President Eisenhower, who is not usually listed as one of our more eloquent presidents, did, in his farewell address coin a memorable phrase. He warned us to be careful of the workings of the "military-industrial complex." This was a stunning cautionary from the five-star general who became a pro-business Republican president. Good advice, ignored at our peril.
What has happened since 1961 is that the concept of the "industrial complex" has morphed from its original state and has become the norm in too many major aspects of our society. One example of this is the "education-industrial complex." More and more educational practices are determined by what benefits textbook publishers, creators of expensive testing programs and the sellers of expensive technology that is needed for specifically designed curriculum programs. This money could be better spent on programs that will intellectually challenge children and teach them to think independently.
Too much of our political process is not about candidates presenting themselves, expressing their ideas and explaining why they should be chosen to lead us. Serious debate of issues has been mostly replaced by focus groups and polling samples which encourage divisive appeals to racial, gender and cultural factions. The interests of "identity politics" has replaced the national interests in too many situations.
By far the worst and most disruptive industrial complexes to form are the various professionally organized "Grievance Industrial Complexes" that have become prominent in the past few years. These professional grievance complexes usually form when a once necessary reform movement has actually achieved its goals. The people who have made their living and centered their careers for a good cause have a dilemma. What do they do now? Do they accept success and work on consolidating hard won gains, or, do they find less important matters and create new causes to agitate for?
Since the main cause has been won, the easy route is to find some nits to pick or some pebbles to turn into boulders and then exaggerate, misinform and misrepresent the matter to try and prove some point. This, in turn, trivializes important issues and turns people’s attention away from important matters. Take, for example, the so-called "war on women" that dominated the Democrat convention in 2012. There was very little discussion of equality in economic opportunity or access to medical treatment. The "glass ceiling" was barely mentioned. The screaming and clapping wasn’t for some principle such as abortion rights, Roe v. Wade took care of that. It wasn’t about access to mammograms or races for the cure. Instead, the prime time issue became a frenzy over whether or not Sandra Fluke should get her contraception paid for by someone else.
This week the "Hobby Lobby case" has become the grievance hysteria du jour.
The grievance complex would have us believe that Obama-care was repealed, women’s health was back to the coat hanger abortion stage and religious fanatics have taken over the court system. Actually the furor over the Hobby Lobby ruling is much ado about very little. The Affordable Care Act is intact. Major corporations are not affected by this narrow ruling. The Supreme Court did not create a new freedom of religion right for corporations. It only re-affirmed the freedom of religion for individuals or families that own businesses. No kind of contraception is denied to anyone or declared ineligible for inclusion in the government approved list of meds. Legally, all that happened was that a regulation made by Secretary Sebelius, not an act of Congress, was found to be in violation of the Religious Freedom Protection Act which was passed in 1993 by a Democrat congress and signed into law by President Clinton.
The sky is not falling. Sharia law is not being imposed. Affordable health care is intact and well. Relax and enjoy the fact that our healthcare is still protected. We still have our freedom of conscience, whether it is religious or philosophical. Let the hysterical weeping and wailing change to shouts of joy.
Weiland Ross is a Banner columnist.
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