Sunday, June 1, 2008

Post No.13: No More Smoke and Mirrors, Please

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Truth be Told. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, I wrote a piece which I shared with some friends, but did not publish or otherwise make available to the public. In that piece, I spoke of how the citizens, most severely affected by Katrina, would soon be forgotten, and ultimately dismissed. Why? They are, for the most part, a class of people who do not “matter” or have much influence in our society. Let me chat for a minute about what “matter" means.

The reality is that in America, we have neither the political will nor the motivation to ensure that everyone maintains at least some subsistence level of existence. Recognizing that practical reality, we as a society take whatever steps to ignore, sweep aside, or cover the sore that is poverty, with no real intention of addressing it.

This segment of the population, on a practical level, does not matter. It is not a battle worth fighting from the perspective of the power structure. It’s not cost-effective. There are other ways, perhaps not particularly pleasant, but at least effective, to deal with it.

But this is nothing new. What’s new or different about now? It is actually reflected in the brave young men and women who make up our military. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many a soldier in airports over the last couple of years. Virtually all of them served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The story is the same every time. Initially, they saw themselves as patriots, performing a valuable service. They envisioned that the probable rewards were worth the personal risks. As time went on however, their purpose and mission became less clear. The service drilled into them that they should not question authority, nor speak derisively about their leaders, and therefore they did not do so.

This is a volunteer force – they stepped up and answered the call, and we still dismiss them. The vast majority of them are from the same type of families and situations that comprised the vast majority of those most severely affected by Katrina – the poor and disenfranchised. (I guarantee you that if we still had the draft, drawing from a far wider cross-section of society, this whole situation would be treated very differently.)

John Kerry actually got it right when he flubbed the “joke.” It wasn’t a joke. It would have been helpful if he had the guts to acknowledge that.

I am sure that last week most of you missed that the Pentagon and the Administration opposed a proposal that an education bill, similar to the G.I. Bill enacted after World War II, be extended to our Iraq War vets. On what grounds you ask? They were concerned about how such a “benefit” might discourage continued service in the military. God forbid these folks come back to the States, get an education, and truly enter the ranks of the middle class.

Being the optimist, I actually see a positive side to this. Virtually nothing that this Administration promised the American people, during it campaign, has come to fruition. Eight years of confusion and misdirection have paved the path for the re-emergence of that rare, but powerful, force in politics – the Truth, which translates into credibility. We’re at the point where we can not take it any more, and do it with a straight face. That translates into abysmal approval ratings. We’re spending money on maintaining order in some foreign land, and can not maintain order in the streets of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Detroit. We’re building an infrastructure in a foreign land, while ours crumbles. We’re investing capital in some other nation’s long term interests, while we ignore ours. This is not to mention that we’re letting others in our borders, while many of our citizens hunt for jobs on a daily basis. I wish that someone would explain this situation to me with a straight face.

Fortunately, the young folks fighting over there are pretty sharp, and they see through the spin and magic. One has to be on high alert, and not asleep at the switch, in order to simply survive. They also have friends and relatives, and the hearts of the American public. As my friend Laughingman recently noted, “We taught these youngsters to live their lives so that they would have no regrets for past actions, or remorse for lost opportunities. They took us at our word, but they are now holding up our record of performance, or lack thereof, to an unforgiving light. Do not be surprised if they come out en masse to beat the drums for a man whose very presence on the political platform epitomizes change.”

Our children are mad as hell, and they aren't willing to take it anymore. They know that doing the right thing is not rocket science, and that it is not that difficult a concept to appreciate. As legendary ad man Bill Bernback once suggested, "I've got a neat gimmick - let’s tell the truth."

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

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