BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
The Moral Strangulation of America
In my last article I pointed out that the character of America is being fundamentally changed. In less than two generations we've gone from citizens who were politically engaged and socially aware, to zombies who simply accept what we're being told by our favorite demagogues. We've gone from citizens who held our politicians' feet to the fire, to a group of cattle who allow our politicians to dictate what is, and what isn't, off the table - in spite of our instinctive clamor for the simple adherence to the law. We've allowed politicians to go from representatives with the single mandate of doing our biding, to so-called leaders who dictate to us what's in our best interest. As a direct result, the script has been flipped - we now define what's in the people's best interest by what's in the best interest of the politicians who are supposed to defer us.
The above scenario has caused us to lose touch with what it means to be American. That, in turn, has led to the ridiculous debate over whether or not America should commit war crimes, and if those who committed the crimes should be held accountable. Thus, we're no longer considering what's in the best interest of America, with our primary allegiance to American ideals and our legacy to the world, we are now giving priority to what's in the best interest of George Bush and Dick Cheney, who are destined to go down in history as two of the most malevolent individuals in the history of humanity - and if we allow ourselves to lose this moral debate, this generation of Americans are going right down the drain of history with them.
It seems incredible that America can lose so much ground as a people in such a short period of time. But when one considers how methodically we've been manipulated, it becomes quite understandable. It's just a matter of removing one link from the chain. Thereafter, the rest of the chain has no connection to its legacy, ideals, or accumulated knowledge, and that's exactly what has taken place in America.
Over the past thirty years conservatives have mounted a concerted assault on education. They've demonized the teachers union, they've fought every attempt to fund education, and they've attacked and successfully abolished the Fairness Doctrine as an assault on freedom of speech. Thus, they've effectively blocked every avenue of public education. Thereafter, they bought up most of the conduits of public information and filled the void with conservative propaganda. The Rush Limbaugh Show, for example, is even given away to small radio stations all over the United States for free. The propaganda campaign became so pervasively blatant at one point that liberal talk shows couldn't even be broadcasted to our troops in Iraq - talk show host Ed Shultz was blocked from broadcasting in Iraq.
As a direct result of this information black out, along with the inadvertent influences of MTV, BET, video games, and other online distractions that takes away from what used to be the normal flow of family communication, an entire generation of Americans have been effectively disconnected from what it means to be an American. They don't know, nor do they care, anything about Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolution, American ideals, or even how to find North America on a map. All they know is what feels good, who won the Super Bowl, what Paris Hilton said the night before, and the vicious misinformation of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News - and that doesn't make for a viable electorate.
The situation has become so bad that we now have a generation of GOP politicians who don't even know what it means to be the loyal opposition. They don't understand the importance of putting America first, that's why they're running in circles, name-calling, and just saying no to everything. And on Democratic side, we've spawned a generation of politicians who are so gun-shy and self-serving that they're afraid to stand up for even the most long-standing Democratic principles. The only thing that curbed this situation is that the GOP became so blatant in their arrogance, and so greedy and abusive in their policies, that their behavior served to throw ice water in our faces. But now that we're awake, we need to make sure that America is never allowed to fall asleep again.
The past several years have clearly demonstrated that America cannot survive without an educated and politically engaged electorate, so we must insist that our educational system is fully funded. And in order to make sure that we have uniformity in the education of our citizens, our educational system should be nationalized. The education of America is much too important to leave to local demagogues, or to be funded by local property taxes. Such a system guarnatees the short shrift of children who go to schools in areas with a low tax base?
And vouchers should be out of the question. The voucher system will lead to a two-tier society. A voucher system will only lead to large corporations and right-wing religious groups robbing us of our revenue and brainwashing our children. What's going to happen once they raise tuition beyond the reach of the poor and there's no public schools left for the poor to return to? I'll tell you what's going to happen - the poor will remain uneducated, and their only choices in life will be to either work for large corporations for whatever pennies the corporations choose to throw their way, or join the military and become cannon fodder for military/industrial expansionism. That was the end-game. After all, when have you ever known the GOP to be worried about the education of Black children before?
It is also important that we reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Conservatives claim that the Fairness Doctrine is a form of censorship, but that argument appeals directly to the level of ignorance we've attained through its abolishment. The Fairness Doctrine doesn't inhibit speech, it enhances it. The GOP argument hinges on the proposition that they should have the right to disseminate poisonous propaganda with impunity, and without challenge. Now, that constitute's censorship. The American people have just as much right to demand that truth be disseminated over our airways as we do to have truth in labeling on our food products.
These are just two common sense solutions to one of the nation's most insidious problems - ignorance. If we adopt these solutions maybe Americans will have the wherewithal to benefit from the experiences of our forefathers, and avoid having to relive their long and hard earned experience with European demagoguery.
Dick Cheney argues, for example, that America should be willing to forgo our ideals, the dignity of others, and the freedom of personal privacy to remain safe from terrorism. But just a little education informs us that Benjamin Franklin had heard that tired argument before, and he admonished in anticipation of such stupidity that "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" (Benjamin Franklin, 1706 - 1790, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759 ).
Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everybody who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.