Friday, July 13, 2018

Conversations about politics

One of my instructors in college, soon after the end of World War II, insisted that if the US government had wanted to establish concentration camps, it would not have had difficulties finding guards. In every nation, he insisted, one could find people given to violence and brutality to match the guards in German concentration camps.
The separation of babies, infants and children from their parents as they come across the border with Mexico, reminds me of these conversations in college. It appears that there is no shortage of border guards who are willing to take children from their parents. According to one story a nursing baby was taken from its mother's breast. The President has succeeded in persuading enough people of the evils of unlawful immigration to dispose over an adequate force of men and women ready to detain those immigrants and to split up their families.
How can we deal with these fellow citizens who loyally execute presidential policies that a majority of Americans regard as repugnant and inconsistent with our values?
Democrats are rallying to take back majorities in the House and the Senate by making sure that everyone on their side will actually go and vote this November. That is clearly a good policy but, by itself, it is incomplete. If they succeed and House and Senate will once again have democratic majorities, the quarter or a third of our population that is persuaded that their economic problems are to be blamed on illegal immigration, on Muslims, and other people from abroad will, once again, not have effective political representation. But they will remain where they are, waiting for another electoral cycle when they, once more, will have significant political power. Conservatives currently force their vision on liberals and progressives. If the Left wins the upcoming elections, they will be in a position to force their views on the Right. But the conflict will remain unresolved. The democracy we aspire to in which all the people govern themselves together will remain as remote as ever.
If we are to strengthen the democratic aspects of our society, we need to reduce the extent to which opponents coerce each other. Besides changing the majorities in Congress, we need to talk to our fellow citizens whom Trump inflames with his rhetoric. But how will we talk to them? Can we persuade them that they are wrong and we are right?
Conversations about political disagreements, for instance about immigration usually begin as attempts of each side to convince their opponents that they are mistaken, that what they regard as facts are actual errors, that their inferences are faulty, and their values questionable. But soon these attempts at mutual persuasion degenerate into shouting matches. Emotions rise, mutual understanding fails completely.
We tend to blame this failure of conversations about politics on the irrationality of our opponents. Instead of listening carefully to our arguments, examining our evidence and trying to pinpoint agreements and disagreements, they reject out of hand what we have to say. Irrationality manifests itself as unwillingness to listen carefully and respectfully. Rationality involves respect of the opponent in all but the most extreme cases. A necessary precondition of serious conversations between political enemies is mutual respect. We cannot talk to each other if we secretly believe the other side to be stupid, misinformed, brainwashed by propaganda. Any sort of political conversation that might actually be useful presupposes that each side is willing to recognize the other side as an equal partner in the conversation, as a partner to learn from and not merely as a benighted ignoramus to be an enlightened by our superior understanding.
But this form of irrationality is not the exclusive characteristic of conservatives. Leftists and progressives too often fail to listen with care and respect to their conservative opponents. Both sides to political controversy need to make, often difficult, efforts to listen and respond respectfully to their opponents.
You cannot have that kind of mutually respectful conversation with everybody. Some opponents may be too rigid or, yes, too unintelligent to be able to participate. Some are unable or unwilling to manage their strong commitments to a specific political stance. But there are enough people one could have a useful conversation with if only one tried.
Many families have members on either side of this political divide. If family members do not get along, have never gotten along, have always secretly despised each other, a useful political dialogue is not in their future. But there also are family members who sort of like each other except for their very different political orientation.
These are the people that should give each other the benefit of the doubt and explore quietly their differences as well as their shared values in order to discover why they have such different assessments of the President's agenda. Here is a chance for each to learn something, to broaden their understanding of one another and perhaps even to learn from each other.
Similarly, friends and acquaintances, co-workers are in relationships that allow for possibly enlightening conversations. Rarely will they persuade each other to give up cherished political principles. But instead of remaining completely at loggerheads, unable to understand each other or to have informative conversations, they may find enough agreements to engage in joint actions. Even though they continue to differ in deep ways, they can resolve disagreements sufficiently to act in concert.
As long as each party to current political divides insists that they are right and their opponents incompetent, bumbling, and mistaken our political system will oscillate between "progressive" and conservative majorities coercing their opponents. When each is in power they will force the others to follow their policies. Cooperation will be rare and insignificant.
Cooperation is possible only among groups that manage to have useful conversations and those are possible only when each party is genuinely willing to listen to the other and is prepared to change its mind, to appreciate the insights of the opponent in order to forge some kind of, however limited, consensus. The determination of each side to shoe the other side the error of its ways, instead of being of the essence of rationality, makes rational conversation impossible.
For that to happen both sides need to speak to each other respectfully.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Greatest Democracy on Earth

Americans boast about their democracy. They have built up a formidable military machine in order to force our electoral system on other countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
But holding regular elections does not make a country democratic. In recent months Turkey and Egypt and other countries, for instance Russia, have held elections but not before making sure that no serious challengers would be able to run against the existing government.
Now we don't do that. In spite of all the talk about putting Hillary Clinton in prison, no one has tried to do that. But we have other ways of controlling who runs for president. The moneyed people refuse to finance third parties. You don't have to jail people to keep them off the ballot.
There is another reason for denying that electoral systems are, of course, democratic. Elections are not an end in themselves. They are one part of the democratic process by which a people manages its own affairs. In a democracy the people govern themselves. They decide who will be in the government and, More importantly, what policies the government will follow. Holding regular elections, even if they are squeaky clean, does not suffice to empower the people at large run their own lives.
If the people are going to be self determining, they need to decide together what policies to follow. They need therefore to consult with each other and try as hard as possible to reach compromises, to establish shared principles, or even to disagree on principles but work together on concrete projects. But the basic goal must always be to reach consensus as far as possible on what we all think is best for all of us.
Our political life today is very different. We have two political parties, both financed by the super rich and they struggle with each other for votes. The goal of the democratic process is not to come together around policies we think will benefit all of us. The goal of our electoral system is to allow some people to make other people do what they don't want to do. The Democrats passed Obama care. The Republicans try to dismantle it. The Democratic administration try to reduce pollution from automobiles and power plants. The Republican administration drops all those regulation and gives free reign to polluters. The Democratic administration wanted to give young people brought here as children a chance to become educated citizens. The Republican administration treats all immigrants, with papers or without, as rapists and murderers.
Neither party is interested in popular self-government. Instead they mislead, misinform and lie to the people at large. The people cannot make reasonable decisions because they are ill informed.
Politicians have two goals: they try to raise money for their campaigns and they try to get as many votes as possible. They are not particularly interested in what is good for the people they supposedly represent. They are not interested in popular self-government; they want to be re-elected. They are not interested in democracy, but in an electoral system that pretends to be democratic but is not. There are many examples of their indifference to the well being of the majority of Americans:
The economy is said to be in excellent shape but significant numbers of Americans are poor or are barely getting by, living paycheck to paycheck, unable to save for their old age or unable to pay for education for themselves or their children. A half million Americans are homeless; 25% of those were children. When he was campaigning for president, Sen. McCain when asked how many houses he owned, could not remember whether it was eight or nine. He did not offer any of the two house his homeless fellow citizens. Health care for the poor is precarious and becoming more so every day.
Racial problems beset this republic abetted by an administration that caters to primitive racism among whites. The disproportionate number of people of color in prison, the serious health problems of persons of color, and the second-rate education given to many children of color are of no concern to the current government. They gain votes by being racist and that's all they care about.
Americans die every day of opioid overdoses. There is a great deal of hand wringing about that among politicians. But so far we have seen no action, no plans to improve treatment of addicts, to study problems of addiction. The problem is not really on the political agenda.
The environmental crisis becomes more acute and threatening every day. Our government blandly denies the facts of harsher climate events, rising temperatures, greater frequency of storms, floods, and wildfires. Coastal areas are endangered by rising sea levels. Glaciers and ice caps at the North and South Pole are melting. Politicians and our government sit on their hands.
A political system that caters only to the well-being of a small number of citizens – those that are affluent to being super rich – is not a democracy. We live in an oligarchy. This is not an oligarchy of the exceptionally knowledgeable and insightful. It is not an oligarchy of men and women dedicated to public service. It is an oligarchy of capitalists who will do anything to get richer than they already are, never mind how their enriching themselves will make the lives of other Americans more difficult.
So much for democracy in America.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

                                        Love of country


The owners in the National Football League have come up with a 'compromise' between the pressures from the President and other conservatives and the free-speech rights of their players. There will be no more demonstrations during the national anthem before games, but players who do not want to stand for the national anthem can remain in the clubhouse until the game actually begins.
The players who would have been kneeling during the national anthem in order to protest police brutality against young black men and women are not satisfied with this new rule. They have protested that they are as patriotic as the owners (or the President). They feel that their love of their country is being impugned and they are defending themselves.

But what is this "love of country"?

This is an apt time to raise that question. We talk a lot about patriotism on Memorial Day.

It is one of the national holidays where it is traditional for us to tell outrageous lies about who we are and how we live our lives. Having just passed that milestone, it is now time to look at the truth.

It seems as if protesting current police practices and protesting economic inequalities which leave black Americans disproportionately poor, in poor health and in prison is perceived as unpatriotic by conservatives. When they love their country, they love the country as it is replete with injustices, with unimaginable wealth for some and serious deprivations for others.

The protesters, on the other hand, are deeply troubled by prevailing injustices. They cannot love the country as it is. They do not love the actual country. They love the possibilities of change, of re-distributing opportunities, of opening possibilities to those who now have little to look forward to. They love the many Americans – well-known leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks and ordinary citizens whose names we do not know – who take our promise to ourselves of freedom and equality sufficiently seriously to resist injustices where they see them, doggedly refusing to be treated as less worthy of respect than the rich and famous such as the owners of football teams.

In the clash over protests before football games two different versions of patriotism confront each other. Love of country as acceptance of all our failings, of all the ways in which we fall so very short of the brave and shining pronouncements about American democracy, and love of country as love of our ideals and commitment to struggling to approximate them more closely than we are doing today.

The conservative patriot loves America as she is today including its pervasive racism, including the second-rate status of women, including its commitment to redistribute resources from the poor to the rich – as in the most recent tax reform law. The largely unpunished murders of black people by police contravene the "rule of law" which we are so proud of but honor more by violating than by practicing it. But conservatives accept that too.

The conservative patriotism of the owners in the National Football League is self-serving. America, as she is, has made them very rich.

The love of country of the players protesting injustice,  is the only patriotism that is morally defensible—protesting injustices particularly against young Black whose life is in constant danger and for whom it is very difficult to get a good education and profitable employment legally. By banishing that patriotism to the clubhouse, out of sight, the owners manifest that what they love is being rich not any of the ideals of their country.

The so-called compromise over political protest before football games is truly shameful.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Arming Teachers

In reaction to the Parkland school shooting President Trump suggested that schoolteachers should come to class carrying pistols. Instead of using their free time to improve their command of their subjects or improving their skills as teachers, they should go to the shooting range to improve their aim. This proposal has proved to be quite popular in North America. 
But there is also significant opposition. Particularly teachers themselves have been very critical of this proposal. A number of mishaps involving guns in schools have shown that students are not safer in their classrooms, when their teachers or school police officers come to work armed. In Virginia a school police officer accidentally discharged his weapon sending a bullet into the adjacent middle school classroom. A California teacher demonstrating gun safety in his classroom accidentally put a bullet in the ceiling. Falling debris injured some of the students. A Michigan Sheriff left his loaded weapon in a locker room where a sixth grade student found it.

Since 2014, the Associated Press reported more than thirty mishaps involving weapons brought into schools by sheriffs or teachers. Thirty events endangering the lives of students in school.

The lesson is clear. Guns are dangerous. Bringing them into schools endangers students and teachers. Arming teachers may well decrease safety in schools rather than increasing it.
These are serious reasons for being distrustful of the President's recommendations to deal with school shootings. But there are other reasons behind the groundswell of opposition, especially among schoolteachers, against arming educators. This opposition has been immediate and emotional. It is not clear from what we hear why so many teachers refuse to consider bringing loaded weapons into classrooms.

The reason is, I suspect, that to the teachers carrying loaded weapons is a way of normalizing gun violence. While teaching algebra or history or English grammar, the teacher also conveys another lesson, namely that gun violence is a component of ordinary, normal daily life. You need to be prepared to respond to shooters bursting into your classroom. It is a part of ordinary everyday life that people pull guns on each other. Everyone must be prepared to defend themselves against such violent aggression.

Many Americans, many schoolteachers, want to resist this Wild West picture of normal life. They refuse to accept this narrative of life in civilized society being one of personal violence, of lethal aggression against which everyone needs to be ready to defend themselves. Social life where blazing guns are part of everyday life may describe accurately what it is like to live in Sudan or Somalia or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but ours, many Americans insist, is a civilized country. Gun violence is the exception not the rule. We have police officers specialized to deal with those exceptional situations. Ordinary citizens talk to one another. They may get exasperated and raise their voices. There may be fistfights at times. But gun violence is not normal; it is not acceptable. It should not be encouraged by arming more people to start shooting when they think their life is in danger.
Obviously Americans disagree about this. Different states have different rules about carrying guns, openly or concealed.

There are two very different pictures of what life in America is and should be like. There are those who believe that in public life violence is the exception and that means that only the police should be armed. Others think that gun violence is a daily occurrence. It is a normal part of life in this society and all must be ready to defend themselves.

The disagreement is fundamental. It is our heritage of centuries of violence against the native inhabitants of the continent. In the past, daily life could always erupt into violence, public forces to keep the peace were weak or nonexistent, and every citizen needed to be prepared to defend him or herself. The ubiquity of firearms, the streak of violence pervading our public life, a threat to pious Christians as much as to children in schools, is a part of this inheritance from previous generations. It is the price we pay for taking away the land from its previous inhabitants.

It is time to distance ourselves from this shameful past. A major element of this distancing would be to make an honorable peace with the descendants of those whose land we took. Another part of this distancing is to put an end to the culture of private violence, to ban weapons designed to kill human beings and to confiscate them from their owners. Our gun culture is profoundly uncivilized. It gives the lie to our claims to be a great nation that others should emulate.

Monday, May 7, 2018

    Presenting and Misrepresenting 
African-American History


    I spent the week in Washington DC being a tourist. One of the main goals of the expedition was to visit the National Museum of African Americans History and Culture. Admission is free but it is best to apply for a ticket ahead of time because the demand to visit is so great. The day I was there, there were a people of all ages and all colors, Americans and foreigners, but the preponderance were larger and smaller school groups with the majority being white students.

    The museum is quite wonderful. Instead of the many diorama's of old there was music, there were short and longer videos everywhere, there were some interactive displays. The history seemed fairly reliable. There was little attempt to whitewash the brutality of slavery. The presentation was quite explicit in attributing to white landowners the responsibility for embodying the difference between whites and Blacks in legislation at the end of the 17th century. Before then, white and black servants worked side-by-side, socialized and intermarried without any difficulty. By 1700, intermarriage was prohibited, Blacks were no longer allowed to vote, Blacks were not allowed to defend themselves against physical attacks by whites.

    The same can be said about 19th century history, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the long hundred years of Jim Crow where racial divisions were enforced by lynchings. Few whites protested.  There seemed to be few attempts to moderate the horror of that history.

    In the 20th century there is elaborate coverage of the civil rights movement. But now the account begins to leave out important facts. For instance: when veterans came home from World War II a grateful nation passed the G.I. Bill which provided free higher education to all veterans and low-cost mortgages for veterans to buy bungalows in the new suburbs being built in large numbers. Black veterans, however, were excluded. The best universities and colleges refused to accept black students. Real estate agents refused to sell houses in the suburbs to black buyers. Only very small percentages of black veterans were able to take advantage of the benefits all veterans were in principle entitled to.

    Here was surely one of the sources of current inequalities. But this source was not mentioned because the museum is pretty silent about current inequalities. The killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer are there. But any extensive description of the disabilities under which black citizens suffer is missing.

    Here are some of the facts the museum does not mention:

    • In absolute terms, the median white household has, in recent years, $111,000  in wealth holdings compared to $7000 for the median black household. That includes homes, cars and savings.
    • 73% of white households owned their home as compared to 43% of black families
    • Unemployment among Blacks is twice the rate of unemployment among Whites
    • The poverty rate among Whites is less than 10% versus 27% among Blacks
    • Cancer is the second leading cause of death for both non-Hispanic Blacks and non-Hispanic Whites. In 2001 the incidence for 100,000 persons was substantially higher for poor Black females than for White females for certain cancers. All in all health for Blacks is significantly worse than for Whites.
    • Infant mortality rates in the US in 2013 was five per thousand births for white women and more than 11 per thousand for black women.
    • Five times as many black people are incarcerated as whites.

    The list of inequalities between Black and White is much longer. In the vast majority of comparisons Blacks are at a disadvantage.

    These omissions are not surprising once we look at the lists of large donors of the Museum. General Motors gave more than $1 million as did Goldman Sachs. The pillars of the current power structure will not want ordinary citizens to know the extent of the racial crisis. They don't want American schoolchildren to leave the museum wondering why the government and the very rich are content to allow these major injustices to continue.

    The relative honesty with which the early history of race relations in this country are treated makes the public trust all of the presentations and thus citizens go home thinking that police brutality towards young black men and women is the last remaining problem that Black people face.

    Downtown Washington DC is one tremendous propaganda effort. The National Museum of African-American History and Culture makes a significant contribution to that propaganda effort.

Surprise, surprise.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Are we civilized? Not really.

When families or single mothers are apprehended at the US border with Mexico, the Border Patrol agents will often take the children away from their elders and send them to a separate detention facility. These children do not have papers of their own. In the border crossing detention system they become anonymous and reuniting them with their parents becomes extremely difficult.
This story really stayed with me as an example of exceptional cruelty. Imagine managing to flee economic deprivation or continual violence in your home country, traversing several Central American countries and Mexico, succeeding to avoid police, and the military, and private parties preying on refugees. Finally you arrive at the United States borders where you hope to find work and security. But instead your children are taken away and cannot be found again. What a terrible fate.
The Border Patrol claims to follow this practice in order to protect the children. But that is so implausible an explanation; it has to be a blatant lie. In rare moments of frankness, officials of the Border Patrol have admitted that they are using this blatant brutality in the hope of discouraging others from Central America to try to enter the United States.
The story reminds us once again of the pervasiveness of cruelty in the world. Notorious examples are everywhere from the Nazi genocide of Jews in Europe to the oppression of Palestinians by Israelis, to the continued destruction of Syria’s towns and villages, leading mass deaths and deprivation of refugees from Syria, from Yemen, and from Somalia and many other places. Everywhere we see armies, civilian government bureaucracies use their power to injure and kill innocents. These cruelties are as old as humankind.
It is tempting to adopt anarchist beliefs that the state is by its very nature coercive and if we want to live in a world without constant brutalization of the weaker members of society, we need to build a society that has no state, no government, no bureaucracies, no standing armies that lord it over citizens.
But this grand project has serious shortcomings. We need bureaucracies to build roads, to install sewer pipes, water pipes, gas pipes. Someone needs to build and staff schools and many other public utilities. The initiative of individual persons does not suffice to provide the infrastructure for villages towns and cities. So it must be someone's job provided those infrastructures.
In addition someone needs to make rules and enforce them. We do not only need schools and teachers in the classrooms. We need to make sure that children go to school until their 16 (or older). And rules need to be enforced. Someone needs to make sure that food sold in stores is not adulterated or contaminated. Someone else needs to make sure that the gallon of milk you buy is indeed a full gallon and that the butcher does not have his thumb on the scale where he sells you a pound of meat. Someone needs to be available to make sure that the house you buy is safe and healthy.
Rules are needed; rules not enforced are useless. It is a waste of time to try to develop reasonable rules if no one is going to make sure that they will be observed. Making sure that the rulings are observed will involve coercion.
And here we face the terrible dilemma. A livable society appears to require rules and their enforcement through coercion. The institutions that administer coercion are the same institutions that act with terrible brutality such as the Border Patrol that tears families apart.
How can we control all the agencies established to enforce laws so that they will not be brutal and, for instance, murder unarmed young black men and women? The question does not seem to have an answer. The question does not get asked very often.
Our history documents barbarity in the treatment of one group by another. We regard ourselves as more civilized than many other nations or cultures but our behavior gives to lie to that claim. We are not merely as barbaric as any of our ancestors, but we are not even willing to consider how that barbarity may be reduced. We must not remain silent about the children taken from their parents.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Renters’ Woes and Citizen’s Rights

A recent newspaper story detailed the challenge faced by low income renters. Earning just enough to get from one end of the month to the next, any extraordinary expense—an unexpected illness, a car that will not start—will leave them short and unable to pay their rent, buy food, or clothing.

Renters who fall behind on their rent payments may suddenly be summoned to court for an eviction hearing. Many tenants in that situation face a choice of missing a day of work and with it a day’s pay but getting evicted anyway, or ignoring the court summons and being sure to be evicted. The tenants find themselves in a lose-lose situation.

Studies in different cities show that in Milwaukee one in fifty (or 2%) of tenants face eviction in any given year. The number is much higher in Richmond, VA where five in 50 or 10 % of renters in any year may find themselves facing eviction. Just in case anyone is tempted to call up the tired stereotype of the poor as people too lazy to go to work, the reader is reminded of the many people who earn minimum wage or less. In Worcester, MA where I live, an increase of the minimum wage to $ 15 would increase the income of more than forty percent of the workforce. More than forty percent of the men and women working earn less than $15.00 an hour or $600 a week, $30,000.00 a year. What happens, on that income, if a drunk runs a red light and totals your car, or when a family member suddenly suffers a serious health crisis not covered by your cheap health insurance? You may well miss one or two rent payments.

Now you receive a summons to appear in court for a hearing in front of a judge whom the landlord has petitioned to allow an eviction. The judge grants the landlord’s petition. You are forced to move, perhaps, to move in with relatives, or into a homeless shelter. Your children may have to go to different schools. Without a permanent address, you may lose your food stamps. The crew sent to evict you often puts all your possessions out in the street to be picked over by bystanders. You may lose possessions. Eviction means a lot more than losing your accustomed home. 

When your finances are on an even keel again and you are ready to rent another apartment for your family, you will have to be able to pay the security deposit plus first and last months’ rent. That is a serious amount of cash. It will take a while to save up that much on your income. But when you finally have the money landlords, you find, are reluctant to rent an apartment to you because you had previously been evicted. From the perspective of the landlords, you are a very poor risk as a prospective tenant.

Someone may acknowledge the troubles tenants encounter but point out that as long as we recognize the rights to private property and the additional rights to earn money by virtue of owning property, tenants may find themselves evicted if they do not pay their rent. It is no doubt true that some landlords do not maintain their property as they should just as surely as some tenants do not treat their rented property with respect. More energetic enforcement of relevant laws is definitely called for.

But this response overlooks the complexities of this situation. Yes, our society recognizes the rights to private property. But we also limit what sorts of things can be private property. The ongoing debate about “privatization” concerns these limits. There is, for instance, the continuing disagreement whether prisons should be privately owned and managed. For the longest time it was thought that it was one of the prerogative of the government to build, maintain and run prisons.

We would not (I hope) allow private contractors to run our elections and count the ballots and make that a worthwhile business by charging each voter a fee. The result would be that poor people would not vote and that is incompatible with our idea of political equality.

For similar reasons, we still maintain an extended network of public schools because we believe that every child has not only the right but even an obligation to be educated. We can strive for fulfillment of this goal only if there are schools accessible even for the indigent. 

Our belief in the legitimacy of using private property to enrich oneself is limited by the reluctance of the majority to allow basic rights to be compromised by turning needed institutions—elections, school-- into private property and private businesses.

The court system is another interesting example of our belief that the rights we ALL have as citizens should not be compromised by making them into private businesses. Every one is entitled to the protection of the law and that includes access to law courts. Courts are publicly financed; if you go to court you need not pay the judge or the court clerk. This is an especially interesting example because it shows not only that we believe that noone should be prevented by limited income from having access to courts and judges. At the same time we are sufficiently ambivalent about all this that we require the assistance of lawyers in most courts and yet make too few lawyers available for free for those who cannot afford paid legal assistance. 

The problem here is, of course, that citizens are very stingy and are not willing to pay the taxes needed to provide affordable legal care to all citizens even though we believe that poverty should not weaken protection by the law.

That ambivalence is also exhibited in the field of health care. Many Americans believe that health care is a basic right. Every person who is entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is entitled to health care, and that means is entitled to adequate health insurance. But most citizens are unwilling to pay for health insurance for those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves.

There is an important lesson in all of this: If we want to really have equal rights for all—without exceptions-- we have to pay for those who cannot afford the price of equality with respect to access to the legal system, with respect to health care, and with respect to housing. Lately the people and the government and legislators in the US become more and more reluctant to assure all that all citizens have full use of their rights. More and more rights are for those who can afford decent housing, adequate nutrition, legal advice where needed and full health insurance. We are less willing everyday to realize the belief we often rehearse that all humans are created equal. Equality is more and more the privilege of those who can afford it.