Decade of fear

Fear is one of humanity’s most profound weaknesses. If we allow fear to stay with us in any kind of prolonged capacity, it holds us captive. Degenerates our ability to reason and react in effective ways. Prolonged fear can be used as an effective lever for the masses to move us in any particular direction so desired. This is what has happened in the first decade of the 21st century.

When the World Trade Center buildings were attacked in 2001, Americans had a brief and overwhelming sense of fear. What will be attacked next? Are my friends and family okay? How do I talk to my children about this? That is normal. Fear is a logical emotion after something like that happens. It keeps us on our toes. After that first day or so, though, our fear  gave way to feelings of resolution (we will carry on no matter what), vengeance (let’s kill the bastards who did this) and pride (you didn’t break our spirit). Those emotions are also normal. They are what ultimately lead us to seek out peace and justice (vengeance can’t last forever, for example, and rarely turns out well). Perfect and just as longer-term states of being. In order to mount the wars that our leaders thought necessary, however, those second-stage emotions had to be transmuted back to more easily-controlled states of mind.

Our need for vengeance was bastardized into fear (weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, Saddam Hussein). Our feelings of resolution and pride were twisted into a sort of fanatic patriotism (with us or against us, etc.). After a few months, we become a society of 280 million fearful fanatics who would justify anything we were told was an act of vengeance. And so the attacks on Iraq began and too late we realized our mistakes. What bothers me, though, is that we did nothing once we were shown the truth. Why?

The fear and jingoism had paralyzed us. Like a man locked in a death grip with the rock face he’s trying to climb. He can no more move up than he can down. He is frozen in fear. Paralyzed until his inevitable fall unless he finds that will within himself to carry on or back down. Now we stand as a society controlled and manipulated by that same paralyzing fear. Do we stay here until we fall, or do we find the will to move on?

This decision is what we must make on the cusp of this second decade. Can we reclaim our resolute pride and honor? Can we eradicate the vestiges of fear, paranoia and jingoism from our laws and become who we should be? There is only one right answer. If we do not recover now we never will. We will become that which we have always railed against: a fearful police state hellbent on world domination. It’s not too late, but it’s getting to be.

Elections are over; what’s the score?

The 2010 mid-term elections are complete. I’ve always hated that term: “mid-term”. I don’t like that the election cycle is defined by the president’s time in office. It somehow dumbs-down the legislative elections in the same way that a mid-term exam might not be worth as much as the final when in fact the legislative elections are worth much more.

This is the election cycle that has the potential to drive and shape policy, most accurately voice the will of the voters, and generally set direction for the country in terms of what is likely to be debated. It’s a huge deal. I prefer we go with the term “general elections” and “presidential elections”.

The democrats finished badly — though not as badly as some had said — and it looks like we’re in for an interesting and corruption-filled two years before we try and fix this. I can’t believe you all voted for republicans. What were you thinking? Do you seriously think we’re better off with the same people who supported Bush for eight years? Really?! Why do you think we’re in the mess we’re in. The debt, unemployment, financial crisis, wars, pollution: all of them were inherited by the current administration. Left as a legacy by Bush.

So that’s the national picture, and I’m unpleased. While I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a democrat, I’m certainly not in the fold of the current republicans. Locally, things look a bit better.

My county district voted back in our long-standing representative at the state level — Lucy Leriche — over a former schoolmate of mine, Nicole Ling. I had to learn quickly about the two, and found out that Leriche would be my choice. For one, she’s experienced and has actually accomplished stuff. Secondly, she can spell her position. Thirdly, she’s not republican and doesn’t seem to let religion or morality interfere with her political work. I’m happy there. I don’t know that much about our state senators, but I will find out.

As the dust settles, I’ll be posting data on the turnout and who voted for whom. We’ll see exactly how many people have just decided upon fate for the rest of us, eh?

Racism runs rampant

I abhor racism. The idea that any one person is better or worse than another simply because of skin color or cultural differences is and always has been absurd. Just as absurd is the idea that culture can’t or shouldn’t be shared amongst disparate groups of people. I have no patience for any propaganda that supports the ascension of  one group at the expense of another. I used to think that my need for this spite and abhorrence would be able to slowly ebb as societies became more understanding and tolerant of one another, as groups within those societies became more tolerant of one another. I’m afraid I was mistaken.

Racism is in fact still strong in America. The perpetual separation of groups by color, culture and language remains a significant part of our culture. The transition of distrust and hatred from blacks to asians to the middle-eastern to hispanics and back again is perpetually enacted. We are supposed to be a country of open-armed tolerance. A beacon of hope to the world.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
‘ With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We’ve never been perfect, but the desire has always been there for most of us. We should have learned by now, though. Italians, Germans, Irish, Chinese, Polish, Jewish, Japanese, Vietnamese, and now Mexicans. When is it going to end? I propose it ends now, and I’ve got some ideas for how to settle what appear on the surface to be issues about immigration but are in reality about racism.

  1. Those people here illegally should be allowed to apply for work visas or citizenship immediately with no fear of repercussions.
  2. America should never declare a national language, culture, or religion. Our identity is in our liberty and openness, not in the way we speak or how we choose — or choose not — to worship.
  3. All racist ideas need to stop. Now. If you judge a culture by the actions of a few individuals, you’re racist. Knock it off.
  4. No American or guest of this country should be forced to produce identification or proof of residence unless there is a felony potential.
  5. All laws that raise up one culture over another should be repealed.
  6. Stop focusing on one culture per month. How about making sure our history books are accurate rather than highlight or diminish the accomplishments of one culture at a time?
  7. Learn. From. Our. Mistakes.

That should do it.

Vote your Voice!

If you’ve come by these pages a lot, you’ll know that I’ve spent a good deal of time discussing various points on the state of our republic here in the U.S. Throughout, I have always maintained that a stronger voter turnout could go a long way towards correcting some of the trends we’ve been seeing magnified lately: corporatization of government, disenfranchisement, increased lobbyist control, career politicians. I truly believe with the utmost optimism that those ills of our government can be either corrected or slowed if more citizens would just vote in every election.

Why do I believe this? Because that’s how our system works. The more people who vote, the more government truly represents the voice of our entire country as opposed to just a few sects of angry factions.

I created a group called Vote Your Voice in order to try and spread my optimism on these issues.  The sole purpose of the group is to spread the word that increased voting numbers are tantamount to an improved government.

It’s going to be a tough road and one that will require all of us involved to maintain a spirit of possibility and optimism in the face of naysayers, ne’er-do-wells, and counter-arguments. I will do my part by continuing to be loud, optimistic, and paint pictures of the voting numbers so that the disparities can be seen. What I’m asking for is your support.

Join the group over on Facebook, participate in the commentary discussions on the website, or just get your own circle of influence to go vote whenever the opportunity arises.

Voting is not a privilege. It’s not a right. Voting is a duty of all U.S. citizens and should be taken seriously.

Voting accomplished, conscience muddy

Well, I voted. I braved the rain, the cold slush, and all of everything else today to cast my vote for the person who I feel is less likely to destroy our country in the future. Neither Martha Coakley nor Scott Brown appealed to me as an ideal candidate for a state senator. Joe Kennedy just was never an option for me.

So given the field, Coakley was it. If anything, I hope that replacing a democrat with a democrat does less damage than the other way around, because I’m sure it won’t do as much good as I want it to.

All three of the candidates claimed to be the answer to the “status quo”. And they are, depending on what you define as “status quo”. My definition is such that nothing short of a complete changing of the guard on capital hill can provide the answer. The only way to get our country back on track is to remove every politician on the take from office and then remove all lobbyists. The only way is to change the platforms of both major parties. To allow third parties a fair chance at winning. To get the citizenry of this country to participate in the process and reduce the power of factions.

Will either Brown or Coakley help us accomplish any of that? Probably not. I figured, though, that a former attorney general is far less bribeable than a man who posed for Playgirl, so she was the safer bet for me.