What Are We Afraid Of?

January 13, 2011

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I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and the events of January 8th solidified it for me:

The United States is too divided.  We are, as a nation, scared.

Yes, I’ve written about this before, but it’s getting worse every day.  We’re too divided to prosper.  Too divided to revolutionize.  So divided we’re scared.  Partisan politics has reached a fervor beyond anything the Yankees/Red Sox, Lakers/Celtics, UNC/Duke, or any other sports rivalry has seen.  A large portion of the people we elect to office not only seem to care about making “the other side” look bad more than they care about serving their constituants, they’ve flat out said as much.  Mitch McConnell has said “the most important thing we (Republicans) want to achieve is to make Obama a one-term president.” 

He didn’t say we need to get out of this economic turmoil.  He didn’t say need to come together as people.  His primary concern doesn’t even seem to be that his party wins, but that the other guys lose.  With that kind of attitude, everyone loses.  Project fear that the government or economy will collapse if the other side stays in power and you increase their chance of losing.

Think about it, who has more say in how this country is run, your congressperson or the CEO of Goldman Sachs?  Who has more say in where the military is deployed, the average army captain or Exxon?  I’m not saying capitalism isn’t the least of all evils in terms of social policies, I’m saying that unless it’s on a tight leash if you give it an inch it will take a mile.  What better way to get the government to give you billions of dollars than to make everyone fear an economic collapse?

It’s not just fear (and greed) that’s ruining us, it’s an acceptance of violence.  Say what you want about Michael Moore, but on the issue of America and violence and fear he hit the nail on the head in his movie Bowling for Columbine – we can’t explain why we have a similar ratio of people-to-guns as Canada but they have literally a fraction of the firearm murder rate.  Why are we, the leader of the “civilized” world, so violent, so afraid?

Part of it is the media and the sensationalization of violence.  The expansion of coverage of violence in the media has certainly exploded, but aren’t they just giving us what we want?  What is it about violence that keeps us as a society couchbound and captivated?  I think a big part of it is fear.  Fear has always been used as a tool for control, and it’s being used more and more often now by both the media and the government.  What better way to drum up ratings than by scaring people so much that they have to tune in for more coverage?  What better way to keep the populous passive and your corporate overlords placated than by scaring the people with the TSA or the DEA and then broadcast it on the nightly news?

 So what can be done?  Small steps aren’t going to solve this problem, not even close.  I’ve heard it said that we need a 3rd political party to change things, well, I disagree:  we need a 2nd party.  The two we have now are just minor variations on the same beast sucking at the corporate teat, content to let fear keep us in line.  I’m sure some people will say my ideas are way too extreme, but we need to stop corporations from running this country and to do that complete overhauls of both the campaign finance system and lobbyist system are needed.  No more corporate donations.  Caps on personal donations.  100% transparency in all political donations.  A lockout period of at least 5 years on any ex-politician before they can become a lobbyist.  Complete disclosures on any politician/lobbyist meeting – yes, complete.  That means any and all politician/lobbyist meetings are recorded and publically available.  If you want to help run this country, you’re going to do it for the people, dammit, not for your own or your friend’s own personal gain.

Transparency.  Truth.  Information.  They will show us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, and that we can once again come back as the land of the free and the home of the brave.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Squeaky
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 11:53:28

    I’ll give you that Zarberg. We do need to come together. I’m just as guilty as Mitch McConnell saying that I hope Obama is a one term president. Obama is just as guilty by saying that his constituents need to bring a gun to the knife fight and to get in the faces of the opposition.

    Until we can all do what you’re saying, there will be no coming together, no singing of kumbaya and no breaking down of the walls. In an ideal world, we’d all be willing to take a step in that direction. I think on September 12th (2001 of course) we were as close as we have ever been in my lifetime. I’d like to think that we can get there again without a disaster, but we’re both probably dreaming. Meeting in the middle on some of the differences just won’t/can’t happen.

    You’ve given me something else to pray about in 2011.



  2. kosmo
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 15:13:59

    It’s almost as if they think their real job is winning elections rather than working together to govern the country.


  3. Martin Kelly
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 10:42:05

    Zarberg, I am right with you on this one. The “too big to fail” phylosophy was used by both this adminstration and the last to toss wads of money to people who have proven that they cannont run a company, then those same people were allowed to send money to campaigns. That has got to be the shortest money path that I have seen in my lifetime. I would guess that the next step is to simply have a direct payment from the government coffers to the campaigns of incombants, that would be the politically expedient way of separateing the power of government from the infuence of industry. (I really hope that no one actually takes this suggestion up as resonable!)

    Seriously, I like your transparency statement. I truly believe that transparency is the only way we can break the grip of fear that you have identified. I would like it to extend to every facet of our political system, including national party meetings and campaign finances, all committee meetings (except intelegence committee) and expert panels like the various energy commisions. So much is decided behind closed doors, then there is a quick vote to implement before anyone (even the elected official) know what it is.


  4. Onij
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 16:49:28

    @Kosmo – Exactly.


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