Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Nation of Snipers


What’s wrong with America: We have become a nation of snipers, whiners, and bellyachers. How quickly we have fallen from the America that stood together as one after the 9/11 attacks on our country. We stood tall in that great time of crisis with strangers helping strangers and the good of the country placed ahead of the need of individuals. Heroes came forward on some of the doomed flights and on the ground. We helped our neighbors who were harmed or even inconvenienced by the tragedy. We rallied behind our president and leaders. Before that during the 1950s we banded together to become the champions of the world in everything. Seems that everybody with any entrepreneurial spirit fought, clawed, or swam their way to the greatest country in the world.

Before that it was the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that awakened that giant of American knowhow summed up in the Navy Seabees motto, “Can do.” But that was before cable television, and talk radio and Rupert Murdoch style journalism that discovered the disease of “demean and attack and they (listeners and viewers) will come.” Examples of what is wrong with America are legion.

Strasburg, Illinois: Strasburg has been hit hard by the recent economic turmoil. So when their school district needed a new electric sign the booster club raised funds to buy it and local volunteers erected it at no cost to the school district. So why is that wrong? Seems the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) are charged with enforcing the state’s Prevailing Wage Act which states, “laborers, workers and mechanics employed on public works construction projects [must be paid] no less than the general prevailing rate of wages (consisting of hourly cash wages plus fringe benefits) for work of a similar character in the county where the work is performed.” That means those who volunteered their time, including members of the sign company, were lawbreakers? Makes one wonder how the volunteer programs that are part of President Obama’s recovery plan will work in Illinois.

The opinions expressed here…: From the floor of the stock exchange CNBC reporter Rick Santelli went on a rant that included the following statements, “The government is promoting bad behavior,” as well as “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?” This was followed by a floor trader who yelled, “How 'bout we all stop paying our mortgage? It's a moral hazard.”

Talk show host Rush Limbaugh recently stated, “Trying to understand (a member from the opposing party) is like trying to understand a murderer or rapist.” Time’s magazine listed 25 people to blame for the Financial Crisis.” Columnist Ann Coulter stated that talk show host Chris Matthews, “…wants to have sex with (President) Obama.” Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed that Barack Obama and his wife Michelle held anti-American views and couldn't be trusted in the White House.

Right to free speech: Of course the very rants, raves, off-the-wall expressions, and hate comments expressed above, along with hundreds of others are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and that is how it should be. Thus my opinion that we have become a nation of crybabies and whiners, ala Sean Hanity and his ilk, and bullies, ala Bill O’Reilly and his ilk, is equally protected. It is not even that those mentioned above say the things they do, as much of it is shtick and designed to gain market share among listeners. But what concerns me is the million of sheep-like followers who proudly, as in the case of Limbaugh, even refer to themselves as “Dittoheads.” In other words, they do not bother thinking for themselves, but simply parrot the words of the loudest, most outrageous comments made by their icon. As an undergraduate student at one of America’s most conservative universities nearly a half century ago I used to listen in amazement as we were repeatedly told that “There will be wars and rumors of wars…” (Okay, that is so at any period in history and in any country in the world, so that was an easy one), and “…the constitution will hang by a thread,” (I’m still not sure what that one means), and “…the country will collapse without a shot being fired,” (that one seems to be the scariest of the homilies).

What’s right with America: One of the very liberties that we enjoy in this country, perhaps the one I hold most dear, is our right to free expression. So unlike those on the far right of the political continuum I count freedom of speech and expression as two of the most sacred issues that are among those that are right with America. In my previous post I cited areas in which the U.S. of A. is not the champion of the world. But despite the economic collapse – which is worldwide, not just within our chores, our economy is almost as big as the next four largest economies on Earth - Japan, Germany, China and Great Britain combined! If California were a country, its economy would rival that of France. Illinois has the same GDP as all of Mexico. New York matches the entire GDP of Brazil. Florida's economy is as large as South Korea's. Texas has a GDP roughly equal to Canada's. Michigan's economy is as large as the entire country of Argentina.

Many of our colleges and universities have open enrollment and others offer scholarships for the best and brightest. Political connections are not required. We spend more on health care per person than Switzerland, Germany, or Canada. Peaceful transfer of power is what is right about America. In January 2009, Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States. Essayist Michael Lind opines, “Barring catastrophes, the US in 2050 will be much more racially integrated; will remain culturally and linguistically quite homogeneous; and will be much richer, easily able to afford to pay for social security and decent healthcare. And partly as a result of this unity and prosperity, the US will continue to be a major power, though not a solitary hegemon.”

So What is an American to do?: We can disagree without being disagreeable. The genius of our founding fathers is that they set up a government that allowed for healthy debate. Challenge what sounds off key to you but draw your own conclusions – don’t blindly follow the loudest voice and don’t quake with fear at the most intimidating voice. If a view or philosophy differs from your own challenge the philosophy. Don’t simply echo. Don’t simply take opposition because an opinion was voiced from the other party. Don’t blindly follow simply because the position stated was a member of your own team.

Our leaders are fallible. To blindly follow means to also be fallible. That includes blindly forwarding hate emails without first checking out their veracity. To blindly follow is to also become fallible. Challenge but think.

A little blogging Maestro… “Thinking Man” by Eddie Cash

Dr. Forgot

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