Sunday, January 24, 2010

Equal Protection? Who is Protecting Us? Of Corporations, the Supreme Court, Campaign Spending and "Free Speech"

As Brother Malcolm said, "Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research."

This is the "progressive" dilemma in a bucket--a black president not beholden to a "black agenda"; institutional forces such as transnational corporations whose interests are NOT those of the American public; a passive American citizenry that has abdicated their voice in exchange for the illusory power of the voting franchise; and Johnny-come-latelies to "politics" who think that activism is wearing an Obama t-shirt as opposed to real work, real sacrifice, and real vigilance.

What is our role and responsibility in this? How do teachers, educators, activists, and scholars prepare the next generation of children to take ownership over their own society?

Random thought: how many of you are teachers who are utterly surprised by the willful ignorance of current events on the part of your students? What an irony, so plugged in, so connected, and with the Internet (quite literally) at their fingertips, yet they remain so isolated in the ways that matter.

Second random thought: I taught Intro to American Politics last quarter. In that section, there were a large number of Education majors. To keep them interested, I kept returning to the idea of citizenship and the role of educators in preparing the next generation of Americans to be part of a responsible electorate. Repeatedly, with few exceptions, there was a profound irony at play: these future "teachers" had never thought of education as a political act. Nor, had these future teachers reflected on their role as agents of political socialization. Sadly, despite my best efforts I do not think that their ignorance had been unsettled. Is the system broken? Or is the system working precisely as designed?

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Ultimately, it seems that the people are so downtrodden by the Conservative, rightward political ethos that has dominated our civic culture since at least the 1960s (where government is always the problem and never the solution), that we the people have few expectations of ourselves or of our leaders to fight for the collective good. Rather, many of us choose to wrap ourselves in the illusory power provided by "democratic" institutions as opposed to truly democratic participation:

Wake up folks, folks you best wake up...from the NY Times:

Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit

WASHINGTON — Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.

The ruling represented a sharp doctrinal shift, and it will have major political and practical consequences. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision to reshape the way elections were conducted. Though the decision does not directly address them, its logic also applies to the labor unions that are often at political odds with big business.

The decision will be felt most immediately in the coming midterm elections, given that it comes just two days after Democrats lost a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and as popular discontent over government bailouts and corporate bonuses continues to boil.

President Obama called it “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

The story continues here.

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