Vote to halt rising threat to progress

by OCPJ Member Roland Duerksen

Integral to liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the concepts of democracy and fairness. On election day we’ll have the opportunity to assert these values in the face of a serious threat.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a major effort in the struggle of the 1960s for civil rights and racial equality. That struggle occurred about 100 years after the Civil War had freed the slaves of the American South but had failed to provide social and political freedom for them as African American citizens.

Shamefully, this Jim Crow servitude continued, with only occasional challenges, for those 100 years. Then the nonviolent civil rights struggle accomplished what the Civil War had not been able to accomplish: granting to the former slaves and their progeny the freedom to obtain rights that had been denied them.

The success of that movement has become evident during these past 50 years. All about us we see aspects of the decrease in racism and the increase in equality. But evidences that these advances are far from complete are also all about us – as prominent news items of recent weeks clearly attest. It is obvious that much remains to be accomplished. At the 100th anniversary of Freedom Summer, Americans should be able to say that the dark shadow cast by slavery has finally disappeared. 

But it is not going to be an unbroken, gradual progression. There are indications of a new Jim Crow mentality in many places. There has been for some decades a rising threat to all of the progress that has been made – an endangerment to not only minorities but to all of us. The rapidly and enormously widening gap between rich and poor could soon swamp us all.

This is not something that is coming about by the natural operation of the market and economy. The operations of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers and their followers give evidence of conscious, concerted efforts to widen the gap – as they also seek to turn back the clock on voting rights and the progress of social concerns generally. Their design appears to be to carry us back to the Middle Ages, to oligarchic feudalism. Then wealth would be in charge, 99 percent of us would do its bidding, and democracy would be a thing of the past.

It appears that Congress has lost the ability, if not even the will, to stand in the way of this monolith. Indeed, the immediate concern is not the next 50 years but a certain day early next month: the general election on November 4. It is not hard to tell which party stands with ALEC, the Koch brothers and that crowd. Truly concerned, insightful citizens will vote to call the Republican party to task and to choose a better way for the country. If we don’t stop the widening gap now, we are likely to regret it 50 years from now – or sooner.