Lessons from Emmit Till's Murder Apply to Today's Resistance to Obama's Health Care Reform
In January 1963, when eight White ministers published an open letter calling Dr. King to abandon his demonstrations to gain civil rights, the ministers foretold of civil disturbances if he didn't stop. They wanted him to allow more time for the courts to solve the problems of segregation and inequality. The ministers called the demonstrations unwise and untimely. In a famous letter to the clergy, King takes various elements of the ministers' arguments apart, with well thought out biblical history, intertwined with the social inequities of the day.
The primary argument of conservatives is summed up in one word that is being used today as they seek to avoid reforming health care. That word is: "WAIT." Just like to Dr. King, it is the same argument that conservatives used to fight Medicare some years ago. It is the same word that conservatives used to fight Social Security legislation in the sixties. Now it is being used to ask Americans to wait as we all become more and more burdened with the costs of private health care insurance while making Health care executives richer and richer as 1500 Americans die each day due to lack of health care. If they or someone in their family will die tomorrow, they would pass a health care bill TODAY! Today the wait word is tied to the problems of the economy created by the conservative laissez faire actions of the last years since Ronald Reagan sold Americans the failed Trickle Down theory. That theory being that if you get rid of government regulations and let the so-called free market control itself it will treat everybody fair. Then Reagan immediately stopped programs that assisted the mentally Ill, placing millions on the streets and ushering in the largest homeless population Americans had ever seen.
That theory of free market could be interpreted into street language that says "let the rich get richer and the poor stay poor." The Trickle Down theory placed American manufacturing jobs on a "slow boat to China" and other points across the world where there is cheap labor to be exploited. After all, once slavery was no longer legal where could you get cheap labor?
The conservatives don't care about health care reform; they only care about making more money for the insurance robber barons of today. If they cared about the cost of health care they would not be begging President Obama to go to Afghanistan and start another un-winnable and expensive war. They have their priorities all messed up.
There is no reason to wait on health care except to maintain the status quo. Dr. King said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail that, "Wait has almost always meant never. It has been a tranquilizing thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill- formed infant of frustration. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that justice too long delayed is justice denied." American Presidents since Roosevelt and Truman have been trying to get health care legislation. So why are we still waiting?
On another point that relates to waiting, the world has watched the recent beating death of young Derrion Albert in Chicago. Many are asking why it happened and why there have been over 80 deaths of young Black men in Chicago in the past year. The answer is the same. American conservatives have stood by quietly and watched as the illegal war in Iraq and policies of the conservative administration drain the money for education and other opportunities from America. Also, while America has shipped jobs overseas, there are few jobs for adults, let alone youth. The schools have cut vocational programs and laid teachers off. Combined classrooms are so large the teachers can't teach and the children can't learn. Racism is openly professed from White legislators on down to White neighbors in the streets calling for Obama to die. Their hatred spills over into unfair treatment in jobs, housing and education similar to the times Dr. King was fighting against. Impatient young men waiting on equal rights and having few alternatives have taken to the streets. The conservatives have forgotten the biblical charge to help the poor. Their greed and
love of money is so blinding that they have gutted the once great public education system. They have gutted manufacturing jobs that created a large middle class, and replaced them with programs like NAFTA and CAFTA.
The Bible says that "the love of money is the root of all evil." The killing of young Emmit Till in 1955 was fueled by government sanctioned hate and knowledge that the killers could get away with it. Today's tragedies like the death of young Derrion Albert, in the urban streets are fueled by misguided government sponsored policies determining where our tax dollars go. While they pour massive amounts of resources into prosecuting Michael Vick, where are the there funds for youth? Money goes into corporate profits like makers of war machinery, including AK-47's that kill people world-wide including those in the streets of urban America, and corporations like Haliburton, while destroying programs designed for the poor like ACORN and education and job training programs.
In a sermon by one of the Americas' great preachers, Dr. Jeremiah Wright, who the conservatives love to hate, admonished Christians to take Jesus along with them once they leave their Sunday church service. Instead, he says we tend to say, "See you next Sunday, Jesus", while we go out and do the opposite of what Jesus commands us to do, including, help the poor and care for the sick." If we provided Americans with health care and educated them, they would gain skills, become employable, and pay enough taxes to pay for their health care and education. There is no reason to wait any longer!