Thursday, August 20, 2009

What those guns signify

Published Aug 19, 2009 3:13 PM

When a man dropped his gun at a town hall forum in Arizona, it was a sign that the town hall disruptions around the country were about much more than health care reform.

Just a few days after the Arizona incident, a man bearing a sidearm appeared outside President Barack Obama’s Aug. 11 town hall meeting in Portsmouth, N.H. He was holding a sign stating, “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” It was a reference to Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” It represented a clear threat to the life of President Obama.

Most recently about a dozen armed right-wingers were seen carrying guns outside the Phoenix Convention Center, where Obama spoke to veterans on Aug. 17.

It is now safe to say what most observers already know in their heart—the town hall disruptions have little to do with health reform.

Yes, the topic of discussion at many of these forums is health care. And yes, there is a severe health care crisis in the United States that the Democratic health care plan does far too little to address.

That, however, is not why right-wingers are bringing their guns to town.

Health care is not the reason conservative radio host Mike Levin stated that Obama is “literally at war with the American people.” Anger over health care does not explain Fox News host Glenn Beck’s comment that Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people.” It is insufficient to explain former Republican vice presidential candidate Sara Palin’s lie that Obama was planning “death panels” for the elderly and the disabled.

No, what these words and actions expose is an orchestrated campaign by the extreme right to whip up the most backward whites into a racist frenzy by using President Obama as a fall guy for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

It is an attempt to channel the legitimate anger over joblessness and lack of health care into a racist backlash that divides the multinational working class, separates white workers from their Black and Latino/a brothers and sisters, and prevents a unified class struggle capable of taking on the ruling class, from Washington to Wall Street.

In this respect health care is being used as a wedge issue much the same as abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration are used by the ruling class to divide workers.

Why aren’t the leaders of organized labor mobilizing the rank and file against racism and for jobs as well as health care?

Where are the mass marches of workers demanding a jobs program at a living wage? Where are the caravans of uninsured and unemployed workers traveling the country in a dramatic call for jobs and health care for all?

With more than 16 million workers organized at the points of production and service delivery and hundreds of millions of dollars in union dues at their disposal, the only thing stopping the labor unions from mobilizing a mass movement around these issues is the will to do so.

In the absence of a sizeable left movement in this country, the most reactionary elements of the right wing have been emboldened.

A highly significant step in building a working-class response to the economic crisis is the September 20 National March for Jobs in Pittsburgh. The jobs march is scheduled just days before government leaders and finance ministers from some of the world’s richest countries meet there as part of the G-20 Summit to figure out how to save themselves in the midst of the global economic crisis.

Some brave local union leaders, including the San Francisco Labor Council, the International Longshore and Warehouse Local 10 and the Letter Carriers Local 214, have endorsed the call for a jobs march. Where will you be on Sept. 20?

For information on the National March for Jobs, see bailoutpeople.org.


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