I'm going to ask you to read this with an open mind. The hardest thing to do is to take our preconceived notions and ignore them. The fact is that every one of us is steeped in preconceived notions and faulty belief systems. Writing for a progressive audience doesn't mean that the average reader is "open-minded". In fact, there are just as many progressives and liberals that tend to have as many rigidly held beliefs as our more conservative cousins.
I have a few concerns that seem to dominate my thoughts more than others. I'm going to keep these to a minimum as I could probably fill volumes if I let myself have free reign. Since I'm not writing a book here, I'll just bring out those things that I see as the most important stumbling blocks to the success of our American culture.
I've written scores of articles about our imaginary democracy and how we are manipulated into believing that we as a people have some kind of choice in what direction we should be going. The truth is that in its present structure, we the people, have very little choice in what kind of laws are introduced, at least on the Federal level. This doesn't mean that the American people are powerless; it only means that we shouldn't expect any type of quick changes that conform to the will of the majority anytime soon.
The first thing I would like to discuss is the lack of any real transparency in government. Most Americans are realizing that they are only getting a fraction of the truth from the major media outlets. This is nothing new; this situation is as old as mankind itself. Everyone has heard the old axiom "The winners write the history". This has never been truer than it is right now. Compounding this problem is this so-called "information age" that we have entered into. There is so much information hitting us from every conceivable source that it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell what is important and what is not.
One way to filter out some of the more extraneous information that we receive, is to look at trends, instead of just facts. I've heard it said that a healthy, functioning brain is incapable of making a mistake as long as it has sufficient information. I don't know if that is completely true, but consider how well we can judge what has happened in the world as compared to what we think will happen. They say hindsight is 20-20.
The media likes to believe that it reports the truth. In reality, they don't have the time or the resources to report the truth. We like to believe that at an earlier period in our history the media was more honest and forthcoming when in reality, it never was. The assassination of JFK is a good example. Most people were told that one man was behind the assassination. It wasn't until years later that alternative versions of the same event came out. The same can be said about the Vietnam War. In the beginning it was a very simplistic: "America fights Communism" scenario played out in the media. It wasn't until the late 60's when vets started speaking out and the support for the war faltered among Americans that the narrative then changed.
Yet, things have not changed. The Iraq War is a good example of American "Collective Amnesia". The pretext in the run-up to war in Iraq was that Saddam Hussein had, and was ready to use, "Weapons of Mass Destruction". These WMD's were never found, and not only that, The Downing Street Memo's and other documents were uncovered showed that beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt, the U.S. and the United Kingdom planned for that war long before those governments started beating the war drums. Still, in America today, no charges have been brought before the courts indicting anyone for war crimes. This is one of the more important issues we still must address. The people that caused the war are still alive and they are still influencing decisions being made today. As long as we remain silent about this important miscarriage of justice, we will continue to make similar decisions in the future. It's time that Bush, Cheney and company came to terms with what they did in our name.
Today, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have made it mandatory to conduct background checks for individuals purchasing guns from the internet and at gun shows. If the legislation had passed, and gone through the House and been signed by the President, would that have made this nation a safer place? Well, if you have a civic minded criminal that would have allowed a merchant to submit the paperwork to the ATF instead of paying cash for his weapon from the trunk of a car or a back alley, I guess it would have. Actually, there are so many weapons floating around this nation that the impact of background checks would have been minimal.
Why the hue and cry for background checks? As much as I hate to say this, I personally don't support gun control legislation that has been proposed. It's too little, too late. I believe a much smarter approach such as the stop and frisk law on the books in NYC with mandatory jail time for the possession of an illegal firearm would be a much better move. I think that anyone buying a buying a firearm should go through a check, but I also realize that it probably wouldn't help much.
Why is the NRA in such opposition? Why do proponents of the bill think it is so valuable? This is just an exercise in the appearance of "democracy". This is just another meaningless debate to bring people around to the opinion that what they believe matters. If they really wanted to kick this debate up a notch and make a real difference in crimes committed with a firearm, they would release 1st-time offenders for non-violent crimes and start locking people up that use firearms in the commission of crimes.
Of course they won't do that. It would be much too controversial. Of course most Americans wouldn't think twice about seeing a gang-banger get locked up for a decade if someone were hurt in a robbery, but the bill wouldn't have a chance. The reason being is that this type of legislation would actually put a bite into gun sales. In fact, almost any legislation that hurts special interest groups is ignored. There is a long list of side issues that are proposed from time to time to make Americans believe that they have a choice in how this nation is run. Usually these issues come up when the government has spent too much money, either bailing out special interest groups or spending too much on war and the so-called "defense" budget, or when the administration is in trouble for doing something illegal or unconstitutional.
I don't want to offend anyone with the list I'm going to write about. I know that some of these issues are near and dear to some people's hearts. Still, they are issues that could be decided at the State or local level, or they matter to a very small minority. Yet, these issues are brought up time and time again.
Abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception, sex-education, creationism, evolution, and homosexual Boy (and Girl) Scouts along with gun control and taxes, these are hot-button issues that never get resolved and take the focus away from what the real major problems are. Some of the real problems we should be grappling with:
Military Spending (We spend almost as much as all nations combined).
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