By Ted Braun
In 1932 the Boston football team was named the “Redskins” in honor of its coach, Lone Star Dietz, who had a Sioux background. In 1937 the owner, George Preston Marshall, moved the team to his home city of Washington, DC, but kept the Redskins name.
Over the years, however, the name has become a contentious one. Native Americans have claimed that it demeans them by making their so-called skin color their chief defining characteristic. In 2009 a group of Native Americans sued to have a name change, but the Supreme Court refused to take the case.
Many people see nothing wrong with a Redskins name, although the pitfalls in such a view become more apparent when universalized as a principle. For instance, suppose the football league included four more teams named Whiteskins, Blackskins, Brownskins, and Yellowskins, in addition to Redskins. There would surely be an added level of racial bias when they engaged in combat.
An excellent example of the challenge we all face in getting beneath the skin in our viewing of others was provided by our own Cumberland County Playhouse these past two months. Its presentation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was a very powerful and moving theatrical experience. The drama’s basic challenge was how Tom Robinson’s fellow townspeople (and we, the viewers) would see Tom: only on the skin, or beneath the surface, as a fellow human being and brother reflecting in a very special way the highest ethos of humanity. Playing a central role in meeting that challenge was Tom’s lawyer, Atticus Finch, who was able to see the real person beneath the skin. But it was not enough to save the framed Tom from prison and death.
A third example of this challenge has been provided in the current debate over the Affordable Care Act. The history of the Act is revealing. In 1974 Republican President Richard Nixon proposed a similar plan based on private insurance. All but the smallest employers would provide insurance to their workers or pay a penalty, an expanded Medicaid-type program would insure the poor, and subsidies would be provided to low-income individuals and small employers. Also, there would be a requirement that the younger and healthier sign up. This plan got nowhere because Democrats wanted to attach healthcare onto Social Security and Medicare.
Most recently, Republican governor Mitt Romney made Nixon’s plan the law in Massachusetts, although Democrats had again hoped for a federal single payer system.
An astonishing development in this history took place when President Obama introduced his healthcare plan based on Nixon’s and Romney’s plans, and it became the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The Republicans led by their Tea Party constituents, however, came out in strong opposition to it, trying to defund and eliminate it. Even the idea of including an individual mandate had come from conservative Republican roots in the Heritage Foundation.
What made this third healthcare proposal so unacceptable to the Republicans and Tea Party folk?
Many of us have been waiting for a positive word from the Tea Party folk in Cumberland County. If they are against the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, what would be their proposal for a better healthcare plan that would include everyone—one that would be a right for all American citizens and not just a privilege for the more well-off.
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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.