To Boldly Go

Posted on September 7th, 2016 in Personal, Politics, Religion | No Comments »

¬†“We work to better ourselves, and the rest of Humanity”
– Jean-Luc Picard, “First Contact”

As I write these words, we are two months and one day from history being made with the 2016 Presidential election. Two candidates who have polarized America in such a way as to lay open deep wounds, which may never heal in my lifetime. Eight years ago, I supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama; now I’m not so sure. Clinton’s position seems to paint her as a moderate Republican rather than a progressive Democrat. Charges of corruption and the influence of deep-pocket Wall Street donors paint a less flattering portrait of her than I saw back in 2008. Her opponent is a puffed-up tycoon who appeals to the populist vote by saying whatever he thinks will work at any given moment. The fact that he’s running neck and neck in this election speaks volumes to the depths in which both parties have lost touch with voters, and how decades of under-funding education, promotion of belief over science and the rise of jingoistic blind patriotism has finally come home to roost, with a vengeance.

¬†Throughout the United States, I see the fall of empire, the dissolution of a dream. The great experiment of a new nation is beginning to fail. A government exposed as corrupt and totalitarian,¬† run by career politicians who will say anything to maintain their grip on power in order to keep being fed by wealthy special-interest groups. A populace who pay lip service to the ideas but year by year lose interest in the vigilance required to maintain their liberties, distracted by glitter and sheen and vacuous indulgences. Dumbed down by a faulty education system that is continually challenged by lack of funding and under constant attack from those who wish to impose their ‘faith’ over facts. Graduates who care barely read or write, were told Moses was a historical figure, cannot make change and never taught the basics of reproduction, or how to protect themselves from the consequences of their natural urges.

We live in an Orwellian world of double-speak, where ignorance is wisdom, giving up our freedoms makes us free and to question is to be wrong. Edward Snowden languishes in Moscow instead of being hailed as someone who told us what our government is doing in our name. A football player who refuses to stand for the national anthem is treated as if he somehow offended the military who fight and die in futile wars far away for no good reason. We are not allowed to ask why we sacrifice our troops; just “honor” them. Every day, people are killed on the streets of this once-great nation and no effort is made to overrule the gun industry and limit the weapons that take so many lives and destroy so many families. Not even the slaughter of schoolchildren in their own classrooms can stop it; money can cover anything, even the blood of the innocent. An idea as logical as banning assault weapons and universal background checks is treated as an attack upon the Constitution and the second amendment; but Congress votes to increase secret surveillance of innocent Americans, violating the fourth amendment, and it’s seen as good and proper.

America was once the leader of the free world; that claim is dubious now, to say the least. Other nations have better standards of living; free health care, better education; a happier, safer populace, not dominated by the obsessive need to feed the military whatever it wants, or the need to kowtow to obsolete, nonsensical religious claptrap. Other nations don’t have a crumbling infrastructure, with bridges built nearly a century ago and failing to cope with the increased demands of more and more cars. Other nations recognize the role we play in warming the planet, making every Summer ‘the hottest on record’, year after year after year.

We expect ‘regimes’ to keep innocent people locked away, with no trial; tortured and sometimes killed. To use their armies to attack and murder women, children and babies in their own homes. To spy on their own citizens and deal harshly with anyone who opposes the official party line. With every drop of blood, the United States of America becomes that which we supposedly hate; that which we supposedly stand in contrast to; that which we thought we would never be. We are now.

Next week will mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I have spoken before about how we were a different people then. So much has happened to us since that clear, blue morning. We were shocked to find that some could hate us so much that they would do such a terrible thing. It was terrorism of the worst kind, brought home from distant shores half a world away and deposited on our own doorstep. Now we look around at the hate, the shrug of the shoulders to the constant wash of violence, the nonsense and lies spouted off by our leaders and wanna-be leaders, and it’s difficult to deny that we have become a cruel, deluded people, with perhaps our best days behind us. The journey from innocence to cynicism in breathtaking speed.

I still believe that one day, we will rise up and become the people we think we are capable of being. The statement by the captain in Star Trek could ring true as a motto for us all. It is true for some people now, around the world. But there is a long, long way to go in order for it to apply to the majority, never mind the whole of Humanity. I wish I could see it, but I know I won’t. More importantly, I wish I could see it start to happen. I hold onto the hope that it already has.

Here we go again!

Posted on May 20th, 2008 in Politics | No Comments »

The scene: The American people, disillusioned by two terms of corrupt and unethical Republican government, turn to a Democratic outsider, someone with fresh ideas for change. Someone with obvious intelligence and charm, who only a few short months ago was unknown to nearly everybody outside of his home state. His name: Jimmy Carter.

It would seem that once again, the electorate is prepared to shoot itself in the foot. Barack Obama has managed to work a triumph of style over substance by denying the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. As I write this, it remains to be seen if Obama can do the same with John McCain, who, despite being a Republican, has obvious appeal of his own, and may yet emerge victorious, ushering in another four years of misery for the United States, both at home and abroad.

Obama has captivated the young vote, the black vote, and many people who are just tired of the quagmire the Bush Administration has gotten us into, both with a war nobody but Bush & Cheney wanted, and a host of domestic issues. But if Obama were to take the White House, the question would be how long could he work his slight of hand before the people that voted him in become his worst critics? In terms of his overall agenda, he’s not too far from Clinton on many issues. One notable one that has been bypassed by the feud between the DNC and Florida is that Obama is not a fan of the Space Program. If he wins, look for postponement if not outright cancellation of the Constellation plan to return Americans to the moon. Obama wants to move that money into reading programs for children. A laudable goal, but certainly if he is the agent of ‘change’, why not use the money saved by fighting corruption in the Military? Why jeopardize jobs and US prestige by shutting down manned spaceflight? Or is it a good change to rely on Russian Soyuz modules (and their increasing bumpy landings)?

Obama (if he were to win in November) would face many of the same obstacles that Carter faced in the mid 70’s – OPEC pressures, increasing saber-rattling from Iran, open hostility from Republicans and more and more of his own party as his term progresses. It’s probably no surprise that Carter himself has heartily endorsed Obama. Jimmy Carter is a good man, a decent and honest man, but he has trouble dealing with duplicity and tended to overthink when he was President. I don’t think Obama is as honest, but he has shown a similar tendency to think himself smarter than everyone in the room. Which means eventually he’ll underestimate someone and find himself painted into a corner, much like Carter was with the Iranian hostage situation.

The upshot is that Obama would find his real options for change very limited, since he would be relying on the beltway insiders to carry out much of his idealistic program. He has an appalling ability to piss off the very people he needs, such as anyone living in a small town, or people who wear American flags on their lapels. These people do vote, after all. When the Democrats in Congress get tired of being blamed for contributing to the chaos he’s come to town to ‘change’, watch out.

But at this point, it’s even money between Obama and McCain. McCain has his own problems, alienating the right wing of the Republican party, and appearing as a “Democratic Republican”. Obama has to deal with all the Hillary fans who are mistrustful of someone with such little experience, and too much confidence. I admit to being in the latter group. I think it would be interesting if everyone in both parties who don’t like either candidate to write in Hilary’s name. It might be “Dewey defeats Truman” all over again.