Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Christmas--And even the Poor and Minorities get a Present This Year

The Obama administration left a huge Christmas present under the tree for 81,938 minority citizens in South Carolina. These citizens had already registered to vote but lacked a Photo-identification card. Thomas E. Perez the Chief of the Civil Rights Division was referring particularly to a driver's license issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles which is the most common form of photo identification.

In the wake of immigration fears many states have enacted new laws that tighten the rules for voting. John Lewis, no stranger to discrimination has said that this law was "a deliberate and systematic attempt" to prevent millions of elderly, low-income and minority Americans from voting.

This pathetic law reminds me of the old poll tax in the South--you had to pay to vote. Of course it kept many poor that were black and white from the polling places. This law also reminds me of all the obstacles that many states used to block mostly black citizens from voting in the sixties and before. Demanding that they quote huge portions of the US Constitution, answering trick questions that almost no one could answer, threatened with loss of job and sometimes life if they did not go home and keep quiet.

This has been a wearying year for many of us as we have looked at the fear in the eyes of so many Hispanics. Perhaps this is the first step in righting a very great wrong. David Savage, in the LA Times has written a great article on this issue that you might want to read.

At Christmas we remember again that little couple hunkered down in a drafty barn feeling left out of so much in their world. And yet this holy day above all else reminds us of that wonderful Lukan passage that Jesus read when his first public statements in his home-town synagogue. It was a Prelude of all he would ever do. He carefully unrolled the Isaiah scroll that had been written to another group of disenfranchised--Jews who were returning home after years in exile.

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4.18-19)

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