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Friday, December 09, 2005

Is the U.S. still a "good" nation?

It's the people that squirm, not the architects of our discontent.

One of my pet rants - race - goes hand-in-hand with class and I believe that it is a primary motivator for African Americans to have chosen the Democratic party as its lesser evil. But, our current state as a nation (fearful, divided, mean-spirited) is a much deeper situation than can be described using only the context of race.

I can't help but believe that eventually, the people will let their discontent flow back upstream.

But, in the meantime, with the sophistication of America's governmental apparatus, we are able to affected almost individually: IRS audits, FBI surveillance in-country, wiretaps, CIA surveillance when we're out of the country, medical and financial records basically anyone can access. In a nation of 300 million, that is no small feat. We are right to be afraid, because they can come for us. Is that the new American paradigm -- Argentinian disappearances?

While we are busy discussing political ideology, the people in charge (and there ARE people in charge), are talking about practical applications of the tools they hold.

They wield software that watches your every keystroke and redflags any words such as 'Al-Quaeda,' 'bomb' or 'arms dealer'; they have roving wiretaps that allow them to listen in on you even if you've never committed a crime; they can follow your movement by the use of your credit card and track your location by your cellphone signal. Our money now has a magnetic strip that can be read from a distance and our products are beginning to be filled with RIFD sensors that will allow your toothpaste to serve as a homing beacon. And, for the coup de grace, the remote-operated Predator plane can blow you out of the sky or off of the street as easily as playing a game of Donkey Kong.

An anecdote: Traffic engineers are very familiar with the 'Australian Method' of traffic control. It means holding red lights longer than green lights; it means 'no turn on red' signs in visually unobstructed intersections. Its purpose is to discourage people from driving in what those engineers consider to be congested areas. The description I just gave is pretty straightforward -- it doesn't even touch on the emotional by-product of what the Australian Method creates: frustrated drivers.

That, to me, is a microcosm of how we have empowered the people who control our government to work with us - by coercion. Damn the emotional by-products, control our actions. It comes down to money, time and fear. Those are the big sticks in government's arsenal. They threaten us with jail or court (time); fines or seizures (money) and tell us all Muslims want to kill us and all Mexicans want to take over our country (fear).

Do liberals try and scare us to get into office? Absolutely, just the same as conservatives. But, as Olive so eloquently put it -- and I am poorly paraphrasing -- I trust conservatives less.

Forget skin color, a man like Tom DeLay, for instance, is bad news for his fellow white people. The lens I look through is one of personal pragmatism. If DeLay, who has no use for African Americans, can screw over people who look like him, he is not a trustworthy human being in my opinion.

The old saw about the CEO who knows the names of and has a kind word for every janitor in his building is interesting to me, because it assumes that a CEO shouldn't know such things. That social expectation ties in with our political expectations. We create an caste system of undesirables. And, occasionally, the American Public is forced to do something it collectively doesn't want to do because, "we can't be trusted."

And, in one-to-one interactions, we tend to "round off" our estimates of how certain people should be treated. Black crackhead? We round down. Cute girl, young and white? We round up.

Malcolm Gladwell described it as: 'Fundamental Attribution Error.' By that, he means we tend to ascribe our impression about one personality trait of a person to that person's whole being. Ergo, George W. Bush, once he is deemed as trustworthy by a person, will almost certainly be seen as trustworthy again by that same person. And, if he acts in an untrustworthy manner, it is viewed as out of character.

My concerns is that as we squirm about abortion, racism, sexism, homophobism and all our dividers, we attribute only good motives to our government (I'm oversimplifying). Does our present goverment deserve it?

We don't remember that the government is run by people who are counting on us to fight among ourselves and feel warm and fuzzy when we see the flag. A question we should be asking is: 'What is the character of our government?' Are we endorsing a government that has become bad for humanity? That is a hard question, but it is a patriotic one to ask.

I have an idea (pie in the sky, I know) for a crazy protest for all of us squirmers. We put a moratorium on 'polls.' If any pollster calls, whether you are Dem, GOP, Green, Independent, Communist, you tell her to hit the road. No information. Just Say No to polls and let the politicians figure it out blindly. Polls are crutches that allow them to point to some amorphous 'other' with no accountability. Bad things will certainly happen and the bad actors will make themselves known.

There are such small differences between most of us, but those difference keep us from holding those in control accountable. Why? We're busy fighting each other over ideologies. That discussion of our differences needs to continue, but it's the oldest trick in the book to say: 'Look over there, there's [someone you disagree with].' It's called misdirection and we are getting the brunt of it. In our favor is that the current band of thieves is so corrupt that they've pointed us in a series of directions that led in a circle - back to their misdeeds.

So, we've got that going for us.


link | posted by Jae at 8:26 AM |


5 Comments:

Blogger Olive commented at 10:41 AM~  

Still responding to the previous post:

A non-issue for most Americans, gay marriage was moved to the top of the issues list a few years ago when Bush (er, Rove) needed to find an all-purpose issue – something that would not only invigorate it’s base, but divide the country and keep it distracted while the Bush administration was busy fine-tuning its evil mid-east occupation plan. Bush policies could not be sold on their own merit, so the administration made gays and lesbians into sacrificial lambs.

Bastards.

Bush tossed this issue into the American discourse like a dog fighter might toss a bloody piece of meat into a pitt ring. And, we’ve been fighting over it ever since. Boy, have we gotten worked up. And everyone has an opinion.

Mine? I think all unions should be civil in nature. What people and their churches do after that is their own business, their own fight.

I mean, half the fun of belonging to a club is that you get to wear uniforms, make up by-laws, conduct ceremonies and make arbitrary declarations about good/bad, right/wrong. Wee. It’s fun. In America, you have the right to attend your meeting or service and rail against whomever you please (just as long as you don’t break any laws or infringe on another’s rights).

This is why we must insist on strict separation of church and state. When these uniforms, by-laws, ceremonies and arbitrary declarations about good/bad, right/wrong overlap with government efforts to write laws, conduct ceremonies and make declarations about right and wrong, there is a conflict. Religious law is biased. But, ideally, civil law should be unbiased. I’m surprised more religious organizations aren’t down with this. Fair seems like a virtuous thing.

I know sometimes insistence on separation seems ridiculous in practice. After all, good deeds -- such as feeding the homeless or reaching out to pregnant teenagers -- are innocuous enough on the surface. But faith-based programs are, by their very nature, biased and have a viewpoint to peddle. And when the federal government gets behind religious ideology; religious ideology gets behind, in front and inside of our legislative halls.

Exhibit A, the abomination-to-God argument.

As for the second favorite anti-gay marriage argument –‘it will destroy or diminish the value of heterosexual marriage and destroy family values:’ the American family has been adapting to societal changes throughout the last three hundred years. The status of women in marriage has changed and the racial make up of married couples has changed. Interracial marriage was, not long ago, considered immoral and unnatural. Gosh, that sounds familiar.

And I don’t buy the argument that allowing gay marriage will blaze the trail for people wishing to marry siblings or pets.

I shouldn’t have to address the man on dog fear, but since we have at least one US Senator talking about it, I’ll respond this way: The US supreme court declared marriage to be “one of the 'basic civil rights of man."

Incest is largely (but, I’ll admit, probably not solely) a condition of family dysfunction and abuse. Furthermore, it’s not just cultural taboos that steer us away from incestuous relationships. We are biologically predisposed to reject mates from our own genetic pack. That doesn’t mean we won’t, under unusual or extreme circumstances mate with family members, but the biological proclivity is missing, That is not the case with homosexuality.

But frankly, if incestuous couples want to try to make a case for marriage, I say give it your best shot. Let’s hear your argument (I don’t think you’ll get anywhere with it, but you have a right to make your case). But don’t discriminate against gay couples based on what you think some other group is going to say.

Incest (like pedophilia) is not that same thing as homosexuality. You can’t say heterosexuality is one thing, and every other form of sexual expression is another thing. That’s the black and white viewpoint.

The thing that angers me the most about the gay marriage controversy, is the way – by embedding it within its party philosophy – the conservatives have declared open season on gays and lesbians. By allowing personal, oftentimes religious, conviction into the halls of government, we have made it OK to label them (after so much progress has been made) ‘other.’ And we know that separating a segment of the population from the whole is the first step in what can become a series of steps leading to really, awful actions.

I was watching a Discovery Channel special on the Holocaust and my mother said, “How could something like that have happened?” I reminded her that it is still happens. It happened a few years ago in Rwanda and more recently in Sierra Leone. In Iran, a group of gay men were recently rounded up and murdered for being gay.

This is our nature. This is why our laws must be uncontaminated by religious or ideological passion. Our laws must be created in a sterile environment and applied equally to all.

Then, go to your club meeting; maybe come up with a little dance to express your indignation with the inclusiveness of it all. Just don’t break any of those laws.

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 11:03 AM~  

Blogspot

Blogger CB commented at 2:03 PM~  

Jae,

You sound like one of those Right-Wing separatist leaders, hiding weapons and ammunition in the hills and seeking shelter from reach of the FBI. But before you start the negotiation of terms via the megaphone, there is still some hope. There are still discernable points of departure between paranoia produced by fear and vigilance informed by experience.

Does the Patriot Act go too far in some areas; perhaps. Is there an organized, funded ideology whose belief system is incompatible with our way of life and even our existence? Yes. So how do we reconcile the need to protect ourselves from our enemies with the need to protect us from ourselves? I don’t know.

I do know that even if we omit the national security question, there is too much government involvement/intrusion in our lives already. The form of that incursion lies with some of the agencies you identified, but the cause of it is the behemoth beast of a bureaucracy we feed with tax dollars. Our tax dollars, in a very real way, represent our liberty. As we ask our representatives for government programs to solve this problem or that, we feed the beast and lose our liberty. As we protest cuts (usually just reductions in the rate of growth and not real cuts) in our pet programs at the federal, state and local level, we feed the beast and lose our liberty. As we oppose the elimination of one federal department, agency or program, we invite government more and more into our lives, feed the beast and lose liberty.


Olive,

You have selectively taken statements or positions held at one time or another by people who have expressed belief in God to represent, presumably, Christianity. My belief in Jesus can’t be reduced to anti-gay dogma or hate filled rhetoric. My belief can be identified with the all inclusive “whosoever.” It is based on love and reconciliation.

Olive, because I reject the advance of a gay man doesn’t make me anti-gay, any more than the rejection of a woman’s advances make me a misogynist. Likewise, opposition to gay-marriage doesn’t mean that I am declaring open season on anti-gay activity. Should I be forced to call a rose, ragweed and then be called a bigot by the rose when I refuse? I also note your biology argument when you discuss incest. Doesn’t the same logic apply to homosexual relationships?

More importantly, everyone worships something. Despite the findings of molecular biologist Dr. Michael Behe (who is not religious) that life is too complex to have evolved, Darwinists revere evolution THEORY, just as I revere the creation account found in Genesis. Statists worship at the church of Big Government, like I believe in small government. Liberals fear the Hell of vouchers, just as I fear the tyranny of teachers'unions who look out for their interests above the interests of children.

I mention Dr. Michael Behe. He has been persecuted with the tenacity of an Inquisition, but you probably haven't heard about him. He bucked the darwinist theology and is paying a heavy price. If you're interested, you can read more at my blog, a posting about Evolution and Intelligent Design, archived among the November postings. The battle is fought on both sides and your position, I contend, is not the inclusive position. By the way, the status of women in marriage has improved substantially, that is if you consider divorce rates above 50% improvement. We will find something on which we agree Olive. I love your passion!

Blogger Renegade Eye commented at 7:36 PM~  

What your describing is the apparatus called "state power." State power is control of cops, courts, taxes, jails, armies etc. That is what it means to be a political person. Revolution is controlling the state power apparatus.

I disagree with CB, that you're just being like a paranoid militia type. You're bringing up a real problem. How much can we be watched.

No difference between Democrats or Republicans on this issue. One Republican who is outspoken on this issue, is Bob Barr. On the Democrats side Russ Feingold and Maxine Waters are taking good positions. These are the most out of mainstream Dems and republicans.

good post.

Blogger CB commented at 8:24 AM~  

Renegade,

I made the reference to paranoia in jest. I don't necessarily focus on the same things Jae does, but his point is valid. I still that the symptom is Big Brother type surveillance, the cause is that we kept feeding Jr. until he became Big Brother. We can fix it, if we have the will, but people become comfortable with the things Big Brother provides, so I'm pessimistic. Even Republicans who are supposed to be small government types have gone native. They feel right at home on K street (with the lobbyists). K street will fight hard to keep it that way too.

Our only hope is to retake our liberty, not only will we, as a whole, prosper economically, because government (bureaucracy) is so inefficient, we will once again be free - we are fooled into believing we are now. While it is most devastating to the poor, people well beyond the poverty line are subject to its seductions - Home mortgage interest deduction - mortgage brokers, real estate agents and developers would have a fit, state tax deduction, health insurance, life insurance, accountants, etc.

More than good economic policy, proposals like a flat tax, value added tax, national sales tax, consumption tax to abolish the IRS would not only would have most of us paying far less tax, it would reduce incentive (and ability) to use shelters, generate more income to the US treasury (to pay down the deficit and fund promised entitlements -then shut them down is my prayer) and be more transparent. In addition to being fairer.

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