The American Way

I really love my country. I still get that cliché lump in my throat when singing the Star Spangled Banner and thinking of great American icons like Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, Cady Elizabeth Stanton and Frederick Douglas. Our constitution and the form of government it has produced are, by far, the best in the world, after all, countless other nations have emulated it. I love the United States of America. E pluribus unum.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me say one thing: My nation is incredibly stupid. We are in the 13th year of the 21st century, you know, that magical time when most of our problems were supposed to be solved, we’d be living like the Jetsons, and shit would be great for everyone? Despite the fact that information and knowledge is literally at our fingertips (and free), there are massive amounts of ignorance in America.

Income inequality – that huge gap between the richest and poorest among us – has increased to historic levels as the wealthy and the most profitable corporations in the history of mankind continue to pay little to no taxes (thank you, tax code and loopholes). The poorest continue to be hit the hardest by economic hardships and the middle class is continuing to shrink. Our leader’s solution to this problem: more trickle-down, austerity magic! Shame on us.

Climate change is a globally recognized, scientifically accepted fact of life on Earth now. Our science has only gotten better and the cause of accelerated, devastating climate change is us, humanity, burning the remains of dinosaurs and other Cretaceous plant and animal life. Storms, floods and droughts are worse than they’ve ever been and the global average temperature has continued to climb. The oceans are more acidic, a result of absorbing more carbon dioxide than they should naturally be absorbing. Nasty feedback loops have eaten away a shocking amount of the planet’s polar ice caps. Several animal species are approaching the point of extinction. Agriculture and other industries reliant on the Earth itself are already seeing the devastating results of a planet less hospitable to their business, where areas that were once fertile and green are becoming barren, arid wastelands. Parts of the planet that have been traditionally cold are becoming more tropical. Tropical diseases are becoming more common globally. The effects of these catastrophic phenomena have already displaced or killed several million people around the globe.

And yet, nations like the United States and China continue churning out billions of tons of carbon dioxide from dirty sources like coal because, apparently, that’s what “progress” looks like. True, natural gas produces half the emissions coal does and while it is a good thing that more focus is being placed on it as one of the major alternatives to coal, we are still releasing far too much carbon dioxide than the planet can naturally and safely absorb. Renewable energy? We’re investing more in it than we ever have before and that is a very good thing. But to combat a warming planet and ensure our survival sustainably we need to lead the world in massive investments into renewable energy sources like we once did with the interstate highway system decades ago.

Despite the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence and natural disasters stemming from climate change, a large portion of the American public thinks it’s all a hoax (most likely because they heard it on talk radio and saw it on Faux News). There IS  silver lining, however: a majority of Americans agree that climate change is something our leaders should be doing more to address and alleviate. But it should be a vast majority because remember, the information and research on climate change, not to mention the news reports of devastation, are instantly accessible. Shame on us.

We also elect disgraceful excuses for leaders; After the 2010 midterm election, the once-great Republican Party – poisoned by the religious right and purchased for several billion dollars by corporate America – picked up a supermajority of the House of Representatives and state legislatures across the country, as well as governorships in many states.

The philosophy of this terrifying brand of conservatism sees government and taxation of any kind as oppressive. The social safety net? It’s the makers vs. the takers! Investments in education and infrastructure? It’s a commie plot to destroy America! Don’t even mention raising government revenue via tax raises on the super wealthy! Nut jobs like that used to be relegated to the fringes. Now they’re running the party.

The result of electing these jokes to office:

The use of the filibuster exploded to dizzying heights, grinding the process of governing and government itself to a halt; the economic recovery and the transition to a more sustainable, greener future is being painfully suffocated by severe budget cuts, sequestration and a dogmatic refusal to pass anything resembling a job program; restrictions on abortion that would effectively outlaw many forms of birth control and fertility treatments flood state legislatures; the Defense of Marriage Act  (DOMA) – prohibiting all same-sex couples in the nation from having the 1,100 federal benefits that straight couples have – was ruthlessly defended at a cost of millions of dollars to the American taxpayers, despite the fact that the majority of those taxpayers think DOMA needs to go; members of the LGBT community can be fired for being who they are in several states because of Congress’ refusal to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); new restrictions on voting rights were passed in battleground states controlled by Republicans, restrictions specifically targeted at young people, African-Americans, and the poor (groups that usually vote Democratic); the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed cross-country pipeline that would expose millions of Americans to filthy tar sands oil spills (like the recent one in Arkansas) and would also act as an exacerbator of climate change has been pimped and promoted by all Republicans and several Democrats in both the House and Senate; and mass shootings have increased in frequency thanks to successful lobbying by the National Rifle Association and the fact that an assault weapons ban, high-capacity magazine bans, and universal background checks aren’t federal realities.

Shame on us for voting in this insanity.

Even Republicans are stunned, and not in a “look at the pretty fireworks” kind of way. Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush and lifelong Republican, captured the sentiment in a single quote:

“…the party, by refusing to recognize reality, is going to end up looking like the ‘stupid party’ that fails to adapt and evolve to changing circumstances in our society…On issues where the physics are moving irre…vocably forward, like immigration, gay rights, and guns, the Republican Party continues to look backward. And backward is a sure path toward irrelevance.”

Because of gerrymandering after the 2010 GOP landslide, ousting this far-right crop of Republicans is harder than ever. For example, Democrats received over one million more votes in congressional elections in the 2012 election than Republicans did. But because gerrymandered congressional districts are an affliction effecting many states, the GOP still holds a *slim* majority and majorities in too many state assemblies and senates.

But there’s another silver lining: thanks to rapidly changing demographics and the insanity of their current positions, Republicans will possibly lose their majority in 2014. Until then progressives (not all Democrats, including President Obama) in Congress must hold true to their convictions of advocating for all Americans, not just the wealthy, and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The nation that is supposed to be that Shining City on a Hill, that beacon of hope to all the world, the global example for what democracy looks like, has descended into utter chaotic stupidity. Until Americans become more concerned with the state of the country and planet rather than the vapid lives of celebrities and the latest results from reality television shows, this epidemic of stupidity will continue. Until we demand that our leaders govern in reality and in our interests at the ballot box, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

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