Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

July 31, 2012

LION AND THE LAMB: Our nation's twilight zone

CROSSVILLE — As we look around us, we can discover a number of signs indicating that our nation is entering the twilight of its life as a democracy. Seldom do we find at the grass roots level any lively, hopeful conversation about our nation's values and goals. Instead, there is a deep sense of anxiety and foreboding, a sense that our political institutions have been corrupted by money and our economic system by increasing inequality. Our electoral system no longer provides a democratic bulwark for us.

Since January 2011, nineteen states have passed a total of 24 laws that create hurdles between voters and the ballot box. As Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice has written, "We are seeing a dramatic assault on voting rights, the most significant pushback on democratic participation that we've seen in decades. The laws could make it harder for millions of eligible American citizens to participate, particularly in swing states."

Many states, such as Tennessee, now require a government-issued photo ID to vote, supposedly to combat fraud. As Weiser has written, "You are more likely to find someone struck by lightning than someone who carries out impersonation fraud to cast an improper vote." Obtaining such an ID is very hard for certain groups of people —rural, elderly, poor, college students, and those forced to move because of house foreclosure. There are 330,000 adults living in rural Tennessee counties that do not have driver service centers or other sources of ID cards nearby.

Not only do requirements such as this provide a great obstacle for some would-be voters, but in some cases, they come face-to-face with actual roadblocks. Georgia's new voter ID law, on hold pending federal approval, has an interesting catch-22 feature: voters would need to produce a certified birth certificate in order to get a photo ID, but would need to produce a photo ID in order to get a certified birth certificate.

It would seem that a nation aspiring to be democratic would go out of its way to make it possible that more, rather than fewer, people would be able to vote.

Our democracy is under threat from another direction—from the impact of money on the life and development of our nation. We have seen how the tremendous wealth of billionaires and corporations has taken control of our political campaigns and determined the agenda and deliberations of Congress, the Supreme Court, and even the Presidency. The Supreme Court in its Citizens United ruling that corporations are persons with First Amendment rights, and that their money is a form of free speech, has transformed and corrupted our nation's political process.

There are several efforts now to reverse this decision: calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, and passing a DISCLOSE Act that requires the full disclosure of the donors who are making huge secret Super PAC campaign contributions to their preferred candidates.

A third effort is now also being considered: If corporations are indeed to be treated as "persons," then they should not be above the law. According to some critics, their recidivist wrongdoing and criminal behavior should make them vulnerable to the revocation of their state charters and even capital punishment. Charges could include ongoing corruption and fraud, deception of shareholders, usurpation of political power, complicity in human rights violations, environmental devastation, and the destruction of human life.

Valuing and protecting the personhood of our nation's citizens, and of all our fellow residents on this planetary home, is a huge challenge. In our nation's twilight years it may be too late to change our ways, but it's still worth a try.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice