Monday, March 22, 2010

Generational Insanity – The Stupidity And Greatness Of Each Generation

Every generation has its own style. Each era has a unique vocabulary, its own taboos and its own definition of what is considered cool or hip. Each era has its style of fashion, music and entertainment. Some fads and vocabulary are temporary and some make it past the generational stage and become permanent fixtures of society. Some go away but still leave their influence in other ways. The expressions; “That’s groovy man” and “Far Out!” have long been replaced by “At the end of the day” and “That’s how I roll!” Thankfully the expression “Don’t go there” seems to have seen its last days. Some styles or expressions are driven by technology such as “LOL” or “ROTFL”. At times, we use new expressions without thinking. They all of a sudden find themselves inside our vocabulary repertoire and we don’t know how they got in there or how we can get rid of them.

In a recent controversy, Tom Hanks spoke about United States racism during World War II. Most of the time, when actors get involved in political issues, they show how uninformed they are of the real world outside of a Hollywood film set. However, in this case Tom Hanks has a point. The U.S. was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor and then took appropriate action in everything it did to defend itself. But in marketing war to its citizenry, there were words used and characterizations made of the Japanese people that were over the line. We could have “sold” the war in the Pacific based on the horrible reality of the sneak attack without demonizing everyone of a particular race and culture. The same thing is true of the wars in Vietnam and Korea where other offensive terms and characterizations were used.

Today, we’ve gone in the exact opposite direction. The United States and, in fact most of the world, is at war with a fundamentalist form of Islam yet we are afraid to mention the true nature of the enemy. This does not mean that we have to use terms for Muslims that are comparable to words used in the past for the Japanese, Vietnamese or Koreans. At the same time, however, we can’t pretend that reality is something other than what it is. The threat of terrorism is real and won’t go away by pretending it doesn’t exist or by calling it by a different name.

It’s amazing how some things in society are considered taboo while others are acceptable. It’s even more amazing how what is taboo and acceptable changes over time. An old episode of the television show I Love Lucy had to show a husband and wife in different beds; it couldn’t even use the word “pregnant” on the air. Yet just about everyone, men and women alike were always smoking cigarettes! Today, you’ll see women kissing women on prime time TV, sexual innuendo all over the place but they won’t dare show someone smoking a cigarette! These are two distinctly different societies -- one society smokes like chimneys calling people of different races bad names while no one anywhere in the world has ever had sex. The other society has so many rules regarding how to speak about different cultures that they are afraid to say anything but they are all having sex with each other.

Language is a reflection of the society. Watch an old movie from the 30’s and you are likely to hear the coolest character in the film say something such as “That’s swell!” As the language gets updated and revised, so do the customs. Usually started by the younger generation in revolt of some perceived wrong, they feel the need to be different. They may grow their hair long and wear psychedelic colored clothes or they may wear 20 gold chains and polyester suits. They may wear baggy jeans (see dungarees) that reveal the boxer shorts within or they may have tattoos and piercings all over their body. Perhaps it’s a midriff shirt worn at just the right length to reveal the tattoo on the back. And when, exactly, did butt cracks become a statement of style? I guess it depends on whose butt crack it is, to answer my own question.

Every generation thinks it knows better than the previous one. Eventually, the customs of every generation fade away and give in to newer ones. Each generation laughs at previous generations thinking that they, the current generation, are the coolest, the smartest, and the most aware. They are always laughed at by the generation coming up behind them. The cycle never ends. The generation that has been replaced is permanently memorialized in the books, in the movies and in the music that it has produced.

When history is looked at objectively, some generations face more problems than others. Some react differently, causing either good or harm. As time passes, it is important to understand that each generation has a responsibility, at the end of the day (Argghhh!), to understand that it is not as unique as it thinks it is. For this reason, it is important that no generation of people leave such a legacy that future generations lose the ability to laugh at the previous one. No single generation should have so much importance as to limit what the following generation can or can’t accomplish. Each generation should have an equal chance to be just as stupid and annoying as the previous one.

While there are things to be laughed at in each generation, there are also things that each generation adds to our society. It is important to take the good out of every generation. It is in this way that we gain accumulated knowledge and wisdom. By taking the best out of every generation and understanding that the current generation will always be limited by issues of a particular time, we can continue to grow as a country or as a society. We need to learn from history, rather than abandon it or label it as “old fashioned”. In a sense, this idea of understanding that the present is always clouded by the moirĂ©s, fashions, styles, and biases of any particular time and that the past is something to be respected is the definition of conservatism.

The founding fathers, whom recent generations would label as dead white males, understood that everything had to be balanced. They brilliantly balanced the power of states to the federal government, the power of the legislative branch vs. the power of the executive and the judicial branches. What is lesser known is how they knew to balance the whims of one generation against the proven successes and failures of previous generations. This is why the constitution makes it difficult to change or amend a law or a bill. The framers of the constitution recognized that the perceived needs of any present time may not always be in the best interests of future generations.

In Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on January 28, 2010, he said the following:
"if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions."
In saying this, President Obama showed that he either doesn’t understand the constitution or that he doesn’t respect the constitution. He has his logic completely backwards. The framers wanted to make the process difficult so that if a law was changed or created, it would have to be something that transcended the ambitions of any individuals. It is precisely that reason why the framers made it so that 60 votes are required. Barack Obama was trying to criticize the Republicans but he was actually criticizing the constitution, itself. In effect, it is his own ambitions that he is putting ahead of the constitution. It was precisely for this type of person that the framers made it so that 60 votes would be necessary!

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “All times are good times if we but knew how to use them.” We obviously haven’t always used our times in the best ways. There have been times of fear and insanity where people have rationalized absolute evils such as slavery and mass extermination. Other times have shown incredible innovation, ingenuity and kindness. Because at any given time, the way people perceive reality can change, it is important to keep the present in perspective to the known successes and failures of the past. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the current United States administration. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid all think they are bigger than anything that came before them and that is a recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Letter To The President

Hi Barack,
You don’t mind if I call you Barack, do you? In the recent healthcare summit, you referred to all the Senators by their first names so I thought it would be appropriate here, considering that a little over a year ago, you were just a simple Senator yourself.

Barack, you keep reminding everyone that you won the election. The fact that you won the election should be demonstrated by your deeds and actions. We know you’re the President. We get that already. Whether a President, a corporate exec, or the manager of a baseball team, a good leader doesn’t need to remind people of what his position is. If your leadership was profound and strong, you wouldn’t need to constantly, and quite frankly a bit obnoxiously, bring up that you are the president. I can’t imagine Vince Lombardi reminding the Green Bay Packers that he was their coach. That group of football players knew who their coach was and they respected him for who he was as a person, not for the position he held.

Saying that you are the president doesn’t give you the respect that goes with the position. That has to be earned. The election was only the interview. Now you’ve got to start working and I have a number of concerns. Let’s start with your answer to Senator McCain in the healthcare summit. Again, you pointed out for the umpteenth time that the election was over. Senator McCain pointed out that you misrepresented yourself on your ‘job application’. You said you’d put the health care debates on C-Span. You said this eight times and not as mere passing references. You went into great detail about how you were going to do this and haven’t explained why you didn’t. When a job applicant says he can or will do a task and then either doesn’t do it or is incapable of doing it, I find it a reason for dismissal, unless I can get a reasonable explanation. A reasonable explanation is not for the job applicant to tell me; “You hired me, I’m the new Analyst. I got the job”. “Wrong” I would tell him, “you HAD the job.”

Barack, I’ve heard you and your representatives say that your election was a mandate on the policies that you are proposing. If you were so proud and confident that your policies were what the people wanted, then why weren’t you up front with the people BEFORE you got elected? For example, if you said that you would propose additional spending that would put the projected deficit at 20 times that which you inherited from Bush; do you think you would have gotten elected? If you said that you planned on bringing terrorists to trial in civilian courts, do you think you would have gotten elected? If you brought out the 2,700 page monstrosity of health care “reform” before the election do you think you would have gotten elected? Incidentally, just as an aside, you could do some good work for the environment if you’d stop printing all these health care plans! If you won’t consider the will of the people, please consider the trees! If you told the people before the election that you would take over banks and car companies do you think you would have gotten elected? If you told people that you would traipse around the world apologizing for the things that most of us think make our country great, do you think you would have gotten elected?

My point in bringing these things up Barack, is that if you’re going to point out that your election gives you carte blanche to do whatever you want, then I think it’s important to point out back to you that your election was NOT a mandate to do the things you are trying to do. People did not vote for you to do these things. You didn’t campaign on doing these things so how can you now say that you have a mandate to do these things?

You drive me crazy Barack. The thing that bothers me most is that I don’t feel that you have a lot of respect for the American people. Yes you won the election with 52% of the votes but many of those were votes you wouldn’t have gotten if people actually knew what they were getting. What makes this worse, though, is that you have the chutzpa to talk about the 52% of these votes as some kind of mandate but are willing to outright dismiss polls which show that 60% to 70% of the American people are against your healthcare proposal. Those people are, apparently, too stupid to understand your brilliant plan. So when 52% of the people vote for you, based on misleading information, that is a mandate but when 60% or 70% of the people vote against your plan, that is a matter of them not understanding your plan?

Look Barack, you and I both know what’s going on here. The last thing you want is for people to “understand” your plan for healthcare. That’s why you tried to push it through in August before anyone even had a chance to read the 2,000+ page monstrosity. You said that it had to be passed right away or there would be dire consequences. Well, it’s seven months later and there aren’t any dire consequences. In fact, the health care in the United States, with all its faults, is still the best in the world. There are far more important things to concern ourselves with. This is your priority, it is not the priority of the country but that doesn’t seem to concern you.

In fact, Barack, when you say that you haven’t “explained” or “communicated” your plan well enough, what you are really saying is that you haven’t been able to misrepresent your plan well enough. The excessive costs of the plan, the health care rationing, putting choices in the hands of government rather than in the hands of individuals and doctors, the back room shady deals; all of this is an embarrassment to your administration but you want to try to paint the people who see your plan for the catastrophe that it is as being too dumb to understand it. I know that this is a tactic of one of your heroes, Saul Alinsky. Your idea is to make the radical seem main stream and to criticize and attack those who are against it as the radicals.

It’s not working Barack. Your purported eloquence has been overshadowed by your actual arrogance. Your speeches are, quite frankly, boring. The only people still excited by your rhetoric are Chris Matthews and the six people that watch his show. What really ticks me off is when you, Reid, and Pelosi talk about getting this done for the American people when it is the American people who keep telling you that they don’t WANT this!

I guess you’re going to try to push this through no matter what. I know you’re not stupid Barack. You’ve become boring and predictable, but you’re not stupid. You have an agenda which is obvious by the crowd you’ve always hung out with. You’ve put your agenda above what the people want and above the good of the country. You try to present yourself as someone who will listen to the other side but at your health care summit, you cut people off the moment that they brought up points that conflicted any of your own.

Barack, you can’t cut off the voice of the American people the way you tried to cut off the voice of people against your health care plan at that summit. You are not the King of the United States, although you may think you are. You are the top representative of the American people and you must answer to the American people, not the other way around. The people have seen you for what you are Barack, and they don’t like what they are seeing. I’m insulted to have a president who thinks so little of the American people that he is willing to so completely disregard their will.

So in closing Barack, I know you are not going to change. You are driven by your agenda as you always have been, but as you said yourself; “That’s what elections are for”. I just hope that by the time we throw you, Reid, and Pelosi out of office, that you haven’t created a hole that is too deep to climb out of.