Friday, January 22, 2010

Citizens United Vs. the FEC and how the Nation changed today...

George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother's holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed... and this being fed, it's worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what's in your mind. ~Palahniuk

Last week, I was invited onto the campus of Wichita State University to speak to the youth in the Upward Bound Math/Science program on the subject of 'Civil Rights'. We began by asking the youth about their perceptions of the relevance of Civil Rights. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, they each indicated that they felt that 'Civil Rights' issues were things of the past having little if any relevance to their day to day lives.

I spoke to the youth and staff for an hour and fifteen minutes and then held a brief question and answer session about Civil Rights; the history, the meaning, the law, the politics, and how civil rights decisions are being handed down on a regular basis while our attention is focused on Tiger Woods and the 'Jersey Shore'. I spoke of how ironic and frightening it is that we have somehow reached a point in this nation where many if not most believe that "Civil Rights" is merely a historical reference, when in reality Civil Rights issues are contemporary legal issues and civil rights protections are fluid, dynamic, and tenuous.

I spoke to them about Gross Vs. FBL Financial Services, Ricci Vs. DeStephano, Iqbal Vs. Ashcroft, Whren Vs. the United States, Philip Vs. Ford Motor Company, and perhaps the most onerous and consequential of them all, Citizens United Vs. the FEC. I pointed out that all of these fairly recent cases were in fact Civil Rights cases and that each of the students in that room were directly impacted. As the lecture was nearly a week ago, I indicated then that the Citizens Vs. the FEC case was soon to be decided, but that if the decision broke along ideological and partisan lines within the Supreme Court, we could see the death of true participatory politics in America.

The students seemed genuinely surprised to learn of these current, consequential, and terribly relevant civil rights decisions. I told them, reminded them, and implored them all in the same presentation to never forget this fundamental truism: America is not governed by its people, America is governed by its laws. When we lose sight of that; when we abdicate our responsibility to exercise public oversight of the Judiciary system, when we ignore the Judges and their decisions, and when we begin to judge our relative progress by the measure of our personal interactions, our rights may be stripped away with us none the wiser...

The same has happened to us all today. The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in favor of Citizens United. There ruling means that for all intents and purposes, Corporations shall be considered as "persons" under the law. Therefore, corporations have now been freed from all campaign financing limitations and restrictions. Whereas the Obama campaign literally changed politics and campaign financing by receiving small donations from millions of ordinary americans, the Supreme Court has now given permission for a small number of Corporations to contribute tens of millions of dollars thereby providing them the ability to cancel out our collective voices.

If the Insurance Companies don't want Health Care reform, then they are now free to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns to defeat candidates who support reform. If Big Oil Companies oppose regulatory shifts to encourage the development of green technologies, now they can funnel their profits into making sure environmentally minded legislators are never seated. But this doesn't just affect us on the National  level, it affects us on the State and Local levels as well. Issues such as School Desegregation, Racial Profiling, Employment discrimination, and Minority Contracting may all be much more difficult to fight in an environment where Corporate interests can freely and openly purchase representation on City Councils, School Boards, and within State Legislatures.

THIS is Civil Rights... This is why it matters.... This is your wake up call...

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INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
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