Archive for the just sayin’ Category

Ken Starr Files to Nullify Gay Marriages

Posted in civil rights, just sayin', politics with tags , , , on February 5, 2009 by mightyfag

Ken Starr – that’s right, the prosecutor for Bill Clinton’s impeachment – is heading up a legal filing to have the gay marriages performed LEGALLY in the state of California prior to the passage of Proposition 8, invalidated and divorced. So not only is this insipid man heading up the legal defense in support of Proposition 8 before the Supreme Court, he is now trying to nullify that which was LEGALLY performed. Talk about adding insult to injury.

The Courage Campaign – an organizing group for progressives – is leading a political action to contact the Supreme Court of California called “please don’t divorce us” that puts a real face on the issue of gay marriage.

“Fidelity”: Don’t Divorce… from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

It has become perfectly clear that the case against gay marriage in California isn’t about protecting the fundamental instution of marriage, or any of the lies that the pro prop-8 campaigns spread. The fight against gay marriage in my opinion, is a clear case to marginalize gay and lesbian citizens, obliterate any chances that they can enjoy the same rights and protections as straight citizens, and to legally categorize them as second-class citizens. Personal judgments, discrimination and religiously-supported bigotry are the motivating factors behind this and we need to organize and solidify our counter-attack. We need to speak to minorities and those who have a cultural bias against gays and lesbians and help them to understand that this is an issue of fundamental rights, and not about sex or morals. Those of us who are gay and lesbian need to come out to our friends, coworkers and family and put a face on this issue – so they will see that their voting behaviors directly affect people all around them. And finally, we need to make a concerted effort to take political power away from these mega-churches and remove their ability to meddle in politics and still maintain their tax-exept statuses.

The gloves are off, and I’m swinging back!


GOP: Scrambling for an Identity

Posted in just sayin', politics with tags , , , on January 29, 2009 by mightyfag

What will become of the Republican Party? In the wake of the monumental election of the nation’s first African-American president, a democratic House of Representatives and a democratic Senate, the Republican Party is left dazed and desperately scrambling for an identity. The mandate from the people is to move away from conservative politics and embrace progressive values to repair the damage that was done in the last 30 years by administration after administration of Republican presidents.

The GOP, largely thanks to the Reagan/Bush legacy and their cronies, are left with the biggest P.R. problem since Watergate. How do they bring people back to their party? How to they define themselves and their values when the last 30 years have proven that their approach doesn’t work? Three different approaches are emerging in the face of this identity crisis.

Hold Fast!

The first, held by most of the old timers, is to dig deep into the trenches of conservatism and continue to hold the line of “less government is good and leave business to run itself”. These folks think that the best response to a country that’s leaning left is to lean further right.

For example, in President Obama’s first major piece of legislation (the economic stimulus package, or “Supplemental Appropriations for Fiscal Year Ending 2009”) the minority Republican portion of the House of Representatives, led by John Boehner voted completely in opposition to the package. That’s right… ZERO (0) votes in favor of the resolution. President Obama reached out, trying to get Republican support for the bill even though he didn’t need it, in an effort to have bipartisan support for the recover of our nation’s economy. They didn’t budge, and voted in a block – classic Republican voting strategy. The measure passed thanks to the Democratic majority in the House even though some Democratic Representatives voted against the measure.

From the Washington Post Article: Republicans continued to press to have more of their proposals included. Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the House minority whip tasked with rounding up the opposition, said the vote delivered a message to Obama: “Tell Speaker Pelosi to begin to work with us.”

How very truly ironic. When the Republicans were in the majority they never worked with the Democrats. They just steam-rolled whatever they wanted and went ahead with their agenda of corporatocracy. This technique of holding fast to the Bush/Reagan platform is not going to garner any public support in the near future. It simply paints the Republican Party as a party of negative attitudes in a sea of hope.

We’re Young and Cool Too!

The second approach the neocons are taking is to ride the wave of Obama’s well-sown hope and rejuvination by presenting young and vibrant minority candidates that are part of the Republican Party. It’s the “we’re cool and we aren’t just white guys” approach that clearly demonstrates a complete lack of understanding around why Obama was so well received by the American populace.

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

This whole current started with the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate under John McCain. Most people responded with a “what?” to her nomination, but Republicans everywhere were thrilled with her. She was deeply conservative, a woman and young – CLEARLY a competitor for Obama, right? Wrong.

Sarah Palin proved to have the eloquence of George W. Bush combined with the looks of Tina Fey and the agenda of Charlton Heston. Her public gaffes were legendary and she only succeeded in showing the world just how old John McCain really was, and just how clueless about politics and economics she was.

Ms. Palin continues to make a public fool out of herself by criticizing the media for prodding into her family and personal life (after she paraded out her children and family as a political tool), and for mocking her on shows like Saturday Night Live (free speech, darlin’ – we still have it in this country, and satire is the oldest form of it). She doesn’t seem to understand that the more she stands in the spotlight, the more people are going to notice her flaws.

Her latest endeavors include SarahPAC – a political action committee dedicated to: “building America’s future, supporting fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation.” (Source)

Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal

Then there’s Bobby Jindal, the governor from Louisiana. Hey, he’s young, he’s of Indian descent (dot, not feather) and he’s Roman-Catholic, AND REPUBLICAN! Perfect, right? (Notice how being a Catholic isn’t a big deal because his other minority statuses make him a perfect match for their quasi-racist perspectives on this whole thing.)

There’s talk of him being slated to run on the 2012 presidential ticket, and that his youth and charisma will make him a shining star. The problem is that his politics are more of the same. That, coupled with the exorcism he helped with on his friend Susan, makes him a bit of a questionable candidate. An exorcism? What? Read for yourself.

These candidates and others are being touted as the great hope for the Republican party who mistakenly look at Obama’s victory as being one of race. Obama didn’t win because he’s African American. He didn’t win because he is a minority. He won because he presented a campaign of hope in dark times, he is incredibly well spoken, a constitutional scholar and thus understands the way our country SHOULD work, and he was a non-insider running for office to get in there and scrap away all of the awful damage done by George W. Bush. But the Republicans are blind to this fact because they see no fault with what W. did.

More of the Same

The Third Option the Republican Party has been taking is, sadly, more of the same. A negative, smear campaign to erode away the popularity of the president and his party. The previous propaganda-spreading devices of conservative talk radio and conservative television opinion shows are now being used to foster distrust and attempt to paint this administration in a negative light.

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh

Enter good old Rush Limbaugh. This oxycontin-chugging talking hole has done plenty in his career to discredit himself and present himself as nothing more than a “shock-jock” who spouts hate and sows distrust in our country. His gaffes included accusing Michael J. Fox of faking his Parkinson’s Disease and the latest is stating publicly on the radio that he “hopes Obama fails” at what he is doing. He has never had the country’s best interests in mind, just his own. He takes advantage of those who don’t have access to good sources of information and fills their heads with talking points handed down directly from the Republican Party and passes them off as if they are facts. This man, simply put, should be taken off the air and forgotten forever.

Matt Drudge

Matt Drudge

Then there’s Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report. Claiming everything from Global Warming being a hoax, to the Obama Stimulus Package giving money to illegals, to misquoting information as if it were “facts” about the federal funding to prevent STD transmission in the latest stimulus package.

News flash, having a big website that LOOKS like a newspaper, doesnt’ mean you’re actually toting news or facts. It just means you are using CSS styles obnoxiously. Check out a simple search on on Matt Drudge and see the extent of his misinformation campaign for yourself.

My Advice

So where does the Republican Party go from here? Well, I’m not an advocate for a one-party system, no matter what party is in control. I think there needs to be balance and debate to hone the best legislature out there. I like the problem that the Republican Party is facing is one of religion versus politics, and that a separation of the two will greatly assist them in recovering some validity in the eyes of the public.

First, they need to ditch the radical evangelican Christian platform. The evangelican agenda is one of intrusion into personal lives and a legislation of morality – these go against classical “Goldwater Republican” values that uphold privacy as paramount. This will eliminate the abortion issue, gay rights issues and issues around any religious or spiritual practice. Allow the evangelicals to evaluate their own values and form their own party apart from the Republican party – eject them right out of the GOP.

Next, go back to a classical “stay out of my personal life” platform – one where small businesses can start up with minimal government intrusion, where personal freedoms (like freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press) are guaranteed, and where certain things that are currently viewed as priviledges are instead embraced as rights (education, health, a living wage, etc.) This will allow them to pick up some of the progressive leaning Republicans who went Democratic.

Finally, they need to cut themselves away from the corporate apron strings. Their blatant and transparent actions that cowtow to corporate interests are making them lose traction in the greater populace. Stand for FAIR trade and FAIR business practices, instead of laissez-faire business that merely leads to economic bubbles that burst into depressions (like our current economic situation.) Stand up for the working class and support the middle class and you’ll regain some followers.

Are the stimulus package and the Democratic government selling us short to a weak, failed, minorty party?

Posted in economics, just sayin', politics on January 27, 2009 by countryjim13

demvictory08When a large majority of American voters cast their ballots this past November, they overwhelming spoke out against both Republican foreign and domestic economic policy.  The argument can be made that the economic crisis pushed President Obama to overwhelming victory because of the Bush failures and McCain’s lack of knowledge and insight related to the current economic meltdown.  While Bush was hiding out in the White House and while McCain was telling us that the American economy was still going strong, Obama and democrats were preparing to actually solve the problem.  The American voters saw how Republican, conservative economic policy had helped drive our economy into this hole, and we overwhelming voted for a change in such philosophy and policy.  So why, now, is the bill that is supposed to help solve this problem being allowed to be watered down in order to appease Republican politicians?  Why are the President and Congressional Democrats more interested in amassing votes and doing what is “politically expedient” than in doing what will work to fix our economy?

Bush issued massive tax cuts, mostly to the wealthy of America, and it did nothing but hurt our economy in the end by leaving nothing in government coffers amidst massive war spending and corporate deregulation.  Now in spite of the fact that tax cuts, which are relatively ineffective at stimulating an economy and encouraging spending, make up a full 1/3 of the stimulus bill as it currently stands, Republicans are still not satisfied (most likely because those tax cuts are for normal Americans who are not rich).  So now we are seeing all over the news Republicans up in arms and threatening to vote against the package because they say it spends too much money and does not include enough tax cuts!

Did Republicans miss the fact that they lost the election?  Not just the presidential election mind you, but also elections in the House and the Senate.  YOU LOST!  THEY LOST!  The American people spoke in favor the Democratic solution and yet we are being subjected to a watering down of that solution because our supposedly liberal politicians insist on being bipartisan and appeasing what is now nothing more than a small, pesky, outdated minority party.  What is bipartisan is not what we need right now.  What we need is what will work and massive tax cuts have been proven over and over again to provide very little economic stimulus in such dire times as these.  At best such tax cuts do nothing more than slightly increase spending during times when the economy is already strong and the consumers confidence is already high.  At the very least, the Democratic government needs to put together a package that is mostly comprised of infrastructure spending, aid to the unemployed, and alternative energy investment in order to truly stimulate the economy from the bottom up, create millions of jobs, and create a transformed, new green economy that currently does not exist, but needs to exist. 

I think perhaps Democrats have no courage.  I don’t know how else to put it.  During the Bush Administration, weakdemsparticularly when he had Republican majorities in the House and Senate to back him up, the debate over compromise between the two parties was consistently framed in terms of Democrats, as the minority party and the party not in the White House, being willing to give in to Republican philosophy and policy demands.  Somehow, in spite of the fact that the tables have technically turned and Democrats now hold large majorities throughout the government, the nature of this debate has not shifted.  Democrats are still acting like they are a minority party who must bow to the will of the Republicans in order get anything accomplished.  This is not the case.  Democrats do not need Republican votes and playing politics by watering down this legislation to virtual ineffectiveness in order to be bipartisan and share any potential blame is playing games with our country’s future.  Compromise is not synonymous with Democrats giving in, it does not mean Democrats creating a stimulus bill that looks like it was written by Republicans.  It is time for Republicans to compromise, to give in.  That is what the American people demanded when we fired the Republican Party and swept Democrats to huge victories and majorities in the last two elections.  Democrats need to shut out the whining and complaining of the failed Republican Party, vote to pass the package without them, and move towards fixing what has been broken, mostly by Republican administrations, over the last few decades.

And so what does stimulate the economy the most?  Infrastructure spending has already been mentioned.  The graph below shows that the three types of spending that provide the most stimulus and create the most additional spending are increases in food stamps, the extention of unemployment benefits, and infrastructure spending.  Let’s look at these briefly, how they stimulate the economy, and how these three areas have been watered down in the current package in order to make room for massive tax cuts that will do little to stimulate our dying economic system.


We can see from the graph above that for every $1 spent on food stamps and additional $1.73 in spending is generated, an additional $1.64 in spending is generated for every $1 in extended unemployment benefits, and for every $1 spent on infrastructure an additional $1.59 in spending is generated.  On the other hand for every dollar in tax cuts you have anywhere from only $.30 to around $1 in additional spending generated. 

If this is the case, why does the current stimulus bill look the way it does?  Right now infrastructure spending souplineaccounts for only $90 billion out of $825 billion, only 10% of the bill.  Only $43 billion is slotted for extending unemployment benefits and only $20 billion is set aside for increased spending on food stamps.  All in all, the three most effective economic stimulators account for only a measly 18.5% of the current stimulus package while tax cuts account for a full third, 33.33% of the package! (1)  Are we supposed to expect this package to truly stimulate our economy and create jobs? 

Briefly, we must also ask if the size of the stimulus package in general is really enough to jolt our economy back to life.  This question is all the more important in the face of Republican pressure to further slash the bill’s spending provisions in favor of more tax cuts.  Our annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2007 was roughtly $14 trillion. (2)  That is $14,000 trillion.  To give you an idea of how much money that really is, if you make $50,000 per year it will take you 16.5 million years to earn $14 tillion.  With a stimulus package of $825 billion (only 66% of which is actually spending) the stimulus package amounts to only 5.8% of our total annual GDP.  Can we really expect that such small change, relatively speaking, is actually going to stimulate the economy?  Perhaps it will, but in light of the massive amounts of money generated on average by our economy each year, I think the question is an important one that should be addressed with all seriousness by those in our government who are working to solve this problem rather than simply using it as an excuse to provide the wealthy with more tax relief.

If we are trying to “get the most bang for our buck” it seems clear that tax cuts are not the direction in which our government needs to be looking.  This does not necessarily mean that there should not be any tax cuts included in the package, but this information does force us to question whether the current package already leans too far in the direction of tax cuts and sells America short when it comes to truly effective means of spending and economic stimulation.  If this is the case, then we must ask whether or not our government is doing the right thing by heeding the cries of a party that has done nothing but fail us both politically and economically for most of the last decade and beyond.

Today, Republican politicians are urging each other to vote against the stimulus package if it is not watered down further, if Obama and Congressional Democrats do not weaken the package even more by ejecting spending and adding even more tax cuts that will benefit the wealthy more than those who truly need the help.  I call on Democrats to take Republicans at their word.  Let them vote against the package.  Who cares!  Their votes are NOT needed to pass the bill.  I would go even further and encourage our Democratic leadership to change the package to include fewer tax cuts and more infrastructure spending, more spending to help those who have lost their jobs, more spending to create a green, clean economy for the future.  Let Republicans take a backseat, let them push themselves further into fringes of American political philosophy and policy where they belong.  Then, finally, the rest of us can get busy doing the important work that needs to be done to fix this nation’s economy.

Voices From History: Desegregation Activists Speak Out in Favor of Gay Marriage, Part I

Posted in just sayin', politics, society and culture with tags , on January 21, 2009 by countryjim13

As chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) John Lewis was a leader of the civil rights movment to end segregation.  Since 1987 he has been  the United States House Representative for the 5th Congressional District in Georgia.  Below is a copy of an article written by Lewis and published by the Boston Globe on October 25, 2003.  In this article, Representative Lewis expresses support for same-sex marriage and equates laws banning same-sex marriage to the segregation laws he fought so hard to reverse. 


At a crossroads on gay unions

By John Lewis 10/25/03

From time to time, America comes to a crossroads. With confusion and controversy, it’s hard to spot that moment. We need cool heads, warm hearts, and America’s core principles to cleanse away the distractions.

We are now at such a crossroads over same-sex couples’ freedom to marry. It is time to say forthrightly that the government’s exclusion of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from civil marriage officially degrades them and their families. It denies them the basic human right to marry the person they love. It denies them numerous legal protections for their families.

This discrimination is wrong. We cannot keep turning our backs on gay and lesbian Americans. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.

Some say let’s choose another route and give gay folks some legal rights but call it something other than marriage. We have been down that road before in this country. Separate is not equal. The rights to liberty and happiness belong to each of us and on the same terms, without regard to either skin color or sexual orientation.

Some say they are uncomfortable with the thought of gays and lesbians marrying. But our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans.

Sometimes it takes courts to remind us of these basic principles. In 1948, when I was 8 years old, 30 states had bans on interracial marriage, courts had upheld the bans many times, and 90 percent of the public disapproved of those marriages, saying they were against the definition of marriage, against God’s law. But that year, the California Supreme Court became the first court in America to strike down such a ban. Thank goodness some court finally had the courage to say that equal means equal, and others rightly followed, including the US Supreme Court 19 years later.

Some stand on the ground of religion, either demonizing gay people or suggesting that civil marriage is beyond the Constitution. But religious rites and civil rights are two separate entities. What’s at stake here is legal marriage, not the freedom of every religion to decide on its own religious views and ceremonies.

I remember the words of John Kennedy when his presidential candidacy was challenged because of his faith: “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish — where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source — where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

Those words ring particularly true today. We hurt our fellow citizens and our community when we deny gay people civil marriage and its protections and responsibilities. Rather than divide and discriminate, let us come together and create one nation. We are all one people. We all live in the American house. We are all the American family. Let us recognize that the gay people living in our house share the same hopes, troubles, and dreams. It’s time we treated them as equals, as family (source).

A Day of Celebration: The Inauguration of President Barak Hussein Obama and the End of the Bush Era

Posted in just sayin', politics with tags , on January 20, 2009 by countryjim13

Today is a truly momentous day.  I am a white, straight, middle class man – as little a part of any minority group as a person could be.  Today is a truly momentous day.  It does not, or at least should not matter what your background is be it by birth or by choice of socio-political preference and affiliation.  Today is a truly momentous day.  Today Barak Hussein Obama, son of an African immigrant and a white American mother, who lived as a boy in the predominantly Muslim country of Indonesia, a man who truly represents African Americans, Americans of European decent, Americans of mixed heritage.  He is a man who represents both the majority and the minority of this nation through the very blood that runs through his veins (sorry women, I suppose you are still left out in this physiological sense).  It is a historical moment.  President Obama is not only the first black President of the U.S., a nation that actively endorsed and engaged in forcing the African people into slavery as recently as only a few generations ago, he is also the first minority president in the history of any western industrialized nation.  That makes this a momentous day not only for Americans, but literally for people all over the world.56543130

Do not misunderstand.  I have many reservations about President Obama.  There are a number of issues on which I sit nervously at the edge of my seat, unsure of whether or not I will end up approving of and supporting his decisions and actions.  I did not vote for President Obama (in fact I have never voted for a Democrat or Republican presidential candidate).  Yet this is still a momentous day and regardless of whether I approve or disapprove of Obama as his term as President unfolds into the future, today is a day of celebration.  It does not matter that I did not vote for him, that I was not a supporter who helped elect him to office.  It does not even matter what my opinion of him is tomorrow.   It is still a day of celebration.  I could not help but feel a sense of pride, joy, hope as I watched him fumble through the oath of office and give a somber, but inspirational inaugural speech. 

This is not a perfect country.  We still have much to learn.  We have a tremendous amount of progress that still needs to be made.  Today, however, we showed ourselves as a nation as well as the world at large that we do have the capacity to grow, to change, to progress, to overcome the faults and mistakes of a dark past and move forward into a somewhat brighter and more inclusive future.  Today is truly a tremendous day, a day of celebration, joy, and hope for a better tomorrow.

bush_moron1At the same time it is a day of celebration for another reason entirely and yet related.  Today was the end of the Bush presidency.  Today was hopefully the end of an era of Bush presidents, both of whom have helped drive the world into war and economic peril over the past two decades.  I am almost 30 years old.  If you include the eight years that George H. W. Bush was Vice President under Ronald Regan I have lived 66.6% of my life under the rule of the Bush family (and I won’t even begin to try and wonder of the unlikely yet mystically possible implications of the above number in relation to the current thought process).  And so, after 20 of my 30 years of life having little choice but to live under the leadership of this inept family dynasty, today we celebrate the end. 

When Bush Jr. was introduced at today’s inauguration and millions of people booed.  I felt happy.  When he and his wife left in the marine helicopter and millions of people sang, “Na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye!”  I was proud of this nation.  I know it was rude, but he deserves it and I sincerely hope it makes him seriously ponder his last eight years and the nothing but disastrous effect he has had on this nation and the rest of the world.  A leadership based on fear and divisiveness, warlords and corporate interests, secrecy and lies has finally come to an end.  It is truly a day of celebration.  America and its people can once again hold their heads high.  We can once again say, “I am an American” without feeling a sense of utter shame and humiliation. 

Today we can celebrate.  Bush is gone.  We can, perhaps, have pride in our government again.  As President Obama said so passionately in his inaugural speech, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ouselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”  And so today we celebrate.  Tomorrow President Obama goes to work, the nation goes to work as we try and rebuild our reputation, our place in the world, our economy, and our way of life in the wake of the catastrophic event that has been the George W. Bush presidency and the Bush era in general.  I truly cannot express my jubilation.  Thank goodness he is fainlly gone! 

End of an Error

Posted in just sayin', politics with tags , , on January 20, 2009 by mightyfag

Finally, after 8 years under an oppressive president and administration mired in unconstitutional practices, a constant whittling away of civil rights and the utter destruction of our economy, we have a breath of fresh air. As President Obama placed his hand on Licoln’s bible and took his oath of office administered to him by Chief Justice Roberts (an outright corporatists whose entire career revolved around upholding corporations’ rights against the rights of workers) I breathed a sigh of relief. For 1/4 of the years that I’ve been alive on this earth, I’ve had to live under the oppressive rule of Bush’s gulag.

Obama's Oath

One of the things that stood out for me as the new president took his oath was how the Chief Justice stumbled in his administering of the oath. It was as if this puppet justice, appointed by Bush and his corporatist cronies, knew that the jig was up. We can only hope that in addition to his promises of energy independence, a revival and preservation of civil rights, a restoration of our country’s reputation around the world and a revitalization of our economy, that President Obama will also remember that part of defending the Constitution includes holding those who have broken its laws accountable.

I know we are all elated about the new president and the hope that he brings, but I firmly hold that in order to move forward, we need to mend the wounds of the past and make amends where we can. The time is NOW to hold former president George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of the amerofascists, accountable for their war crimes, their illegal wire tapping programs, their negligence in handling of federal disasters like Katrina, lying to the American people in the face of counterintelligence about weapons of mass destruction, breaking habeas corpus, and the multitude of other crimes they commited.

We need to remember, and make visible to the entire world, that the United States of America is a nation of laws an that NO MAN is above the law.

Lost in the Shuffle : Native Americans and the Availability of Education

Posted in economics, just sayin', society and culture on December 10, 2008 by barbelith923

American history is filled with accomplishments, wars fought and triumphed, adversity overcome, an end to racial indifference, and rights put in place towards self expression without fear of reprise. Yet there is also the record of failures and injustices as well. It is true that our forefathers made mistakes in the name of progress. And in some cases, the word mistake is far too mild for such terrible deeds.  One example would be the attempts by the American government to destroy entire cultures through so-called education.  In as little as 100 years ago, Native American children were abducted from their families and forced into re-education schools to become, what the American government considered to be, civilized individuals. Sadly, rather than providing an education, children weren’t allowed to speak their native languages, practice their customs, or live life as they had been taught by their parents and elders. In many instances, these institutions dealt the final blow to some already struggling cultures. It could be argued that formalized education was originally one of the worst curses enforced upon America’s indigenous population.

These days however, an education may be one of the few things geared towards the survival of American natives. It could be said that a college degree may be the key towards not just the well being of the individual, but also to the community as well. In the last fifty years, many things have changed for the betterment of Native Americans. Yet it is not nearly enough. Still mired in poverty, resources are relatively few. And one of these missing resources is access to formalized and decent education. Out of almost all recognized minorities, Native Americans find themselves on the bottom rung of the ladder where access to education is concerned. In this small article, I will attempt to show the reasons why this is so. The subjects to be touched upon will be general issues that many minority students face, such as poverty, the availability of educational resources, and the ultimate goal of attaining a degree. We will then examine how they apply to Native American students. In addition, through the gathering of this information, I have been surprised to find one more additional issue which doesn’t seem to be mentioned in many reports on minority students. And that is the issue of culture as it applies to societal norms, and the general behavior of students and faculty on school campuses. From what I’ve observed, the issue of culture is a very large problem when it comes to Native students and learning institutions. We will examine these problems and hopefully be able to shed some light on the road towards possible solutions.

Purging The Culture Away

When discussing Native Americans and education, we must take a brief look at the history concerning these subjects. It does shed some light upon current issues. In the conquest of America, the Natives were considered a problem by those attempting to colonize the continent. Before 1870, the Natives were initially forced to reside on reservations. Yet new ideas began to surface with the concept of assimilating the Natives rather than segregating them. This led to the legal abduction of Native children, forcing them into schools with the distinct purpose of re-educating them. The goal was to make them civilized or “white”. The only other option was to become trained as a domestic servant. Yet, to hang onto their own unique cultures was strictly forbidden. We can see this in the methods used to transform these children. They were punished severely for speaking in their indigenous tongues. The same thing applied when practicing their tribal customs as well. Their hair was forcibly shorn and they were forced to wear westernized clothing. The goal itself was the loss of cultural identity while creating new and acceptable one, at least according to what white society considered to be acceptable. And as terrible as this may sound, it may be even more shocking to understand that this practice continued until the 1960’s. With the understanding of all of this, we can deduce that a bias probably exists due to the fact that these crimes against Native culture occurred up until only a few generations ago. Yet as negative as learning institutions may be viewed by members of the Native population, we cannot deny the importance of an education in America today.

Along with formalized education comes the promise of the idealized American dream. The idea is that anyone in America can make it to the top and fulfill the goal of attaining an upper class lifestyle through hard work and dedication. The puritan work ethic is still alive and well. Unfortunately, current statistics say otherwise. In fact, with the contemporary stratification of the lower classes, we may actually be watching history repeat itself in that the drastic income inequalities of this day and age have not been felt since the 19th century. However, a solution was devised in the past which changed a great deal of the situation. The answer was education. Not only were large amounts of money invested in education but ladders were created so that bright young students from all walks of life could receive a purposeful and useful education to better themselves. Stratification began to occur again however among the educated as they married and produced children who were born into an elevated status. Today, only 1 in 30 of lower class children will be selected for elite universities. What we can conclude, in this brief examination of the past, is that college graduates have received better opportunities and improved access to decent paying jobs. In addition, education may be the answer to income equalities. Yet what is the situation of stratified children today?

Social and Economic Stratification

When making an examination of those who fall under the classification of stratified individuals, we can divide them into two groups; minorities and the poverty stricken. Let me make it clear however that a good portion of the stratified belong to both groups. And since this article revolves around the Native Americans, who are considered to be a minority, let us take a look at the situation minorities face in general when it comes to elite learning institutions. Even in our modern times, racial tension can still be felt in many of these schools. We can also claim that the transformation of white genteel schools into pre-eminent universities has been slow. To put it bluntly, the numbers don’t lie. Let’s take the University of Virginia for example, who only began to promote changes in the 70’s. Taking a look at just a few years ago, it may be a bit surprising to discover that out of a student population of 13,000 that there were only 1,594 black students. In general, the number of white graduates when compared to minority graduates are just as one-sided. For example, 83% of white students graduate high school, while only 55% of Native students do the same. The numbers are just as staggering when looking at college graduates. Where 23% of whites graduate college, only 6% of Native students achieve the same goal. One more time, we can see an obvious leaning in the numbers. Yet why does this situation exist? Does the problem exist within the student population? The numbers seem to paint a different picture. Instead, we can probably conclude that a problem exists with the colleges and universities instead. In fact, we could probably go so far as to say that when it comes to Native American students, these institutions outright fail. And since we have examined the stratified, focusing in the issue of minority, it is now time to examine the issue of poverty.

It quickly becomes clear that the privileged or children of wealth have better opportunities when it comes to access to quality education. Granted, good financial means could make the purchase of an education easier. However, when it comes to the selection of students, an obvious bias exists. As before, quite simply the numbers don’t lie. In recent times, 60% of students at elite universities came from wealthy or alumni parents, with children of alumni constituting 40%. Upon further examination we can find even more bias leaning towards advantages for the wealthy. It has been shown that the children of very high donors are helped at a substantial rate. Another example is what is called the “Z list”. This is a deferment list for students to catch up when they have fallen behind. Overwhelmingly, this list is dominated by children of the wealthy. Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t seem to be improving for children who come from poor families. As of today, they have only a 40% chance of becoming students at these same universities. Upon examining statistics, we can see that the situation may be getting worse. From 1980 and 1982, the number of poor children in universities and colleges dropped 1%. However, the number of wealthy children rose from 55% to 60%. As we can see, inequalities do exist from the poor to the wealthy, with the wealthy having more advantages, while the poor are left to feed on scraps from a very rich table. Now having examined stratification from both a means of race and wealth, let us now turn to Native Americans, of whom a great portion fall into both classifications.

Hitting One Bird with Two Stones

The majority of Native Americans have it pretty rough, especially when it comes to life on the reservation. It can be said that life on the reservations can be nothing short of squalor, with very few opportunities to construct a life outside of it. Generations of Natives have been trapped in this environment without the financial means of escaping it. In this, it would seem that the segregation of the Native Americans continues to exist. Most are mired in poverty and it could be argued that Native Americans on reservations are of the most stratified. For example, the Pine ridge reservation of South Dakota has been compared to the poorest of third world countries. There are some houses with no electricity, no running water, nor any sewer system. The unemployment rate is staggering measuring at 85%. And yet, this is the third largest reservation in America. In general, life on the reservation is of the poorest quality. A great deal of the populace do not even possess a high school education. Yet, as we have seen, education, could quite possible be the road to freedom, not just serving the individual, but also the community as well. Upon taking a look at the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota, we can see that this condition exists outside of South Dakota as well. 40% live below the poverty line. Crime runs rampant at Red Lake, mainly drug and violence related. As we can see, the brutal living conditions do not apply to just one reservation but many. In examining the condition of most Natives, and reviewing the bias of universities towards whites and the wealthy, there seems to be very few opportunities to get a decent education. However, out of most minorities in the United States, Native Americans rank the lowest as far as receiving an education goes. Knowing that other minorities also suffer from poverty as well and yet are able to achieve more, might there be another factor other than ones previously discussed? As we shall see, the answer may be cultural.

When taking a closer look, we find that one aspect may have been overlooked in the majority of studies pertaining to Native Americans and education. Upon examining the culture of Native Americans and their history, we find more answers. We have already discussed a possible bias towards “white” learning institutions due to the history with Natives and forced re-education. Another aspect of the cultural problem may be in the hands of instructors at most colleges and universities. Most of these instructors experienced college life in a sort of homogeneous environment rather than one based solely on one cultural perspective. A good portion of Natives only get the experience of one culture due to the inability of being able to escape from it. In essence, they instead become dependent upon this culture to sustain them. Since most instructors, come from a more unified cultural experience, they may not have the ability to understand both the importance and impact of this cultural experience as it applies to Natives. This would possibly create a divide between the instructor and the student, which may ultimately lead to feelings of alienation in a very foreign environment. However, it can also be argued that school counselors can help in this capacity and ultimately enhance the development of a Native student. It is essential that awareness of culture, and the traditions surrounding it, be understood. This awareness could bridge this gap. Yet awareness is not enough without this information being placed in the context of the school at large. Colleges and universities may become places where the Native student is made to feel welcome rather than alienated from. And yet, as much sense as these ideas may make, with the exception of very few instances, these policies are currently not in place. It can be argued that accomplishments in school are the responsibility of the student. Yet it would be foolish to state that none of the responsibility falls on the shoulder of the staff and faculty of the university as well. In some ways, these institutions cater to the student to help them excel. However, we must ask if these same institutions have the willingness to cater to the Native student. Unfortunately, I must conclude that the answer is no. Yet where is the proof for my claim?

Tribal Colleges

The answer can be found in Tribal colleges. In 1978, Congress passed the Tribally Community College Assistance Act. It was created to ensure that there were opportunities in place and the expansion of these opportunities for American Indian students. Because these institutions are tribally controlled, students can find the cultural experience that they may be missing in other institutions. Not only are their cultural needs met, there is an understanding of aspects of the stratified life that most Natives are forced to live. Things like family and home life are understood, financial problems are catered to, and with unemployment being so staggering a factor, when a student does have a job, these colleges attempt to work with the student to help them stay employed. Therefore, I think that it is fairly easy to claim that tribal colleges do meet the unique needs of their students. Some have actually made claims that the creation of tribal colleges may be the most significant development for Native Americans in history.  This is not to say that these institutions do not have problems of their own, which in themselves are almost reflections of problems with reservation life. These institutions are horribly underfunded and their facilities are very inadequate. In addition, they are also increasingly understaffed as well. Yet having knowledge of these problems, this lends more credence to my point of culture being a large factor. It is obvious that the funding, facilities, and staff are probably of better quality at larger and more recognized institutions. Yet as we have seen, the number of Native students is incredibly low at these elite schools. However, upon examining the problems with tribal schools, it is surprising to discover that most Native students are completely satisfied with the education they received from tribal colleges rather than the education they received from other institutions. It could be argued that it may possibly be the familiarity of poor conditions in school to poor conditions in life that may create a means of comfort. However, offer an individual a choice between five dollars or fifty. I think it’s fairly logical which one would be taken. One more time, the obvious solution is the understanding of Native culture and it being implemented into the larger context of the school itself. Therefore, we can conclude that if other learning institutions were to attempt to satisfy the cultural needs of the Native student, the attendance of these institutions would probably improve. And not only would attendance improve, I think it’s quite possible that they would excel.

In examining the issue of Native American students and the lack of education among these individuals, I hope that I have been able to convey a few reasons as to why it may be occurring. In taking a look at the larger scope of the stratified, we see that there is an obvious bias towards those that are both white and from wealthy backgrounds. And therefore, since Native Americans are burdened by stratification, we can see problems occurring when Natives attempt to receive a quality education. Yet there is another factor which may add to the reluctance of these same individuals to attend universities of quality education, even if it was available to all. In asking the question as to why Natives are satisfied with an education from a substandard yet tribally influenced school rather than that of a well received and quality school, one conclusion that we can reach is the importance of a culturally influenced experience in education. Yet this is not intended to deny the burden of being a member of a minority or being financially stratified. These are obvious and troubling factors as well. Yet I cannot stress enough that more attention needs to be placed on the cultural aspects as well as the financial and minority aspects as well. The cultural solution may be one of many. We have examined other aspects as well. But there may be more. I argue that only through research will we find these missing pieces of information.

Our indigenous cultures deserve more than the paltry sum of attention they have received. Realize that these people are the descendants of the First Americans. After all the atrocities committed to them, from attempted extermination to the death of cultures through re-education, wouldn’t it seem reasonable to meet them halfway? Wouldn’t it seem reasonable to recognize the possible special needs and circumstances that they now find themselves in? Wouldn’t it also seem reasonable to do whatever possible to allow these folks to improve their condition and lives as they see fit? As we have seen, one of the key ways to improve our lives is through the attainment of an adequate education. From what I can see, we have no other course of action but to do what we can to bring this to fruition. Granted we may not have had a hand in the crimes committed by our forefathers. Yet as their descendants, the responsibility falls on our shoulders to heal what may still be some open wounds. Remember that crimes were still being committed in what could have been just one previous page in history books. These words cannot be erased. Yet, the future has not been written yet. Hopefully, we can write a book worth reading.