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Day: August 26, 2017

Racists are made not born

Different races? Racism? Such matters rarely touched my young life growing up on Oregon’s northern coast. Most everyone in town was of northern European extraction while I was not aware of an African-American until I reached high school,  he being the only one—a man who shined shoes in a barber shop downtown and lived in its basement.  There were two youths in my high school of other origins, two Chinese-Americans.

I did not acquire good or bad thoughts about persons of other races. The African-American shoeshine guy was likeable whenever I went for a haircut and the two Chinese-American kids mainly kept to themselves.

Meanwhile, there were those among my fellow Americans who adopted racist views.  I got huge doses of their views and values on the subject from my college and university years as well as the world of work among my fellow Americans from teaching and training positions inside the U.S. as well as overseas.  Throughout my adult life I have asked, “How do these people become racists?”

It would require more space than what’s available here for a comprehensive treatment of the subject.  However, should the reader be interested in exploring some of the major reasons that have been identified, let’s consider a few.  In the mean time, the subject continues active in me and cries out for attention.

It’s argued that the most common reason people become racists is due to their environment and upbringing. So, if one’s parents are racists and raise the child with their ideals, then prejudice and racism can be taught or ingrained at an early and impressionable age.  It’s challenging for a child to distinguish the difference between right and wrong when his or her parents, their first role models and people they love and respect, inculcate racist ideas. Then, too, as one grows and matures, those exposures, often years-in-length, can indoctrinate a person as much as youth want to make and keep friends by going along to get along with the same hair style, mode of dress, social and sports activities, and points of view.

This second point can be difficult for many Americans to accept.  Nevertheless, highly reputable study after study has found that a person is racist because he or she has low intelligence.  As far as why racist people are more likely to have lower than average IQs is open to interpretation.  Let’s review a couple here, including that people with low IQs may be more impressionable and thereby less open-minded when it comes to changing childhood impressions. In other words, from where they started in life, with all its early and later influences, remain largely unchanged regarding their foundational views of the world.

Much of this approach to the matter has to do with what makes up the size of the parts of a person’s brain.  Apparently, the ability to think and problem solve has a great deal to do with brain parts like the amount of amygdala versus gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex. Studies have disclosed that heavy on amygdala fosters fear over anything new and different while more gray matter helps to reason, understand and practice empathy. Bottom line: racism is a form of simplifying things for those who have a problem with complex issues that require open-mindedness, understanding and dealing with that which is novel and fresh.

All of this can get very scientific and esoteric to the average American. Meanwhile, we have some large and very troubling problems in our country related to racism and the consequences of it in the form of white supremacists, the KKK, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and so many hateful others.  As an American, I try not to be naïve about the prospects of changing our people into Kumbayaists; yet, we know we could do a huge-lot better than now and, of greatest importance, just because an American may not arrive in life with great gobs of gray matter, or whatever it takes, without excuses, does not mean that person is not educable.

Today, now, finally, may we Americans re-dedicate ourselves as a people to those founding principles that established our nation whereupon this great land fulfills its promises from the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution and we, from the many, really become one.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

Schrader: White House turmoil begets Congressional opportunity

Of the Keizertimes

Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) is trying to find the bright side of controversial remarks by President Donald Trump regarding protests in Charlottesville, Va., which left one counter-protestor dead.

“Trump’s horrifying remarks on Charlottesville have been denounced on both sides, and I think it will help us realize we are more on the same page than not,” Schrader said.

Rep. Schrader is home from Washington, D.C., while Congress is on a break and made a swing through Keizer Thursday, Aug. 17, that included speaking at a Rotary Club of Keizer meeting and a stop at the Keizertimes office.

At a time when the nation seems as divided as ever, Schrader said he is looking for solutions.

“I think there is great opportunity as (Trump) pushes Republicans and Democrats closer to working together,” he said.

Despite partisan battles over the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Schrader and several of his fellow Democrats began formulating a plan to solve the problems of the ACA rather than repeal it entirely. That effort spawned a bipartisan plan to stabilize individual health care markets.

The plan encompasses several changes, including a repeal of a medical device tax, adjusting the employer mandate to affect only those businesses with 500 employees or more, allowing for more innovation within state-run health care exchanges and placing control of the cost-sharing-reduction (CSR) payments under the oversight of Congress.

CSR payments are made to insurers to offset the costs of providing discount insurance plans for Americans who make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty limit. Recently, Trump threatened to withhold the payments entirely before deciding to make the August payments. It is uncertain what will happen in the coming months.

“Under reconciliation, the plan to repeal the ACA, the President can stop the payments from occurring, but the insurance companies still have to offer those plans,” Schrader said. “If the payments are withheld one of two things occurs: premiums go through the roof, or insurance companies decide they don’t want to play in the individual market.”

Putting the authority for mandating those payments under congressional purview would restore some certainty while still maintaining oversight, he added.

Schrader said the effort to put forward solutions has given the Blue Dog Democrats, a caucus of conservative Democrats of which Schrader is a member, more traction in DC than they’ve had in the past.

“We are being welcomed back into the fold because the route back to the majority is the Blue Dog Democrats. We have to get back into the districts that were underperforming from the Democratic standpoint in terms of Trump support,” Schrader said.

Aside from the fight around health care, circumstance has placed Schrader at the helm of two efforts to reform veterans rights. He is sponsoring two bills that could have a big impact on veterans throughout the country. The first, the HOMES Act, would establish a 10-year statute of limitations on civil obligations for deployed soldiers. The intent would be to prevent active duty service members from losing their homes while serving. The second, the Involuntary Recall Bill, would provide exemptions for soldiers who accepted retirement buyouts and were later injured while involuntarily recalled to active duty. Under current rules, retirement checks can be withheld until the buyout amount is repaid.

Schrader said both bills were just recently introduced, but he doesn’t foresee resistance within Congress.

Another bill that has already cleared both the House and Senate takes aim at prescription drug prices by clearing hurdles to get generic options on the market and offering limited exclusivity for the companies that produce them. The bill was a bipartisan effort of Schrader and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.).

“If we can give the right incentives, we can get the generics companies into the market. With that, the incentive to rip off the marketplace goes away,” Schrader said.

Schrader is also part of a subcommittee dealing with energy policy and trying to forecast what that looks like for the years and decades ahead.

“I’m an all-of-the-above energy guy. I favor renewables – I am a Northwesterner – but there are great swaths of this country that depend on fossil fuels to power their economy,” he said.

Given the Blue Dogs’ seeming resurgence, Schrader said there are lessons the group – and the Republican counterpart, the Tuesday Group – could impart to all of the nation’s lawmakers.

“Don’t demonize someone because they have a different point of view. Try to figure out what that person really needs. We all want healthcare, but do we need to repeal ACA or are you worried about the growth in entitlements or the increase in premiums,” Schrader said. “Long-term solutions are bipartisan solutions. Partisan decisions are not representative of where the American public is at during any given point in time. Ostensibly, the Congress is supposed to represent the people, not just the team that won the last election.”