EQUAL RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW
THE NEXT DEMOCRATIC MILESTONE: As the world becomes more and more civilized, it will progressively move toward a society where -hopefully- there would be more governments which are truly representative of their citizenry. Representative meaning, all people should have the right to "a fair chance of their leaders been chosen", regardless of minority or social group. Notice that I have not said the right to vote, which is a given in modern democracies like ours. Instead I said, the right to have their leaders chosen, or their group represented in Government. This is what I call the "equality" test, and "equality" challenge.
In America it was a long struggle for women to have the right to vote. And similarly, it was not an easy ride for blacks to have that same right. But, being able to vote is not the end of the battle. Having equal rights within the society, that is the ultimate goal that we should strive for. There is still people being discriminated, not because of what they have done, but because of the perception that they are either, not competent, or that they are a threat to children or society, or whatever the hate line might be.
GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP: I do not have to go more into this, other than to say that It is time for the Government to act decisively and take the lead, passing legislation at the Federal level to establish the "equal rights" path to be followed. The current approach is passive (laggard) Federal legislation, as I call it. Our Congress often waits for States to move forward little by little. Only when a majority of States have passed certain "equal rights" amendments, then is that our central government has the courage to act. You could call it lack of leadership!
Some people reading these paragraphs may quickly conclude: Here is another Liberal talking about the rights of gays and lesbians. Those rights too! However, this conclusion would be too shortsighted.
Let me ask: What chances does have a __blank___ person of becoming a US President in this day and age?
Now fill the blank with:
1) Jewish, 2) Woman, 3) Atheist, 4) Gay, 5) African-American, 6) Foreign born citizen ....
RE-DISTRICTING: There has been congressional "redistricting" throughout the years in America. It has been done by "segregating" neighborhoods. That is, minority neighborhoods in a district are excised and then regrouped into new geographical boundaries, thus the minority group now becomes a majority in the "synthesized" district. By doing so, these citizens have now a "fair chance" to be selected, or have their leaders chosen (in other words, this measure meets my "equality" test).
In principle, segregating districts does not sound good. However, in practice it works. We know we have not in a perfect society here in America. USA is not Utopia. We probably would not have as many Jewish, or African Americans, or Agnostics, or Gays and Lesbians in Congress if not because of this redistricting. The negative bias feeds on generalized perceptions (stereotypes) that the populace has. Even with a slight negative bias of 5%, the outcome of an election could have disastrous results (for the "wrong" -underdog- candidate).
So, the mechanism of redistricting -although imperfect and limited to small regions- has been a great step forward for our democracy. Often the re-districting is justified not on racial grounds, but on a needed Republican-Democrat "voter balance". It has allowed the leaders of minority groups to become our Representatives in Congress. The US Senate is somewhat more difficult to "equalize", due to the plurality of constituencies implied by their larger districts. Forget the Presidency.
Therefore, the next leap forward in our political system should be making sure that these groups (above) -and others- have a "fair chance" of becoming elected in larger and larger geographical areas. Say Governor of a State, or President of our nation.
JEWS: It was courageous, and I applaud Al Gore for having Joe Lieberman as his campaign partner. It would have been the first time in American history that a Jewish person became our Vice President. It might be almost imperceptible, but once in a while you hear commentaries about an anti-Semitic bias (statistically proven) by US voters. Politicians supposedly know about it, but most do not want to -publicly- admit it, or talk about it. It is taboo. The 2000 election could not have been tighter than it was. If what has been stated is true, then without this bias Gore would had won by a significant margin.
Was Lieberman a drag to Gore's victory? Unfortunately, probably he was, despite his talents and abilities. But, ideals should not have to be accommodating, or "for sale". If Joe was the right person for that position, then Al should be back on the ticket in 2004, If Joe was the right person for that position, then Al should be back on the ticket in 2004, with Joe.
BLACKS: Some would say that the "right" African-American candidates for the Presidency / Governor have not showed up yet. I think I know better. It is an excuse for another bias we know exists in the general voter. Also taboo to talk about. Do not rock the boat! - I hear.
By the way, my best wishes Daryl Jones, at a Democratic event I had the pleasure to meet his greatest admirer -his eloquent and talented wife. Go for it Jones! I wish you the best!
WOMEN: We have had a Hollywood actor as President (and he was pretty good). Currently, we have a "intellectually non-curious" President, and he is doing OK. Do you remember candidate Geraldine Ferraro ? (she was chosen by Walter Mondale for running partner in the 1984 campaign against Reagan-Bush). She would have been a first, as well. Too bad!
HISPANICS: They are sub-represented even in the House. With Hispanics being the 12% of the US population (and many more not counted, because they can not vote, or are illegal), and with a Congress made up of about 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, we should have about 64 Hispanics in Washington. We are lucky if we have one-fifth that many.
ATHEISTS: Odds are huge, even for a Congress slot, forget the Presidency. Actually, on this topic we have moved backwards during the last two centuries. Because, we have had non-believers as Presidents of our great nation.
Would have these Presidents been elected if they were to make the following statements today?
FOREIGN BORN: Finally, let me say, that you can be a candidate to House Representative, if you have been a US citizen for 7 years, and a Senator if 10 years of citizenship. However, regardless of how many years you have been US citizen, or how much you love your adopted country, or how many millions would be willing to vote for you, the matter of fact is that if you were born in a foreign country then you can not be a US President -ever.
Since my arrival in the USA, 31 years ago, and regardless of my chances of becoming the President, I always felt like a second-class citizen because of this law. Arrogance and hypocrisy is what offends me. This regulation has also caused the apathy -I had in the past- from becoming involved in the political process, despite suggestions from friends and family. I decided -finally- to get out, and fight against what I believe is wrong, and for what I believe is right. I will take whatever my message is on issues to the American people and we will let them decide. I really believe I will win this bid for Congress, but that is not the point. Whether I win or lose -please- sit back, watch, and enjoy, because -modesty aside- I guarantee you it is going to be a fight-for-ideals to remember.
That rudimentary law takes away an inalienable right from millions of Americans who were born in Europe, Asia, Latin America, or even Canada. It is not fair. It is an obsolete law.
GAYS AND LESBIANS: They are human beings like all of us. They do not have a problem. We are the ones who have a problem of not understanding their sexual preferences. They were born different, another variation of our genes, but not necessarily an imperfect "mutant". The fact that there are homosexual in all races, in all nations, and for as long as we have been recording history means that the "difference" in our metabolisms might play an important evolutionary role, yet for us to discover. We all know that homosexuals are not being treated equally and fairly in our society, as if they were malicious, pernicious, or lesser human beings. They are being discriminated by the heterosexual voter majority. Openly homosexual individuals have -at best- slim chances of wining in an election. State and Federal laws still discriminate them with impunity. And that has to change. Gays and Lesbians ought to have equal rights. It is unbelievable that I am writing this in America, in the 21st century.
FELONS and EX-FELONS: Florida is one of only eight States in the USA where ex-felons have not their right to vote restored immediately after having paid their debt to society. My philosophy goes beyond that: it is not only ex-felons that should have the right to vote, the way I see it, every human being who proves to be old-enough, legal resident, and is not mentally impaired should have the right to vote. That includes not just ex-felons, but felons and immigrants as well. We have more than 6 million felons, and 9 million "illegal" immigrants who can not vote. Then we have perhaps 35 million "legal" immigrants who have not yet acquired the American citizenship.
Many of these legal residents may opt for not becoming US citizens and could continue as permanent residents. We should not force them to be citizens just to have their voices heard. They might be patriotic fellows who hope to return to their homelands some day, but in the meanwhile and perhaps for many more years to come they will live here with us. Such a huge number of individuals should have a right to chose their representatives. As it is now, their voices can not be heard. Together, all of the "voiceless" groups above add up to the population of Spain and Portugal put together. They have families, they love their children, they eat, they breath, they sleep as we do, and they have problems -as we all do- that need resolution and a democratic forum for all of us to be responsive.
It is said that voting is not a right, but a privilege. I totally disagree. Perhaps voting for President should be a privilege for just US citizens, but voting for representatives should be a right for all those groups above!
Would our Founding Fathers ever imagine that here in the USA there would be one day when 25% of American residents would not be able to vote for State and Congressional representatives? That is more people without vote than the citizens they had when the constitution was signed.
Bias at the National level is the real problem!