Archive for the ‘ Politics ’ Category

And the First Shall Be Last

President Obama finally decided to back the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples this weekend. It’s hard to believe that a nation that prides itself on its freedom, human rights and morality — to the point of spreading the word at the end of a gun in far-off lands — was the last nation on earth to endorse the declaration. Our hypocrisy is well-known in the world community. Too bad roughly half of the people of this country are too blinded by their nationalism to see that truth. Perhaps this is a first step down another path. Let us hope so. The story, from Fox News:

President Barack Obama’s decision to reverse US policy and back a UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples has touched off a debate on whether the move could boost American Indian legal claims over the ills they suffered dating back to the colonial period, reported Saturday.

The president announced his decision at the White House Tribal Nations Conference last week, making the United States the last nation to endorse the statement — the Bush administration had opposed it since it was adopted in 2007. American Indian advocacy groups cheered the move, finalized after a months-long administration review.

But John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, said the “abstract” document — which in several sections discusses the “right to redress” — may be used to fuel new legal claims.

“It’s a kind of feel-good document that has so many unclear phrases in it that nobody’s really sure what it means when you agree to it,” Bolton said. “It’s wrong and potentially dangerous to sign onto a document that you don’t fully understand the implications of.”

The non-binding document states that indigenous people should not be discriminated against, should be able to sustain their own political and social systems, and have rights to the “lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned” or used.

Photo credit: Carl Venne, Crow Tribal Chairman, and Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. Photo by Irene L. Hause originally posted on Wikimedia Commons

Political Science, 2010 Style

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how they should vote this November — they are unhappy with their choices and dissatisfied with the major parties. Well, I stumbled across a handy flow chart at Holy Taco, a noted font of political science wisdom, and thought it was a perfect way to help bring clarity to undecided voters. You’re welcome.


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Democracy +1+1+1

Katie votes

Katie sporting her spiffy I Voted sticker!

Katie voted for the first time today in the Minnesota primary elections. She registered at the polling place (one of the churches up the street) and cast her first ballot for governor, congress, county board and District Court judge. Mom and Dad went along with her, as did little sister. Then we all went out to Buffalo Wild Wings and Coldstone to celebrate. Nothing says democracy-American-style like wings and ice cream. Ain’t it grand?

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I shoulda voted for ol’ Basil. Hope my Dad did. Forget Governor, this guy needs to be the next President. Basil in 2012!

Dear Family and Friends:

Before you forward me the next mean-spirited email about how President Obama and the Democrats are Socialists and out to destroy the country, I want you to read this cartoon and look deep within yourselves and ask, WWJD (like it says on your bracelets)?

Then if you still want to send the email, at least I won’t feel so bad about deleting it without reading it.

Originally posted on the Jobsanger blog.

Four More Years

Art won his election Tuesday night and will serve four more years on the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School Board, the state’s fourth-largest. Eight candidates were seeking three seats. Art and the other two incumbents were the three top vote-getters. The video above is the report from one of our local newspapers.

Change or More of the Same?

nu-medicine-wheelI watched the inaugural festivities today, like many Americans, with pride and a bit of disbelief that I had actually witnessed the election of an African-American president in my lifetime. We had a mini-party in my office, a few friends and co-workers, to watch the oath and inaugural address, to witness a moment in history and to seek inspiration in the words of the man who will now lead us, as he noted, “amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.”

President Obama’s speech hit many of the right notes, this passage in particular:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers … our forefathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

… even as it failed to deliver that one great line that had defined previous inaugural speeches — “Ask not what your country can do for you…” or “the only thing we have to fear. . .is fear itself.”

A couple of lines in the speech, though, hit my ears with a thud. President Obama (I love typing those words) made a real point of reaching out to American Indians during the campaign and had promised to maintain the United States’ nation-to-nation relationship with the 600 native nations that are spread across this country. So it was a bit jarring to hear:

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. … For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

Here’s a bulletin, Mr. President: American Indians see nothing to celebrate in the “settlement” of the West. Look in the Old Testament in the book you swore your oath on today. There in Exodus 20:2–17 is the commandment “you shall not steal.” That includes land.

The second jarring passage:

We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve

I understand what the president was getting at: We must, as a nation, stop focusing on the things that divide us and find strength in those that unite us. I get that. But, speaking as a person who identifies strongly with his own tribe, I don’t believe that we must erase who we are and melt into some homogeneous mass to move forward or to thrive as a nation. We can maintain our tribal identities and unite as a nation behind a shared purpose or to battle a common enemy. It is the richness of our diverse experiences, perspectives and insights that gives us our strength as a people.

Still in all, today was a day that gives me hope for our nation and our way of life. I trust that President Obama will live up to the commitments he made in Indian Country during the campaign and that, over time, he will come to see why Western conquest is not an accomplishment to be celebrated by the people who were here first and who are still here.