The New York Times editorial board called it, “…one of the most shameful days in the modern history of the Senate.” (December 9, 2010 editorial, “The Senate Stands for Injustice.”) In one day, the “nation’s greatest deliberative body” rejected equal rights for all people willing to give their lives for our country while also rejecting pay raises and improved medical services for our troops; declined to provide relief for emergency workers still suffering health problems as a result of the toxic fumes they inhaled while trying to rescue victims of the 9/11 attacks; and set back the hopes for a better future through education and jobs for millions of young people who had the misfortune of coming into this country as babies without adequate papers.
These lame ducks need to go home!
The damage wreaked upon common sense and simple justice by the impossible ideological polarities of the two parties now fighting to the death on Capitol Hill will not merely damage the re-election hopes of most of them, which would be the only justice in this mess. Of much greater concern to all of the citizens whom they purport to represent is the damage to programs, policies, civil rights and government, itself, that the petty partisan politics of the moment is wreaking upon almost every piece of legislation.
The legislative process has long been a hostage of special interests, but in the last few weeks we’ve seen a tightening of the noose, the potential for real stagnation and absolute harm to some of our most important national interests. Both parties share equal responsibility for this shameful display that puts personal political considerations above the public interest these lawmakers are sworn to uphold.
Where is the courage necessary for a Senator to stand for justice for women and men fighting in the longest, dirtiest war in American history? The culture wars should not hold troops in dangerous places hostage to local myopia. Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — one of the weirder government policies of this deeply confused era — simply makes it possible for people serving in the military to stop living lies forced on them by the very nation they are willing to defend. It’s a matter of simple justice for military personnel, not a choice about lifestyles or religious values.
Alternatively, perhaps we could extend Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to all members of Congress who are carrying on affairs with people who are not their legal spouses.
Why would anyone want to deprive another human being of the opportunity to secure an education and decent income to care for her family, especially when that person had no part in the choice to immigrate to this nation? Depriving undocumented young people of the simple benefits of the Dream Act will certainly not solve anything on the immigration front, but it will drive up the sheer financial and social costs of poverty and violence among the second and third generations of immigrant families. (To their credit, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called upon Congress to pass the Dream Act.)
Where is the generosity of spirit and plain old common sense ability to compromise that used to characterize the best of American lawmaking and civic life? When did our Senators and Congressional representatives become the littlest people of all?
Justice delayed is justice denied — that’s a very old legal saying, often attributed to Gladstone, but it applies equally well today. This nation needs grownups with common sense in the legislature — now.
Lame ducks, go home, and stay there!
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