Wednesday, June 30, 2010
THE UNTIED STATES OF AMERICA
No, folks, I didn't misspell my title. This is no longer "the United States of America," tied together by common values and beliefs. We have in fact become the UNTIED States of America, a disunited and fractious country divided on a number of levels. Allow me to explain.
Once upon a time, this country had a common purpose. It championed free speech, and was governed by a set of laws formulated by elected representatives and passed into law with the President's signature. Along the way, this proposed law (a bill) was analyzed, discussed, and debated, until enough support could be garnered for its passage. When this level of legislative support was achieved, the bill was passed, signed, and it became law. This process was conducted in an open and honest manner, with legitimate two-way discussion. People more or less went along with those passed laws, even if they didn't like them. Those opposed to the legislation conducted themselves as a loyal opposition, going along to get along until changes could be made later. If enough people were tremendously opposed to a law once passed, they challenged it in court, or, at the next election, they elected a new set of representatives or a new President, so that the unpopular law could be altered or repealed. The country was united in the cause of free speech and the principle of compromise to ensure that all voices could be heard and that due consideration could be granted to all participants of a discussion. That was the United States. That was in the good old days. Regrettably, that country, and those days, are now gone.
This Independence Day, consider how much we have changed in the past several decades. Think about how polarized the country has become. Think about how civility in public discussion, and how a loyal opposition has completely disappeared. Polar extremes exist where civilized opposzition had existed previously. One group, the ultra-conservative far right (composed of conservative Republicans, Tea Party groups, and outright crackpots) rant and rave at those whom they oppose, hurling insults, telling blatant lies, making wild, unsubstantiated claims, and shout down political opponents rather than listening and trying to find compromise. They hoist banners incorrectly comparing the President with Adolf Hitler, Nazis, and communists. THEY STONEWALL AND DELIBERATELY BLOCK DISCUSSION AND PASSAGE OF NEARLY EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF LEGISLATION. This is un-American behavior. Is this the type of discourse our Founding Fathers envisioned? Absolutely not!
This Fourth of July, think about how intolerant many of us have become. Think about the religious right, its influence on the modern Republican Party, and its rigid, doctrinaire stances on the role of our government and the types of officials they think we should elect. Mull over how many of these people would like us to become a theocracy, with a Christian-values litmus test being required of all who hold or seek office, rather than a democracy, which is what we have had all along, with a separation of church and state. Is a Christian-values requirement what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote our Constitution? Definitely not.
As you view the 4th of July fireworks this year, think if our original Boston Tea Party colonists had the complete elimination of taxes in their intent, or the establishment of organized, armed militias in place to force the government they would end up creating to do their will at gunpoint? We already know this was certainly not the case.
HAD that been their original intent, why, then, did they allow Congress to pass a liquor tax and President George Washington to send troops in to quell Pennsylvania's Whiskey Rebellion over it in 1792? Some of today's Tea Party types question the federal government's right to levy taxes or enforce its directives. Are these teabaggers correct, or was George Washington and our early Congress right to establish taxes, enforce passed laws, and protect the power of the federal government? I'm quite certain most rational people know the proper answer, and they do NOT agree with today's teabaggers!!
Today's ultra-conservative Republican Party and its Tea Party splinter group are malcontents and subversives who are twisting fact and history to justify and legitimize their own errant version of what the American Revolution of 1776 was all about. They have recast the Boston Tea Party into having been a revolt against taxes rather than what it actually was: a revolt against being governed without representation by an unelected king from across the sea. Since they are in such strong opposition and even encourage insurrection against our existing government, which DOES allow them representation and IS elected, are they not being UNpatriotic rather than patriotic? Aren't Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry's threats of secession, and Republican Representative Michele Bachmann's cries for revolution, acts of treason? Urging defection from, or calling for the overthrow of, an existing government simply because there aren't enough representatives in it who vote the way you'd like isn't being patriotic, as the teabaggers claim. What it actually is, in reality, is being childish, selfish, and insolent. The raging voices of the right, spewing lies and hatred, are not offering ties that bind or a solution to our problems. They offer, instead, a breaking of ties devoid of any solution. I hope voters will take this into account in November!
Our country has become very self-centered in recent decades. Ronald Reagan and subsequent conservatives have fueled the fire of self-centeredness with constant demands for tax cuts and insinuations that the government is "stealing" our money. They say that the country is worse off for the government having acted on behalf of the needy. This, of course,is patent nonsense! The many millions of elderly helped by Social Security and Medicare, as well as the large numbers of poor who have received Medicare and even educational assistance belie this nasty conservative allegation. That these programs even came into being at all is strong evidence that free-market capitalism by itself very often fails to meet the needs of ordinary citizens and that government intervention is a definite necessity. The conservatives have also incorrectly and very unjustly characterized the underprivileged as worthless loafers who are parasites sucking everyone's personal finances dry through taxation and social programs. They have wrongly attacked and cast government attempts to help the poor and underprivileged as being actions designed to steal from the rich and middle class, which is nothing mre than a cynical attempt to make the poor even greater outcasts of society than they already are. When Michele Bachmann (and others like her) decry any attempt by government to level the economic playing field as being an undesirable "redistribution of wealth", she very ignorantly overlooks the fact that Reagan's and George W. Bush's tax cuts funneled billions of dollars upward, into the hands of the already filthy-rich. She also ignores the fact that wealthy corporations and CEOs have long been freezing worker wages and exporting jobs to slave labor markets overseas, a DEFINITE redistribution of wealth in favor of the rich who do not need or deserve any more money! People like this are turning us into a culture of "me first" and "to hell with you." There is growing intolerance for divergent viewpoints. There is growing incivility, and an increasing geographical division. The South neither understands, nor evidently cares about, the industrialized Northeast anymore, and vice versa. The Midwest views the South, Northeast, and far West with disdain. The wide-open West has no time for Washington or those in Eastern inner city slums. Fundamentalist Christians have no time for non-believers or those who don't imterpret theology just as they do. They hate Muslims, and are also demanding the establishment of a near-theocracy in government. Social conservatives have no time for libertines or those who deviate from their viewpoint. Claiming to be pro-life, some even murder abortion doctors.
I do not believe our Founding Fathers envisioned what we are becoming today: a self-absorbed, ideologically-split nation of polar opposites. Their vision was one of free, honest, and open discussion, and action being taken by means of cooperation, mutual respect, and MAJORITY RULE. They gave us a Constitution to live by, and also a Bill of Rights providing for amendments and necessary future changes to that Constitution.
Progressives through the years, notably Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ, have striven to correct injustices such as slavery and monopoly and lack of opportunity and civil rights. They have brought about much needed change which has expanded opportunity and made it possible for all, not just an elite wealthy few, to have a good quality standard of living. They did this by using the federal government as a catalyst for these beneficial changes. But such an approach is under direct attack today by far-right elements which comprise the Tea Party and control the Republican Party. This is not at all in spirit with what our original founders intended. To truly recapture and once more implement what they had envisioned, there MUST be more open and honest discussion going forward, along with more civility, less obstruction, and more understanding going. As you celebrate this July 4, remember that our wise founders laid the groundwork for a tied together, yet diverse and malleable, UNITED States of America, not the UNTIED States of America we are disintegrating into thanks to the incivility and stubborn rigidity of the far right.