Monday, December 15, 2014

Liberals Have Won on Social Issues. Economic Ones Will Take a Little Longer. (I'm Still Depressed.)

The game changer: the pill. Once childbearing was no longer inevitable, the
sexes became more equal. What's more, marriage could now be defined
in any number of ways. (No, polygamy is not next, cons.)

I'll admit it: Now that torture has, inadvertently, been morphed into a policy choice, not a moral one, I'm more depressed than ever by the turn our country has taken on issues of violence and death. For that is what torture represents. If torture works, then morality be damned. Freedom isn't free! Protect our citizens!

Seriously, much of what has transpired in recent years in our country has been a turn to more violent options, not less. When we embrace wider gun ownership, we open up more opportunities for gun violence. When we argue that torture works, we only make it inevitable that we will revisit those practices at some point in our future.

But to today's point. Beyond these less pleasant cultural strains, we, as a country, have made unbelievable -- and rapid -- progress on a number of social fronts:
  • Abortions, though under assault, remain largely available, in spite of the obstacles and humiliations conservatives in several states have thrown in front of women.
  • Though contraception has been treated in a similar way post-ACA, it remains largely available and will become more so -- and more affordable -- after the original furor over free birth control subsides. In a year or so, when no one is paying attention anymore, the effects of the ACA will mean that most women in most states are getting free birth control because it takes an undying effort to exclude it. And the passion isn't there in ways that it is with abortion.
  • The ACA, or Obamacare, if you like, has helped in expanding healthcare and lowering its costs. Even if a Republican Congress -- or the Supreme Court, heaven help us -- manages to gut Obamacare, the cat's out of the bag. Replacing Obamacare can only go in the direction of government participation in bringing down costs and expanding availability. GOP, be wary: If you destroy Obamacare, you may only be hastening the day we get government-operated, single-payer healthcare.
  • Due to this and other developments in our society, women are on a path toward greater participation in the workplace, which will bring increased economic parity. We have a ways to go, mind you, but it's progress that can't be stopped.
  • Same-sex unions, along with the tolerance that accompanies it, have won both the day and the century. Game over, there. And no one died! No traditional marriage fell victim!
  • Due to the slayings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and other people of color, a new movement to tame our out-of-control police culture is underway across America. Let's hope progress is made there. It works to root out racism, which, after all, is very much integral to the problem. It's not all racism -- cops love to beat up whites in Berkeley and Oakland! -- but it's a significant undercurrent flowing through our society. Whites, get a clue, and let's make progress. (I'm white, and I get white privilege and implicit, institutional racism.)
  • Marijuana is on the ascendancy. Legalization, or at the very least increased decriminalization, is set to continue expanding across the nation. As this bulwark is torn down, resistance to dealing with other drugs in a more enlightened fashion will only recede. Drugs are a public-health issue, not a legal one.
  • With this trend, our prisons are becoming where we house violent criminals, not drug offenders. And that punches a hole in the worst of what law-and-order proponents have wrought: a merciless world in which we lock up people who steal pizza -- as long as it's their third offense! -- for life. That's receding, too. Shorter sentences for fewer people and fewer crimes, please.

Prisons running out of room while violent and property crimes are down
markedly over the last 40 years. Something's wrong with this picture.

Where we lock them up the most. Why? Not much Mormon-on-Mormon crime, I guess.

Income inequality, lack of economic and educational opportunity, and proper regulation of the finance industry is only beginning to rock our country and will take a while longer. But, like social justice, economic justice will bend to the will of the people. Won't see it, maybe, in my lifetime, but there's hope.

This post constitutes a welcome respite from the world of politics -- where no one has seen a campaign contribution that can't warp one's values beyond recognition. Oops, I'm backsliding. (Okay, Elizabeth Warren!)

Note. When I say that gun ownership leads to more gun violence, I'm not contradicting myself by pointing out persistent drops in violent crime. I'm pointing out that, aside from violent crime, expanding gun ownership and loosening open- and concealed-carry laws and encouraging stand-your-ground, we invite more chance that teenagers wandering onto the wrong porch at the wrong time in the wrong neighborhood in the wrong state will lead to more dead teenagers, not less. And I'm not just blowing smoke.

Afterthought. I want to make it clear that I've always felt much of this is a false divide. Religion is what drives much of the division in our society, and conservatives tend to, if not be more religious, make more of their decisions at least based on religious values. Liberals actually adhere more to the spirit and letter of the Bill of Rights, which, as everyone recalls, says that religion should be kept out of the civic sphere. Conservatives understand that, and, frankly, reject it because they don't like it. But if you remove the religious divisions, all of the social issues I address should represent American, not liberal values per se. Conservatives and libertarians should want to share these social values with liberals. Only religion gets in the way.

It's not that simple, but you get my drift. Remember, too, I'm only talking about social issues. Money and economic issues, oh my!, it's another story.

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