Our country is seriously broken. Not irreparably, but seriously. Our government is broken (that should surprize nobody). Our churches are broken. Our schools are broken. Our media is broken. Our economy is broken. Our corporations and major institutions are broken. Our FAMILIES are broken. It seems that everywhere you look, you see things not performing as they should or as they once did. It is no wonder that a recent survey revealed a whopping 82% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. It is, and that is a shameful indictment on the culture and times we live in. Yet we are not powerless; we can and should be able to right many of the wrongs we see. To do so, we must first examine the causes of our problems and then take action to correct them. We CAN do this, and we MUST!
The United States was once the unchallenged and unparalleled leader of the world. Our education, work ethic, standard of living, and products were the envy of the globe. Much of this sheen has dulled or disappeared in recent years. We can and must get it back.
How have we reached our present state of affairs? There are, in my view, a number of causes which have individually and collectively gotten us off track. First, we are awash in a pervasive materialism today. We have as a nation always strived for new and better products. But today, this striving has corrupted our values and permeated our national psyche. We MUST have the best clothing, cars, electronics, homes, furnishings---and we must have them NOW! Cheap and easy credit has fueled the fire of our desire. This compulsion to buy, buy, buy at all costs has led us as individuals into record levels of debt and personal bankruptcy. Worse than that, though, it has led our country into massive foreign debt. 25 years ago, we were the world's largest lender. Today, we are the world's biggest borrower, and those to whom we are indebted may not truly be our friends. China is using the huge amounts of cash we are giving them every year to build up its military. Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC states are siphoning off our money in an ever rising and unbelievable rate. Our debt is an ever-tightening noose around our neck, and it is lowering our standard of living. We are stealing from future generations and dooming them to a liftime of indebtedness, as they will be the ones eventually paying for our comforts and excesses of today. I don't know about you, but I don't want to end up being a rickshaw puller for wealthy Chinese tourists in my old age, nor do I want to be a servant to visiting Arab sheikhs! When severely shortsighted and misguided politicians give tax breaks to the wealthy and increase government expenditures through corporate welfare, this only adds to and accelerates the problem. And when politicians award multimillion dollar earmarks to businesses within their communities, that, too, compounds the problem. The root cause of this excessive materialism is plain and simple selfish GREED. For, unlike in years past, when we carefully planned for the future and thought of the big picture, today we look almost exclusively at the here and now and of our own personal wants. Sadly, at some lost point, we drifted off the road of common sense into the ditch of me first, and everybody and everything else second. This is a disastrous route to follow, and we have to change our behavior and mindset. Think about it: The next time you reach for that credit card to buy a luxury item you can't afford at the moment, put that card back in your purse or wallet. The next time you're tempted to buy a big-ass, gas guzzling SUV for the sake of status, buy a smaller, more practical and fuel efficient vehicle instead. You're effectively stealing from your kids and grandkids if you don't. And the simple fact remains: If you don't have the money to pay for something now, you don't need it that much, at least not right at that exact moment! AVOID UNNECESSARY DEBT! When we start to follow this practice religiously, and then DEMAND our politicians do so too, we'll start to climb out of our economic ditch and back onto the correct road.
This impulsive, reckless, and self-centered behavior referred to above doesn't stop with our spending practices. It is also evident in our current lack of civility in politics, interpersonal relations and even on our highways. We have become so impatient and rude we have lost the art of compromise, and no civilization can last long if it doesn't agree to work together to solve problems. Rather than try to work with politicians of the opposite party for the common good, we routinely try to discredit or character assassinate them.That is not free speech. Rather, it is a free-for-all we can ill afford.Think about this the next time you're tempted to forward a vicious or personal attack email about a political candidate. You know the type: So and so is really a Muslim, or so and so's endorser hates Catholics, therefore so and so must too, or if so and so disagrees with our foreign policy, so and so must be an appeaser. Absolute nonsense! The best and only way to convince others of flaws a particular officeseeker may have is with FACTS and ISSUE POSITIONS, not with innuendo and distortions and outright lies. (SIDEBAR: If you ever want to verify the truth or falsity of something, go to http://www.snopes.com/ and key in the claim or statement. You'll see in a hurry there's a ton of deceitful and untrue statements and allegations out there). We are so quick to shout down and condemn, to honk horns, cut across lanes, and run red lights. We never think of the harm we could be doing. We need to slow down and THINK before acting sometimes. Above all, we need to THINK BEYOND OURSELVES. The world does NOT revolve around any one of us, and we need to remember that always.
As we see so many broken institutions around us, our natural reaction may be to ask: How in the world did this ever come about? It's easy to understand when you think of it: Our media has been feeding us shallow, incomplete, and slanted information for years. We no longer get complete, factual analyses on our network news. Instead, we get limited, he-said-she-said arguments (even though many issues are more complex than a mere two-sided argument and may have three or more viable successful alternatives), abbreviated sound bytes, and PR masquerading as spin . Networks have decided for us that it is more interesting for the viewer to watch conflict rather than discussion. Repetition is king on cable news networks: They deliberately repeat stories over and over and deliver them in the shortest staccato fashion possible. There is usually little breadth or depth in the typical news story. When several commentators are gathered to discuss a topic, the presentation is usually done in a confrontational manner. You can always count on the moderator to step all over the other speakers, cut them short, and steer the course of the "discussion" a particular way. This is neither news nor discussion, and we are being shortchanged as a result. Then too, today's media is obsessed with entertainment and entertainment figures. You don't get news stories anymore. Now you get sensationalism and "segments" which are preceded and succeeded by "what's up next" previews and the inevitable run of commercials. If news talking heads would cut down on the cutesy silly talking banter among themselves and the "what's next" previews, far more time could be devoted to actual NEWS and we would be far better informed! And then, there's the steady parade of the misfit celebrity of the moment. Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears---NONE of these crazies are newsworthy, but we get a constant diet of them on TV and in print. By depriving us of depth and breadth, the media is severely shortchanging us. No wonder we elect so many idiots to public office, and with disatrous consequences! We MUST demand better and less frivolous news coverage! Write or email the networks as I have done and let them know you want them to stop force feeding us conflict, sensationalism, and irrelevant garbage! Tell them to raise the bar instead of constantly appealing to the lowest common denominator! With the problems we face today, we need all the background and facts we can get to dig our way out of this mess!
END OF PART ONE. Sorry for the lengthiness. I'll try to be briefer next week.
Charlottesville: The Hippie-Blaming Begins
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