The more one reads of the policies, plans and orders coming from the recently elected Republican governors, the more often one has to ask what century we are in. I admit that I have a fondness for the Twentieth century even with it’s destructive wars and its techniques of mass destruction. There was a sense of human progress and an evolving humanitarianism. I was born at the nadir of the Great Depression and grew up with the unfolding of the New Deal and its heroic leaders. At least they were heros to me.
Today’s reactionary governors are leaping backwards and trying to erase everything that I grew up cheering and pointing to with pride--Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment Insurance, the Civil Rights Act, the eight hour workday and, yes, Brown v. Bd of Education.
But some of the recently elected Governors are trying to turn the clock back to a time even before my birth (and that’s pretty far back.) The new governor of Maine is even doing his best to rewrite history by erasing any visual reminders of the giants of the last century. Governor Paul LePage of Maine has ordered murals to be taken down in the state’s Labor Department building and wants conference rooms to be rededicated that had been named after labor leaders. A LePage spokesperson explained that those murals and labor-friendly names were “not in keeping with the [current] department’s pro-business goals.” (That’s hard to wrap one’s mind around, isn’t it?)
This is only too reminiscent of totalitarian governments who wipe out all reminders of their opponents or traces of a past that they don’t like, even music that the leadership considers “decadent.” Remember that LePage is the man who refused to talk at a NAACP meeting in honor of Martin Luther King Day. When the organization reacted by saying that his actions showed a “pattern of indifference to blacks,” he was quoted as replying, “Tell ‘em to kiss my butt.” [Here] (Charming, eh?)
Yes, this new crop of rightwing governors appears to be digging backwards in time in order to get bigger and louder headlines. LePage is loudly and proudly anti-union. He says he will create a “right to work” state. We know what that means. The reactionaries are even bringing back the old GOP, anti-union language that we heard 60 years ago.
In the meantime, Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, has published his anti-union law in possible defiance of a court decision. Michigan’s Rick Snyder is moving ahead with his plans to appoint managers to rule any locality in Michigan that appears to be in financial difficulty.
Coupled with the anti-union legislation that is brewing, in many state capitals there is also a wave of anti-abortion laws, including Michigan Senate law 13 in which “...the word ‘individual’ shall be construed to mean a natural person and to include a fetus.” [Here]
Yes, here we go again. How many times must we fight these battles?
On the other hand, perhaps it’s important to reinvent and reassert these rights every generation to breath new life into things that we might be taking for granted. The right to organize, a women’s right to choose and everyone’s right to protest are all fundamental to a healthy, morally upright, vigorous democracy. Let us all be ready to rise up in defense of those rights.
Before we close, we remember tonight Geraldine Ferraro, who died today in Boston. She was the first woman to run for the vice presidency on a major party ticket. She was strong and articulate. And she was a force for women and for choice.
We shall miss her very much. We shall remember her courage...