Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing Politics with Genocide

Not too long ago, in response to the Sudanese government's genocidal policies, Assemblyman Bill Payne shepherded a bill through the Statehouse that would prohibit the state of New Jersey from investing in Sudan.

In doing so the Garden State joined Illinois as the only state in the land to put its money were its mouth is when it comes to the extermination of an entire race.

The move to divest was largely hailed as an important symbolic move. In fact, the House of Representatives commended New Jersey and Illinois for their leadership on this issue . Likewise, all over the country, men and women of conscience were pleased to see someone finally doing.... something. After all, genocide is forever and already the number of dead and displaced is too high to count.

You'd think with something as serious as mass extermination , most people would be sympathetic to the cause. But you'd be wrong.

From a recent Rush Limbaugh show:
Democrats "want to get us out of Iraq, but they can't wait to get us into Darfur," Limbaugh said.

He continued: "There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It's black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they're in trouble."
Now it's possible that it was the OxyContin doing the talking, but still.....

Limbaugh fans notwithstanding, I suspect anyone troubled about the plight of Darfur is probably concerned that hundreds of thousands of people are dying. Black, white, or polka dotted, it wouldn't matter much. Am I right?

Now it's worth pointing out that Assemblyman Payne's leadership on the issue of genocide in Darfur is a family affair. His brother, Congressman Donald Payne chairs the Africa and Human Rights sub committee in Washington who has made Darfur a huge personal priority. Unfortunately the lack of leadership in the Whitehouse (and State Department) have limited the American response to hollow gestures for the most part. (In fact in a Dec 'o6 interview with Blue Jersey Congressman Payne remarked that the United States finds itself currently in a pickle where our purported human rights values are in direct conflict with our post-9/11 "intelligence" objectives.)

It's for these reasons that New Jersey and Illinois' brave position on Darfur (and genocide on general) is so unique and noteworthy.

Now what?

First of all, regarding Limbaugh, click over to Media Matters and add your name to the growing list of folks demanding an apology from Rush for his latest race-based rant. It might not seem like it would make much difference, but here at Blue Jersey we have a proud tradition of rising up to challenge hate speech on the airwaves. Imus? Jersey Guys? Hello!

After that, call your representatives in Trenton. Very, very few places have laws on the books that specifically address the situation in Darfur. New Jersey is one of them. This issue was very much a bi-partisam one so keep this issue on Trenton's radar!

Finally, call Congressman Donald Payne. He's chairman of the House Africa and Human Rights Subcommittee, thus represents all New Jerseyans in that capacity. Again, remind him how much genocide matters to you.

And when you're done with all that feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. I've no doubt that you have something to say about genocide or Rush Limbaugh (or both), so by all means fire away.

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