Friday, March 12, 2010

Prom Tolerance and the Changing of Hearts and Minds



News that the Itawamba County Mississippi school board would cancel its upcoming prom rather than allow a gay student, Constance McMillen, to bring her same sex date to the event was a disturbing but necessary reminder of just how hostile much of the nation to the 'full acceptance' of LGBT people, and that includes students.

Perhaps the school system's decision is based in fear rooted in flawed and prejudiced assumptions, that by allowing a teenager to bring her same sex date to such a traditional event as the prom, the powers that be may appear to be condoning gayness to the local masses. More likely,moral concerns extending from literal interpretations of scripture, verses located on the same pages where one finds instructions for the stoning of adulterers and punishments for wearing certain types of textiles. But then again, the Mississippi prom case is more likely just another piece of fallout from a very commonly held membership in a society where there is a quiet tolerance of homophobia which is nothing more than a phobia of homosexuality itself.

It's easy to draw comparisons to this incident and a 1994 case involving a student in the little east Alabama town of Wedowee. In February of that year, the principal of Randolph County High School called the student body, then around 60% white and 40% black, to an assembly, where he asked the group how many juniors and seniors planned to attend the prom with 'dates' as he put it, "outside their race?" To his, and perhaps many northern readers who later read details of this tale surprise, several students did in fact raise their hands. Reportedly, the principal, a white man named Hulond Humphries, promptly cancelled the prom, asking, "how would that look at a prom, a bunch of mixed race couples?"

Most would probably agree, that no matter how you phrase it, spin it or frame it, at the root of the Wedowee principal's prom decision in 1994, was phobia, a phobia of African American students mixing with whites, and that phobia, still held by many in America, is most likely rooted in racism of one form or another.

But, back to present day Mississippi. There is no denying the bravery of this young student who with help from the ACLU is standing up to authority. It is a shame, that the majority of students who are most likely heterosexual are upset about seeing their big night get spoiled. Like the 1994 Wedowee principal, Itawamba County officials had rather cancel the event, than run the risk of 'appearing unsavory' after all, how would it look if their are lesbians at the prom? Worth mentioning, for those LGBT leaders in bastions of tolerance, far from places like rural Mississippi, the hope is they will not only take notice of this young girl's brave actions, but, instill the support of all watching this little drama unfold. Because, in truth, its those drama's that unfold daily in the smaller places of America's heartland, where hearts and minds are changed, ever so slowly, but oh so often, surely. You see that kind of change in places like Ashburn Georgia, a small town 160 miles south of Atlanta, that held its first integrated black and white together prom in 2007, yes, that' just two years ago. Guess who voted for the change from 'Jim Crow" appearing segregation to modern day integration, the majority of the student body, all 212 of them. One hopes too, that despite old thought principals or school boards caught up in society's prejudices, moral conflicts or hang-ups based in misinterpretation or hate, that students like Constance McMillen, will someday have the support of her student body, and that they too, will vote for an integrated prom along the same lines as those kids in Georgia but perhaps, these kids will go a bit further on the tolerance trail, a place where black, white, straight, gay or whatever well behaved junior or senior from that school gains admission to the prom and dances the night away with his or her date, regardless of whether that date is a boy or a girl.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Drawing a line in the sand on Healthcare reform


Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY-R) told Democrats in the Senate that `every election this fall will be a referendum" on health care reform. McConnell, was rattling his saber after President Obama threw down the gauntlet, where he said congress owes the American people a final vote on healthcare reform. The president gave his blessings to procedural `reconciliation,' a way by which Democrats bypass what has become unanimous Republican opposition to the legislation, in other words, get'er done!

Mind you, the healthcare reform bill is flawed. And, the ways by which the miles high pile of details contained in this bill, the nuts and bolts of "what this legislation" would mean to the American people, have been short in coming to say the least. Republicans and others have seized upon what they portray as frightening hints of socialism, portraying the bill as government interference into the private sector that they falsely proclaim serves us well. But, truth be told, we live in a nation that is home to a healthcare system that does serves some well, while it neglects our less fortunate, the uninsured citizens among us, a number now approaching 50 million with another 15 million considered "under-insured." Even those who are insured, are unlikely to sing the praises of their insurance companies, especially in these days of skyrocketing premiums and added costs where every nook and cranny within the healthcare system's costs are already interconnected much like a synthetic rubik's cube.

Take note, a February 16 RAND Corporation analysis found that the Senate healthcare reform plan would cause overall health spending to increase by 2 percent because of 'increased utilization among newly insured people.'
For those worried about increased health care costs, RAND says the legislation would help drive down out of pocket insurance premiums. Researchers at RAND estimated that premiums in the employer-sponsored market in 2019 would be 2 percent lower and the premiums paid by individuals buying insurance through exchanges would be 3.7 percent lower than otherwise expected.

Further the analysis found that by 2019, about 28 million people would purchase insurance through the Health Benefit Exchanges mandated by the legislation. The Exchanges would be state-run organizations through which private companies would sell health insurance to individuals. Researchers at RAND estimate that 15 million of those who use the exchanges would qualify for government subsidies to help pay for their insurance.

RAND predicts that among the 25 million Americans who would remain uninsured in 2019, about one-third (9 million) would be eligible for Medicaid but not enroll.

The study finds that health care legislation passed by the Senate would cut the number of uninsured Americans to 25 million by 2019 (a 53 percent decrease) and increase overall national spending on health care by about 2 percent cumulatively between 2013 and 2019.

Perhaps what makes all of this back and forth politicking over healthcare reform even more infuriating, is that Democrats have yet to seize this bull by the horns and broadcast the deeper truths and connect the dots for those Americans who do have insurance already. Truth's like findings from the privately run Commonwealth Fund who reported in a August 2009 study, that employer sponsored health insurance premiums increased by 119% from 1999 until 2008. The study projects that premiums will double again without some sort of reform measure.

Fact of the matter, with healthcare reform as it stands, American families will likely save almost $4,000 by 2020 according to the Commonwealth Fund study.

As things stand, Democrats have yet to demonstrate that they have gumption and ability to forge legislation through to fruition that will impact the lives of their constituents in a positive way. With the current somewhat flawed, but still `incrementally' positive healthcare reform bill, Democrats have the chance to show they are proactive as leaders and that government can do good things for its people. The President is correct to ask that they draw a line in the sand, and that they pass this bill.