Monday, July 25, 2011
Live Together, or Die Alone
Thomas Jefferson said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” While this may have been the case when Mr. Jefferson originally spoke these words, it is no longer the case that those are our only two options. Perhaps a more modern way of looking at it is that our government is the people, & it's time to stop being afraid of each other. The partisan divide has grown so wide in the United States that it’s easy to forget that we’re all supposed to be on the same team, and all supposed to be working together. I would even go so far as to say that the reason that our economic recovery has been so unbearably sluggish isn’t the failure of one policy initiative or another, it’s the failure of us to come together to fix the problem. The American people are too busy trying to secure their own advantage by any means necessary to even notice that doing so is only dragging them even further down.
The clearest example of our national division can be seen in our political discourse and our news media (especially recently in our debate about the debt limit), but it can be felt unmistakably across the entire nation. With sitting senators stating on the record that their most important political goal is to make sure that President Obama is a one-term president, and with talking heads in the news media denying blatantly factual information for their own profit, despite the looming and completely preventable economic disaster, an outside observer might hypothesize that we are a nation bent on self destruction. Our political leaders and pundits need to get it out of their heads that "we need to take our country back," because I’ve got news for them it didn't go anywhere. America is right here where she's always been. The only difference is that we, the American people, turned into greedy, narcissistic, vain, materialistic, junkies, & America's standing out in the rain, waiting for us to come back, singing, "Love Me as Though There Was No Tomorrow." Blaming our problems on the government is a convenient scapegoat and a crutch, and denies the true premise of our predicament, that the real problem is us.
I recently had a self proclaimed Christian Conservative tell me that he didn't like the concept of Medicare for all and unemployment insurance because some people are just lazy. He worked hard for his money, and he didn't want the government spending it for him. I'm not religious in any sense of the word, but I don't recall Jesus saying that only some people deserve to be helped. I also seem to remember the Constitution starting with, "We the people..." not, "Myself and my wallet..." It seems that we lack something to bring us together, a force of unification to give us a shared and uniquely American experience. We must find something to thread us all together because we're all we've got, and we can either live together or we'll die alone.
If we look back through our nations's history, we see multitudes of examples of Americans coming together. The one that stands out the most to me is WWII. The greatest generation became so great because they all sacrificed something for each other and for their common goal. Even if they couldn't fight in the war personally, they built planes and tanks, bought war bonds, dealt with rationing, & endured curfews and blackouts along the coasts. Our generation sends a tiny percentage of our populace to fight for us in far away lands while we sit at home and stuff our fat faces with processed crap. We complain about insignificant trivialities while watching mind melting and brain numbing rubbish like Dancing With the Stars, Jersey Shore, & Keeping up With the Kardashians. We hide behind "blissful ignorance" hoping that we won't notice our own cowardice and actually have to do something to make our nation and our world a better place. All the while, those crooked politicians that we all despise in Washington D.C. and our state and local governments bank on our ignorance and apathy. They plan strategies around it to see how much they can get away with without us noticing, and they feed their talking points to us through news media that no longer investigates the truth of their claims. We need to ask ourselves, "What good is a fancy car when there isn’t enough gas and the highways and bridges are decaying? What good is a new game console when the electrical grid can't handle the demand?" The problem is us, those of us who do nothing. It's time for us to wake up and do something because it is far better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all. Ask yourself if you've made a difference in the world, and ask yourself if your life is about something. If the answer is, "no," then ask yourself why not?