Friday, February 17, 2012

"Don't Tell Us; Show Us!"

As I look out and survey the landscape of these United States of America, I am, more and more, overcome by a deep-seated sense of despair and hopelessness. Sure, we are getting overdosed on political rhetoric about how bad things are from one political party, and how things are beginning to look up by the other. Who in the hell are we to believe and where is the evidence? I just don’t see it.

Those who were and are instrumental in this fracturing of our society remind me of one gigantic sewage treatment plant, fed by the excrement created by the gargantuan greed and avarice of Wall Street, and those that are subsumed under the mantle of the Federal Government, the ubiquitous functions housed within the environs of Washington, D.C., and suburban Virginia and Maryland where the overflow has migrated. All of this is capped off by the mysterious Federal Reserve and the two major political parties that have a death-grip on our entire system of government, from the pinnacle at the federal level all the way down to state and local levels. From that flows the effluent down onto all of those whose hopes, dreams and futures hinge on the hollow promises of those in power who just might toss them a crumb, from time to time. It is a cardinal lesson in the perils of too much faith, too much trust and too little caution. The chickens do eventually come home to roost.

Morality, which used to be at the very foundation of conduct by principled people, and that provided us with a compass to steer the course for us to what is right vs. wrong, is simply no longer valued. Admittedly, we have been all too willing to take whatever those in high places might care to toss our way. However, they have been the cunning and skilled purveyors of the empty values and appetites they have cultivated in order to seduce us into casting aside our basic human decency that served as the basis for the discipline that made us what we were.

Those who have so willingly served as the minions of big money, big business, corruptive power and the endeavors of all those who have pillaged and plundered the American Dream have seduced us into believing that morality is passé. It is the stuff of fools. Except for very few in business, industry, politics and government who are genuinely good and decent people, they haven’t a clue as to what morality means and the measures used to define it. They have made lying and deception respectable and desirable. They have created the appetites we value and constantly seek to satisfy, but which may not be in our best interests. They are masters of the game that we, all too willingly, buy into.

Sad to say, but I honestly believe that, for the most part, we have become a people who no longer want to go through the rigors of seeking the truth. It has become so much easier for us to indulge ourselves in materialism, hedonism and the never ending quest for fun. We do a great job of pretending that we give a damn, but provide little evidence to support it. Don’t burden me with truth, just tell me what I want to hear and make me feel good.
What has all this gotten us? It has gotten us a complete system of power; social, economic, and political that we can no longer trust.

We were led into a war for which there was no justification, by a dunce and a pathological mindset that coveted empire, power and affluence. I dare say most of us had a hunch that it was a hoax, but we were simply too complacent to question the basis for committing countless billions (or trillions) of dollars and thousands of innocent lives. We were all too willing to believe rather than question.

Most of us had watched the deliberate destruction of old gambling casinos, hotels and other aging buildings by use of an implosion so as not to damage adjacent structures. For that to be made possible, it took a battery of very skilled explosive technicians to rig the charges that would explode in a predictable fashion and that would cause the building to collapse into itself. Yet, few questioned the same phenomenon and the skill that went into making it happen when the World Trade Center buildings imploded in like fashion. I am mystified how any sane mind could not question what we were told vs. what we witnessed. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. I have no doubt that it took a lot more skill and planning to pull it off than a few solitary lunatics flying a couple of airplanes. And, the only way that could have happened is with the help of some one or several in high places who knew exactly what needed to be done and how to pull it off so that it would coalesce public opinion behind a bogus war effort. But, we all screamed in unison, “We are afraid!” Protect our freedoms!” We took the bait and readily deferred to our elected leadership. The rest is history and Iraq is now trying to pick up the pieces and recreate a viable nation.

People who hold great power seem to have no trouble rationalizing the use of that power in the pursuit of empire. The entire fleet of U.S. battleships that served as the bait for a sneak attack by the Japanese in 1941 was ordered into Pearl Harbor by Executive Order of the President. That can be verified by a short book titled, “The Final Secrets of Pearl Harbor,” published in 1945 by a former Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy; John T. Flynn. Why would we doubt that the same mind set could not surface in our time by those who have infinitely more power at their disposal than did President Roosevelt? The growing absence of transparency in our national affairs, the penchant for secrecy and the lust for power and influence, in my judgment, make that far more likely now than it did then. We are told that power for a sitting President to order the execution of an American citizen suspected of being a terrorist can now be exercised without any advice and consent from any other arm of government. Further, we have been assured by the incumbent President that he would never use that power. But, it remains on the books for those who follow him in office. Doesn’t that seem rather incongruous?

Make no mistake about it. Secrecy serves the interests of those who advocate its use. Transparency serves the people. Congress needs to do a better job of ensuring that secrecy is judicially used and they should enact a system of sunset laws that places a limited life on the use of that designation. We, the people, have a right to know what is being withheld from us, its attendant cost to us and why it was deemed necessary to shroud it in the cloak of secrecy.
Another concern I have is the extent to which we go to ensure that the people’s money is wisely committed and wisely spent. My confidence level on this issue is minimal, at best. I think the time has come for an independent body to undertake an audit of the entire budget and financial system, with a set of recommendations for legislation that will tighten up the system and comply with the provisions of the Constitution.

Another issue which I think is long overdue for study and revision is the system of rules, regulations and protocols that govern the way both houses of Congress carry out their business. From my perspective, it is unduly cumbersome and belies respect for governing by the majority. A group of constitutional lawyers and legislators could be brought together in order to accomplish the task, with the majority coming from outside the system.

That our entire system of government is badly broken is self-evident. But to try and clean it up is going to require a huge commitment, a lot of time and the will to make it happen. I think it is worth it. However, it cannot be left in the hands of one or the other of each political party, incumbent politicians or those who obviously have an inherent conflict of interest.

Politics, as it exists today, is a contest of who can most effectively lie their way out of or into a situation most convincingly. I, for one, would not be willing to entrust such an endeavor to that kind of mind set.

The Republican Party is, to my way of thinking, nothing short of pathetic. How anyone could possibly take seriously the current roster of those seeking the presidency boggles the human mind. Talk about an aversion to truth and morality! The only way they can function is with very simplistic solutions to very complex problems, a myopic view of the world and a healthy dose of fundamentalist religious dogma. As much as they might like to think so, I seriously doubt God talks to them any more than He talks to the rest of us.

The Democratic Party is no more credible than the Republicans. Both parties serve the same masters and feed on the same diet of graft and largesse. The liberals talk a good story but they don’t seem to want to be bothered with what is embodied in established law. Rather, they appear to be more inclined to whine about how unjust an issue is and believe that it can only be rectified through the machinations of a bleeding heart; the law and legal precedent be damned. That just doesn’t wash with me, either.

I don’t see how there can be justice without responsibility.

I was raised in a working class home. I was extremely fortunate to have benefitted from the G.I. Bill that gave me an education from one of the finest academic institutions in the world. I remain humbled by that opportunity. However, I am still mindful of the struggles that often went on in that childhood home when times were tough and money was scarce. But from that I learned the value of strength in numbers and a shared concern for the welfare of others. I regard the people with whom I grew up to be much better, over all, than most of those I encountered among the educated and accomplished I joined later in life. I listened to more acts of real compassion from those in the bunk house than I ever did in the board room. Ranch hands demonstrated more concern for a suffering animal than most doctors showed for suffering patients. Doing the right thing was the stuff of the former; making money was the stuff of the latter.

In today’s world, whenever I see people struggling to make ends meet, like the stranded middle-aged man trying to breathe life back into a very old pickup, or a young couple counting their limited funds in the aisle of the supermarket, trying to decide what is most important for the basic necessities of life, I am reminded of the tough times in my own life. There was more attention then to “we” and less to “me.” They demonstrated more empathy and concern for others, and would readily go that extra mile to help someone. I don’t see much of that these days. Rather, those who have the least are demonized. Those who manipulate the system and steal the most are revered by the centers of power that reward them with taxpayers’ money.

I honestly believe this country is at the precipice, looking down on the greatest peril in its entire history. It is beyond our entrenched political system to do anything meaningful to stop it. The moment when a significant change is even mentioned, they can be counted on to go into their defensive or compromising mode in an attempt to preserve all of the lucrative perks they enjoy, and which sets them above and apart from those of us they profess to represent and govern. Both pursuits are mutually exclusive. It isn’t going to happen unless we demand that it happen, and make sure the goal is for the collective benefit of everyone.

Anything short of a new political party that shares our common values and demonstrates the determination to convert those values into reality will never work. I think that is possible, but it won’t be easy. It will require an iron will and dedication from a great many committed and principled people. I don’t know if that is possible. But, if left with what we have, any semblance of what we once were will be relegated to the rubble of what remains of the greatest experiment in democracy known to mankind.

Time really is upon us to place the common good above our own vested self interests, lest the parasite already within us ultimately devours its host.

Rocky, when are you going to come off the sidelines and enter the game?

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
February 17, 2012