Peace Messenger

In his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize speech, the Rev. Martin Luther King talked about peace as his nation was getting bogged down in the quagmire of the Vietnam War.

King urged people to “sacrifice” for peace. He said:

We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say, "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.

King’s words are as significant today as in the 1960s. The nation is now engaged in two long and violent military occupations, and the peace movement—if there really is one these days—is floundering. Where is the sacrifice for peace today? What would King think about the military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan?

What would he think about the huge wealth disparity in this country today as unemployment remains high and families are suffering?

As we celebrate King’s life Monday, we can remember his work encompassed a broad range of moral imperatives from racial equality to economic justice to peace. His vision is needed now as much as ever.

Here are some local MLK Day events.

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DNC Blasts Coburn

Image of Tom Coburn

Just as Congress begins to close a deal on health care reform, Democratic National Committee spokesperson Derrick Plummer points out the obstructionism and “false claims” of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn over the issue.

According to the DNC, Coburn, a Republican from Muskogee, remains part of a GOP movement that will try to repeal health care reform legislation if it passes. This is what Plummer had to say about the senator in a media release issued on Thursday:

After months of spreading false claims and employing scare-tactics with the goal of dissuading the American people from supporting health insurance reform, Sen. Coburn is now finally admitting that his primary interest is defending insurance companies’ massive profits and freedom to abuse consumers rather than standing up for the people of Oklahoma.

The American people should make no mistake. Coburn’s calls for repeal of health insurance reform would mean a return to the same discriminatory health insurance company practices that are breaking American families’ savings accounts, forcing small businesses into bankruptcy and endangering the long-term health and stability of our economy.

The provisions in this health insurance reform legislation that Coburn proposes to repeal include expanding health insurance coverage to 30 million Americans, providing insurance security for Americans who lose their jobs, ending lifetime limits on insurance coverage, extending the period of time that young adults can reside on their parents’ coverage and providing relief for small businesses and employers who share the burden of sky-rocketing insurance costs with their employees. Halting progress on this historic legislation would deny every American – young or old, wealthy or poor, those with coverage or without – access to critical benefits that would improve their quality and access to health care.

Certainly, this is a political statement, and the pending health care legislation is far from perfect. Even some progressives oppose it because it doesn’t do enough to make health care more affordable, and it gives too much to the insurance industry. But it’s clear Coburn, who is physician, has done nothing seriously to try to change the broken health care system. Why? Oklahoma has some of the worst medical outcomes in the nation as documented by report after report. According to one government report, health insurance premiums have risen by 77 percent here since 2000. The same report argues that health care reform would allow 639,000 uninsured Oklahomans to get insurance.

Again, you might think Coburn, as a physician, would be concerned about poor medical outcomes and access, but he’s turned his back on Oklahoma families once again.

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Newspaper Urges Celebration For Millionaires, Billionaires

Image of Picasso painting

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don't they help themselves, oh.
But when the taxman comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes,

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no millionaire's son, no.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no.--from the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Fortunate Son”

In a time of massive taxpayer bailouts of the banking and automobile industries, high unemployment and a staggering state budget crisis, The Oklahoman editorial page want us to take some time to “celebrate” millionaires and billionaires.

That’s right. You may be laid off and broke while the same Wall Street scammers—millionaires themselves--who gave us the national recession are getting bonuses, but, hey, put aside that job search for a moment and give credit to the local rich people. If you don’t, well, then you must have that awful class envy.

A recent editorial, titled “Fortunate Sons: State policy should encourage success” (January 12, 2010) laments the fact that Oklahoma is “under-represented” on the Forbes magazine list of wealthiest America and points out the philanthropic work of state billionaire George Kaiser. Then comes this gem:

Kaiser’s political leanings perhaps make his success more acceptable to the class-envy crowd, which should be celebrating the success of all Oklahoma millionaires and billionaires, even those who are conservative Republicans.

What an inane argument. Certainly, people can and do admire particular financial successes, but to urge a sweeping, general celebration of the “success” of rich people is simply ridiculous. What about people who earned their money by gouging people through business monopolies? What about people who inherited their money? What about people who use their money to promote hatred and discrimination against certain groups of people? What about bankers and mortgage brokers who made millions off the recent housing bubble? What about people who make their money illegally?

Yes, state policy should encourage people to locate and start businesses here, but misguided worship of money without critical inquiry is not in the best interests of anyone, except those who have it.

The Oklahoman editorial page continues to show its disdain, maybe even a growing distaste, for middle-class people, who have to be the newspaper’s primary readers. Its opinions mainly reflect the vested interests of the state’s corporate power structure and its wealthiest residents.

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