Sunday, August 11, 2013

Just say no

January 15 is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday (and my son's as well as the anniversary of the first Super Bowl). I have been asked to keynote the celebration at the University of Tennessee as well as UT's observance of 50 years of desegregation. I have also been asked to speak at my alma mater's celebration at the University of Georgia. Speaking at Georgia is appropriate since I am that university's first black male freshman. I came late to appreciating Martin Luther King. Having grown up in that era and participating in its events, I looked upon King as just another civil rights leader. It was only when I read Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters did I began to grasp the singular importance of King. I had always wondered why the civil rights movement did not turn into an armed conflict. In the south, we all had guns so why didn't we use them? It was the power of King's personality and his devotion to Ghandi's nonviolence that resulted in blacks turning the other cheek and letting the spectacle of white violence shift national public opinion. In that spirit, I would like to see the same type of nonviolent protest on government mandated healthcare. To date 35 state legislatures have either passed resolutions or laws banning federal mandated healthcare. Also a judge in Virginia has ruled it unconstitutional. Moreover, AGs from 21 states have filed suit against the federal government over this provision. Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose the mandate. But what if the Supreme Court rules it is constitutional? Then I propose that we Americans just say no. Although we are law biding citizens, it does not necessarily follow that we must obey the law blindly. What if we opted not to buy the insurance and do so on a nationwide basis? Could the federal government dare enforce it? I think not. It would be helpful if the republicans in congress would also encourage massive civil disobedience. If they cannot defund the legislation or repeal it, then they should help lead the public to refuse to follow the mandate. In the absence of national leadership on this issue, what is needed is the rise of another Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the way in just saying no.