The U.S. Congress and cynical pundits and political operatives in Washington are polluting our country's political discourse with a debate over flag burning at the very same time that:
- The American Journal of Public Health reports more than 1,700 African Americans die each week because they don't have the same access to health care as other Americans.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 110 workers die each week in workplace fatalities -- many of which could be prevented by better enforcement of basic workplace laws by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (which is being gutted by budget cuts).
- The Pentagon reports roughly 15 American soldiers die each week in Iraq.
- The Institute of Medicine reports 346 Americans die each week because they lack health insurance.
- The Environmental Working Group reports that 192 Americans die each week because of exposure to asbestos.
We all know that the Republican Party in general and this administration in particular are struggling right now. The list of troubles is long – the war, gas prices, the economy, endless stories of corruption – and they are doing everything they can to divert attention. But please, give me a break. Flag burning and gay marriage are the most important issues of the day? Hardly.
I know why Senator Hatch and others want to talk about flags. It gives them a chance to sound patriotic. Fine. Let them have their moments of bluster. But that does not mean that our news media have to cover them.
And if your local channel cannot think of one thing going on yesterday more important than the charade on the Senate floor, I suggest they read this. Certainly the news of 4 US troops killed in Iraq should be more news-worthy. I would rather read more about these honorable and brave men who died in service to our country than to hear politicians who do little more than talk.