These are very difficult, divisive times in America. We must educate ourselves to what is happening to our nation, and we must speak out against the actions and politics that are tearing us apart.
If any of us has turned off the evening news in order to stay sane, or chosen not to read newspapers, blogs, magazines, and political emails because we’re too weary at the end of a hard day’s work, it’s understandable. But in 2012, perhaps more than ever before, in this presidential election year, controversies in the political realm swirl all around us and envelop us each day, affecting each one of us somehow.
For us women, 2012 has proven to be a particularly devastating year that threatens with each passing month to push us farther back into the previous century regarding our rights, our freedoms, and the quality of life we strive to build for ourselves and our families.
Certainly the economic recession is a major reason. But in previous eras hit by economic hardships, our nation’s leaders, Congress, and society at large rallied around a mutual commitment to pull us out of difficulty, to bring America to its feet through our collective determination to move our country out of suffering and into prosperity. Not now.
Not in the past four years, since the recession and unprecedented partisanship gripped our throats and set brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, in the ideological war that has turned many politicians inside out and upside down in their contortions to be more extreme than their predecessors. It seems too many politicians have clearly forgotten how they — Congress as a whole, and Republicans and Democrats across our states — used to work together a mere generation ago.
Our nation is split down the middle, with the Middle Class literally paying the price for this divisiveness and with moderate leaders a thing of the past. And the more extreme national and state politics become, the deeper the gashes in our nation’s side and head as the social fabric of humanity gets ripped apart in the interest of one-upsmanship and partisan grabs for power.
We cannot sit back this election cycle. We cannot stay home and not vote. We cannot stay silent in the face of all that’s happening. We cannot let the Citizens United billionaires and millionaires determine the election for us. We must find our voices, our educated voices, and we must speak out against the shredding of our nation.
Millions of Americans continue to be unemployed, with thousands of workers laid off each month; yet our Congress fails to approve legislation to create jobs across the country. Opponents of our healthcare reform law — which enabled millions of Americans in 2009 to obtain healthcare they didn’t have before — are defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s declaration on June 28 that this law (“Obamacare”) is fully constitutional, and are vowing instead, on a daily basis, to repeal this law and thus strip millions of Americans, including children, of healthcare that can mean the difference between life and death.
Women of every race and culture continue to be discriminated against economically across America, being paid about 77 cents to each dollar a man earns for equal work; and laws meant to stop this discrimination are being killed in countless states across our nation…for political purposes.
Women, as has been the case for countless generations, are charged higher healthcare premiums than men — not based on their medical status or age, but simply because they are women. (Obamacare, by the way, would stop this practice, but opponents want to kill Obamacare.) Women have been stripped of healthcare previously available through Planned Parenthood or Medicaid in various states, such as in Texas.
Recently Virginia and other states tried to pass, or succeeded in passing, laws suppressing women’s federal right to abortion under Roe v. Wade, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1973. These states now, all Republican-controlled, have passed legislation barring abortion clinics which don’t meet draconian requirements, or requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo expensive, invasive, medically unnecessary vaginal probes or other tests that even their own doctors oppose. In Mississippi and Alabama, for example, access to abortion has almost been stopped through ideological legislation that defies federal freedoms.
Native American women, immigrant women, and gay/bisexual/transgendered women are denied equal protection regarding domestic violence, such as in the recent case of the U.S. House of Representatives passing a diminished, diluted Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization, which eliminated or minimized the legal protections and resources these women can access under the law.
Also, the discriminations non-heterosexual women and men continue to face in the workforce and in the social arena, especially regarding marriage and domestic partnership rights, are a throwback to the Ku Klux Klan era of inhumane discrimination and oppression.
Racial profiling is rampant in states like Arizona, which has usurped powers reserved for the federal government in immigration matters. The governor of Louisiana has proudly, obstinately declared that he will not implement any of the beneficial healthcare reforms just validated by our Supreme Court, preferring to allow millions of his constituents to go without healthcare rather than to bow to federal law. States’ rightists have gone off the edge of the cliff in their hubris, and we’re all watching our nation plummet along with them.
American citizens in Arizona and elsewhere, mistaken for undocumented immigrants because of their skin color or accents, are locked up inhumanely and denied basic care in for-profit prisons run by corporations.
American-born children of undocumented immigrants in states across our nation are routinely separated from their deported parents and farmed out to foster homes or set up for adoption…all in the name of ideology. Compassion for the suffering of our fellow human beings oftentimes seems lost in politicians’ grabs for power and the imposition of their world views upon us.
We must educate ourselves — and our neighbors, friends, families, and colleagues — about travesties that are occurring in the divisive political climate today. If we never cared before about politics, this is the year in which that habit must cease, and we must begin caring.
The Latino population in America has exploded to over 50 million, and we now comprise over 16% of the U.S. population, which places us as the second-largest ethnic group in America. While other cultural groups grew by approximately 5%, and the nation’s population overall expanded by almost 10%, the number of Latinos/as increased by an astounding 43% in the past decade, according to the 2010 national census.
And our demographic continues to expand, creating a critical mass of new voters that politicians are eagerly trying to capture in this election cycle. Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is actively courting the Latino vote, as is President Obama.
Unfortunately, the power that Latinos might wield in determining the direction of policies and politics in our nation is undercut by two factors, only one of which we as individuals can totally control.
The uncontrollable factor is the deluge of voter suppression efforts being undertaken by numerous states under the guise of voter ID laws. Unless and until Latino citizens hurdle these obstacles, procure necessary ID, and register to vote, our political clout will not materialize. We cannot allow voter ID laws to deter any one of us from making our voices heard.
The second factor that is even more within our power to control is…actually going out to vote! Statistics unfortunately show that Latinos/as are notorious for failing to cast ballots.
Only about a third of eligible Hispanic voters actually vote.
In this very critical year, when so much of our quality of life and dignity as human beings is at stake, we cannot stay home on election day.
It is very, very urgent that we make our voices heard, that we cast our votes in November to have an impact on the direction our nation takes for generations to come. Not just us individually: Each of us must help insure that everyone we know who is eligible to vote indeed goes out in November and exercises one of the greatest privileges and rights in the world: voting in America.