As I watched news coverage last night of the vote to repeal Ohio’s union busting law that newly elected Republican governor, John Kasich, rammed through the state legislature earlier this year, I was struck about the massive margin the vote garnered. Issue 2, written so that a “no” vote was “for” repeal, went down by a wide margin, with over 60 percent voting against stripping union rights. Kasich, publicly rebuked for this blatant over-reach, was appropriately humble in a post-election statement. His humility after being soundly defeated was a far cry from the arrogant boasting he engaged in when he began this effort after conservative Republicans swept into office in 2010. After being elected and announcing his assault on union rights, Kasich said, “You get on the bus, or we’re gonna run you over.” Last night, he got thrown off that bus by the people of Ohio. It was a harsh lesson in democracy, that just because you happened to be elected by some of people, you have to serve all of the people. One would hope that this particular politician learned his lesson. We’ll know for sure by his future behavior.
Jeffrey Hopkins, English translator for the Dalai Lama for 10 years, once wrote of one of the Dalai Lama’s lectures where he stated that “Kindness is Society”. Upon hearing this, Hopkins at the time thought that he had meant, through broken English, that “kindness is important for society”, but then realized that the Dalai Lama was speaking literally. Without kindness, there is no society. Without concern for other people, society can’t exist. It’s a key lesson that many politicians, like Governor Kasisch, would be wise to learn. Our Founders, even over 230 years ago, seemed to understand in their own way what Republicans don’t seem to understand today. Phrases such as the “common good”, “pursuit of happiness”, and “all men are created equal” ring true to the concept of “kindness is society”.
Power, position, and money, unfortunately, now dominate today’s politics. Republicans now use fearmongering, hate, and bigotry as bludgeons in the war for that power, unashamedly dividing people to get what they want. Any objective observer knows that unions, teachers, and middle class workers were not the cause of huge government overspending and certainly not the cause of a global meltdown of banks and other financial institutions. The problem is that Republicans decided to use those crises as an opportunity to cynically push their own ideology, scapegoating entire segents of the population. That was situation in Ohio, along with Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, and other states. We are fortunate that the voters of Ohio were at least paying enough attention to send the message back to those politicians that they disagreed with their power grab.
We all know that union busting has much less to do with budgets and spending than it does winning the next election. Surely, reforms must be made in the way many health and wage benefits are paid to public workers; disenfranchising tens of thousands of innocent workers and stripping away their rights is not the way to do it. If our politicians actually practiced the belief that “kindness is society”, perhaps it would be so.
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