Monday, May 31, 2010

What happened to us once we grew up?

As I look around on a regular basis I generally find contempt for much of the world around me. It's not because I choose to be a particularly unhappy person or that I just want to be angry but rather it's because I look at a lot of things through the basic moral lenses I was issued as a child and wonder, where did we go wrong?

I honestly have had so many things just since the start of the Obama Administration bother me that I could be on here every day and it would definitely feel that this blog could become a regular soliloquy where I just rant to myself for the need to get it off my chest. Many of the topics would probably be incredibly justifiable as well.

Between the bank bailouts and the basic middle finger to LGBT groups (aside from this token Don't Ask, Don't Tell thing which is honestly the least that Obama could do) to the Arizona Legalized Racism Law to this total fucking mess known as the BP disaster, I could be here all day, every day complaining forever.

Usually, I use my Facebook to post links these days and complain about what punches into my soul. It's a much shorter version of this blog and to be honest, to write here I feel I want well thought out observations with source references on most days to make sure I am reaching the right notes. On FB, I can use all emotion (although I almost always source my work with links there as well) which is so much easier to do. Hell it's what conservatives live on. Facts require a lot of work and effort sometimes. Not to mention facts contradict their every single myopic belief.

But with all of these problems there is an overarching theme I believe. What were we taught as children about right and wrong?

We were taught to share. We were taught to be nice to others and to accept them if they were different. We were taught to not lie or cheat or steal. We were taught hurting people or threatening them was wrong. We were taught that everything good comes from hard work and perseverance. You were taught to respect your elders.

What the hell happened to us?

Could you imagine if we applied those principles to society today? You know what you would have? Socialism. Or at least a peaceful society that cares for those around us.

I think of this often when a new Robin Hood movie comes out or A Christmas Carol comes out. Teabaggers should rail against both of them.

"Robin Hood steals from the rich to give to the poor. That's WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION! The Poor are too LAZY to work!"

"Scrooge worked hard for his money. Being forced to give it away is SOCIALISM. If poor people want a handout they should go to work for it!"

What in the hell?

The reason those two stories are so beloved is because they are two of the greatest stories in which the plight of the poor is championed and where giving them a leg up is shown in a positive light. It's pure fantasy but we teach children with these stories and Oliver Twist and the sort that caring for those less fortunate is not shameful but rather a rewarding virtue and something that shapes your character here and in the afterlife, should there exist one.

Jesus Christ himself championed such beliefs. I suppose he too would be a pariah with this gang of unruly Capitalists that make up a large majority of our population.

Going back to what we taught our kids. Imagine how the issues of today relates to the lessons of our youth...

We were taught to share.
To put this in context a little bit, imagine that you had four Kindergarten classrooms of 25 kids each and 1 kid took 90% of the toys from ALL of the classes for themselves and basically told the rest of you to make due with what was left over. That you weren't good enough to play with these toys and that kid rigged the system so that every day when they got into class they had access to get to the toys and any more toys that they wanted out of that box before you even got into the classroom. Pretty unfair right?

Well congratulations because in America, that's what we see on an everyday basis. The top 1% control our entire economic wealth and the rest of the World's right along with it and they use every cheating advantage they can to make sure that the American Dream stays just that. A never ending dream from which you will never awake.

We were taught to be nice to others and to accept them if they were different.

This one was a big deal. First, your parents didn't want you getting into fights at school because many times your mouth would try to cash checks your ass couldn't cash. But also they wanted you to make as many friends as possible. You see making friends makes school and life way less stressful and a lot more fun. You don't have to be best friends with everyone in your class but if you at least try to get along with them and understand their differences, it makes the time when you have to stand in line by each other on the playground for any length of time far less awkward. Have to sit on the school bus for a long field trip ride? Well guess what, we can talk and get along!

But today and obviously as we used to do in the past we have not always followed the same guidance we shared with our children. As adults we have tended to move to locations to shelter ourselves from different people. Despite the racial desegregation that helps to alter the demographics of the classroom and provides diversity, as adults we re-segregate ourselves into communities where we shelter ourselves from the every day realities of those different than us. In cities you will find African-American neighborhoods, Asian neighborhoods, Latino neighborhoods and in many suburbs or rural areas that's where you find most white people living. It's this distance from one another that tends to make us not understand each other fully.

Inside the urban areas where most minorities live though there is a far greater understanding of each others' daily struggles and needs. They tend to see the same economic struggle because they share the same job market. They see the difficulty in their schools because they share the same school districts. White people in surburbia and rural areas don't see the same things. They forget that their grandparents and maybe even parents populated those places in the city a generation before and they too may have had an impact on the deterioration of the community. We all do our share at some point or another.

Yet from their safe distance many people tend to point fingers at one another. To hate another race of people. After the Civil War most had hoped that things would be settled once and for all on this issue. Another 100 years later and we were still working to pass a Civil Rights Act. Now we've decided to use an economic downturn and massive job losses as a reason to pass xenophobic laws that legalize racial profiling against Hispanics in Arizona and have tried to roadblock Homosexuals in every attempt to have the same legal rights as their heterosexual brethren.

In the annals of history the side that has discriminated has always come off looking as the most evil assholes of all time. Aside from White Supremicists, nobody has a very fond memory of the Strom Thurmonds or George Wallaces of the world. And the right wingers that constantly work against the equal rights and basic fairness of others, 20-30-50 years from now... will be in the same conversation as those well noted racists or hate mongers.

I'll come back to the main solution for the Arizona problem in a second.

We were taught to not lie or cheat or steal.

Basic rules to follow right? Except that our President got busted 7 years ago lying to our faces on national television to twist our arms into letting him play war for fun and there was no consequences. This after he and his brother and their henchwoman Katherine Harris cheated and stole the election down in Florida in 2000 and then were able to repeat the feat in 2004 with Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio.

I suppose the basic rules of conduct go out the window when the leader of your country broke every one of them while in power. However we know this isn't the case for low level thieves. Police investigate the small guys and they go into jail.

The problem is that it's not proportionate in how these crimes are addressed. There are probably a million political operatives and elected officials breaking the law every day in terms of how they fatten their wallets while in power and what laws they can break to continue to seize the levers of power from the American people in favor of their corporate benefactors. However we know damn well they are not ever going to see a criminal charge for a single one of those offenses.

Instead they get off Scot free while the guy that robs a liquor store gets 15 years in prison.

"Well the liquor store guy used a gun! His was putting lives in danger and there was force involved!"

Sure. Except that when you're raiding the treasury for your rich pals to get government bailouts or contracts at the expense of the social safety net (Unemployment Insurance, etc) then you really are putting lives in danger. People losing their homes and living on the streets because a company was told by our government that outsourcing is a good thing and so they laid you off, all the while you had been duped by a junk mortgage with an ever raising interest rate that you now all of a sudden couldn't afford and the only net you had was unemployment while you struggle to find work during a supposed economic recovery that is not creating many real jobs... well you just put these people in serious danger. Sure they could hope to find a place to live in a shelter.. if the shelters in their areas have room for them.. many do not.

I'd argue that in most cases the guy robbing the liquor store is at the end of his rope and doing it out of necessity. While Congress and CEOs are doing this with already overloaded and incredibly fat wallets. That to me, makes their act even more callous.

We were taught hurting people or threatening them was wrong.

Or so I thought. My son's elementary schools constantly teach about the negative effect of bullying. As adults we seem to forget that the bullying in real life has a different name. These are the people that abuse - emotionally and physically - people around them. Have you ever seen an abused spouse? Many times they allow themselves to be trapped into the routine. They have legitimate fear of leaving the situation because it could get worse if they try to go. They hold on to whatever few good times they had even when there are almost none currently nor have there been in a very long time because holding onto hope is less scary than running away and starting over... or trying to get away and being abused further if they can't leave.

I think of this pattern and see America. We remember our country's heartwarming tales. The absolute courage of the Colonists that risked their lives against a military empire just to fight for the very concept of freedom. The stories of the Underground Railroad. The Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights marches. So many of the moments we canonize as this concept of America revolve around the indelible mark the founding fathers had on us when it came to what the term 'freedom' means as a nation.

And then 9/11 comes along and we toss all of that aside for safety and protection from an enemy that does not have the ability to strike at will and planned the 9/11 major attack for years and years before finally getting lucky enough to pull it off. And this isn't even counting the fact that if Bush had cared at all to read his August 6th, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing and act upon it, we likely wouldn't have had an attack at all.

A big event happens and we, the emotionally abused victims, lied to and cheated on over other military issues in the past (Vietnam specifically), clung to our abuser even though we should have known that he was completely untrustworthy. The abuser took more liberty to take our liberties. Illegally wiretapping ALL of us (not some of us or even just suspected victims). Eliminating Habeas Corpus. Detaining American Citizens as well as regular muslim men with no association with al-Qaeda together in a place where they had no right to have a fair trial, make a really proper defense in their case or worse yet, they can be held indefinitely without even being charged with anything. It's a crime to humanity and it would make our forefathers vomit violently in their graves.

This was, of course, proceeded by the Patriot Act which helped strip our rights as Americans away.

But this is just the freedom and civil liberty thing. If you really want to see how we act like abused spouses, take a look at how moronically we cling to capitalism even when we have proof that the concept of profit over all (the very basis of capitalistic thought) means purposely destroying moral boundaries and wrecking the lives of millions. Congress plays along. They deregulate everything to help grease the skids. They pass laws making it easier for these companies to create junk products to sell people and eventually collapse the system under. They do this neatly while basically being on the payroll for these people come election time.

They have Americans so brainwashed into believing that despite the meltdowns that cost you your car, house, job and possibly family... that any other economic system, namely socialism, is Nazi Germany or Communist Russia.

Even though they totally distort the values of another economic system because they want to confuse you with examples of evil violent authoritarian governments, they do it because they know you're still confused into buying into the "American Dream".

We were taught that everything good comes from hard work and perseverance.

Ahh and here's where that American Dream comes in. It's the core basis of Reaganomics isn't it? Work incredibly hard and great things will happen to you! You may never be rich but if you go to work every day you might own a house and a car and make a decent wage and live comfortably for the rest of your life.

Of course that sort of has been the mirage the rich have been using since the beginning of time right? Spruced up just enough to keep modern and relevant to your current belief system.

Reaganomics believed that if you target everything for the rich, most notably major tax cuts, that they will take that money, reinvest some of it into their business and the crumbs that fall off their lavish dinner table might just reach you in terms of potential new jobs...

Except that the top-down economic philosophy is just a consistent failure. What we've learned is those rich guys up top they pocket that tax cut. If they hire anyone at all it's overseas for pennies on the dollar thanks to outsourcing. And in fact this new found money might allow them to expand operations in China or India or whatever and that tends to mean more factory closings state-side. The companies then report record financial numbers. The assholes that could afford large amounts of stock love this. It's an economic upturn for them. For the average guy who was working hard and living for the American Dream, they just had the dream turn into a Freddy Krueger style nightmare and they're sort of hoping they lose in the dream just so they don't have to wake up to the hell that awaits them financially.

Corporations have unprecedented access these days to Congress. It's so blatant that even the Democrats, once considered the party of the people while Republicans held the banner of the Corporate Elite above their heads proudly, turned into the same greedy, CEO-beholden group of politicians as their opposition. Corporatists like the DLC got one of their biggest players in Rahm Emanuel helping to control Obama's agenda and from there it's been a windfall for them.

The Banks and specifically Goldman Sachs got bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. HMOs and Pharmaceuticals got everything they could have wished for in a Health Care bill that forces every American to buy coverage from them and provides no price controls to prevent them from continuing to scalp consumers. And BP, when they, Transocean and Halliburton (of course) create possibly the largest environmental disaster ever does anyone force them out or do something to penalize them? Not a chance.

Oh and hey getting back to that Arizona thing like I promised... while crazed xenophobic people look at illegal immigrants as the reason they are losing jobs, I think it's time to point the finger at the people that are keeping Americans out of work. It's clearly corporations that are hiring illegal immigrants and specifically recruiting them to come here. The penalties they pay (if any regulatory agency even does anything at all about it) is usually less than the actual immigrant themselves faces. It all adds up to a cost effective solution to avoid paying the American worker even the minimum wage they deserve.

Let's not kid ourselves people. Most of these jobs are farming jobs or jobs that require the person to be on-site in the specific geographic region in which they are hired. If they could outsource this they would but they cannot due to the necessity of the job being done where the immigrants are hired.

They recruit these people for the same reason they outsource. Because they could care less about America, the community or people around them and because their CEOs want to make ungodly profits. And hey, you people can be angry and forcibly toss as many of these workers out of the country as you want, they're not getting penalized so they'll just find more. So much for your brilliant strategy now suckers...

Create a forceful regulatory agency that regularly goes through the books of these companies and double checks social security number duplication to sort out fraud and penalize these companies at $1,000,000 per offense, per worker.

Stop the recruitment and watch the immigration numbers fall sharply.

You were taught to respect your elders.

Sometimes as a kid I hated this. Parents... Grandparents... man they can be assholes. However you still had to respect them because, well, it was the rule.

I don't necessarily think you have to listen to them as if they're always right. I mean being generations older usually puts you on the wrong side of a lot of issues that have long been settled amongst younger people (racism, homophobia, etc). However it is good to at least respect our elders enough to take care of them when they get older. Such respect is hard to find when Congress aims specifically to make cuts to Medicare or wants to turn Social Security into a similar stock boondoggle that 401Ks have proven to be (biggest ponzi scheme ever?).

I think the belief in Washington is that, "well the elderly never really know what's going on anyway, let's buy off AARP and we can confuse them into whatever we want to do."

They certainly did this with the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan. Guys like Rep. Tom Petri who has over a $1 million in Walgreens stock were able to sponsor and pass a law that made most seniors pay even more for their prescription drug plans and prevented Medicare from doing what the VA does and group negotiate for lower drug prices. What a pile of shit.

Every time we turn around corporations are eliminating pensions leaving seniors with no retirement money and then you get Bush, the Republicans and now even Obama saying they want to "fix Social Security" which only means, "privatize it and make it a giveaway to Wall Street"... you know the guys that fuck everything up for a profit.

There is no respect for elders or for that matter other people anymore.

When I see America, I see a country that is at each others' throats. Blaming one another for the problems we see today. Victims in a misinformation campaign that has managed to create an illusion that there is no class war by the rich onto the poor and middle class but rather it's just the lazy, uninitiated poor that want to take the last of what the ever shrinking middle class has left.

That's just not true.

But you know, if we even remotely followed the rules and tenets of our childhood lessons, we might start to see the forest for the trees. We'd begin to understand that America as currently constructed is a failed state in which unless real change occurs, (not the false hope campaign sloganeering of a corporate protectionist) the concept in which our forefathers most notably Jefferson envisioned for us, will die a cruel humiliating death.

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