Response to an Editorial by Ken Huber
I got another right-wing e-mail the other day. At least, I assume it's right wing, since most of the arguments in it tend to lean that way, and it specifically criticizes "progressive" stances as wrong. However, it's a bit hard to tell. Maybe it's better just to chalk this up as one of those rants where everything was so much better in the good ol' days, but now the world's going to Hell in a hand basket.
This one was supposedly a reprint from an editorial, but I've been unable to find it online to determine what paper it was originally printed in. I was able to find it in examiner.com, but only as basically a reprint. The only clue is that the man who supposedly wrote it, Ken Huber, signed his name from Tawas City, which Google tells me is in Michigan. For the sake of argument, I'll just assume that someone named Ken Huber did actually write this editorial, and that it did actually appear in print. It doesn't really matter much, since this article has taken on a life of its own in e-mail forwards.
Before getting into my response, I'll note that after I wrote all this, I came across three other very good responses, which I'm linking to below. The first is the shortest and pithiest. The other two are a bit more thoughtful.
On to the editorial. I'll use my normal approach of putting a section of the original in blockquotes, followed by my comments.
Has America become the land of special interest and home of the double standard?
Lets see: if we lie to the Congress, it's a felony and if the Congress lies to us its just politics;
Politicians lying is definitely infuriating, but it's not something to bring up in a question of 'what has America become', since politicians have always lied. At least with the dawn of the Internet, it's easy to fact check the politicians.
if we dislike a black person, we're racist and if a black person dislikes whites, its their 1st Amendment right;
I suppose Ken Huber is white. If he dislikes a black person just because of the color of their skin, then yes, he's racist. And if a black person dislikes Huber just because of the color of Huber's skin, then that black person would be a racist, too. And if a Latino, or an Asian, or an American Indian, or anyone else dislikes any person just because of the color of their skin, then they're a racist. But the 1st Amendment grants everyone that right, so long as you don't let your personal feelings cause actual harm against those people.
Huber's complaint would be much more persuasive if organizations like the KKK weren't allowed to spew their hatred, but they're free to speak just like everyone else. (I won't link to it, but the mere existence of Storm Front really shows society's tolerance of despicable speech.)
the government spends millions to rehabilitate criminals and they do almost nothing for the victims;
I hope Huber is upset at the balance of spending, and not just on the fact that the government spends money to rehabilitate criminals. If the overall purpose of the legal system is to make society safer, what do we expect criminals to do once they get out of prison? Turn right back to crime and cause more harm before being arrested again? Or become productive members of society who can actually contribute?
in public schools you can teach that homosexuality is OK, but you better not use the word God in the process;
How are these related. The first is an issue of tolerance. The second is an issue of separation of church and state. Does Huber want schools to 'teach that homosexuality is OK' while specifically calling out Christianity on its intolerance and bigotry?
I know - not really. He wants to continue to allow people to be bigoted against homosexuals, and he wants to use religion as the excuse to allow it.
you can kill an unborn child, but it is wrong to execute a mass murderer;
I've already written about abortion, so I won't rehash all my arguments here. I think there are legitimate debates about how many rights to grant to a fetus at different stages of development, and how to balance those rights against those of the fully human woman who's carrying the fetus, but I also think there are times when abortion is justified.
Huber, though, does point out the hypocrisy of many of the 'pro-lifers'. Apparently, life is only sacred when still in the womb. Once you're an adult, it's okay if the state kills you. (Me - I'm ambivalent on the morality of capital punishment. Instead, I look at it from a pragmatic viewpoint - I don't trust the government to make irreversible life and death decisions, especially when so many convictions for people on death row have been overturned.) I'd have much more respect for the consistency of supposedly 'pro-life' supporters if they were vegetarians and opposed to the death penalty.
we don't burn books in America, we now rewrite them;
Actually, this is a problem. The right wing dominated State Board of Education here in Texas is notorious for the shenanigans it's pulled with textbook standards, from re-writing the religious influences on the Founding Fathers and our nation in general, to last minute back-door dealings on English standards, to injecting creationism into science.
we got rid of communist and socialist threats by renaming them progressive;
There actually are communist and socialist parties in this country. They are far more extreme than any Democrats or mainstream politicians who label themselves as 'progressive'.
It's gotten to the point where if you try to have anything in this country publicly funded, it gets labeled 'socialist' or 'communist' by the right wing. If a government funded fire department or police force is socialist, either socialism isn't such a bad thing, or people are throwing around the term where it doesn't belong.
we are unable to close our border with Mexico, but have no problem protecting the 38th parallel in Korea;
When I look at the border between North and South Korea, I don't see something to aspire to.
if you protest against President Obama's policies you're a terrorist, but if you burned an American flag or George Bush in effigy it was your 1st Amendment right.
Who has been labeled a terrorist for protesting Obama's policies? I don't see Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck being charged with anything.
And yes, it should be your right to burn any inanimate object you want to (assuming that act isn't dangerous). It may be offensive, but it does no actual harm to anybody. That's kind of the whole point of free speech. Doesn't prohibiting symbolic gestures seem a bit totalitarian?
You can have pornography on TV or the internet, but you better not put a nativity scene in a public park during Christmas;
Wait, what? On what broadcast TV channel can you get pornography? The only channels I know of where you can find that type of content are on cable or satellite, i.e. channels that a person has to purchase.
This comparison is just silly. Cable/satellite TV are private services that people purchase. The Internet sites Huber's referring to are also privately owned. A public park is government run. Now, if you want to put up a nativity scene on private property, you've got every right to do so. I see plenty of them around town here during the holidays.
To really see how silly this comparison is, just swap around his comparisons. You can put a nativity scene on TV or the internet, but you can't have pornography in a public park. Appropriate venues for appropriate content.
we have eliminated all criminals in America, they are now called sick people;
The U.S. has the largest prisoner population in the world, both in absolute numbers and per capita. Just think about that - we have more prisoners than either China or Russia. 25% of the inmates of the world are in the U.S., even though we only have 5% of the world's population And it's not as if the prison systems are public health institutions, or that chain gangs are a thing of the past. We're not soft on crime.
we can use a human fetus for medical research, but it is wrong to use an animal.
Yeah, because nobody uses lab rats anymore.
There are definitely ethical considerations when using research subjects that experience emotions or feel pain. We tend to place the most restrictions on humans, mostly because it's us humans making the laws and we have high opinions of ourselves. But, humans are also the most intelligent animals, and probably have richer emotional lives than some other animals (though I'd be willing to bet the difference between us and chimps in this regard is practically nonexistent). And we're also the only animals that can give consent, so it does make sense for the restrictions to be highest for us.
But embryos and fetuses are a grey area. How do we judge when it's ethical to experiment on one organism and not another? If it's okay to use rats for research, how is it wrong to use a day old blastula that doesn't even have differentiated cells, let alone a nervous system or a functioning brain? Does the mere fact that it has human DNA make it special? If so, what do we do with HeLa cells, or even biopsies?
The first link below is a non-sensational account of the actual research that takes place with embryos and fetuses.
We take money from those who work hard for it and give it to those who don't want to work;
Has this guy looked at any stats on wealth distribution or income inequality? The richest Americans have a hugely disproportionate share of the wealth, and both wealth inequality and income inequality are increasing. So who's losing out on money? Or does he think the rich are the ones stealing all that hard earned money from the poor and middle class?
we all support the Constitution, but only when it supports our political ideology;
Not much argument here. The right wing tends to ignore the separation of church and state, suppress free speech, and wants to impose their morality on everyone, while the left wing tends to ignore the right to own firearms (though of course, that's a broad brush both ways). Both parties are ignoring the right to due process and a speedy trial with Guantanamo and the Patriot Act.
we still have freedom of speech, but only if we are being politically correct;
Wait, wasn't he just complaining about it being okay to burn the flag or an effigy of the President? It sounds like he's arguing for freedom of speech, but only when it's speech he approves of.
When the Fred Phelps, Rush Limbaughs, Glen Becks, and Bill O'Reilly's of the world can get away with saying everything they do, it's hard to argue that only politically correct speech is permitted. (And don't confuse public outcry against the things those people say with restricting freedom of speech - it's really just granting the same freedom to the people who want to criticize their opinions.)
If you want to see problems with freedom of speech in areas where it's supposed to be upheld as a virtue, look to Europe. With their blasphemy laws, laws against Holocaust denial, the U.K.'s libel laws, etc., it makes you appreciative of the freedom we have here (not saying that Holocaust denial is noble, but that the government shouldn't be able to outlaw it).
And if you want to see huge problems with freedom of speech, look to the theocracies, dictatorships, and other oppressive governments of the world, which make you really grateful to live in a country that values that freedom as much as the U.S.
parenting has been replaced with Ritalin and video games;
No big argument from me, here. Those types of drugs are over-prescribed. I don't have a strong opinion on the video games.
the land of opportunity is now the land of hand outs;
I do agree that welfare needs reform. Through my wife who used to work labor and delivery, I've heard of plenty of people abusing the system by having children just to get a bigger check. But, I also think it's a program that serves a valuable purpose and should stay in place in some manner. As the old saying goes - a hand up, not a hand out. Personally, I'd like to see some modern version of the CCC, but good luck getting that past the Tea Party who'd just call it socialist or complain of government expansion.
To be honest, though, the actual cases of welfare fraud are greatly exaggerated.
the similarity between Hurricane Katrina and the gulf oil spill is that neither president did anything to help.
No big argument on this one.
And how do we handle a major crisis today? The government appoints a committee to determine who's at fault, then threatens them, passes a law, raises our taxes; tells us the problem is solved so they can get back to their reelection campaign.
In regards to the 'raises our taxes', I'll just quote something I wrote before. "I don't understand why taxes all of a sudden became such a big issue when Obama took office. Why didn't we see the Tea Party protesters 3 years ago? The timing seems a bit suspicious. For most people, taxes are comparable to what they've been for the past 50 years. For the wealthy, they've increased slightly under Obama, but they're still significantly lower than they were during the Nixon & Reagan years. The tax burden in the U.S. isn't that bad compared to other countries, either. All the data just makes the Tea Party protesters seem like a bunch of whiners who don't want to pay their fair share to support society."
What has happened to the land of the free and home of the brave?
- Ken Huber
No real comment on this last part.
So that's it - one long rant of claims and comparisons that mostly didn't stand up to any scrutiny.
Updated 2012-03-23 - Slightly reworded the section on freedom of speech, and added the mentions of oppressive countries, since those really are far worse than the U.S. or Europe.
Updated 2012-03-26 - I didn't explicitly state this at the top of this entry, but this originally began as a response to the friend who sent it to me. I actually posted this entry before sending the response, and in reading over the response one last time before sending it to him, I found a few more changes - the biggest being the inclusion of a few more stats in regards to incarceration in the U.S. I also added the links to some of the other reviews that I found.