Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday 'Murica!

Start Me Up

I'm writing this on the 4 of July, a holiday that I've celebrated in numerous ways over the years.

I've played golf, gone to a jam session, gotten drunk (more than once) been to picnics and concerts, played tennis, worked in the yard, gotten stoned, been to beach, and one occasion slept the entire day away until just before a fireworks display because I'd been up to see the sunrise.

In any case, it's nearly always involved seeing a fireworks display which, to me, is kind of like lighting the candles on the country's birthday cake. Kind of fitting for a country as large and impressive as ours is, if you ask me.
Not cake but close enough

Easy to Be Hard

The cynic in me wants to say, "I wonder how much longer we're going to be able to celebrate the birth of our nation? Will she really exist for much longer?"

If you're like me, you read newspapers, watch TV, read the internet, watch podcasts and are appalled by the current state of affairs. Never have we been more at odds with each other in the government, with both sides claiming the other is responsible for nothing getting done. The far Right thinks the far Left is every bit as crazy the far Left thinks the far Right is. Everyone in the middle (that group seems to be ever shrinking although if you ask most people, they'll tell you they're moderate even as they're cursing the POTUS or the Speaker) thinks the 2 extremes are hopeless and there isn't anything that the moderates can do to mediate anything, either.

So, you throw up your hands and say, "Let's throw these bums out!" And on election day, everyone continues to vote for their bum because, he or she is the only one making any sense; it's the other bums that need to be thrown out. Except, that almost never happens.  After all, my guy may be a bum but he is my bum!

Look back to look forward

If you look back about 50 or so years ago, go read some old newspapers (the interweb makes it really easy to do this) you'll find that this current state is not so current. Back in the 1960s, the issue was Equal Rights.
We're all the same. Truly.
Go back to the late 30s and early 40s and it was World War 2. Late 20s and early 30s, it was the Great Depression.  And the list goes on and on. We've always had these divisive times; we've always managed to work our way through them; we've always come out the other side a better republic for it (at least I think so) and then we've moved on to the next topic.

What's it mean? Well, to me it means that it's this constant state of unease, discomfort, divisiveness and the like that makes us uniquely American. In most every other country of the world, this sort of thing winds up in civil war (which is the greatest contradiction in terms I've known) followed by a complete breakdown of government, followed by many years of failed attempts at new ones. But in our case, we just keep keeping on.

Currently, we've got the Affordable Care Act that one side desperately wants to repeal while the other side wants to continue to drive into place and adapt as it makes sense. Why? Because we have the most expensive healthcare system in the world and yet it ranks 37th most effective. Yep, we need healthcare reform. Desperately. Is this the right version? Probably not but based on a great deal of study on my part, it's the best we could do under the circumstances. Does it need to be adapted? Absolutely if it's truly going to work. If both sides took that stance and helped to do it, we'd get there a helluva lot faster, too.

Next, we've got the Russia / Ukraine thing and the Middle East. (When have we not had that? Not in my lifetime, that's for sure, and that covers a lot of time.) One side says America needs to get in there and kick some ass to bring everyone into line. The other says America needs to lead the diplomacy efforts. (I think it's probably a little of both but my foreign affairs chops are not that great.) In any case, America needs to lead what happens because it's a global economy and our own economy turns on it so we need to ensure our interests are looked after financially. We also need to keep ourselves safe; 911 is still a little too close for me to forget that we need to be diligent in watching our enemies. Hell, we don't even know who they all are!

Then we've got Immigration. That one is messy and needs to be better handled and I don't know what the answer is. I do know that all of our families started as immigrants in this country, unless you're born to a Native American family. Let's be a little more tolerant of people that want to come here and start a life. If you don't think that's right, I question whether or not you're truly an American because we all started someplace else and became Americans.

Last, for this post, we've got poverty.
This one may be the most contentious for many people."Why should I give to others, why can't they work for it themselves? If we just keep giving to them, they'll never want to work for what the rest of us have." The other side says, "We need to tax the rich, redistribute wealth, put a bigger tax on corporations so everyone can have a better life."

I'm unable to find a single religion that doesn't teach everyone to help their fellow human beings. I'm talking all the major religious texts, Bible, Koran, Torah, Talmud, you name it. They all tell us to do that. If you call yourself one of the people that follow these teachings, and you don't do that, what does it say about your beliefs?

In my opinion, the gap between the have and have nots will continue to grow until either we get a conscience and do something about it (figure out a way for the have nots to have more) or that will be the thing that takes this country down. Think about it people, there are well over 300 million guns out in the public possession: if the have nots get pissed enough, we could have our own "civil war" here and would have a tough time ending it. Then we'd really be a third world country.

(I realize that I've left out many issues of today including same sex marriage, women's rights, and a bunch more. I was trying to keep this missive less than a million words. Please forgive anything that you wanted to see in here and don't assume I don't care about. I do. Plenty.)

In Any Case

I believe that America will get past our current issues, and find something new to argue about. It would be nice to have some good things to talk about on TV news networks but that doesn't sell air time; maybe Fox News and MSNBC are the ones behind all this.  Keeps the ratings up, don't you know?

Not saying anything except both channels are represented here

We have an education system that is beginning to lag other countries. We no longer build the best cars on the planet and we import much of what we eat because farmers really struggle to live. We no longer manufacture much here because it's cheaper to import it. (The local Woodcraft store had a sale today on anything that was made in the USA, 15% off. Do you know how hard I had to look to find something to buy? Damn!) The only reason we have enough decent doctors is that many of them have immigrated from other countries; same is true for most of our IT infrastructure. And damn few of our young people are getting into the trades, a job that pays a solid middle class wage because many go to college, run up a huge debt, and then find a job as a barista while they try to find something that meets their schooling. That's kind of messed up, don't you think? (Mike Rowe is working on a project to change this. Go to to learn more about his organization. I'm a big fan!) We send people to school longer than ever before and they wind up dumber than ever before. We spend more, save less, and have far less to show for it because of how we've changed what's important to us as a country. (I don't think it's permanent but I'm not terribly optimistic, either.)

But we are America. We have a huge, finally getting healthy economy. We have a glorious land with many riches and bounty to enjoy. We still have one of the highest standards of living in the world and are still looked upon as the leaders of the free world. We will get through these trying times and move on the next ones, hopefully during my lifetime. 

I believe we will still do great things because we're Americans and that's what we do, dammit. Let's get busy!

Happy Birthday America! You still look good for 238!