, 2013

About Ending Perpetual War...

There was a lot of hoopla in my city last week, as President Obama was re-inaugurated amidst large crowds. Given the centrality of Obama to our blog (we started this 4 years ago after his initial inauguration, with some of our first posts devoted to capturing the movement that developed around him that catapulted him into the presidency), I though it'd be useful to write down a few thoughts about inauguration #2. The main takeaway from his speech was that he seemed far more bold on domestic politics: the references to climate change, Stonewall, and immigration were much stronger stances than he was willing to make in his first inauguration. Second-term presidencies can bring about more activism, obviously. But, for me, the most interesting part was his discussion of the need to end perpetual war (d'uh, I do international politics). Like so much about Obama, a lot of liberals applauded this (supposedly) brave statement and felt optimism about further distancing ourselves from the Bush years. But...yeah, as seems to be frequently the case with liberals and Obama, they didn't pay attention to what he has actually done. The press didn't do a particularly good job with this either, analyzing his words more than his actions. Perhaps Barry O is really committed to shifting away from militarism. But, the reality is, he's got to walk away from a lot of his own policies to do so.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Who hasn't tried to co-opt MLK?

As we celebrate MLK Day in America today (and the second inauguration of Barack Obama, one that is definitely being linked to MLK on a few levels...more on that later), I started thinking: why do we know so little about the real King and, as a result, why are so many able to co-opt his messages?

The MLK we're told about (that I've written about before - click here and here to read more) was a man who told us to live together in peace, for whites and blacks to embrace each other, and let our kids play together. This isn't a bad message at all, of course. However, we rarely get the more complicated politics that MLK touched on. He understood the connection between racism, economics, and politics. "I have a dream" is very special and historical...but the dream MLK wanted us to get to involved addressing war, poverty, and the nature of our political system. He was pro-labor (he was assassinated while supporting sanitation workers on strike in Memphis). He was critical of the economic divide in America. He was staunchly opposed to the Vietnam war, and not supportive of our foreign policy in general. He thought we exploited the poor at home and abroad. He had problems with moderate white American leaders, who would be willing to compromise on social issues to bring about a "peace" without justice. So...yeah, not as warm and fuzzy as we hear about. Of course, reality makes him (and those who fought alongside him - one man does not make a movement) far more courageous, noble, and worthy of rememberance. It wasn't easy to fight against segregation. Fighting against segregation, Vietnam, poverty, aspects of capitalism, political dealmaking...yeah, that's a lot more challenging.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What about the minds of the everyday people?

Mental health is today’s hot topic given last month’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.  The importance of this issue is no longer a topic for discussion but a topic for action.  It is imperative that our health care system create room for mental illness to be de-stigmatized, detected, treated, and prevented.  As I see it, the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease is great for the one who has it; the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses is great for the person, their family, and their entire community.

But, as we begin to focus detection of mental illness on high-risk individuals in order to prevent heinous crimes like those in Aurora, Colorado, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and Newtown, Connecticut, we cannot forget the importance of the mental health of the general population.  Just as no one is safe from developing cancer these days, no one is safe from a mental health issue.  Our world is a high stress place and with events like yesterday’s becoming more commonplace, it’s becoming even more stressful.