Congratulations Terrorists. You’ve Won. You Can Go Home Now.

by Shadra Bruce

tsa-terroristsI read with complete horror and disgust the story of the 95-year old incontinent woman trying to get home and meeting with incompetent, insensitive TSA officials who lack even the smallest shred of common sense, and I realized that the terrorists have been far more effective than even they probably imagined.

Who needs foreign terrorists when we have TSA officials forcing 95-year old women to remove their diapers for a pat down, when we have states implementing laws that allow police to target people based on their skin color, and when we all live in fear of saying the wrong thing and suddenly disappearing from our homes. No, I’m not Russian, or Algerian, or from Darfur. I’m an American, though these days I seem to say it with as much sheepishness as pride.

The terrorists did more than kill 3,000 people in a sneaky, cowardly attack on our soil. They permanently transformed the mindset of America, putting the kind of fear into our lives that brings out the ugliest and vilest part of people – the part that used to remain hidden behind a thin veil of civility.

Since 2001 it’s not just people we’ve lost to terrorism. We’ve lost our right to privacy, our right to dignity, our ability to feel safe from persecution from our own government. Again, I must remind you, I’m not writing this from Libya, North Korea, China, or Syria but from America.

According to the Associated Press, the woman in question was wheel-chair bound, dying of leukemia, and simply trying to get home to where she wanted to be laid to rest. Instead of using a bit of humanity in deciding how to proceed with this woman, the TSA officers determined she was enough of a threat to require a full pat down. If that wasn’t enough, they made the woman’s daughter take her to a restroom to remove the diaper and then get back in line and go through security again. By this time, the daughter was so frazzled that she lost her pass and was unable to accompany her mother to the gate. If this were one isolated incident, I would say fire the TSA employee who acted like such an imbecile and move on. But the incident was defended by the TSA spokesman, who said the employee did nothing wrong. What??!!

When we target dying women who are no more likely to be terrorists than 2-year olds; when we try to strip care from the poorest and most frail in our society, when we divert all of the wealth to the powerful and rich, how are we any different from any of the countries on whom we attempt to force our brand of democracy?

When will the poor, the marginalized, and the frail band together, overcome whatever small differences exist among each group, and take back the dignity of this country?  It’s time to retrieve our humanity, let go of our fear, and return to living as a society of people who have enough compassion and common sense to think for ourselves and protect the frail and marginalized of our society. No, it will never be the same and we have to be cautious, but if we continue on the path we’re on, the terrorists will demonstrate that they launched a very successful mission.

America’s Uninsured May Be Healthier Behind Bars

by Shadra Bruce

jailDid you read about the guy who robbed a bank so he could go to jail and get the medical care he needed? The story was covered by Diane Turbyfill of the Gaston Gazette, and every time I read about James Richard Verone, I have a hard time not crying.

What really gets me is that somebody had to do this here, in America. If this guy lived in Canada (or nearly any other truly civilized country), his medical needs would be taken care of without him having to commit a crime and go to jail to see a doctor.

The robbery was planned carefully – the man only took a dollar; enough to get arrested, but not enough to make the act a felony. He didn’t hurt anyone or carry a weapon or do anything else that would cost him too much freedom.

No, this guy did a cost-benefit analysis and decided a bit of time in jail with free medical care was less expensive than trying to pay for the care he needed. And it worked – he is in jail, has been seen by a nurse already, and is scheduled to see a doctor.

I don’t necessarily condone what this man did, but there’s a little part of me that’s saying, “Right on!” because deep down inside, I’m mad as hell that we don’t all have the health insurance we need, that health insurance is still a for-profit endeavor in this country, and that health is a benefit for the wealthy – and the lucky – only.

I wonder how long our Congress would put up with the health care system the rest of us live with if we stripped them of their precious health plan?

You see, I’m one of those people who falls through the cracks. I actively contribute to the economy, working full time, paying my ridiculously high taxes and buying locally when I can afford to.  But I’m self-employed. At last check, the cost of insuring my family would be $700-950 per month. That’s more than I can afford, but getting a corporate job with benefits wouldn’t pay as much as I can earn from home, especially when you add in commuting, care for our disabled child, and other associated costs of working outside the home.

Every time I read about Verone, I think of my dad, who is ready to retire but scared to because he doesn’t think he can afford the medical care. My dad has worked almost 45 years, 39 of it for the same company. That’s almost twice as long as any military veteran has to work to receive full medical benefits and about 30 years longer than any Congressman has to work to be pampered for life.

Right now, people in jail have access to better healthcare than most. (Apparently, the doctors think it’s a pretty good deal too). How much longer must hard-working American’s be denied at least minimal healthcare at an affordable cost, before more of us become as creative as the gentleman from North Carolina?  Unless the healthcare playing field is leveled relatively soon, I’m thinking Verone’s health plan might just catch on.

Unemployment in America is Not a Joke, Mitt Romney

by David T. Bruce

er-unemploymentWith at least $250 million dollars in assets, Mitt Romney cannot afford to practice his stand-up comedy routine to an audience of Americans who struggle daily to remain sheltered, clothed, and nourished.  With one third of children in America covered under the Medicaid program, with over 44 million American’s on food stamps, and with over 9 percent of Americans still unemployed, American citizens cannot afford to remain complacent in terms of learning more about who they support for any office, let alone the presidency.

Make no mistake. The vast majority of politicians are not altruistic. Even with the best of intentions, the person that earns (collects?) the majority of constituent votes enjoys a lifestyle that may likely blind them to the realities of living as most Americans live. They will not want for the basic necessities of life, and in all likelihood, they will enjoy a life style with an abundance of cultural and academic opportunities. Severance pay for our each of our elected officials may run in the millions of dollars, assuring our retired or fired senators and representatives that they will never have to worry about being unemployed again.

The palpable fear of being unemployed is a daily reality for over 60 percent of Americans as they live paycheck to paycheck. The political and corporate machines feed off of one another.  In a tag-team effort, these two machines prey on the American public for their survival, leaving them just enough scraps to enjoy the moment and to forget that tomorrow we may not have a home or clothes or food. The majority of Americans do not have assets from which to draw, as Mitt Romney does. For him to compare his station, even in jest, with that of the typical American shows a profound disconnect with the reality of living in America in the twenty-first century.

At some point, we as a society need to recognize that the current corporate and political structures are set up to safeguard themselves and not the American public. Both establishments present themselves as entities whose nature is to serve their constituents, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Both establishments are self-sustaining, pandering to the American public for votes alone. They want nothing nor need anything else from the average American. Therefore, every three to four years, politicians such as Mr. Romney attempt to build bridges, comparing their reality with the reality of twenty-first century America. They make meager attempts at levity to lighten the mood and engender a sense of openness. We must recognize these façades and charades for what they are.

Mitt Romney tells President Obama that Americans “are not just statistics.”  Mr. Romney, Americans are not just a punch line either. The reality of America today is not funny, and neither are you.

The Rise of the American KGB?

statue_of_libertyAt the base of the Statue of Liberty, these words are carved in stone: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” It was this welcoming, open-door policy that made America the land that dreams were made of. There was no gatekeeper at Ellis Island who said, “Oh, we didn’t really mean that. Your skin is too dark. You have too many kids. You think differently than we do. Your religion is wrong.”

welcome-to-arizona
Source: insanepics.blogspot.com

But now we live in a society in which the state of Arizona can pass a law that allows any state or public official, including law enforcement, to request proof of citizenship from anyone they suspect of being an illegal alien. How frightening is it that we are regressing at such a pace and that so many fundamental rights that embodied the spirit of America are being systematically chipped away? The only way a public official or peace officer can suspect someone, at face value, of being an illegal alien is because of skin color. This law is discriminatory and targeted at specific populations.

Georgia (It is easy to get confused, but we are referring to the state  within North America in this example, not the country that was formerly part of the USSR) followed suit and passed a nearly identical law that gives a ridiculous amount of power to police officers to question any person about their right to be there based solely on racial profiling.  While we were born in America, as were our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, Shadra has dark hair and exotic enough looks that she would fear being a target should she happen to travel in Arizona or Georgia.

The current legislation by Arizona and Georgia suggests that in comparison the potential exists for citizens of the European Union to have more freedom to get around in their home countries, where the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights mandates that “profiling will be considered as discriminatory (and therefore unlawful) where police powers are exercised in relation to individuals and the only or main reason for this is their race, ethnicity or religion.”

This is the United States, and immigration and identification requirements should be addressed on a national level. We or no one else should have to carry a birth certificate to travel through Arizona or Georgia, and we or no one else should have to worry that our children might be targeted because of the color of their hair, the color of their skin, or what religious artifacts they wear.

And if we are empowering peace officers to determine whether or not someone should reside here, what’s next: Laws that prevent us from speaking out against the government or a majority religion? Will we someday have to show that we have been baptized into an acceptable religion?

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, when the KGB started in what was the USSR, they were “responsible for foreign intelligence, domestic counterintelligence, technical intelligence, protection of the political leadership, and the security of the country’s frontiers.”  They evolved, however, conducting “most of its activities domestically, on Soviet soil and against Soviet citizens.”

With the growing fear of terrorism and the threat to entitlement benefits, the perceived duty to place blame or eliminate probable causes blinds us to the truth that we do not take to heart that all people are created equally.  Like the Communist administrations we condemned years ago for crimes against citizens, we tread dangerous ground when we propose that officials may essentially interrogate someone walking on the street with no more reason than a suspicion that someone may not have the right to be an American based solely on the way they look.