Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Enemy Within

The political atmosphere in this country has now become so toxic that it is practically impossible to have a genuine conversation that results in a productive exchange of ideas. We have all become convinced that the other side is in league with the devil. The conversation is not about philosophical ideas of leadership, but about the Armageddon that awaits should the other side either remain in power or regain power. There is no political middle ground anymore. The President is a fairly moderate left leaning politician. What has that gotten him? The right thinks he's an African Manchurian candidate, anti-Christ. The left thinks he's a sell out with no backbone. That is what happens to you in today's climate if you attempt to walk down the middle of the road. 

The real problem with this open animosity is that it allows the actual issues of the day to be pushed to the side in an all out attempt to win. You see the idea that the end of the world is nigh becomes the driving force behind all political action. Politicians use the most extreme language to describe the opposition in order to evoke a visceral reaction from their followers. The actual policies are not the important thing, the most important thing that voters take away from these demagogues is that if the opposition wins, their lives as they know it will be over. I could get into more complicated explanations about the backlash of white males and the similarities to the strategies employed by Nixon in '68 and even more forcefully in '72, but there really is no need. Both parties are guilty of overuse of hyperbole in describing the repercussions to America should their opponents be victorious in the next election. 

Lost in all the noise is the actual policy. Which politician or political party is simply talking about what would be the most beneficial to the people of America? The political parties are too busy bashing each other over the head to seemingly pay much attention to that. The Good of the people (which has long since taken a back seat to the greed and ambition of politicians), seems to be absolutely missing from our political discussion these days. The sad thing is that the followers of both parties have allowed this to happen. We have all played a part in turning politics into just the next "thing" that we have to win. "Our side won, hurray"!, who cares whether it will actually help "We the People". Republicans were disappointed by George Bush, so what, at least he won 2 elections and God knows it would have been the end of the world  if Al Gore had won. Those on the left are disappointed in Obama, but so what, at least we won and God knows it would have been the end of the world if John McCain had won.
The rhetoric and the hyperbole and the scare tactics have come to define political thought in our time. We no longer live in constant fear of nuclear annihilation, but apparently we have replaced that boogey monster with a new one called the OPPOSITION PARTY. It works for politicians because it allows them to whip their supporters into a frenzy without ever addressing any real issues. TV friendly soundbites are so much easier to come up with than actual policies and ideas to address the many real problems that we face. The part that's harder to understand is how WE the PEOPLE have allowed ourselves to become the standard bearers of and town criers for this sideshow. Perhaps it is just the fact that we need a mortal enemy in order to justify our own existence. I'm not sure what the answer is. I've certainly been guilty of it myself. But when I see and hear the noise that is generated by the media and the nonsense that is spewing forth from the mouths of our elected leaders, I just have to wonder if there's any road back from this. Is this it? Is this what our republic has come to? I think the quote "We have met the enemy and he is us" sums up my feelings.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You'll Believe a Man Can Fly!

"You'll believe a man can fly", that's how the advertising campaign went for the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. After seeing the movie, I did damn near believed it myself, but I knew that it was just special effects. However, while I was watching the movie, I absolutely believed that Christopher Reeve could fly. That is because of what we call the willing suspension of disbelief. It makes movies, plays, books, etc., really any work of fiction more exciting. If we, as the audience willingly suspend our disbelief then we can go along on the journey of fancy being presented. Most works of fiction have plot holes big enough to drive a truck through and yet we allow them without too many questions because it makes the experience more entertaining. In every horror movie, the cast always splits up, instead of staying together. We all know that they would stand a better chance of surviving if they stayed together, but the characters seem to be oblivious to that fact. We, as the audience play along, because the experience wouldn't be as much fun if the characters acted like their real life counterparts would.

My co-conspirator here at Random Thoughts wrote a wonderful piece about the willingness of the American people to buy into lies and propaganda.  My thoughts are very similar, but I think that the American people are more like that audience at the horror movies. They know what the outcome is going to be and yet they still watch the whole movie. They still choose (with their dollars) to go and see something that is filled with inconsistencies and usually extremely predictable. I think Mike Myers (of Halloween fame, not the Canadian comedian) was killed at the end of every one of his movies and yet there he always was, two years later, once again reeking havoc on another unsuspecting group of individuals. The same goes for Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th), or Freddie Kruger (Nightmare on Elm Street). The audiences always came back though. 

We are now on the verge of a mid term election that could (and most likely will) return the Republicans to power in the House and Senate. How, you ask, could people who just two years ago resoundingly rejected the Republican agenda, once again think that the GOP is the answer to their problems? It's easy you see, they are engaged in the same type of mental gymnastics that are required to watch and enjoy a movie that makes no logical sense and is entirely predictable. We as a nation are now involved in a willing suspension of disbelief on a massive scale. The claims made by the Republicans and their supporters are entirely predictable. We all know what it leads to and how that story ends and yet it seems we are all going to be a party to a return engagement. We are going to sit down and pay our money and watch this show run it's course one more time. Lowering taxes on the rich will make eventually benefit everyone...loosening regulations on the banks will help to make money more accessible to everyone...Closing our borders will make us a stronger nation...Health care isn't so broke that a little tort reform won't make everything better...etc, etc, etc. 

We've heard it all before. There is nothing new on the table and yet we, as a nation are willing to suspend our disbelief in order to see the show play out once again. There is a definition of insanity which is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. I don't believe that we fall under into that category, because deep down, I honestly believe that people know what the end result is going to be, they just don't care. We are willing to suspend our disbelief one more time because this show, the Republican Side Show, is just more fun than the Democratic one. The Republicans will tell you that everyone can be rich, if you just let them back into power. The Republicans will tell you that everyone will be happy, if you just let them back into power. The Democrats on the other hand are always trying to keep everyone grounded in reality. Well, as the people are about to tell them, reality is no fun. Where's the fun in hard work and sacrifice? Where's the fun in continued economic stagnation? Where's the fun in increased taxes?

So as November rolls around and unemployment stays high and disenchantment with the Obama administration continues to grow, get ready for a new horror movie that's going to be opening at a city hall and a state capitol and a Congressional office near you. Our suspension of disbelief will be in full effect as we sit down to enjoy, Halloween 2010: the Revenge of the Republicans. The problem is that we've already seen how this one ends.

Cross posted at Mad Mike's America.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, September 10, 2010

Understanding What’s Really Wrong with Our Country and Our World

These days, I’ve often heard it said that the problem with too many Americans who vote against their own interests is their stupidity, or their lack of formal education, or their reliance on corporate-engineered news sources.

How else can you explain the popularity of someone as intellectually counterfeit and ethically suspect as Glenn Beck in America?

The problem with those explanations is that there are plenty of constant counter examples that don’t hold out. There are plenty of people that might be considered to be “dumb as posts,” who still vote rationally in line with their own interests and the interests of the country as a whole in mind. I’m talking about some of the poor people in my old South Bronx neighborhood, many of whom never made it past 9th grade, yet still understand the importance of labor unions and the need for regulation in big business no matter what they read in the New York Post every single day on their train ride to work. Most of these folks can’t even explain the structure of our government or its history despite being native born Americans, yet they can still spot opportunistic bullshit when they hear it:

These so-called “stupid” uneducated people still somehow knew that anything coming from the Right against Healthcare Reform was going to be the kind of lying you only see go down when corporate profits are at stake.

Another problem with the explanations of ignorance, or misinformation is that the truth and the facts are being promoted constantly in the media despite what my fellow Liberals charge: Someone who watches Fox “News” exclusively still walks around the same world as everyone else and invariably sees other headlines they have to actively dismiss. The devoted Fox “News” watcher has to walk the Earth in a constant state of denial, preemptively disbelieving anything that doesn’t match up with Murdoch’s brand of propaganda and wait for new Fox “factoids” to counter reality when they get home and can watch Hannity or whomever. There were for example far more years (decades in fact) of information on the dangers of global climate change, pollution, the importance of conservation, the dangers of continued and future oil dependence, than there have been of the relatively recent Right wing and corporate-sponsored anti-Environment movement propaganda. So just how did such obvious lies catch up to and overtake the truth for many in America?
-The way it happened was this: Lies, -the kind of lies that are invented to muddy facts and question truths inconvenient to the powerful, the Rich, the Establishment were created to be appealing to the believer. That’s the only way they could work. These lies gave the listener something in return for “buying in.”

“You can still lose weight and eat everything you want”
is a statement I see every night on TV infomercials in some form or another. This American desire, particularly the willingness of our desperate fat citizens to do absolutely anything in the world to lose weight (except eating right and exercising apparently) is the core of our problem, and it is what is behind the Tea Baggers today, and it is what was behind the Reagan revolution of 1980.

Tea Baggers believe that they can groundlessly oppose the Obama administration with criticisms they should have leveled at its predecessors (Spending, irresponsible economic governance, government intrusion, weak national security) because it makes them feel okay about claiming they’ve somehow lost their country now that a Black man is president.
Reagan’s supporters were told America could spend its way to prosperity; that we could deregulate big business and it would never create adverse consequences, -ever, because it allowed us to finally say what we felt was a long overdue “fuck you” to the poor. We believed it because it made us feel good. We believed it because it was allowing us to eat all we wanted, without any ill effects… that was the promise and that was the lie.

So the problem with America my friends, aside from our new impatience with any administration or any policy that takes more than six months to register a measurable improvement is this infantile desire to be lied to in place of an ugly truth, and the willingness to trade our safety and our future for just the right fantasy. Too many of us will buy into any lie, as long as the reality it promises let’s us get away with something. You can’t discuss policy with people who want to be lied to. You can’t have a conversation with someone who is lying about how they really feel, unless your goal is to waste your time. I don’t argue with Tea Baggers.

And that’s where we’re at today, Friday September 10, 2010, almost ten long years to the day after a homicidal fundamentalist asshole decided to make a point to my government with facile destructive attacks that only showed just how easy it is to murder people in an open society and an open nation and little else. The American Republic and its Constitution almost didn’t survive 9/11 and ten years later, too many of us are still taking the bait, too eager to hear lies that give us something in return for our credulity, like believing the lie that only allowing our government to operate secretly will keep us safe… or that the actions of the few can conveniently condemn all. -But that last bit goes for all of us, -the real “all of us” everywhere on the globe, whether we’re burning books, killing aid workers, denying people’s rights, or waging unending wars supported by some fake, self-inflicted distance from reality.

A lie is a kind of trade between the speaker and the listener.
We must always ask ourselves what someone is getting for our belief, and if it’s actually worth what we are getting in return.

UPDATED 9/16/2010:
Jack Jodell has written an excellently researched rundown of lies that should not go uncontested or unremembered going into the fall.
Enhanced by Zemanta