Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ignorance is strength

It is a common stereotype to pain Americans as lazy. Perhaps we are but when you look at other countries with shorter work weeks and vacations measured in months, not weeks, we're definitely overworked. Some of us are addicted to chasing that dollar and a 70 hour work week isn't unheard of. Yet, we're intellectually lazy.

Just as we are addicted to quick and easy pre-cooked food, we're just as addicted to quick and pre-processed news, if we even pay attention to begin with. Just like junk food, we're overloaded with poor choices because we'd rather have someone else tell us what to think rather than take the time to research the facts. Ask almost any viewer of any major news channel about an issue and ask them to explain the history of it, chances are their knowledge would take less than a minute to explain.

How many people cheered to go to war with Iraq, even though they couldn't find it on a map, because they figured all Muslims were the same? The armchair patriots, the mental sloths who went along with whatever the news said because it was easier that way, those are the people who are lazy. We're suffering from a health crisis in this country and it isn't just obesity or physical inactivity. It is also a lack of mental exercise. We see people glorified who are in shape, the steroid freaks who sell their excercise programs on TV but at the same time, being smart is usually frowned upon. Unless, of course, you're smart in a way that can be put to use for commerce or war.

Being able to bench 400 lbs and catch a football is celebrated with millions of dollars but the intellectual equivalent of that is often mocked, or ignored. Why do we celebrate those who fought in a war and died more than those who find a way to avoid a crisis through diplomacy? Are we really an idiocracy?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

True conservatism and the moral bankruptcy of the Tea Party

As the saying goes, "The only thing evil needs to triumph is the indifference of good men". Last night, I saw the most disgusting display of absolute selfish callousness when the hypothetical question was posed to Ron Paul about an uninsured person and whether they should be allowed to die. I know Ron Paul is consistent in his ideology of Libertarianism and while I don't agree with him, I at least salute his consistency even if he is wrong.

I know there are many, many decent people out there who call themselves conservatives and Republican, or Libertarian. I know some of them personally and again, I don't agree with them but I know that in a crisis, they'll help those around them. Yet, there are those people who are so neurotically morally deficient, clinging to the notion that everyone who is poor or sick, deserves what they have because somehow they didn't try hard enough. The craziest thing is that many of these people call themselves "Christians" and justify their position by claiming that "God helps those who help themselves", a quote which is NOT in the Bible.

I actually agree with true conservatives on to some extent on issues which include limited government (and I am almost completely Libertarian when it comes to civil liberties), the death penalty (and not just for violent murders but child rape, etc.) and gun rights (within reason). I have no issue with war, when justified and I believe that those people who succeed should be held up as an example to others. I believe in small business, fair immigration policy and responsible capitalism.

Yet, those people in the GOP have been incredibly silent and allowed the rabid people like Bachmann, Palin, Beck, Santorum and other loonies to drive the bus and dictate policy. These are people who call for making government "inconsequential" in our lives, unless you happen to make lifestyle choices they don't agree with. They are all for letting people raise and educate their kids in religiously nutcase environments but God forbid you want to smoke a joint in the privacy of your own home. They believe that if you are baptized as a baby into their religion, you can't change that but somehow being gay is a choice. They believe that someone born over 2,000 years ago was the Son of God but someone born 50 years ago in a US state isn't an American. They think it is perfectly acceptable to spend trillions of dollars on failed foreign policy and prop up dictators or people like Bin Laden who eventually turn on us, but it is a travesty to use tax dollars to take care of our own people or rebuild our infrastructure. They oppose abortion, yet simultaneously oppose birth control or sex education that would prevent that pregnancy from happening in the first place. They call themselves "pro-life" but clamor for the death of prisoners or even people who can't afford healthcare. Believing that you are not your brother's keeper is the greatest hypocrisy of those who wrap themselves in a flag and wave a cross.

"Screw you, I got mine" is not true conservatism, that's not working class or Middle America values and if the GOP ever wants to get back to possibly gaining my vote, they need to realize that. I know there are good, decent people who call themselves Republicans yet they are allowing the nutcases to speak for them. I don't know if it has become a majority or just a rabid and shrill minority that has come to dictate policy but the reasonable people need to take the wheel back before it is too late. My fear is that it is indeed, too late.

The Real McKenzies - "Drink Some More" Fat Wreck Chords

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11, ten years later

For many of us, our coping mechanism when dealing with tragic events is not to think about it. When it comes to 9/11, I don't like to think about it but I remember some of that day. I was working out the gym when I heard something about a plane hitting the WTC. I thought it was some kind of freak accident and that, as usual, being a slow news day, the media was over-reacting as usual. I went to the showers, cleaned up and came back out, just in time to watch the second plane hit.

We stood around the TV, nobody wanted to work out, just stare at the unfolding carnage. I remember a TV crew walking in from their office next door, they interviewed me and others. We were all in a state of shock and as more information came in, like many other people, I was uncertain what was happening but this was a day that would change everyone's lives forever. I suspected some type of fanatics, wrapping themselves in misguided interpretation of Islam had something to do with this. I knew my small town was probably safe from attack but as I drove up to my girlfriend's house there was already a National Guardsman standing with an M-16 across the street, guarding the armory which was rapidly filling up.

We turned on the TV, already the pundits were trying to pin blame on someone but then, weren't we all? Everyone wanted answers and my brain was on overload. I turned it off, I didn't want to know anymore but down deep, I knew we were going to be striking back. We went upstairs and being the somewhat theatrical person I am, I turned on John Lennon and we made love.

I don't remember much of the rest of that day, or the days that followed. I do remember thinking to myself how proud I was of this country and how we came together in the face of this tragedy. Then the cynicism set in...

Shortly afterwards, the profiteering started. The gym I worked out at, and was employed by, decided to drape the place in little plastic flags (made in China, of course) and announce they would be putting on a weight-lifting competition/fundraiser for the Red Cross. I was skeptical but went about the task of taping the flags up and making my donation. My suspicions were confirmed on the day of the event when the manager cared more about signing up participants for gym memberships than the amount of money we had raised for the Red Cross.

As the days and weeks went by, I still held out hope but it faded with the barrage of calls of war against anyone and everyone that didn't wholeheartedly support a new crusade against Islam. Yet, I didn't have a problem with the initial war in Afghanistan. Once we had identified Osama Bin Laden as the mastermind, I had the hope that our special forces would produce his corpse within a few weeks. Back then, as I do now, I do believe in revenge, as long as it is focused and done with a legitimate purpose.

The part that embittered me forever was a combination of the attempts to make money off the tragedy and the rampant pseudo-patriotism. Unlike most people, I didn't have that much of a problem with Bush until his speech in which he declared "you are with us or you are with the terrorists". Even then, I chalked it up to the emotion we all felt.

It wasn't until the run-up to the war in Iraq and the calls to "nuke all the ragheads" that I had finally had enough. Up until then, I was a registered Republican but then, 9-11 had finally changed everything.

I still cringe every time I accidentally see a replay of the second plane hitting the WTC. I still get tears in my eyes almost every time I am reminded of that day. It is a scar that I can never, ever forget.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The GOP Nigerian scam

I used to be a "scambaiter", someone who would pretend to be a potential victim or even another scammer in order to waste the time of internet fraudsters. Although wasting their time was my original intent, I became trusted enough by some of them for them to share information on their victims, including sending me emails from their "magas" (Nigerian slang for "fools") which I was able to use to warn those people.

Some folks were suspicious and after being warned, dropped contact with the scammer. The resulting moaning and groaning from the "lads" (a scambaiter name for the scammers) was always a sign that they had lost another source of ill-gotten income. However, many people were so emotionally and financially invested in the scam that no amount of warning could dissuade them, including visits from local police or even members of the clergy. I talked to some that had well over 6 figures worth of income now sitting in the bank account of some "oga" (Nigerian slang for "boss") in Lagos, Nigeria. I suppose the decision to keep their heads in the proverbial sand, even in the face of overwhelming evidence and bankruptcy, was preferable to dealing with the crushing reality that they had been scammed. Emotionally they'd prefer to go on sending money and believing that with that one last payment, they would finally get that huge payment from that inheritance left to them by that previously unknown distant relative who mysteriously died and left all their money to them.

I know voters who have also been duped the same way, whether it be on social issues or the economy. They continue to believe that if they keep voting for the GOP and their policies, they'll finally become rich and can move into that gated community they were previously only allowed into to cut the grass or fix the plumbing. They believe that if we give tax cuts to their wealthy bosses, they'll get raises and more people will be hired to ease the workload they're currently under. They're convinced that just one more election and somehow abortion will be totally banned across the country with some executive order, completely ignoring the fact that only a Supreme Court ruling, in complete violation of precedent and the Constitution, would actually accomplish that fact. Yet, the American "maga" goes to the polls every year and votes for politicians and policies that continue to push us as a nation towards bankruptcy, both financially and morally. This is the perfect example of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again, yet still somehow expecting the outcome to be different.

I miss scambaiting and warning but now I just do warnings, except it isn't to people sending the last of their life's savings to Nigeria, it is to the millions of American voters holding out for a windfall that will never come.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Man in the middle

I used to be a bouncer. Yes, I know it sounds funny for those of you who know me in person but I was pretty decent although not physically intimidating. I specialized in talking people down, especially with the reminder if they didn't heed my warning, they had the bigger bouncers to deal with. "Listen to me or deal with them. Trust me, I'm pretty nice compared to them."

When it comes to politics, once again, I'm kind of the man in the middle. I'm not the most liberal, compared to others I know but having the experiences I've had, I like to think of myself as rather "common-sense". So those on the far right would do well to listen to those moderates who are telling them that they are out of line and to start representing the working class, not the elites.

I suppose it is a pretty sweet gig, work in Congress for a couple terms, collect that government check, and get nice fat contributions to ensure your re-election by people who fall for the ads run by your sponsors. As long as you vote the way your fat cats want, if you ever do get voted out, you'll have an even sweeter job as a lobbyist, pressuring your former colleagues to vote the way the bosses want. Most of us common sense people realize that while ideally every vote cast would be for the people, and politicians would always do what is in the best interests of the country, that it isn't the case. I know that politicians have always done what is usually in their best interests and power corrupts. I know that it has been, and likely will be that way for all time. What I am saying is that when you stop tossing the working class a bone here and there, you get a cage full of angry dogs.

Listen to those of us who are telling you that we realize you will always be corrupt and self-serving. We aren't idealists, we're realists. Stop constantly shitting on the people who you are supposed to represent in favor of those you really represent. You honestly can take all the bribes you want and go have $600 bottles of wine with lobbyists, I don't care that much as long as my family can pay the bills. I have come to accept that this is a broken, fucked up system and it will stay that way as long as reforms aren't enacted by the same people they would affect.

We're the dogs at the table and we've become accustomed to getting kicked around in exchange for the occasional table scrap but when those scraps stop altogether and the kicks keep coming, don't be surprised if the mood starts changing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A prayer for rain

Dark clouds approach low
With flirtatious hints of soothing rain
And downgusting breaths humid
Scattering dust ahead
From parched fields
Longing for her liquid touch.
Cicadas rattle a 17 year cacophony
Which seems like the last time it rained.