(I’m sorry, but I woke up with a REAL rant this morning. Perhaps it is the result of the past week of reading, watching TV, and conversations about all the problems we face. I just had to vent a little.)
The War on Terror – We preach a prophecy of “nation-building,” as though we were the saviors of the universe and had all of the answers. The extremes of poverty at the edge of survival, corrupt governance, and radicalism of religion foster the seeds of terrorism. We cannot interdict or capture all those whose fanaticism would try to destroy the western world in their mis-directed goal of achieving nirvana. Radicals in this country would use any means to achieve the end of protecting us from terrorists, including torture, surveillance of all citizens, and other abuses of human rights. The terrorists already have achieved a great victory in disrupting our air traffic transportation system at great cost to us. If we allow them to change our values, our society, and our unique devotion to freedom, then they will win regardless of whether they bomb us again.
The War on Poverty – Lyndon Johnson achieved major progress with Medicare, Medicaid, and the Voting Rights Act to provide for equity for the elderly and minorities. He failed in the noble experiment of providing public housing, in that in many cases those complexes simply became the breeding ground for crime because of the idleness of the occupants. Without jobs, or hope of jobs, what else did they have to do? When a free market system operates without any control, then there is abuse not only of the system but also of those who lack the power to defend themselves against such abuse. The oligarchy that controls this nation has achieved great wealth and created a giant underclass that one day may finally rise in revolt, such as what happened in the French Revolution. The unemployed have no hope and nothing to lose, so the ultra-rich are right to be afraid, and the middle class are right to be angry for how they’ve been scammed for the past 20 years.
The War on Drugs – We tried a noble experiment with Prohibition, and it was a failure. The criminalization of addictive drugs hasn’t solved the problem, nor has massive efforts at interdiction, arrest, and prison reduced the demand or supply of drugs. It simply has created a criminal system of an underground economy that feeds upon the urban poor and those with addictive personalities who depend upon the crutch of drugs for survival. If we legalize those drugs to reduce the economic incentives for their sale, provide effective treatment programs to reduce the demand, and lower the incarceration rate to reduce the high cost of maintaining the largest prison population of any developed nation, then we may start to achieve some balance to reduce both the demand and the supply of addictive drugs. We can use economic principles as well as moral imperatives to overcome the hypocrisy that we’re winning the war on drugs.
The War on the Middle Class – After WWII, the middle class in America grew exponentially at the highest rate since the beginning of the nation. With the boost of the GI Bill, and the Civilian Conservation Corps before the war, we developed a trained work force that was the most productive of any country. It’s time to rein in the robber barons of the information age just like Teddy Roosevelt did with those in the industrial age. So why not develop a modern version of the CCC in the urban ghettos to provide job training and hope for the majority of the unemployed youth? Why not adequately fund our community colleges so that they can respond to the emerging need for continuing education for everyone? Some would say that would be too costly, but what about the cost of doing nothing? We don’t make much in this country anymore, and if China were to turn from its current economic expansion philosophy to the hostile approach it held for 40 years, we would have no means to defend ourselves because we couldn’t mobilize like we did in WWII.
The War on Public Civility – It’s not just the politicians who demonize their opponents; the media have reveled in the promotion of controversy and irresponsible defamation to achieve ratings. We used to have the demagoguery of television evangelists, but now the TV preachers have gone mainstream and we have talking heads on radio and TV who do nothing but promote themselves. They use fear and anger and the failures of our economic, judicial, and political system to alienate millions of people who respond irrationally and often act against their own best interests because they have become so indoctrinated with fear and prejudice. It’s not just the behavior in Congress or the political races; we’ve seen worse in our history. It’s the vulgarization of everyday discourse with scatological language not only in the media but also even in polite society. Everyone is angry about something, and very few are happy with anything even if they are very wealthy and secure. We’re being conned because we let ourselves be conned and don’t bother to pay attention to corrupt business practices, self-perpetuating politicians, and mean and hurtful religious radicals who abuse the common goals of all the world’s religions.
Peace is not the Absence of War – So is it all hopeless? Should we just barricade ourselves in our bomb shelters, as some would preach? No, Americans are among the most generous people in the world and have great conviction, energy, and innovation. It’s just been mis-directed in a generation of greed and corruption, but we can recover if we work together and stop yelling at each other. Politics is the art of the compromise, but we have compromised our principles for too long in the cause of expediency and so have lost our moral authority. It’s not just our politicians and business leaders who have been exposed as hypocrites; we share the blame because we have been too absorbed within ourselves and not paying attention to what is happening in the world. Wake up America.