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Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Current Outsider's Perspective on America's Political Situation

I'm not American, as my regular readers know, but I dabble in politics and you can't really avoid American politics no matter what country you're from. What they do affects the rest of the world in big and small ways. For the last couple of years I've been watching the US pretty closely, and what I've seen has been very disturbing. I was already well aware of certain tendencies within American culture that would most likely lead to the degradation of the country, but there's been a very sharp downturn recently.

There's been a lot of talk about the disappearance of the middle class in America, and it's not a fallacy. It's getting to the point where people are either poor or they're extremely rich, and the vast majority are very poor. When you work full-time and can't afford to pay your rent and utility bills, and still buy groceries, there's a serious problem. Sadly those in higher income brackets fail to see (or care, perhaps) that this is a self-defeating system. After all, if you squeeze every drop of money out of people for basic necessities, they have nothing left over for luxuries of any kind and they don't spend the money that fuels the economy. Eventually the machine is going to break down.

There are a lot of other problems, but the inability to secure a living wage is the biggest one, because it means there are kids going hungry, people without healthcare and losing their teeth. School programs are being gutted, and the curriculum is geared toward indoctrination rather than education. In some places it's even worse, because the indoctrination comes in the form of religion that contradicts known scientific fact. It's bad enough that people are uneducated. Now they're being mis-educated. At the moment there's a very large number of people who truly believe science has no place in the public school system, and religion is the true story.

Never mind my own personal bias against organized religion - and I freely admit I have one. Let's just look at the big picture. Mis-education is creating states that will have generations of people believing scientific facts to be lies. The United States competes in a global market. How does it expect to continue being competitive when other countries are not only teaching the science these kids need to learn, but other countries are offering free university and college education? The answer is that they won't. While politicians are debating religious dogma, the rest of the world is zipping on by. While politicians debate the reality of global warming and climate change, the rest of the world is looking for (and finding) the answers. Countries all over the world are reducing their dependency on fossil fuel products, and Americans are becoming more dependent.

Mainstream media in the US is too afraid to upset the corporations that sink millions of dollars into advertising on their networks, to subvert the propaganda they're spreading about sustainable energy. So there's still a large portion of the population that believes we're not in an ecological crisis at this very moment. They've become blind to the massively lower water levels in California, and the 4-year drought that's going to make food so expensive only the rich will be able to eat. Now they're predicting that California only has a year of water left, but Nestle is sucking it up to bottle it.

Corporations are controlling every aspect of American lives. Some people are starting to understand that, but so many people still believe what's being broadcast on so-called news programs. I've lost count of the number of studies I've seen that talk about how low the percentage is for truth actually being broadcast. Most news is opinion-based in the US now, much of it is outright deception, and every once in a while they throw in a small grain of truth to confuse everyone. Then that small grain gets lost in the avalanche of dishonesty.

Admittedly it's not easy to tell the truth, the whole truth, so help you. It's not so hard to be honest in some ways, by making the choice never to lie. However, even if we think we're telling the truth, it's only the truth as we know it and perceive it. We can't possibly know the whole story. Even people who are right there when something happens only see their version of it. Witness testimony is always suspect and inherently flawed by our own biases. All we can do is try to be as thorough and as honest as possible, but frankly mainstream media has no interest in adhering to a policy like that.

What's needed in the US now is not just a strong middle class, but also to have the poorest among its population still being able to survive. Working a 40-hour week should be enough to do that. I believe in a fair minimum wage. If a company can't pay someone that much, then they either need to raise their prices or bow out of the business altogether. If people don't want to pay an extra 50 cents for a burger or a coffee so that the person behind the counter can afford to buy formula for their baby, then they shouldn't be going out to eat or drink. I've always had that attitude when it comes to service employees. When I go out to eat I tip at least 15% unless the server was purposely terrible. I do the same with cab drivers because I know very well how little they make. My second husband drove a cab, and was stuck paying for fuel out of those tips. I figure if I can afford to buy pizza or whatever, the tip is a part of that expense.

The second thing they need to do is get corporate money out of politics altogether. This isn't a new idea. What I don't understand is how it ever happened in the first place. Did they not realize the danger? Didn't they know there would be favouritism for big donors? Do the citizens not understand why their politicians are voting against what the people actually want for their country?

Then there are the big banks that are ripping everyone off. Having people who deal with money that are as unregulated as the financial industry in the US, is sheer idiocy. Bill Clinton drove the nail into the coffin that Reagan built with respect to all that, and it needs to be overturned, along with the aforementioned corporate sponsorship of politicians. I'm sure many Canadians, if they understood it, would hate the thought that they pay for the campaigns of their politicians, but the alternative is unacceptable. Sure we cover that with our taxes, but it's an extremely small bite considering the cap they have on spending, and it means corporations aren't buying/bribing our government officials - in that way anyway. We the people own the rights to our government, and that's as it should be.

So along comes Bernie Sanders. I've been seeing him around the internet for a while now, and the more I learn about him the more I perceive him as the ideal candidate for POTUS. He just announced his run a little while ago, and the media sort of laughed him off at first, until the figures for his campaign donations were announced from the first 24 hours. He received more money than every one of the Republican candidates, his average donation was $43, and it was regular people who were sending him the money. Obviously he had a lot of donors. This is a man who understands that he works for the taxpayers. He's not royalty looking down his nose at his constituents.

A look at Hillary Clinton's campaign funding makes me shudder in sympathy for my American friends. All but one of her top ten contributors are big banks. I don't like her, and I never have. She flip-flops with the wind. She sold out on healthcare many years ago, and she's sold out on other things since. She can't even settle on what name she's using, because she bases it on what she thinks will garner her the highest approval rating rather than on what she really believes. I may be a feminist who looks forward to the day when females are elected as leaders as often as males, but that doesn't mean I want the wrong woman voted in just because of her gender. I want the right person in office, regardless of their anatomy.

As for the Republican candidates, I don't get it. I do not understand why any of them would have enough people backing them that they could even throw their hat in. Religious zeal is only one of the issues they're having. Not everyone is a Christian, and the recent news that Christianity in America is losing ground should be a red flag for them. Campaigning with religion as your hook isn't going to get you far. One big reason for that, which is also a reason the Republicans are in so much trouble with voters, is feminism. Women are subjugated in almost every religion ever invented. There are a few that do not, though they're not widely accepted as religions, and have few practitioners. If you go around beating the drum for Christianity or any faith that doesn't respect women, there are going to be a lot of women who want nothing to do with you. And that's not even getting into the hundreds of anti-woman bills that were introduced in 2014 by Republican politicians.

If the Republicans are to have any hope of securing the top political seat, they need to find someone who isn't going to offend women, LGBT, rape victims, people of colour, people who practice religions other than Christianity, and poor people. Their entire support system seems to be comprised of white, heterosexual, Christian, non-disabled, entitled males (and they don't make up a huge portion of the American population). A couple of them thought they were being funny or something when they started talking about how old and ugly Hillary Clinton is, yet there isn't one among the males that doesn't appear as though he's been beaten with the ugly stick and nobody thinks that impacts their abilities in any way. Insulting Clinton's appearance and age are going to backfire severely if they don't put a stop to it. It amounts to name-calling at a high-school level. If they can't debate the issues any more intelligently than that, I don't see how anyone could believe they're smart enough to run a country.

And back to Bernie Sanders. Do some research if you don't believe me, but this is a man who has been saying the same things his entire political life. And finally people are listening and starting to realize that he's most likely right. I truly believe he is the one person who might be able to get America back on track. On the international stage I'm sorry to say that the US has lost almost all respect. Maybe it's not fair, but a lot of it is a kind of pettiness because America tooted its own horn for so long, telling everyone it was the greatest country in the world, and now that inspires people to cheer when they see it faltering. Pride goeth before a fall, to paraphrase Proverbs, and there are a lot of countries out there that would all too happily give them a surreptitious shove. Kind of like going to your high school reunion and finding out that the prom king is now 300 pounds and sells shoes for a living. You start hearing, "Nah nah nah nah nah nah," in your head.

The problem with that is, America still hold the key to a great deal of security in the world. When they're stable the rest of the world can latch on and be okay. When they're not stable it's like being in an earthquake and having the ground fall from beneath you. So many things in America impact every country on earth. Unless we're willing to see our own countries suffer, we should be cheering on the States and helping them pull themselves together, rather than sticking out our foot to trip them up. We've got a giant rogue army taking over the middle east, sawing off people's heads. What do we think is going to happen if America is no longer a threat to them?

In all sincerity and seriousness, America needs to get back on its collective feet. The infighting weakens it on the public stage, especially in the age of the internet where everyone gets to see what's going on. Rumours start flying about every little scandal, and everyone has an opinion before the facts are even released. It's one reason I never weighed in on the whole issue of the so-called wave of killings by police officers. When you start to look closely at those situations, and then go over the statistics, there really hasn't been any sudden changes or increases. The difference lies in the focus. Thank mainstream media for turning every molehill into a mountain. Yes, every life is important, whatever race, colour or creed. I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly, but we have to look beyond what the media wants to show us.

Corporations that control the media are not doing their country any favours, and truthfully they don't really care. They're interested in nothing but pure profit. They don't care if America is reduced to ashes. They build their business on the backs of fellow Americans, they squeeze out their profits, and then they take their money and stick it in offshore accounts. They move their headquarters to Canada because they prefer our less-complicated tax system, or they go to another country where the taxes are laughable. Their gratitude to the people that gave them their billions is non-existent.

Frankly I don't want those companies in Canada. When I sell products to American customers, I'm required to pay taxes on that. Royalties through Amazon book sales are taxed through the IRS - I haven't published a book yet, but they've already got my tax information for when that day comes. I don't mind one bit. If I make a profit in a country, then I'm using or doing something that has been created through taxation and socialism, like postal services, or the roads that are used for shipping my items to customers. I have to pay for that, and I should, so corporations that don't pay for it really burn my ass because they can well afford to. Instead of giving back to the community that made them what they are, they take the money and run. It's contemptible, and tells you their true morality. If corporations are people and there is a God, then they're going straight to Hell.

America has the foundation to make a comeback, despite the cracks in it. And whether or not they like socialism, I believe we all have to help one another. Socialism builds the roads we drive on, and the services we use, but it can also be a way to accomplish the big things, like protecting the rest of the world from the Islamic State and keeping the world economy stable. In my electronic travels I've made some very good friends, and many of those friends are American. I care what happens to them, and it doesn't matter to me that we don't share a country. We do share a planet and personal experiences. We share resources. We share technology and the responsibility of cleaning up our ecosystem. Without international cooperation and aid, we would all have faltered long ago, but I think we keep forgetting that. Our trade agreements allow us to have so many of the luxuries and necessities that we currently enjoy.

I'm very proud to be a Canadian, but (even if it perhaps sounds silly) I'm also proud to be a Terran. I want my whole planet to experience all the happiness and security we're capable of. Linux users have heard of Ubuntu, which is a computer operating system used in lieu of Windows or Mac OS on Linux-based systems. However, many people don't know the meaning behind the word Ubuntu. In short it means, "Humanity to others." The longer version is, "I am what I am because of who we all are." There's a story that goes along with that about the sharing of apples between three friends and their refusal to race and have one of them win all the apples because the one couldn't be happy if the other two were not. I think this is a truism of our world. We will never experience happiness the way we were meant to until everyone who shares our world has that same freedom. How can we sit, greedily eating all the apples while our friends have nothing?