Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1418: All we have to do is pass the test

  “When you are being tested, all you have to do is pass the test.” These are words of wisdom from my dear mother who passed on from this world seventeen years ago. I called up her words because I am being tested. You are being tested. We are being tested. We just have to remember that all we have to do is pass the test.

  It is painful for me to see where we are in Alabama and where we are headed. I see it on so many fronts: voting; health care; education; jobs; workers’ rights; women’s rights; immigration; civil justice; criminal justice; political extremism; etc. I don’t despair; I just tell myself that it’s a test, and all we have to do is pass the test.

  Let me explain why the test concept is so important. If we see a huge obstacle as a test, we see it as a challenge. And we take on challenges. We marshal all our resources and might and effort to meet the challenge, to pass the test. If it’s powerful and not a test, we see it as a curse. We do not take on curses. We run from curses and they grow stronger, more powerful and destructive. That’s what my mama was trying to help me to understand three score years ago.

  Our test is mighty. It’s not just uphill, it is up a mountain. The mountain is high and steep and jagged and dangerous. However, the opportunity to save our state is straight up that mountain. Some of us will look at the high, steep, jagged mountain and say, “There is no way we can climb that mountain.” At that moment the mountain becomes a curse. Others of us will look at that mountain and say, “It will be really hard, but we will climb that mountain no matter how high, steep or dangerous.” At that moment the mountain becomes a challenge. This is our test for these times. All we have to do is pass the test.

  We cannot allow attacks on voting rights to succeed however great the challenge. The expansion of voting rights has come at too high a cost in blood and life and struggle and sacrifice. Voting, to paraphrase President Lyndon Baines Johnson, is the most powerful instrument we have to make change for the better. We must overcome misguided voter photo ID restrictions that will prevent hundreds of thousands of Alabama citizens from voting. Voter photo ID is nothing but a ploy to make it difficult for the poor, the minority, the young and the old to vote. The challenge is made more difficult by the fact that a huge majority of Alabamians support voter photo ID in spite of overwhelming evidence that there is no documented fraud of citizens going into voting booths pretending to be someone else in order to vote more than once. The challenge is to get people to go to the polls even once. The real voter fraud comes clothed in legal dress such as photo ID laws. Our challenge is not just uphill, it is up mountain. The only question is whether we are mountain climbers.

  The Alabama Legislature has gerrymandered legislative districts to elect all white Republicans in 27 out of 35 Senate districts. All Democrats would come from the eight majority black districts. Then the legislature will be completely divided not just by party but by race as well. Extremism based on political parties is a dangerous fire. Extremism fueled by race and party becomes a wildfire. We have already seen what division by race has produced in Alabama. Our challenge is to stop this dangerous division wrapped in politics. The challenge is not just uphill, but up mountain. The only question is whether are we mountain climbers?

  We are allowing hundreds of Alabama citizens to die each year for lack of health insurance that can be provided by a stroke of a pen. We are allowing hundreds of thousands to go without timely and adequate health care because they do not have health insurance. We are allowing billions in economic resources to bypass one of the poorest states in the country. We are allowing tens of thousands of jobs to fall by the wayside. We are allowing hospitals to close, fostering decline of our communities. All this is especially terrible because it is based on pure politics. We cannot allow this destructive development to continue even though the challenge is great; not just uphill but up mountain. We must be mountain climbers and meet the test of our times.

  We see what extremism has wrought with Alabama’s radical immigration laws. We see what it has wrought in the reduced funding for public education. We see what it has wrought in crushing workers’ rights and women’s rights. We see what it has wrought in the civil and criminal justice systems. The challenge is very great but we must rise to the challenge. We must pass the test of our times.

  In my humble opinion, the key to passing the test for all these challenges is voting. If we pass the voting test by hundreds of thousands of additional people voting, we will pass the health care test, the education test, the workers’ rights test, the immigration test, the women’s rights test, the civil justice test, the criminal justice test, the political extremism test, and more. First, we must realize that it is a test of our times. Second we must realize that it is squarely on us to pass the test.

EPILOGUE – We have the power to transform curses into productive challenges. All we have to do is realize the curses are tests. Every time has its tests. We just have to pass them.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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