The rules of any society are basically a contract. One in which we all must agree to in order to function well as a social species. That contract is maintained and enforced by the people who are in charge – those we elect and appoint to do that job for us as we go through our days making a living. In this Country that contract has been broken in many respects by those elected officials, especially with regards to people of color and those struggling to get ahead. Whether you are a black person who suffers daily from the racism still unbelievably rampant, or a middle-class family trying to succeed while your government makes themselves wealthier at your expense, you have felt screwed, disillusioned, and helpless for far too long.
And don’t tell me the protesters shouldn’t be looting or causing damage. Maybe they shouldn’t, but not doing those things was part of the contract, one they feel no longer exists. How can we expect people to obey the law when those in charge no longer follow it?
I am not surprised by the recent violence nor its ferocity. Frankly I expected it sooner. It is what people resort to when they have lost hope.
(Much of this was prompted by a recent piece by Trevor Noah, said much more eloquently. Thank you, Trevor.)
This morning’s news was consumed by stories about the shooting at the Congressional baseball practice. This was a horrible incident, and my heart goes out to those injured. I wish them a speedy recovery.
I am both shocked and saddened, but there really is no surprise. An angry despair has spread across America. A despair caused not by some external influence, but one from within. Once one of the most respected institutions on Earth, our Congress has devolved into nothing more than a bickering, partisan mess driven by systemic corruption and lack of integrity, with members worried more about campaign contributions than solving the country’s problems. Their approval ratings are at historic lows.
This is being felt internationally as well. A friend in Germany recently said to me, “… there is some sort of vacuum where US leadership used to be. And that is a potentially dangerous situation. … the new star is China. [The US has] handed world leadership to them on a platter. And they gratefully accept since they anyhow see these last few hundred years as a fluke. Otherwise China always has been the greatest nation in the world. So that’s where we’ll all have to look in the future.”
I believe incidents like yesterday’s shooting are driven by a sense of hopelessness, a feeling that we can’t fix this. A lack of hope causes people to either give up or it drives them to extreme actions. We are seeing both. Initial reports of the shooter indicate he was emotionally distraught, in part due to this governmental chaos and associated divisive rhetoric.
As expected, we are already hearing about how to provide better security for members of Congress, including increased police and Secret Service details. It seems to me, however, the best security would be obtained simply by Congress cleaning up their mess. Maybe by becoming respectable again, by eliminating the corruption, stopping the petty politics, and getting back to actually working for America (and setting a good example for the world) fewer people would be compelled to violence through desperation. And just think of the problems we could solve.
A good friend who is a citizen of New Zealand recently asked me that, becoming aware of the growing ‘separatism’ here in the US over our politics. My response to her:
It seems a number of factors have come together to form the ‘perfect storm’ over here, but my personal belief is it’s driven mostly by the systemic corruption that has taken over our government. I understand that corruption has always existed, but big money has now become the primary incentive motivating our elected officials, leaving the business of working for ‘the people’ as a mere footnote, and almost everyone is feeling the effects and is sick of it. And even though we have this common cause, our two-party politics has created this great divide as each side points fingers at the other. The adult skills of listening and compromise have completely been forgotten as the sides get more deeply entrenched. … Even the media has taken sides, with money driving the need for better ratings, and each source pandering to their chosen side of the divide. It’s very frustrating these days to simply figure out what the truth is. … And then there is this recent election, which was more about voting for the lessor of two evils rather than for whom you liked, simply because decent, honest, intelligent people don’t want to get involved in our corrupt politics, so they don’t run for office. Thus, our choice was, 1. the same old corrupt establishment that was Hillary, or 2. the narcissist billionaire who promised to stop the corruption by ‘draining the swamp’. The promise of change won out, but that change may be more than we bargained for. All this craziness has awoken even those who never paid attention to politics before, and they find themselves caught between wanting to do their patriotic duty by voicing their opinion and staying quiet so as not to alienate friends and family who have differing perspectives. As they say, it is history in the making.
From Congressional representatives who sell out their constituents for corporate campaign contributions, to contractors who quote a price knowing they will charge you more, to marketers who collect a paycheck for developing deception, to scammers who suck the savings out of senior citizens, to the average Joe who cheats on his taxes, to Craigslist buyers who promise to be there at noon tomorrow and never show, to someone who robs your house. These are all acts of screwing someone else for personal benefit – firmly entrenched in our American culture.
If I had to name one thing that is sucking the life out of this country it would have to be the astonishing lack of principle and personal integrity. How have we drifted so far from our roots? How can these people look in a mirror and smile at what they see? How can they be proud of the example they set for their children? (Is this why there is so much depression?)
There are lots of excuses, none of them any good.
I’ve wrestled for a while now with the Ed Snowden situation, trying to decide whether I think he is a patriot or a traitor. I’ve waited patiently for much of the hysteria to dissipate and watched Brian Williams’ recent interview with Snowden very intently. Prior to the interview I was leaning toward the patriot side and the interview only strengthened that view.
I like to think I’m a half-decent judge of character, and I find Snowden to be very intelligent and genuine, and I believe he was doing what he thought was the right thing for his country by helping to rein in some of the current over-reaching abuse of our government’s power. Did he break the law and the vow he took to protect the secrets afforded by his security clearance? Absolutely. But I reached the conclusion long ago that principles are more important than a strict adherence to laws, and that feeling has been solidified as I watch our legally corrupt US government pass laws allowing them to get rich off corporate lobbyists while completely ignoring the desires of their constituents. In addition, I believe our judicial system has gotten so wrapped around the axle with technicalities that it bears very little resemblance to what most reasonable people believe to be a system for deciding simple right and wrong, following basic common sense. Snowden said he feels there is currently a serious lack of respect by our government for the public. Unfortunately I completely agree with him. Many want Ed Snowden to go to jail for what he did. I ask who is going to jail for the illegal activities of the NSA?
Not that long ago Thomas Jefferson said that the strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. A lot has changed since then and I certainly don’t believe we are anywhere close to a violent revolution in this country, but the sentiment speaks for itself, loud and clear. And if history has taught us one thing, it is that blindly following your government with the expectation they will always keep your best interests front and center is fraught with disaster.
So who is the bigger patriot, the person who breaks the law to reveal unconstitutional government operations, risking personal ruin for what he believes is best for his country, or the lawmaker who ignores his people, making decisions based only on what will make him the most money? And if you don’t think the latter is happening, you’re simply not paying attention.
That’s just my opinion. I think we still have freedom of speech.