By Chinta Strausberg
Saying the “soul of America” is at stake, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. Wednesday told hundreds of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) students everything blacks have marched, fought and died for in the last 50 years is under “relentless” attack in Trump’s America.
He was referring to the Trump’s administration and Republican allies who continue to design voter schemes that dilute the black and brown vote, strip racial justice, worker’s rights, police accountability, affordable health care, quality and equal public education, religious tolerance, a woman’s right to self-determination, the air we breathe and the water we drink.
“Everything,” said Jackson. “The soul of America is at stake, and it’s only been 66 days or so. It feels more like 666 days.”
Turning his attention to the controversial U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, Jackson said he believes that the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that democratized democracy and allowed the South to really rejoin the Union, “was an intrusion on states’ rights.”
Pointing to another Trump cabinet member, Betsy DeVos, the billionaire Secretary of Education who favors charter schools, “hates public schools.”
And, then there is Tom Price, the Secretary of health and Human Services who Jackson said “did everything he could, along with his Republican buddies in Congress, to dismantle the Affordable Care Act” (ACA) which would have eliminated 24 million Americans from the health plan “while delivering massive tax cuts to the rich.”
Jackson credited the survival of ACA to public resistance adding, “Thank God, the people rose up and the Republicans backed down and ACA is still the law of the land…for now.”
Saying Trump is out-of-touch with reality, Rev. Jackson told of watching Trump’s first address to Congress last month with several families who were living in a homeless shelter in San Francisco; however, Trump “made no mention of their plight, their poverty, their hopes and dreams for their children.”
Rather, Trump spoke of “wasting billions of dollars by building ‘Great, great wall’ on our southern border with our eternal neighbor Mexico.
“A few days ago, he unveiled his budget. Stephen King could not have come up with a scarier story,” Jackson said. He criticized Trump for wanting to increase military spending by $52 billion saying that was not necessary since the U.S. “already spends more on the military than the next seven countries combined.”
“At the same time, the president is calling for a 30 percent reduction in funding for the State Department, the best hope of keeping us out of war.”
Jackson, who twice ran for president, said the way Trump ran his campaign and now his government is disturbing for he has “unleashed massive anger and division, pain and fear…a whole lot of fear…fear of mass deportations, fear of banning Muslims…fear of little children crying themselves to sleep terrified that their parents will be deported in the morning…fear of the country sliding backwards 50, 100 years.”
Religious and hate crimes have increased over the last two months including “mosques that have been burned, Jewish cemeteries vandalized, immigrants rounded up and deported. That is not who we are,” Rev. Jackson stated.
“We have learned to survive apart. Now we must learn to live together. The future of the planet depends on it. When the wind blows and the earth heats up and the glaciers melt and the waters rise, it affects all of us.
“We cannot afford to be isolationists, walling ourselves off from our neighbors by race, religion, nationality or gender in our interconnected and dependent world.
Jackson said what America is experiencing with Trump reminds him of the nightmares he used to have of George Wallace as president of the U.S. Wallace, like Trump, “talked about taking the country back, too. He represented the resistance to the Civil Rights Movement and the reinforcement of Jim Crow laws and advocacy of states’ rights and limited federal involvement on issues of justice.”
Jackson said it is fight back time and that “we have never lost a battle we fought and we never won a battle unless we fought.”