Sunday, September 13, 2009

Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong. ~ Richard Armour, American author and poet

When will the intelligent among us wake up and realize the archaic two-party system which runs our country is in a shambles? We can’t even have a civil debate on the issues anymore because as soon as an idea is labeled “Democrat” or “Republican,” half the political-minded population stops listening. This further enables the career politician since they no longer have to actually address the issues with an eye to making the world better for us all. In order to hold office, they are required to simply toe the party line, pay lip service to “change” and pocket the obscene amounts of cash flowing from lobbyists and big business, all seeking to secure their positions of power at the expense of the common good. And a vote for any of the potentially forward-thinking third-party candidates is, as we are regularly reminded by the Big Two, a throw-away vote for the “other” party. Someday, I would like to be able to vote for a candidate who actually has a decent chance of being elected, not against one, and not simply have to choose between the lesser of two evils.

I freely admit I broke down in 2008 and registered as a Democrat – my first party affiliation in more than a dozen years, although I have voted in every election since high school. My turning-point issue was the war in Iraq and I (naively?) believed Obama when he promised to bring the troops home. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the fine print: those troops would then be sent to Afghanistan to further the misguided “war on terror” as we destroy yet another country and its culture.

The economy is in the tank, thanks in large part to Republican tax cuts for their big business cronies, but with more than a little help from the Democrat’s entitlement mandates that, while imposed with the best of intentions, have little basis in fiscal reality. Personal greed has become a virtue and all the hand-wringing over shrinking retirement accounts and Wall Street losses are laughable to those of us who can barely pay the rent and for whom retirement is a fairy tale.

Incessant union demands for ever-higher wages and benefits, never mind the shrinking industrial base, have urged along the collapse of many a business, not just the stuck-in-the-fifties automakers. Too many lax workers are propped up by union protections that encourage their entitlement mentality while corporate greed concentrates on shareholder return, not living wages or quality product that does not decimate the environment.

Healthcare reform, the debate du jour, will never be possible as long as the insurance industry and big pharmaceuticals continue to feed the coffers of both parties. Rumor and fear-mongering from both sides will see to that. But it looks good in the campaign to point out one’s support or opposition to any one of the latest alternative plans tossed into the mix. It shows a candidate cares…about whom is never specified. And as I have noted in earlier posts, universal insurance does not equate to universal healthcare.

Public schools are floundering, trying to be all things to students whose parents have taught them they can do no wrong, and little else. Education – true learning of critical thinking skills, not just how to land a high-paying job – has taken a back seat to nutrition, basic healthcare, sexual mores, character building and college résumé padding as parents abdicate more and more of their duties to a system they refuse to support financially.

Personal responsibility has become anathema as individuals look for someone outside themselves to blame for any inconvenience or harm, be it hair loss, high blood pressure or vanishing jobs. A society that measures its worth in the “stuff” it consumes is not long for this world, as the United States is just now learning, painfully. Self-discipline, moderation and compassion are as out-moded as the Model T.

In ancient Rome, emperors used community food give-aways and gladiator competitions to distract the populous from the corruption which plagued the government. Today, our “cakes and circuses” are the bombardment of celebrity “news,” the latest titillating political sex scandal, never-ending sports seasons by increasingly drug-enhanced teams, and what color the inane terror alert system has reached for today. Fear mongering is the modus operandi of both Republicans and Democrats; a people on edge, filled with ceaseless dread, are more easily swayed to follow someone, anyone, who can relieve such anxiety.

Of course these are all generalizations. There are good people, kind people, those who look to better community first rather than self, but I fear they are becoming fewer and more isolated. We don’t scream loudly enough to be heard above the raucous din which passes for public discourse. And where does that leave those of us who can see the chaos for what it is? Hopeless, in despair, ready to crawl into a cave and pull the boulder over the entrance…I’ve considered it, often, and if I could find a way to escape, I would.

I don’t have any answers. I wish I did.

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ~Plato

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