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.


July 9, 2010

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The alarm clock jarred Calvin Chance from a fitful sleep.  Calvin slapped the snooze button and pulled the blankets over his head.  At 6:22 AM the alarm erupted with noise again, and Calvin had to make a decision.

Calvin decided that he would not work today.  He called the boss and left a message saying that he was sick with the flu.  Calvin turned off the blasted alarm clock and once again used the blankets to shield himself from the outside world.

At the crack of noon, Calvin’s body was suffering an overdose of sleep, and he was thrust unwillingly into consciousness.  He yawned and finally arose from his bed.

First, it was time for a shower.  Calvin pondered the risks.  A surprising number of people died in shower-related accidents each year.  Water was truly the hidden killer.  On this, of all days, Calvin decided that he would forgo the shower.  It simply wasn’t worth the risk.

Calvin’s stomach had begun to growl.  It was time for lunch.  He was really craving a burger from the corner diner.  Calvin gave serious thought to leaving the house in pursuit of lunch.  Finally, he decided it was simply too dangerous.  Driving a car to the diner was essentially inviting an accident to happen.  Calvin was definitely capable of walking the three blocks, but that would mean crossing a busy intersection.  How could he be sure that a car wouldn’t run a red light and send him hurtling toward Saint Peter at the pearly gates?  No thank you.  Calvin would be staying home for lunch today.

Calvin wondered if perhaps he should have a pizza delivered.  He quickly abandoned this idea as well.  With his luck, the delivery driver would be a psycho who would slice his throat with a pizza cutter.  Calvin double checked to doors to make sure that the deadbolt was engaged.

He quickly ruled out anything that involved the oven.  Ovens were inherently dangerous.  Even if the gas stove didn’t leak and cause an explosion, he was likely to burn himself.  He thought about slicing some cheese, but decided that using a knife would not be a good idea.  Finally, he settled on a jelly sandwich.  He spooned the grape goop onto a slice of bread and took very small bites to minimize the risk of choking.

After lunch, Calvin decided that he would read one of the books that had been gathering dust on the shelf.  A moment later, he realized the danger that paper cuts could cause.  He could easily slice a vein on one of the sharp pages and bleed to death before anyone found him.  He turned to the television for a moment, before realizing the dangers of an electrical device.  His whole house was a death trap.  Calvin gathered up his blankets and pillow and barricaded himself into the safe room in the middle of the house.  Truly, this was a place for him to wait until the danger had passed.  Friday the 13th was not something to be trifled with.

Calvin huddled in the corner for hours, afraid to make any sudden moves, lest he pull a ligament and become disabled.  As night fell, he realized that the game would be on soon.  He decided to take a gamble.  Calvin slowly made his way to the corner, where a small battery operated radio sat.  He turned the station to 850 AM and waited for the game to begin.

A few minutes later, the station noted the passage of the hour.  “The time is 7:00 PM on Thursday the 12th of August.”