My Point of View: Government needs to protect everyone’s rights

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

You will know them by their fruits.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Our state Rep. Peggy Bennett tried unsuccessfully to require a popular vote on our new state flag design, which would have delayed a change. What Bennett doesn’t mention is that the previous flag’s design was overtly white supremacist.

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European settlers determined that Minnesota’s land belonged in the “white man’s grasping hand,” and the Dakota and Ojibwe people who already lived here would have to go, either through death or displacement.

“White man’s grasping hand” is a verbatim phrase from the jaw-dropping “Seal of Minnesota” poem written in 1850. The entire poem is white supremacist and pro-theft. It may have once been normal, but retiring that shameful symbol that flew over our state government buildings for over a century was long, long overdue.

Bennett wanted to keep this symbol of white supremacy aloft.

Our new state flag, which wasn’t my favorite design, is still 10,000 times better than the old racist seal on a blue background.

Another flag in the news this month is the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag that right wing conservatives Justice Alito and Speaker Johnson have both displayed.

It is a Revolutionary War-era flag that Christian Nationalists, including Jan. 6 insurrectionists, have now appropriated.

The modern usage of this flag is really an appeal to authoritarianism, in this case theocracy.

We’ve been there, done that. The Age of Absolutism, in which the “Divine Right of Kings” could not be questioned without risking imprisonment, torture and/or death, was no paradise for common people. Our forefathers fought the Revolutionary War to win their independence from this oppressive system.

Our Constitution is the product of the Age of Enlightenment, a rejection of theocratic rule. Now Christian Nationalists want to lead us back to the Age of Absolutism.

Why would some be willing to surrender their power to a pompous Sun King who claims power from divine authority, promises simple answers to hard problems and surrounds himself with costumed people who fawn over him?

Perhaps a multiracial, multiethnic and secular democracy is more frightening to some. Over the last hundred years, we have undergone a major expansion of full rights of citizenship to include more groups of people.

When people support Christian Nationalism and exclusion instead of valuing the Enlightenment ideas that our rights are based on, it puts our democracy in a fragile state.

Expansion of rights, though, is aligned with Jesus’s teachings in the New Testament. Jesus was radically inclusive, and he radically humanized people who were at the margins of society. In the Bible texts, Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality or abortion, even though both were practiced.

Think about that in the context of what Christian Nationalists push in their political agenda. They talk derisively about “diversity” and “inclusion” and obsess about taking away women’s reproductive rights and criminalizing homosexuality.

They didn’t get it from Jesus’s teachings, as much as they claim their agenda is “Christian.”

Not only have they cut Jesus’s teachings from their agenda, they have treated capitalism like a divine invention that cannot be questioned. Capitalism is very much man-made, extremely powerful and capable of exploiting every worker and environmental resource available to enrich those who control it.

This exploitation is not in alignment with Jesus’s teachings. The conservative answer to critiques of capitalism? Communists!

A communist is, apparently, anyone who threatens the divine right of corporate profits.

Brad Kramer tacked on a line about the DFL being aligned with “murderous communists” at the end of his My Point of View column last week. It’s another example of using the term as a cheap smear, backed up by nothing.

It is a weak spot for Republicans that the Democratic agenda is more closely aligned with Jesus’s teachings, even though Democrats rarely use that language and are more likely to defend the separation of church and state.

Conservatives, on the other hand, are more likely to endorse tax cuts for the ultra wealthy, industry-friendly deregulation and subsidies for corporations, which hurt rural communities and create a wider gulf between the have-nots and the have-yachts.

The bill for deregulation eventually comes due. In yet another example of deregulation harming rural communities while big city CEOs and shareholders cash in, Alpha Media laid off a number of local on-air radio hosts who work at KATE, The Breeze and KAUS in favor of national syndication that is cheaper to produce. There used to be caps on how many stations a single company could own.

We need government in our corner. Rural communities need regulation to protect local jobs, fair wages and working conditions, clean waterways and clean air. We don’t have these things by accident. We only have them to the extent that we vote for leaders who protect them.

We need government that protects everybody’s rights.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.