The Common Good

The Morning Sojo: November 7, 2011

A round-up of recent Op-Ed columns from the mainstream media.

Susan Straight, an author whose novel Highwire Moon explores the lives of a mother and daughter separated by the mother's deportation, wrote in the Los Angeles Times about her experience living in California -- 100 miles from the Mexican border -- of her daughter becoming ill while on a family trip to Mexico and their frantic search for a doctor. Straight poses the question: "If you told me that one of my daughters would die young after stepping on a nail in a village without a doctor, or that my girls would have to leave school because they were needed to work and support the family, or that they would be in danger every day from drug cartels, I can promise you I would risk everything to give them a better life, especially if that life was available just across the border."

With the 2012 election approaching, Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune thinks that while voters' priorities remain jobs and the economy, immigration is increasingly taking an important role. While Republicans seem to be in a race to see who can be the toughest, President Obama is running up record numbers of detentions and deportations. Hispanic leaders and the grassroots are disillusioned with Republicans and Democrats alike. Page concludes: "It's hard to believe that Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer and grass-roots community organizer, would not be aware of these alternatives. Instead, with hostile Republicans in Congress giving him the border blues, he has chosen to look tough -- even if it causes new problems for thousands of families on top of those he is trying to solve."

And in USA Today, Hunstsville, Ala., radio talk show host David Person thinks that, "Here in the South it feels like the 1960s all over again. And now, just as back then, far right-wing white politicians are doing their damnedest to be the poster boys of intolerance, this time on the issue of immigration." Person notes that in responses to Alabama's new immigration law, "Some are calling it "Juan Crow" - a play on Jim Crow, the moniker for segregation in the pre-Civil Rights South - because of the likelihood that Hispanics will be subjected to racial profiling and dubious detentions." Citing the stories of several undocumented Mexican teenagers whose parents brought them to the US for a better life, he says "Hopefully, they'll still have one - as long as our bigotry and fears don't get the best of us."

Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney who is the director of Reprieve, an organization that advocates for prisoners' rights, writes in the New York Times about what the United States is doing with drones in Pakistan. Stafford Smith recounts attending a meeting a week ago called where "tribal elders who lived along the Pakistani-Afghan frontier could meet with Westerners for the first time to offer their perspectives on the shadowy drone war being waged by the Central Intelligence Agency in their region." There was a get-acquainted dinner the night before the meeting, where he met a 16-year old boy, Tariq Aziz, whom he called "a good kid and courageous." Recently, while driving to another village to pick up their aunt, Aziz and a 12-year old cousin were killed by a CIA Hellfire missile fired from a drone overhead. "Tariq's extended family," Stafford Smith concludes, "so recently hoping to be our allies for peace, has now been ripped apart by an American missile - most likely making any effort we make at reconciliation futile."

On the topic of national security, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times notes that, "Republicans usually enter a presidential campaign with a built-in advantage on at least one issue: national security. Historically, voters trust the GOP to be tougher than Democrats on defense and foreign policy. Not this time. President Obama has robbed the Republican Party of its usual foreign policy edge, thanks to his surprisingly enthusiastic prosecution of the war against terrorism." McManus says that Republicans have focused largely on the domestic economy, "But commander-in-chief is a big part of the job. Voters deserve to know what these would-be presidents would do in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and how they'd act toward China and Iran. The candidates haven't told them much yet. It's time they did."

Paul Krugman in the New York Times takes on American oligarchy. Whenever inequality makes the news, Krugman writes, the obfuscators come out to blur the issue with think tank reports and pundits. "So what you need to know," he says, "is that all of these claims are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality: We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only." After answering many of the opposing claims, Krugman concludes, "The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?"

Finally, Richard J. Goldstone, a former justice in the South African Constitutional Court who led the United Nations fact-finding mission that highly criticized Israel on the Gaza conflict of 2008-2009, counters in the New York Times what he calls "the myth of Israeli apartheid." While acknowledging the injustices and oppression of Palestinians, Goldstone says, "It is not apartheid, which consciously enshrines separation as an ideal. In Israel, equal rights are the law, the aspiration and the ideal; inequities are often successfully challenged in court." Using the word "apartheid" to characterize Israel by equating it with pre-1994 South Africa, he says, "Is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations." And he concludes with "The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony."

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners.

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