The Critical Mass

Allowing history to be the judge needn’t be a long wait

History gets re-written every day. So it is once again with the death of Nelson Mandela.

Jailed for 27 years because he led the fight against the South African policy of Apartheid, what many of our leaders are eager for us to forget is they once pronounced Mandela a terrorist. Ronald Reagan’s veto of the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which would have issued sanctions against South Africa if it did not end Apartheid and release prisoners such as Mandela, had to be overturned by Congress.  Republican fundraisers and strategists such as Jack Abramoff and Grover Nordquist worked behind the scenes in favor of Apartheid. On the front lines, the anti-Mandela wing of the Congressional Hall of Shame is lined with Republicans such as Dick Cheney, then a Wyoming representative, who even as late as 2000 was defending his vote against the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act.

Their defense is that their votes were correct based on what we knew then. But denying a human being basic rights based on the color of his or her skin was as wrong in 1986 as it is in 2013.

Conservative thinking, which many years ago was kind of a good thing in this country, is now so empty, so fact deprived, so logically impossible to follow that it’s like arguing with the squirrels in your backyard trees. John Boehner last week suggested that Jesus would not approve of welfare. Helping the poor is fine, Boehner suggested, but Jesus would have disapproved of the notion of taking from some people to help others. Theologians, and even folks who have only a casual familiarity with The Bible, had no trouble rebuking Boehner. How about this proverb: “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” There are dozens more out there if that one doesn’t work for you.

Republicans are morally bankrupt on issues of compassion – they’re against raising the minimum wage, gay marriage, immigrants, anyone who’s not a Christian and women’s rights. An overwhelming percentage of scientists say they’re wrong on climate change and their insistence on including creationism in school curriculum as an explanation for mankind’s presence on the planet. Most economists say their financial theories are unsound.

Republicans are also bereft of intellectual diversity. In the past year we’ve seen them warp history and suggest that Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., each held conservative viewpoints. In general, they did not. Douglass may have praised Republicans, but Abraham Lincoln was a far different breed of Republican than we have today.

Now, as they run away from their past, Republicans are praising Mandela and in the process, as they tried to do with Douglass and King, are drafting another black man into the party. Which Republicans do after the guys are dead and can’t offer up any protest themselves. This week former Pennsylvania senator and full-time lunatic Rick Santorium compared his party’s efforts to stop the Affordable Care Act with Mandela’s fight for ending Apartheid. “I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives,” he said. “And Obamacare is front and center in that.”

That’s right. As Republicans see it, blocking Americans from access to affordable health insurance is as righteous a cause as ending segregation in South Africa. They’ve also compared the basic human right of health and security to slavery, communism, socialism and Nazism. So say the Republicans.

History, if we don’t allow it to be re-written, will prove them wrong once again. That’s how we judge leaders. They get it right the first time, not 25 years later.

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