I have a love/hate relationship with zealotry. On the one hand, watching fist-shaking hardliners trying to resolve cognitive dissonance by flopping about like a spilled bowl of goldfish is funny as hell. On the other hand, the world wouldn’t be in quite so miserable a state if people would just stop clinging to blocky, ill-defined ideologies handed down to them through the talking head punditry of an ever-devolving media. I despise both left-wingers and right-wingers alike, and for the same reason: choosing sides is stupid. The world isn’t cut and divided into equal parts Conservative or Liberal, and all of the issues facing a nation can’t be contained within the bullshit, ticky-tacky structures of either party. Joining the card-carrying and waterheaded ranks of either the Democrats or the Republicans simply dissolves critical thought and excuses mindless adoption of whatever mushbrained, poorly conceived policies either side may be peddling at any given time. As with sports, party loyalty has nothing to do with the players on the field, or the outcome of the game. All it does is provide a sense of belonging for the non-participants, by dividing them into two groups, each united together out of a mutual hatred for the other side. And, all the while, the game plays on without them.
If devotees of either side would just stop cheering and jeering for half a second, they might wake up and realize that nothing they’re doing matters. They might pause for a moment and understand that they don’t truly understand what they’re clapping for or booing against. Maybe with just a moments pause, they might look around at the rest of their herd and recognize that they’re just aping what everyone else is doing. They might – if we’re all very, very lucky – start thinking for themselves!
Take, as an example, all of the lunatic idiocy surrounding poor President Obama. Sure, he’s new to the game and still learning the ropes, but he’s only human. One side paints him as a mythological hero ascending to the Heavens, where he can do no wrong. The other side busily tries to tear down anything he does by making outlandish and absurd claims of ‘socialism’ without expressing any hint of understanding about what that term actually means. Both are being equally naive, equally blind, and equally obtuse. And, of course, equally and unforgivably stupid. Just plain dumb.
America already has a lot of “socialist” programs, (if they must be labelled with a misunderstood term), and most people think they’re actually pretty nifty. Social security, Medicare, farm subsidies, retirement systems, unemployment insurance, public education and school breakfast and lunch programs, etc… All of these programs soak up tax dollars and spread them out among the American people. Medicare is the primary means by which most elderly Americans obtain healthcare. Most retirees live off of their social security checks. Most of America’s heartland is made up of red-state, conservative farmers who wail about encroaching socialism, but who depend upon federal subsidies to survive. Unemployment insurance can literally make all the difference in the world when someone living paycheck-to-paycheck (read: most Americans) loses his or her job. Public education dips deep into the taxpayer’s wallet and pulls out wads of cash for things like school lunch programs, but without such a redistribution of personal wealth, a great many American children would be malnourished and completely uneducated, or worse.
Government exists to take personal wealth and redistribute it across the nation. That’s the whole point behind government! Governments are formed to deal with issues facing a nation that are too big or unwieldy to be tackled individually. Citizens earn money, and some of their earnings go toward taxes. Those taxes then go into programs that help the citizenry of the nation. It’s why we have the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, rather than a militia-based military of pitchfork-wielding farmhands. Taxes pay for subsidies that enable us to provide historically unprecedented levels of food to our people. Government agencies, through tax dollars, help guard the safety of its citizens. Government funding supported the creation of the Internet, and FCC regulations make connecting to it affordable. Granted, every government program is susceptible to manipulation, corruption, and mismanagement – but so is the private sector. And, for anyone who doesn’t believe that, follow my middle finger as I point to Enron, the ’80s Savings and Loan fiasco, the housing bubble, the recent banking crises, etc…
Now, along comes President Obama with some ideas about health care. He has a plan. Not many people understand it. Some think it will provide free and universal health care for everyone, and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, complete with rainbows, moon ponies, and unwashed happy people dancing around with flowers in their hair. Others think it will destroy America, replace the stars and bars with the hammer and sickle – and, before we know it, we’ll be staring down the barrel of Obama as our Fearless Leader. The truth is, the health care plan isn’t going to be nearly as wonderful as die-hard supporters want to believe, but neither will it be the end of the world, as others fear.
Conservatives like to point out that Obama’s plan will cost a staggering ONE TRILLION DOLLARS over the course of a decade. That’s ten years, kids. I know math is hard, but even a Barbie doll should be able to use a calculator to break that down into a yearly cost of $100 billion bucks. That might still sound like a lot, but let’s compare it against another recent cost of big government. Namely, one that conservatives tend to support: the war in Iraq. Currently, our little excursion into the middle east is costing us around $12,000,000,000 a month. That’s twelve billion dollars. Every month. So far, we’ve racked up a cost of around $650 billion in Iraq alone, while the sum topples over $900 billion when our foray into Afghanistan is factored in. In eight years, we’ve managed to spend almost as much on fighting foreign wars as Obama wants to spend in ten years, towards keeping Americans alive and healthy, right here at home. How is it that keeping American people alive and healthy through health care reform is somehow less important than defending those same lives oversees? It seems to me that, if American lives are worth saving, then syringes and stethoscopes are just as important as bullets and bombs.
I just don’t get the zealotry, especially when some policy or another won’t even touch the lives of those crying out against it. People are now jumping on the small business owner bandwagon, crying out about how the health care plan will bankrupt everyone! Nevermind that it’s only requiring that businesses either provide healthcare to employees, or take tax hikes to compensate. Nevermind that it isn’t targeted at ‘small’ small businesses, but only those that have payrolls over $400,000. Nevermind that, out of every fifty people whining about ‘fleecing the rich’, only one of them is actually in that fortunate demographic. That means forty-nine of them are stupidly supporting (or denouncing) policies that hurt them, while Richie Rich stands alone, laughing the smug, satisfied snorts of a manipulative and elitist asshat.
This isn’t all to say that I support Obama’s plan, or anything of the sort. In point of fact, I think he’s made some horrible decisions that look more like maintaining the status quo than bringing about any of those changes he ran his election platform on. I just don’t like it when people blindly attack things that don’t make any sense. People who yell that Obama is a crazy, free-spending liberal are usually the same people who backed President Bush while he maintained one of the most fiscally liberal presidencies in the history of the nation. They cry about socialism and fascism and big government now, even as they had no problems with eight years of big government for citizens / small government for corporations. They didn’t bat an eye when the housing bubble was bursting, or when the banks began to fail. They didn’t yell so loudly about bailouts and nationalizing powerful banks when Their Guy was in office. They worry about losing their freedoms today, and forget all about eagerly dismissing them away underneath the guise of a waving flag and the Orwellian-titled Patriot Act. And why? Because Their Team was behind the previous lunacy, so they clapped and they cheered, and all was right with the world. The Other Team is at bat now though, so it’s time to boo and hiss and moan. Meanwhile, nothing changes. New boss, same as the old boss. Same shit, different day. Status quo. It’s all bullshit.
I’m all for political debate and citizen oversight. I encourage open dialogues and heated arguments. I want people to fight amongst themselves over which policy is better, and which one is nothing but crappy craptacular crap. I just want them to use their brains before they start yelling. Obama is not the anti-christ, nor is he the second coming. Both sides need to peel their eyes and lips from the television teat, and learn to think for themselves. Look at the issues. Look at the data. Learn the facts. Facts aren’t liberal, and they aren’t conservative. Math doesn’t favor red states or blue states. Logic is cold and uncaring, and doesn’t give a damn if you think Bill O’Reilly is made of Awesome, or if you swoon at the sound of Keith Olbermann’s nightly Murrowesque-wannabe signoff. If everyone would just start thinking for themselves, we would probably find that most of us would agree on most of the issues. If we would think rationally and without influence about our own real and factual situations of the here-and-now for a change (rather than be blinded by the glittering, illusory promises of a bountiful and prosperous tomorrow that most of us will never see), we might find that we’re all aboard the same sinking Titanic, and it’s carrying us all to the bottom. So, unless we want to go down to those icy depths and wait for James Cameron to float by with a camera crew decades later to film our floating bones and barnacled flatware, we might want to stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated by the interests of an elite few who keep running us into icebergs and stealing all the dinghies. Just sayin’…
© 2009 – 2015, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.