Americans love their country. There is no where on earth where you will find more patriotic people. So what is the problem? Why do these fine, patriotic Americans have so much distrust of their own government? The first and most obvious answers are the economy and partisan politics combined with the frustrations of dealing with a bureaucratic government becoming more and more involved in our daily lives. People living in so much economic distress always hold their leaders responsible (and for good reason). They tend to become distrustful and suspicious of anything the leaders do or say.
This distrust and suspicion is aggravated by partisan politics gone berserk. Each political party spends copious amounts of effort and money telling everyone how bad the other party is. The net result is that we hear bad things about literally everything that the government does, plans, or says. In addition, it seems like every time we turn around, there is the Federal government regulating our choices, having us fill out multiple forms and often spending a lot of time waiting.
This explains a reason for some of the current high level of dissatisfaction with government, but not all of it. There is another underlying problem --and everyone gets to share in the blame.
Our elected representatives have actually stopped listening to the people that have elected them. They feel they will not be held responsible for voting against popular sentiment. They think the can allow their votes to be influenced by political expediency or special interest dollars without having to face any consequences –and they are right.
We (and by “we” I mean us American voters) are not playing the game properly. Many of us do not take the time to read, let alone study, issues and proposed bills. We tend to form opinions based almost solely on clever commercials and media presentations. Think I am wrong? When was the last time you actually read a position statement or the “pro” and “con” articles on a state or local ballet? When was the last time you voted? Congress has finally been putting the bills (proposed legislation) on line before they vote on them, how many times have you logged on to read one?
A few of us take the time to find out about an issue and decide how we want our representative to vote on it, but then, for some reason beyond understanding, we do not communicate that to the actual representative. Most of us seem to think the representatives are psychic or assume they will know how we want them to vote because someone else will tell them.
What happens then, when they do not vote the way we want them to? We get outraged, complain to our friends and relatives --and then do nothing. Most people don’t take the time to tell the representatives or write blogs or letters to editors complaining. We leave that to other people.
When we don’t communicate our desires to our elected representatives, they are left free to vote the way they want to, based on what they believe is in their best interests, not the way they think we want them to vote.
But, that isn't the worst part of the story! What is worse is that we go back to the poles in the next election and vote for the same representatives that failed to vote the way we wanted them too! Why do we do that? Does that make any sense? And yet, that is exactly what we do, time after time with only a few notable exceptions.
There have been a few times in our history when the people got fed up and voted out enough of the representatives to change the entire complexion of the government. We are seeing some of that now. People got nervous and angry at the government under the previous Administration and voted in “Change and Hope” and sent a lot of the incumbents into the unemployment line. Now we have had almost 2 years of the new Administration and many people don’t like the kind of change that we got so it looks very much like they are going to vote in “Change and Hope” again, only a different version of it this time.
The “Tea Party” is an example of this phenomenon. Most people would say at first glance that the Tea Party is a Republican movement to fight higher taxes and they would be mostly right. That does not, however, really explain it properly. The Tea Party is made up of people from all parties who are mostly angry that they have been ignored by their representatives and have found in the movement a way of getting their attention. This is clearly shown by the reaction of our representatives to the “Tea Party”. At first they were arrogantly dismissive, referring to the people as “astro-turf” and “handful of right-wing crazies”. When the movement grew in size they changed their attitude and decided the movement was “hired demonstrators” sent by the Republican Party. As the movement continued to grow they started paying attention to the message and now acknowledge the movement is multi-party, has a message and, most importantly, will deliver an important block of votes come election time. Many representatives, knowing that they are targets of the next wave of change, have changed their rhetoric about the movement again. Now they are trying to get people to alienate themselves from it by characterizing tea-party members as red-neck, potentially violent, gun-totters. They say these things in spite of the fact that the Tea Party rallies are among the most peaceful political demonstrations the country has seen because they hope the characterizations will make people not want to attend.
We live in a representative democracy. That means that we, each and every citizen, has a say in how the government is run by being able to vote for the representatives we choose to write and pass our laws. That means we also have an obligation to find out what those representatives are doing as they “represent us”. We have an obligation to decide how we, as individuals, should vote and who we should vote for. We have an obligation hold those representatives responsible for the way they vote and to see they are punished when they break the public trust. The only way this is going to work is for all of us getting involved, at least enough to know what is going on and how we feel about it.
There have been 2 developments in situations which I have been following and have commented on in the past. They were both notably enough that I felt it important to mention them here. I will follow up in more detail in coming days.
The first is the release of the investigation which concluded that North Korea was indeed responsible for the sinking of the S. Korean warship. Amoung other pieces of evidence they have an actual piece of the torpedo bearing a serial number which can be directly traced to the North Korean government. The North has again denied responsibility and warned against any retaliatory action saying that it could lead to "all out war". I do not know how South Korea and the U.S. will react but there has been talk about them going to the UN to ask for a resolution. If that becomes their only response they should save their time and trouble and just turn the keys to the South Korean Capital over the the North right now. No resolution with any effect will get through the UN with China there to veto it- and they know it. North Korea is like spoiled child behaving badly and unless they are swatted and swatted hard they will continue to misbehave until it is too late. The attack on the ship was a cold and calculated test of our reaction - if that reaction is weak the danger will actually grow even worse!
The other thing that happened was the Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, addressing our Congress and criticizing the Arizona immigration law. The hypocrisy of a Mexican official talking about racial profiling can not be ignored but it is nothing new. I just wanted to mention that I think they all seem to be missing the point. Securing the border, which is the actual purpose of the law, would stop the flow of drugs and drug trafficking into the U.S. while. at the same time it would also help stop the flow of drug money and guns into Mexico. That is a win-win situation for everybody. So, Mr. Calderon, let's just shut up and help us build the damned fence!
Today's Fun Picture