January 1, 2014 7:48 AM

You don't have to save the planet to be a hero; sometimes standing up to a bully is all it takes


Al Levie

A Wisconsin teacher refused to accept an award from Rep. Paul Ryan during a ceremony last week, saying he couldn’t do so “in good conscience” because of the Republican congressman’s politics. Al Levie, a high school social studies teacher in Racine, Wis., was one of three recipients of a Martin Luther King Jr. humanitarian award during a celebration honoring the late civil rights leader. Ryan, who represents the district, was on hand to present congressional recognitions to each award winner…. In a video of the ceremony, Ryan is seen stepping from behind the podium to hand the award to Levie, who backs away and instead turns to speak to the audience. His words aren’t audible, but according to the video’s captions he said, “I can’t in good conscience accept this award, as a humanitarian, Paul Ryan stands for everything I don’t believe in.”

Normally, I’m about as likely to use an article from The Blaze (Glenn’s paean to journalistic masturbation) as I am to run naked through a convent, but this story caught my attention. Regardless of how you might feel about Levie’s actions, he took a stand and refused to participate in a ceremony with someone who, in his own words, “stands for everything I don’t believe in.”

When you look at Ryan’s record, it’s hard to argue that he’s not a friend of and advocate for the working class, the poor, the needy, the sick, or really anyone who’s not a member of the 1%. His embrace of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism (which he furiously backpedaled away from during the 2012 Presidential campaign) and his thinly-veiled “survival of the fittest” philosophy can only fairly be described as inhuman. Ryan, who himself benefited from Social Security in the past, wishes to shred the same social contract that was there for him. He now views virtually every form of public assistance as assisting “takers” at the expense of “makers.” He’s become the public face of the GOP’s (lack of) Compassion Caucus, which openly advocates that those unable to fend for themselves be left to fend for themselves. America would be a much better place if we just set them all adrift on an ice floe with a box of Captain America comic books, right?

I suppose it would be simpler and easier if we just stopped propping up those unable to do for themselves- you know…seniors, the poor, the sick, the unemployed. That’s not what America’s about, though; we have a history of taking care of our own and we help those who need a hand. I don’t know what Levie’s motives were specifically, but had I been in his shoes, that would have been my reason to refusing to accept an award- ANY award- from an inhuman corporate shill like Ryan.

It’s been said that evil can only triumph when good people fail to stand up to it. Paul Ryan is, if not the human embodiment of evil, certainly a harbinger of the Rabid Right’s war against women, the poor, the sick, the elderly, and just about every other underrepresented and underfunded group in America. That Al Levie chose to stand up to Ryan and call him out for what he represents is heroic. Sure, he’ll be vilified by many, but those who would do that have chosen to ignore the truth about what Ryan stands for.

Sometimes being a hero means getting decidedly mixed reviews, but until more people like Al Levie stand up and demand that we not only maintain the social contract, but strengthen it, nothing will change. If we can spend trillions on wasteful and immoral wars halfway around the world, we should be able to spare a few billion to take care of our own.

Or do we want to be a country that would rather kill people halfway around the world than care for our fellow Americans here at home?

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on January 1, 2014 7:48 AM.

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