Calls for culture wars are built into the founding documents of our nation: “All men are created Equal.” “Promote the General Welfare.” “Provide for the General Welfare.” From the beginning these moral promises were problematic. Women were not even included in the definition of equal; a huge part of the economy depended on slavery; only property owners could vote. Culture wars are responsible for bringing constitutional promises to fruition. The abolition of slavery was a culture war. All the civil rights movements since are culture wars. The Labor and Feminist movements are culture wars.To restore and protect our environment, to guarantee the promise of equality for all by curbing the greed and power of Wall Street, to protect women’s reproductive rights and the voting rights of all, to find a way in the richest country of the world to provide health care for all—these are some culture wars of our time.
There has never been a time in my life where such wars were more necessary. In just 2 short years since the 2010 elections, everything I care most about has been under increased threat right here in Maine. There were early efforts in this administration to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Workers were publicly insulted by the removal of the mural from the Maine Department of Labor. The Governor seeks to roll back environmental protections regulations. An attempt to restrict voting rights had to be defeated by referendum. Polls show that a majority of Mainers favor equal marriage rights, but a referendum is necessary to get them. Restrictions to Medicaid and the new health care law are already leaving many people without any financial access to basic health care. That law is a great benefit to insurance companies, and insurance premiums continue to rise.I believe in living within a balanced budget, but it is cruel and abusive to do it by cutting benefits to the poor, sick, and disabled while at the same time giving the kind of tax cuts that have been enacted. My tax cut will be relatively small, but it would mean a lot more in terms of access to basic necessities such as heating fuel and necessary health care to people in my income bracket than to the wealthiest. Yet I would gladly turn back my tax cut to restore the benefits taken away. What I have lost as a retired teacher in pension cuts will likely more than offset my tax cut, and still I would not mind my pension losses so much, either, if the money were going to provide for the general welfare instead of for the welfare of the wealthiest people in our state.
In as much as I am accused as a liberal of being a cause of culture wars or class warfare such as I am engaged in here, I plead guilty. I am glad to be a soldier in the nonviolent struggles to protect “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all.
Published The Star Herald, 8-29-2012