POST MRR COLUMN NO. 9
Mykel is pro-choice: To Have Slaves or Not
by Mykel Board
"The freedom for which Davy Crockett, James Bowie and the rest fought at the Alamo was the freedom to own slaves. As soon as Anglos set up the Republic of Texas, its legislature ordered all free black people out of the Republic.” --James W. Loewin
“One of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized. But that doesn’t mean we approve of it.” – Rand Paul on the faults of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which outlawed racial discrimination at private businesses.
It happens all the time... an itchy nose... an errant hair grows from inside and begins to tickle. Micron by invisible micron, it lengthens and begins to press its way out, invisible in the mirror... but more and more irritating.
I run my index finger under my nostril. Ah, there it is! I squeeze the hair between my thumbnail and finger. Pull! A hard fast downward jerk. Damn.. slipped right through... still there... invading the privacy of my nostril. Try again, this time squeezing hard, digging my nail against my finger until it bleeds... almost. JERK HARD... there's ping of pain inside my nose. I DID IT.
I examine the hair. The whole thing, I got it. From gray tip to white root. There it is. I drop it in the waste basket and celebrate my new nasal freedom from irritants. Then I think... what about that single nosehair?
Here's the deal: Rand Paul and several other “Libertarians” claim that the idea of freedom is the right to make your own choices, free from government interference.
They say the 1964 Civil Rights bill, passed under Lyndon Johnson, takes away the freedom of restaurant and hotel owners to refuse to serve whoever they damn well please to refuse to serve.
Sheldon Richman, a Libertarian writer for the Christian Science Monitor sums it up:
I write as a Libertarian, something Rand Paul claims not to be. The essence of the Libertarian philosophy is that each person owns him- or herself and whatever belongings he or she honestly acquires. Thus individuals are due freedom of association and, logically, non-association. It also follows that the owner of property should be free to set the rules of use, the only constraint being that the owner may not use aggressive force against others.
Admittedly, that leaves room for loathsome peaceful behavior, such as running a whites-only lunch counter. Who imagined that freedom of association couldn’t have its ugly side?
Nevertheless, individuals are either free to do anything peaceful or they are not. If politicians decide, we have arbitrary government. But government is force, and force is moral only in response to force.
[Flash to an alternate 1963] The segregated South gets whiff of the Civil Rights plans. There's a meeting in the basement of the Baptist church in Lubbock, Texas: a dozen men, each with his rifle. Tough-talking Sheriff “Wild” Bill Jackson tells the assembled crew:
“I know Johnson,” he says. “He used to be one of us. Now, he wants to take away our rights... like Lincoln did... He needs the same solution. You ready boys?”
“We're ready Bill,” comes the reply.
“Let's go,” says Bill.
It's inauguration day. Lyndon is taking over from Kennedy. We're in Washington DC for the swear-in... somewhere behind an alternate grassy knoll..
PEKYUUU! Johnson's dead as a Kennedy. President Humphrey has all the support of Klansman in Harlem. There is no Civil Rights Act.
The lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro spread throughout the segregated South. To Woolworth's, to diners, to catfish shacks from Myrtle Beach to El Paso. Colored folks walk into restaurants and just sit, waiting to be served. Often there is trouble.
“Now you boys just go to your own places,” says a waitress. “People like to be with their own kind.”
“But we want to eat here,” says a coffee-colored young man. “This is a public place, and we're the public.”
“If you don't leave,” says the clerk, “I'm afraid I'm gonna have to call the law.”
“Now,” says the young man, “we're just sitting here-- not causing any problem.”
Before long, the cops come. “You're under arrest, boys!”
They refuse to leave. There is violence.
Wake-up buckaroos. Can't you get it? BOTH SIDES need to use the force of government. The Civil Rights Act says that owners of public accommodations must serve everyone. If they don't, then the government uses force (fines, police protection etc) to ensure they do.
By Libertarian rules, if colored folks sit at a whites-only lunch counter, and the owner has a “right” not to serve them, what does he do? He can use force (private cops) to get them out, and if they fight back POW! Call the city cops and have the government use force.
The question is NOT intimidation by government force, but only which side is intimidated. It's too easy to only think about the nostril and forget the reality of the nosehair.
Libertarians would allow slavery, because it should be a private CHOICE whether or not to have slaves. Right? But what about the SLAVES' choice? Libertarians oppose the minimum wage, because it should be the employer's CHOICE how much to pay his employees. But what about the EMPLOYEES' choice?
Oh yeah, don't tell me they can just leave and find other jobs. With high unemployment, there are NO other jobs. And double oh yeah, Libertarians oppose unemployment benefits. Can you say SLAVERY?
More recently, these Libertarians, along with a gaggle of religious rightists are asking the government for the “right” for corporations to refuse to serve-- or provide for-- people based on their religious beliefs.
Take Mormonism... please! Mormons used to believe colored people were less than human. Their skin was cursed by God for some past sin I'm too lazy to Google. Recently-- probably due to Mitt Romney's inability to crack the double digits among black voters-- the Later Day Saints have relented. For Mormons, Negro nosehairs are now just as good as white nosehairs. It reminds me of the 1960s Catholics unblaming the Jews for killing Christ. Gee thanks.
But imagine pre-Romney Mormons owning a restaurant and that restaurant refusing to serve Negroes because their “religion prohibits it!” Is that freedom? What about the Negroes?
A couple months ago I wrote about the Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn. After a colored kid was struck by a car in a Lubavitch procession, a Lubavitch ambulance appeared... and picked up the driver.
Since I wrote that, I found out that the driver had been attacked by a mob and the pick-up was for his protection. Good reason. But, couldn't they have picked up the kid too? I dunno. Maybe there was a religious reason.
Let's go to 1990... an alternate 1990. A Libertarian world. Little Moishe Pippik is crossing Steinway Street in the Middle East section of Queens. He steps into the crosswalk. The motorcade of Imam Jooshmoo comes to the crosswalk at the same time.
SPLATT! Looks like little Moishe is not going to make it to his Bar Mitzvah.
WEEOOO WEEOOO BLAU BLAU BLAU WEEOO WEEOO, a Sheik-Saver volunteer ambulance pulls up to the front of the motorcade. The Imam gets in. Little Moishe goes to meet that other Moishe in Jewish heaven. Of course, there is a riot.
Could you imagine a city (country? world?) where an ambulance, say from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital would only pick up Presbyterians? What about the guy lying in the street? Should he just wait for the right ambulance? Do they check his religious ID card? Doesn't sound like freedom at all.
“Should Muslim butchers have to serve pork?” shout the Libertarians.
“Of course not,” I say, “but they have to serve Jews.”
If they're public butchers, licensed to operate on the public streets of the city, they have to serve everyone. There is no requirement that butchers serve pork at all. No public pork license... no mandated meat... only that it be uncontaminated..
It's a little different with Hobby Lobby. That company is owned by Evangelicals. Because of the owners' religious beliefs, they refuse to provide their employees with some kinds of contraception (as required by law). The law already exempts religious institutions from having to provide these benefits, but HOBBY LOBBY is not a religious group. It's a company open for business with a government (state, Federal tax ID) license. There IS a law that says employer insurance must pay for birth control for its employees.
Does Hobby Lobby have the “religious freedom” to deny benefits to their employees? If that's their freedom, what about the EMPLOYEES?
FLASH TO ALTERNATE 2014: I've got a shopping list of things to do: a visit to the doctor for a check-up, a visit to the drug store for stomach medication... and condoms, to replace the ones in my wallet-- expired 1999. Then to the grocery store for coffee and shrimp for dinner.
“Hey, doc,” I say, “it's time for a health check. Gotta see if I'm gonna make it to another birthday.”
“Sorry Mykel,” says Doc, “I've converted to Pentecostal. I don't examine or work with anyone who drinks alcohol. My apologies and I hope you'll see the error of your ways and give up drinking.”
Shit! What am I going to do now? My insurance is limited. I can only get a check-up from an “in-network” doctor. I'll have to find another doc. Do they list their religions on the web? Maybe I'll just skip it this year.
So, I'm off to the pharmacy for my stomach medication. I have chronic heartburn... GERD... and need to take a stupid brown pill every day to stop the pain.
I walk to the back of CVS and give a pretty young clerk my prescription. She hands it back to me.
“I'm sorry, Mr. Board,” she says. “I'm a Christian Scientist. We believe that God alone heals us. Drugs and doctors are like voodoo... black magic... prayer makes healing... not drugs.”
And you can guess how far I get looking for condoms. I feel like a discarded nosehair.
So what about Hobby Lobby? The law says that employers of over 20 people have to provide healthcare for those people. “Healthcare” is defined to include birth control.
ASIDE: I don't like Obamacare, but my reasons have nothing to do with religious rights. I believe that it's the duty of the GOVERNMENT to “provide for the general welfare” of its citizens. (Article 1 section 8 of the US Constitution) If health isn't “general welfare” I don't know what is. Employers shouldn't be burdened with this. It's the job-- the main job-- of government. But Obamacare is the law: for everyone. END OF ASIDE
Companies do not have religion. Corporations do not get Bar Mitzvahed. Starbucks will not have a first communion. Catholic bookstores, if they're in a church, do not have to provide abortions for their employees. But a company? A store? How can they be free to choose among benefits in the name of religion? What about the EMPLOYEES' choice?
I'd write more, but my nose itches.
ENDNOTES: [You can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Through the post office: send those... er... private DVDs..or music or zines... or anything else (legal only!) to: Mykel Board, POB 137, New York, NY 10012-0003.]
-->Don't plug my loophole baby dept: Loopholes4all.com is a website that gives you a foreign address, a company, and an offshore bank account where you can safely stash your dozens of dollars without the feds knowing. The website says it's "a service to democratize offshore business for people who don't want to pay for their riches. It empowers everyone to evade taxes, hide money and debt and get away with anything, by stealing the identities of real offshore companies."
PayPal has suspended all payments to Loopholes... An interesting development, since PayPal avoids paying US taxes by situating itself in Luxembourg. Is that offshore enough for you?
-->Maybe it's the language dept: Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum was the first English-speaking mayor of the city in more than a century. He was elected in 2013 with a campaign promise to "end an era of sleaze" in the city government. He recently resigned after being arrested for fraud. He is accused of accepting bribes for awarding construction permits. In Toronto, the (of course English-speaking) mayor has resisted calls to quit over a crack-smoking scandal. In fact, he's running for re-election.
-->Sounds like the CIA dept: Lots of Brazilians have been protesting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Like the Olympics, the World Cup is high status, but really bad for the locals. The influx of tourists causes huge price increases, and housing shortages. Often locals find themselves in near lock-downs in the name of "security." But these protests have the smell of something more. The Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, was a leftist activist and she is loved by many on the left. The vehemence of the protests says that there may be something more than Olympiphobia behind them. Anyway, that's where I'd place my bets.
-->Sometimes conspiracies are true dept: Anytime someone accuses the government of being bad, and not telling people it was bad, you hear "It's some conspiracy nut." Trouble is... lots of conspiracies are true.
ABC News revealed that, in the early 1960s, America's top military leaders drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities. Why? To create public support for a war against Cuba. Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.
Makes that stuff about the The World Trade Center seem... er... plausible, doesn't it?
-->Keeping the pressure on dept: I want to thank reader George Metesky for suggesting a Bring Back Mykel concerted effort directed at Maximum Rock'n'Roll. He forwarded me an answer to a letter MRR printed where the editors excuse my firing not as censorship for content, but because I “refuse to answer letters in the letters section.”
That is not true. I only asked that I be allowed to say I don't LIKE to answer letters in the letters section. It's unfair to the letter-writer for the columnist to always get the last word. If MRR demands I answer there, I will. SO, here I'm publicly agreeing to abide by their rules. Here it is in ones and zeros. Their excuse for censoring me disappears.
I hope you'll cut and paste the paragraph above into an email, and send it-- along with your comments-- to email@example.com with the subject line: BRING BACK MYKEL. Let me know how they answer.
MRR also has a facebook page, (as does (did?) Mariam Bastani, the girl who fired me. In any case, you can't get to her page from here. It may be gone.) You might want to let them know how you feel in any case.
If you like my writing, you can be notified when anything new is available by joining the MYKEL'S READERS Yahoo group firstname.lastname@example.org You're also welcome to use that group to have discussions, ask questions, etc. Personal attacks though, will be deleted.