Paul R. Lehman,Lowry confuses Human Rights with Civil Rights

April 7, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Posted in American Bigotry | 2 Comments
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In a commentary, “Health reform fight not like civil rights,” Rich Lowry (King Features Syndicate, 4-6.10) makes the claim that some Democrats and liberals are using the civil rights movement of the ‘60’s as an example of that “era’s expansion of freedoms.” He adds that “when they denounce the bill’s opponents, they compare them to segregationists.” He makes references to a number of African American congressmen who have recently encountered negative experiences by some of the opponents of the health care bill including John Lewis, and James Clyburn. In a comparison between the violence of the civil rights era and what is taking place today, he states that “It takes a clinical lack of proportion to draw a parallel between a mass beating of peaceful protester and some repulsive cretins shouting the N-word.”  

                Lowry claims that when liberals place the negative behavior of health care opponents today with the behavior during the civil rights era that it is an abuse of history. Several references are made to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his philosophy and protest. Regarding the supporters of the health care bill, he states that they “invoke his (King’s) movement now precisely because of their inability to persuade. Accusing the bill’s critics of racism and comparing them to the segregationist mobs of the 1960s is about silencing and delegitimizing them.” He adds that “It expropriates the unquestioned moral authority of the civil rights movement and then uses it as a political bludgeon. It substitutes rhetorical thuggery for argument.”

                Lowry obviously does not understand or appreciate just what society is experiencing since the election of President Obama and the civil right movement. He talks about the civil rights movement of the 1960s as if there were not detractors or violence, hatred, and death. He fails to understand that the anger and violence of many of the opponents of the health care bill are based on  fear and frustration. Their fears and frustrations did not start with the health care bill; it started before the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. The election of Obama as President increased the level of fear and frustration to the panic level. What is the basis of this fear and frustration? They are afraid of losing their mythical place of privilege; their sense of being superior to all non-European Americans, but especially, African Americans.

                What Lowry fails to see is that the health care bill is just veneer to cover the fear and frustration of losing their cherished identity of being “white,” and the associated privileges of the past that it produced. The civil rights movement of the 1960s began the major process of eroding those precious rights, but many ways were used to prevent the total destruction. With the election of Obama, the truth has to be confronted. Being “white” with all its privileges was just a game whose time has run out.  Unfortunately, many so-called “whites” are not ready to give up their pseudo status, so they fight with any and everything they can to keep it. The truth be told, all the negative actions by Obama’s opponents are against what Obama represents to them. Why make everything focus on Obama? Why is the health care bill called by opponent “Obamacare”? The worse possible experience so-called “whites” can have is to have a non-“white” be seen as their equal. Obama transcends the equal level as President, so the fear and frustration is traumatic.

                Another point concerning Lowry’s lack of perception is that what is being compared between the civil rights movement and the reactions of the opponents of the health care bill is attitude. Check all the Civil Rights legislation and you will not find a single reference to African Americans. Why? Because  African Americans were intent on receiving the same rights enjoyed by the European American citizens. Civil Rights should belong to all Americans. What the Obama opponents seemingly lack is a knowledge of and respect for human rights. Human rights are a matter of decency that no law can enforce. The general rule is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

                 When Lowry and the Obama opponents finally figure out that the world is not coming to an end, and that being on the same level with other human beings is an okay place to be, then maybe they can turn those fears and frustration into something positive to help America become a better place for all. Taking pot shots at the President and his supporters might bring some temporary satisfaction, but lends to nothing positive to build on.



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  1. Good posting. I think that if John Lewis, who participated in civil rights demonstrations, makes a parallel between what he experienced then and the backlash he faces now, his words should carry significant weight. Rich Lowry can disagree, but he can’t say, “Well, I was also getting attacked along with Lewis 50 years ago, but I don’t see today’s backlash as a parallel.”

    • Right. Lowry does not understand that it is the hate and anger that dominates the attitude of Obama opponents that creates the similarities.

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