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Almost Independence Day

The level of anger and frustration with the current political situation in the United States is palpable. I feel it every time I am in a public place. I felt it last night at a rock concert I attended in Charlotte after one of the performers expressed his negative opinion about North Carolina’s already infamous “HB2.” I increasingly find myself wary, that someone, somehow, for some reason will take offense to something I say, something I am wearing, a bumper sticker on my car, my last name, my taste in music, my opinion on reality television, the color of my hair, or some other random and largely irrelevant thing, even in situations where I once felt absolutely at ease…like a concert. I have also found that the feeling, I am experiencing, that ugly vibe, is also present in general; that this wariness and mistrust of others is pervasive across the board. It is what social historians, philosophers, and psychologists call our “zeitgeist,” the dominant and defining characteristic that drives our society. That’s not good.

This generalized mistrust has resulted in the rapid rise of a xenophobic, and exclusionary, political climate, a troubling increase in our already staggering homicide and violent crime rate, and a (perfectly related) boom market for security systems manufacturers, gun manufacturers, corrections corporations and attorneys. The more nervous and freaked out the public gets, the higher their profits. Every time there is another senseless, violent tragedy they benefit financially. Every time. The more heinous the incident, the higher the profit. Sweet deal if you can get it…. and don’t give a damn about the civil rights, mental health, welfare or safety of others not of your kind…. which apparently is a common attitude with the elite.

Not a day goes by without someone telling me “I have lost all faith in our government,” or “government is the problem, those crooks are only out for themselves,” or some other equally broad and sweeping statement about what is never the less indicative of a very real issue. The concerns being expressed from all sides of the political spectrum are remarkably homogenous and all revolve around the fact that a very large and growing number of Americans do not trust our government from its very top all the way down. They are increasingly aware of the relationship between political careers and corporately funded campaign war-chests in the form of lobbying groups such as APAC or the NRA, and the ethical compromises that inevitably cascade like dominoes in such a political climate. Because of this, and a host of other reasons which are all never the less related, they feel that our government has failed.

It should be also be noted that a huge number of people who say the government has failed cannot provide any legitimate, concrete examples that aren’t liberally infused with a whole lot of absolute, and easily verified as such, fabrications and lies that they picked up from Fox or Americans for Prosperity or The John Locke Foundation or some other shill organization for the conservative, wealthy elite, who I can say by virtue of the fact that you are reading this do not respect you, would like nothing more than to pay no attention to you at all, and see you as nothing more than a consumer and worker bee. Which is in and of itself another good deal if you can get it, and don’t give a damn. You work for them, they pay you as low a wage as is legally allowable—morality, ethical business practices and common decency having taken a backseat quite some time ago—then you go and buy stuff from them on which they will make an additional profit, until you eventually give it all back to them, with interest. I guess people will believe you as long as you claim you are doing it for Jesus…. But I digress.

Here’s the thing: Every time you say “I have lost all faith, confidence, and trust in our government,” what you are actually saying is “I have lost all faith in myself, my neighbors, my community, my nation and the principles that once sustained us. We are now incapable of even the most basic civil discourse because we have lost all sense of civility and community and have a profound mistrust of everybody and everything that even hints at difference.”

Here’s why that’s a profound problem:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Remember that from high school history or civics class or were your schools too busy teaching about how Jesus rode dinosaurs, or that pouring thousands of metric tons of particulate matter into the atmosphere EVERY DAY has absolutely nothing to do with climate change or the fact that weather patterns across the globe are growing increasingly destructive, or that the slaves were happy campers? Shame, that.

“We The People”, is actually an extremely important phrase. We (Meaning “ALL of us”) the people ARE the government. We live in what is called a “Representative” government in which we hold elections to determine who will represent our interests (we, the People) in all matters relating to governance. What this means is that the people in Washington or Raleigh or where ever you are pointing that shaking, angry finger, are there for the simple reason that you, through your political involvement, allowed them to be. That is just as true of those who are actively involved in the elections process, as it is of those who refuse to participate in any way. In fact, those who do not participate are actually a huge part of why we continue to make political decisions that are contrary to our own self interests. The reason for that is simple: Every vote NOT cast is a vote for the status quo, a vote to maintain the existing arrangements.

The political minions in Raleigh who are distracting you with a whole bunch of hot button non-issues like who can say they are married to who, and where one may tinkle, while they systematically pillage our economy and natural resources continue to be able to do so because we (the people) let them, and by continuing to support them despite the overwhelming evidence that they are, in fact, about as untrustworthy as they come and as such do not represent what is called “the will of the people.” Although we the people are now apparently willing to be taken to the cleaners economically, poisoned environmentally, be poorly educated and more than willing to go into hock to do it as long as the right to not sell wedding cakes to gay couples is upheld….or something equally unimportant yet distracting.

As the late Walt Kelly so eloquently put it “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”

I’m pretty sure that most of us would agree that we need to change some things. But to change the things we are talking about, regardless of which direction those changes take, will require us to trust one another. It requires us to be well informed. It requires us to carefully consider our opinions and actions, not only in terms of whatever immediate results they may bring, but more importantly in terms of the long term ramifications that could result. It requires that we find those among us who are capable of leading, who are committed to the principle that brought almost ALL of our families here: the belief that a nation of free people, with a free press and freedom of expression governed through consensus based on the principles outlined in our Constitution, that demanded allegiance to no particular person, particular creed, or particular religion, and in fact rejected them as a basis of governance, was the preferable and just place to make a life and a home.

We need leaders who will encourage consensus…a vital and absolute necessity in a democracy… leaders who will take those things that bind us….and they are considerable….and guard them…..leaders who care about what America means both to itself and to the rest of the world… Leaders with the intelligence, experience and compassion….. a whole lot of compassion….. That recognize our unique place in history and the legacy that we are so rapidly changing into something ugly, rude, and unwelcome in the eyes of the very people who once held us up as the one and only true beacon of hope, and justice, in an otherwise very bleak looking world.

Our role is to recognize chicanery when we see it. We need to stop being afraid of each other, and the rest of the world. We need to take the time to learn all we can about the truly important issues we face as a nation and as a planet and start entrusting truly capable, as opposed to truly well- funded, people to represent all of our interests. Finally, we need to recognize that our history is a history of providing sanctuary to anyone, regardless of demographic, yearning to participate in our struggle to always maintain We, The People, as our ultimate purpose. Only when we trust one another, and the principles meant to bind us, will we once again be that beacon of hope our founders envisioned. !

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