We the sheeple …
Over the weekend, watching all my usual news shows, I was bombarded by talk of the looming twin crises of government funding and debt ceiling showdowns.
The media, in their usual, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ fashion, were stirring the cauldron again, instilling a growing sense of dread that something terrible is about to happen, because there is a deep divide in the government as well as the country about how to handle fiscal matters and the favorite hostage currently is the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’).
I took just so much of this drum-beating and then had to get out and go do something else, so I spent the afternoon Sunday photographing another part of Los Angeles for my Flickr page, to show people yet another glimpse into life in Southern California and America. It was a good thing to do, because I came back physically exhausted, but with my mind cleared of some of the poison that is seeping across our public landscape that had started to unnerve me. If we have a government shutdown, it won’t affect me. If the debt ceiling is not raised, it very likely will, since I work for myself and have an international as well as national and local clientele. Not good. Luckily, I know how to tighten my belt to a point, after which, it might be serious.
Meanwhile, overnight I had a chance to think about the people of this country. It would be easy to say that they are, I am sorry for this, acting stupidly. Not that they are stupid, just acting stupid. Since my training is in understanding and trying not to judge people (and certainly not mythologize myself and my abilities), but to listen, gather data, reflect on this data or analyze it — whichever term is best for this ratiocination process — and then come to practical, useful conclusions and actions, I do attempt to rise above the obvious and look for the subtle underpinnings of problems. Sometimes, I fail and just get mad, since I am not Schweitzer or Mother Theresa!
It made me think about the scenes of our populace at town hall meetings the lawmakers held this summer, back in their districts on their long vacation hiatus. People standing up and vocalizing anger, accusations, insults. Was that predictable? I decided, yes, it was. What was I really seeing here? That same old demon: fear.
Why are people afraid? For one thing, they are bewildered. For years they have been told that complicated things that the government was doing, were taking away their freedoms and their money. Who has been telling them this? A faction of so-called lawmakers, for one thing, people who are put in office by certain sectors or industries interested in having certain legal or policy outcomes that further their own ambitions for money and power. But also by the media who promote negativity. And finally, by the well-meaning, perhaps, but largely passive people who hold the power — I am speaking mainly of moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats — who are either too busy, too lazy, too deluded, or too intimidated to stand up and clearly lay out what is being done of a positive and beneficial nature (for the people, the public) and correcting or combating the disinformation campaign of these negative actors on the opposing side.
The people have also been led to believe that Obama is a socialist (and they then say fascist, showing they understand neither term) and that the Affordable Care Act is socialized medicine. Are they kidding? I wish it were! I wanted the public option. Medicare for all. I want the care my Grand Uncle gets at the VA for not one extra red cent over the money I paid into the system for it over my working lifetime. The ACA is a Bob Dole creation from 1994 – have you heard Bob Dole in the past? No liberal Democrat there. This was morphed into Romney care in Massachusetts, where the costs of health care are down and the quality is up. It is like the Swiss system that uses private insurance companies. Heck this next week, our mega insurance corporations are coming out with their own ads to try and encourage younger Americans to sign up for Obamacare. Would they be doing that out of their historic sense of charity and fair play? Or could it be that they are going to make a lot of money from this new health care law. Wake up folks! The ACA is a boon to private industry as well as a lifeline to people who might die otherwise, for lack of insurance. We haven’t even let it roll out before a huge segment of Americans flock-like, follow the mouthpieces for factions that stand to lose their grip on the US feedbag. And who is helping them do it? You guessed it – the tea party.
So, what part do we, the people, the citizenry, the voters, the adults in this country have to play to help relieve this growing anxiety, discord, and reactionism?
I am reminded of the classic Twilight Zone episode, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, about a street on which all the lights went out one night. [The brilliant and pioneering Nora Ephron referred in You’ve Got Mail, to Coppola’s Godfather as being the I Ching. I agree with her, LOL. If the Godfather is the I Ching, then Twilight Zone is Aesop’s Fables.] In this particular episode, when the lights go out, the people start out rationally trying to solve the problem. While they still have their sanity at the beginning of the event, they send one of the residents on a scouting mission to the next street over, to see if their lights also went out. Then the episode continues, the tension and speculation building, terror rising as each of the neighbors makes dire predictions that others feed off of and then add their own worries to. What were these forecasts and speculations based on? The inner, primal fears that all human beings (and some animals!) share, coming from deep in our collective subconscious, the Akashic records or whatever, flowing through all of us below the surface like the root systems of a spreading plant that looks like individual plants above the ground. The story continues and nerves fray, tempers explode, people’s self control begins to disintegrate and chaos takes over – complete anarchy, with deadly results. The scout they sent out 28 minutes earlier, comes down the street, not knowing what just ensued in his absence. Someone shouts something like, ‘It’s THEM!‘ and the mob kills him.
We are responsible for doing our homework and not just robotically accepting what we are told, especially by faux newsmen like these talking heads and radio hosts. When I want to get the facts, I don’t go to Fox or CNN or even MSNBC, which is closest to my sentiments. I look to experts with recognized training and experience. There is no way that Coulter, Ingraham, Limbaugh, Beck or Hannity are qualified to pass judgment and report the facts, nor do they have the integrity and objectivity and moral commitment to do so either. That is because they are not paid to be fair and honest and balanced. They are being paid royally to upset gullible people. They have an agenda. They are disruptors, bomb-throwers. They are like the two Aliens in the Twilight Zone episode I described, that sit on a promontory over the town and watching the chaos on the one street below, turn to each other and say “That was easy, let’s go to the next street‘. These agitators bear a large portion of the blame for what is going on right now. So do Cantor, Boehner, Cruz, Ryan and their minions. Some reasonable Republicans and Democrats can be faulted for being too compliant and trying to compromise with these people when the latter have no incentive to do so.
But we the people, absolutely bear at least 50% or more of the responsibility. This country is lazy about vetting sources. There is an insane anti-science, anti- factual bias right now. It has divided us, pitted families and communities against each other, caused suffering and chaos that verges on complete social disintegration. We are so distracted with our luxuries and entertainments or struggling to make ends meet, that we are not attending to our civic duties. George Washington warned us about allowing the party system to destroy democracy in the Republic.
And I think this same lack of intellectual discipline and rigor has led to the rise in gun violence and bigotry.
How can any intelligent person really believe that the President is a foreign jihadi who wants to hurt America? Do the people who believe this not see the flawed logic in this? Nothing in his personality or history bears this contention out. It is a fiction, a shibboleth that probably comes from the fossil fuel and drug industries for all we know.
You can easily tell that those who promote these lies are not honest brokers. Why else would they give Ted Cruz a pass for being born in Canada, just on the basis that his mother is an American citizen? President Obama’s mother is an American citizen! Come on people.
If we don’t like the Democratic or so-called “liberal” progressive platform, by all means let’s step up and offer an intelligent, well researched, effective and viable or practicable alternative. Please, get the data from credible, well established, respected sources. Turn off the radio and read primary sources. Most of all we have to think, think, think for ourselves.
Let’s try harder to wake up. It isn’t easy. It is much more convenient to be fast asleep, Matrix-like, narc’d on drivel and cheap food, filling our time with trinkets and trivia. But this is our lives and our country they are tinkering with. We have a responsibility to exercise our freedom of speech wisely. Not just standing up and spouting hearsay and untruths that we know nothing about because we were quick to fall for the hateful speech of people paid to dupe us and thereby treat us like ovines instead of sapiens.
Images: xkcd,anonymousartofrevolution, reddit, Wikimedia Commons