One rainy morning last fall a soldier died on the street. He wasn’t any soldier. He was man who served in Vietnam up to the first Iraq war. He was a good man, a man who lost touch with his family, a man who had his demon’s for what he had seen. He was also homeless. The last conversation I had with this man was during Thanksgiving at a homeless center. He said ” don’t feel sorry for me for I still have had a wonderful life”. The next day I went to see him and I found out that he had died that night in the street. That night I imagined that if there was a way for wishes and dreams to come true, I would dream that this good man, this man vanquished, had someone climb up the stairs to find him. I would wish that all the lost souls would be found. It took me a week to find his family and make the arrangements. At his military funeral when I spoke about a man I knew for one day I kept remembering what he said, “I still have had a wonderful life”. Later that day someone remarked ” It must have been his fault he was homeless
Today I was reminded of that man when I turned on the news and watched the Senator from Kentucky in a speech say that the top objective of the to GOP is to make the President a “one term president’ Keep this in mind This was in 2010 when he said this.
As I listened to him talk again talk about the debt , I realized that this is not about changing the country, or the direction of the country. The idea is that the GOP does nothing and nothing changes about the economy then “checkmate”. Its the Presidents fault. Nothing has changed just the players.
Advertisers, political demagogues, and religious charlatans flashing the wealth of their Crystal Palace edifices have pushed Americans to ignore facts and believe in fantasy. Today on Fox I watched one pundit say ” The President shouldn’t get any credit for saving the banks because ” he was the one who caused it all” and he had to bail out the banks. When reminded that it was President Bush who bailed out the banks , she reacted like she was in the movie, Saw ..horrified. So I flipped the channel and saw Sara Palin horrified that on a unsubstantiated remark that the White House called the Tea Party terrorists” started back on the “the president paling around with the terrorist Bill Ayers.
We have Alaska’s Dr. Mom. Then we’ve had Mom whose intuition trumped facts. We’ve endured decades of the era of the Religious Charlatans which seems to have taken hold in the U.S.,again, about 1980, when Reagan-time began. The theme was a constant drumbeat about, “Do what you believe.” No one mentioned facts. The individual’s choice or wishful thinking, in the name of religion, trumped logic and facts.
In 2000, American politicians were stampeded into believing in regulation was the problem and we should abolish the law that kept banks and financial institutions separate and abolish the laws regulating credit default swaps. We were supposed to believe that bankers would control their greed. That fantasy led to our financial meltdown in eight years, harming much of the western world in the process.
Another part was the mantra that tax cutting was always the best action. Everyone started believing in the Free Lunch. We don’t need taxes. Teachers, police, firemen, sanitation workers, employees at water purification plants, public health employees, and department of transportation employees all work for free. infrastructure ? Universal health care? They can’t make you pay for it!. It should be there for you when you need it and shouldn’t cost more than you want to pay! And, the poor should do what? . Hey they should get a Job. Everyone serving the public works free! Education?. Even in the 80’s President Reagan ran on abolishing the Education Dept. In the end he doubled the spending. President Bush 1, President Clinton, and President Bush all ran on education.
Last yr Forty five of our states average less than 10 thousand per child spent per Year. Prisons cost taxpayers more than $32 billion a year. Every year that an inmate spends in prison costs $22,000. An individual sentenced to five years for a $300 theft costs the public more than $100,000. The cost of a life term averages $1.5 million.
States are spending more money on prisons than education. Over the course of the last 20 years, the amount of money spent on prisons was increased by 570% while that spent on elementary and secondary education was increased by only 33%.
The result is that out of 30 developed countries, the U.S. is ranked 25th in math, and 21st in science.” These figures are not even the worst of the bunch.
Now we’re reaping the nasty side of the ignorance we were conned into accepting socially and in our schools. How far behind are we? There is an easy comparison Americans can make that is breath taking in what it reveals.
Go to the BBC website and download a practice copy of the UK exam taken by all 15 to 16 year old,s (except for the Scots. They have their own type of exam.) This is called the GCSE (Graduate Certificate of Secondary Education.) It is also called the school leaving exam. The goal is for each student to pass five exams that make up the overall exam.
Print a copy of the exam for math (called maths) and the exam for history. Take them to a book store that has a copy of a study guide for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), which is taken by most American students with a Bachelors degree who are seeking admission to graduate school. Sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and compare. You will be stunned at the similarity.
Around the world, all industrialized nations, except the U.S., are realizing that their most important economic resource is a well-educated population. We talk about abolishing it. American Exceptionalism is great EXCEPT if you want to run the country then you are to be shunned and not considered “real americans’
A well educated population. That’s the foundation for creativity, new products, new techniques to give greater utility to raw resources, and to start new industries that can sell globally.
Now is definitely not the time for the U.S. to foolishly retreat into good ole boy ignorance. Think of a track meet. If another runner gets too far ahead, it becomes impossible to catch up. The runner finishing ahead reaps the benefits. However, this isn’t about runners. This is about the standard of living of the nations that is involved. Ignorance is not America’s friend. It is America’s growing cancer.
But the day seems to begin with one long penetrating “look what they are doing to me “ and they are the Catholics , the protestant , Jews or gays , liberals or conservatives , wall street or oilman, NRA or the NAACP, boyfriends or girlfriends , The Unions or the crowd that believes in the International Communist/Socialist President , to the Texas School board Education member who said “we need to stand up to the experts”. From Facebook, to Twitter all the adherents have a few things in common. They are miserable. They hate their Jobs , their wives their Husbands or kids, the cities they lives in, the food they eat, the politicians their mothers their fathers and always foreigners. They hide now in the internet as a gray throbbing muscle of resentment. Above all its someones fault
More importantly , ignorance has one overriding slogan. The response to almost all questions about the source of their misery “it’s not my fault”. We are the victims. Dropped out of high school? Not my fault. Caught with drugs “Not Mine” as Paris Hilton cried. Unable to get a Job? Not my fault its them immigrants !!! . Married the wrong person? Not me, man, not my fault. Ignorance implies that nobody is personally responsible for the living of their life. Cheat on your wife ” Well baby who are you going to believe me or your lying eyes”. The defeats ,the disappointments, and the failures that were once thought to be part of each human beings part of this earth, are not only unacceptable now, considered soul killing, and career threatening but they are always the fault of someone else. Plus if if it does threaten my career we can always go on TV. Hello Christine O’Donnell.
I don’t pretend to have the answers to such cosmic questions . But I do know that people who once worshiped in the church of education have moved on to another house. Its propagandists insist upon respect without accomplishment. The amount of energy consumed by their furies is extraordinary. The wasted lives of those who buy its premise of a political superman add up to a genuine tragedy that is made worse by it being a self-inflicted wound. In this state of mind you can never heal yourself ; your to busy blaming others to look into your own heart. But all of us, including the most damaged would be helped by a moratorium on self-pity. We need more Marcus Aurelius and less weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In a way some of these people are the saddest I have ever seen. Their thoughts are narrow and sectarian, often vicious and totalitarian in its insistence of submission. It sees only their humanity no one elses. It is also without joy or wonder.
In this bleak house nothing else matters except the cruelties of power. Not love, Not the simple luminous pleasure of a summer afternoon. There is no fantasy or magic, no awe in the presence of Human Beauty , no desire for spiritual, carnal or educational union.
In this airless sunless world we hear nothing of people who have lived hard lives with their intelligence, sensuality, heart and pride intact. We hear nothing of the collective good to rise to the challenge of the future. Only here are the victims and here are the people to blame.
Probably the most damming pointed statement of all the debates I watched was when Cris Coons looked at Christine O’Donnell and asked her ” I understand you believe we should follow the constitution but which one Is it the one in 1780..1860, 1940, 1980 She had no answer.
What we see today is racial epithets ” tar baby” hurled at the President. With “immigrants” in Nevada, a congressman going into the capital advocating building a 12 ft wall with electrical wires conveniently to be built by a company he has stock ….a GOP candidate who states that “if a woman gets raped and she abort the baby she should go to prison” … a video of a man throwing 1 dollar at a man who had Parkinson’s and told him “here’s your health care”. A person telling me “the only good immigrant is a dead immigrant and a former congressman saying the the government can’t afford VA Care. I served my country in the US Army for 20 yrs. I hope I am never forced to live in their fearful world.
Superman lives. But not among us. He is within and one day hopefully he will be found.