Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama's identity under attack

As the 2012 presidential election approaches, the Republican Party in its search for a challenger against Obama has been increasingly latching on to the bogus conspiracy theory that Obama is foreign, that he'd been hiding his real birth certificate. Now today, largely because of media coverage of Donald Trump, it finally got so out of hand that Obama was actually compelled to hold a press conference on the issue and release his long form certificate, and while he did the right thing, it is unfortunate he had to. And now that he’s released it,“birthers” are already suggesting that the one he posted is fake. Polls have been showing increasing percentages of self-identified Republicans doubting Obama's citizenship, even though he debunked all conspiracies as a candidate by posting his birth certificate, and the fact that Obama's birth was announced in Hawaii's newspapers makes those conspiracies completely farfetched. This “birtherism” has basically moved out of the fringes and into the mainstream, making it impossible for reasonable people to just ignore.

This recent spike in birtherism and the media coverage of Donald Trump (and subsequent coverage of birther claims without challenging them), reached a new low when Trump applauded himself for Obama's actions. To appeal to the racist undertones behind birther conspiracies he then attacked Obama's college record as having only been possible through affirmative action (which is clearly racist, since it was never such a big issue with a white president). At a time when the country is facing so many real problems, the media chose to focus on distracting, divisive, and ugly race-baiting, which has increasingly been consuming the Republican Party, leading some websites (namely LeftAction) to say the party has been turning into a cult of stupidity. Party politicians who acknowledge the truth themselves continue to try to benefit politically from birther sentiments by not challenging them and not taking responsibility for allowing those sentiments to increase. It is long past time for this kind of race-based nonsense to be confined back to the fringes. It will be interesting to see what twists and turns the birther movement will take now that the long-form birth certificate has been released and there is really no justification for the mainstream media or the Republican Party to give any credibility to this issue.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The difficulties of self-advocacy

After a long succession of posts about politics and the world, I have finally decided to return to posting about something more personal--the topic of Asperger's Syndrome and autism. In my first post in this blog, I discussed awareness efforts and the ways in which Asperger's Syndrome is misunderstood. Now I plan to discuss the difficulties of actually raising awareness. Last year I decided that the SSU campus was lacking in inclusive groups to provide social support for students with disabilities. DSS only offers academic support, and the Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society is exclusive to those with high GPAs, so I decided I should start a new group to offer more social support, especially since I felt a lack of such support as a freshman despite being part of the MOSAIC program.

Trying to build support for my group idea hasn't been easy and has taken up a lot of time. I attempted to get out the word of my idea to those interested both this year and last by distributing fliers, but that never really worked. Initially the only real support I had was from an LSS specialist and a Psychology professor. One thing I started to do successfully beginning in the Spring 2010 semester was raising awareness through showing the film I am in called The Asperger's Difference and answering questions during screenings and brown bag lunches. I have been doing this ever since, but starting this school year I got the idea to start my own disability support group. I started attempting to find people who were willing to get involved. I didn't find a substantial number of people until a screening in December. I got acquainted with some people who were sympathetic and interested in helping me start, and over the course of this semester I have tried to arrange meetings with those people. I often procrastinated (which can be an issue for me even when I care about something, since it isn't always easy for me to forge ahead) and they were often busy, so it was hard to make things work. However I did have a recent success when one of the people I met at the screening introduced me to several friends who were also sympathetic and interested in getting involved.

One way in which I have tried to attract more people is lay out more specific goals for the group. I came up with one idea after I participated in the Tunnel of Oppression and saw that the disability room was lacking in covering non-physical disabilities. My hope is that if do get this group started, we could contribute to next year's Tunnel of Oppression by adding more information on invisible disabilities.

Trying to pull off something like this takes a lot of effort and there have been ups and downs, but as far as I am concerned, it is worth it. I will continue to keep up my efforts to make SSU a better campus for those with invisible disabilities.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Budget woes and the spine of the Democratic Party

In recent months, when you compare the battle for workers' rights in many states to the budget impasse in Washington, it shows a stark difference between Democratic politicians at the state level as compared to the federal level. Grassroots support has encouraged state Democrats to stand firmly with workers whose rights are under assault in many states, but the same kind of backbone does not seem to have reached Washington Democrats, who have been notorious for often allowing Republicans to always have their way and to keep shifting the country rightward politically ever since the 1980s.

The latest episode of capitulating has been occurring with the current budget standoff that threatens a government shutdown. In the midst of an economic recovery House Republicans have been insisting on draconian cuts and have continued moving the goal posts in order to please the Tea Party, and the cuts Democrats are currently agreeing to are greater than what the Republicans initially proposed. If Washington Democrats had more backbone, they would never have agreed to more cuts than were in the initial proposal, and would be more firmly defending programs that are crucial to the most vulnerable and insisting on shared sacrifice. Personally I believe that any cuts should mostly made to those who can afford it, particularly the wealthy and the military, but Republicans say they won't compromise and Democrats often don't fight hard enough. This has been very similar to the December battle over extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which then-minority Republicans refused to allow to expire and Democrats capitulated to ensure the extension of unemployment benefits. Now Republicans are trying to force cuts on the backs of those most hurt by the economic recession, pushed by a Tea Party that is, in pursuit of ideological purity, rooting for a government shutdown, while Democrats are trying to prevent that. A shutdown would be highly irresponsible during a fragile recovery (and the whole SSU community would be affected if it lead to the shutdown of education funding), but Republicans for a long time have shown willingness to play political games if it hurts Democrats, and Democrats should do a better job of calling Republicans' bluffs.

This all highlights a key difference between the two parties today and how they interact with their base. Democrats tend to take their base for granted, while Republicans tend to fear theirs. Since the 1980s, Democrats have often failed to really fight for their supporters and take advantage of opportunities, and have too often made appeals for bipartisanship that have gone nowhere. They keep chasing the center as the Republicans keep moving it to please their base. This is currently culminating in some of the most radical budget proposals seen in many decades all while we are still recovering from the recession. With Republicans becoming ever more radical, it's time for Washington Democrats to learn something from state Democrats and to stop disappointing the people who vote for them.