Friday, October 18, 2013
"Meeting" is a strange tale of illusion and conflicting, often shattering realities, set largely in our nation's capital.
The real world of Washington D.C. -- real as we can make out -- seems little better of late. Of course, the recent government shut-down wasn't the first in our nation's history, and sadly, almost certainly not the last. It was by no means irreparable, but it most certainly did harm to the nation as a whole, to the tune of approximately $20 billion. It wasn't just a rope around Old Faithful, or a handful of ruined vacations to national landmarks. To thousands of government contract workers (hardworking middle class people, people with families) it was considerably more than an inconvenience. It was, in effect a punitive lay-off which they did not deserve to have suffered. It was also a slow-down in the economy, a delay in a lot of rent payments, a delay in food shipments. The effects, both subtle and gross, go on and on.
Congress, of course, suffered no loss of pay. The Republicans who arbitrarily decided they simply wouldn't do the jobs We The People pay them to do, got paid for doing nothing. We essentially paid them to go on strike. No, actually, they robbed us at gunpoint while going on strike. Talk about taxation without representation! So, what justification does the GOP give for shutting down the government simply because two votes, an election and a Supreme Court decision failed to go their way? No justification needed. They had the power to commit a legal form of terrorism, to hold a national economy hostage until they got their way, so they did it. They didn't get their way, of course. Obamacare is still on its way, and the GOP has never been more hated by the public. But, don't worry: They'll do it again.
So, why did they do it, even knowing full well they couldn't possibly win? Why did their leader (or, figurehead?) John Boehner, who once spoke out against the idea of a shutdown, change course and condone this ludicrous and extremely costly spectacle? Simple: He caved to political pressure from the vocal, radicalized minority within the GOP. The so-called Tea Party. Yesterday's counter-revolution still trying to throw sand into the wheels of national progress. They'll stop this country from moving forward, or destroy it in the attempt. That's their only defining manifesto. And, why did Ted Cruz, the ambitious young GOP pol lead the charge, even though the bulk of his own party opposed him? Again, simple: Personal gain and political ambition. It didn't matter that he couldn't win. He just wanted to be remembered by his hard-core right-wing base as the David who stood up to Goliath, as the right-wing firebrand who fought tooth and nail against Obamacare, which these reactionary TP (love that acronym) yahoos have chosen as the symbol of evil.
And, here lies a fundamental weakness in our system of government that will doubtless do more harm before we find the strength of will to change it. Politicians who are charged with defending the rights and needs of the nation as a whole seldom do. They're too busy looking after their own constituencies and districts--after themselves, in short -- to care about the nation as a whole. E Pluribus Unum? E Pluribus You're screwed! It's everybody for himself. Divided times breed divided government. And, sometimes, apparently, no government at all. The common good and the general welfare take a back seat to self serving politicians and their rich, deep-pocketed backers. Treason? Nope. Just business as usual.
The question is, how much more of this can our democracy stand? Do the legislative process or the rule of law actually mean anything if a party that can't get its way through either can simply shut it all down in a form of legal blackmail? Each time they do, that many more government programs for the poor and needy are damaged that much more, and the poorest workers suffer the most. (Not that that matters in the slightest to a party like the GOP which cares only about the rich, and would love to destroy many if not all social programs and regulatory agencies.) So, is democracy in America to suffer the death of a thousand cuts?
Or, are we as a people going to stop impotently wining about government ineffectiveness, and actually do something about it? How about passing laws of governance that prevent this sort of outrageous, if not treasonous behavior by our elected officials? How about recalling those who won't go along? How about passing serious campaign finance reform to keep special interest money out of politics. (We passed that in Massachusetts, and the conservative pols simply refused to fund it!) The right wing wind-bags keep screaming about taking America back. Yeah...let's take it back. From them. How about we rise up as a nation and bury them under an avalanche of votes? How about we create rules that actually make votes and laws count for something, and make the obligations of elected office sacred, as we have a right to expect?
This government can't just be an instrument used to bludgeon the nation for the selfish gain of those we elected. Reality is supposed to be shaped by our collective will and principles. Not by those we pay to uphold them.
Friday, October 4, 2013
Attention, all lovers of SCIENCE FICTION, HORROR and Romantic MURDER MYSTERY...
Check out my short story ALBUM on Buzzy Mag at:
Steve Gallagher, an adventurous, womanizing test pilot falls for a beautiful female astronaut, only to discover that, on her last mission into space, she brought something back with her. Something alien and deadly that has taken possession of her, and desires him.
Steve soon finds himself at the center of an escalating mystery as every woman he pursues dies mysteriously and horribly. Can he find a way to destroy the alien evil that pursues him, before he becomes its next victim?
For instance, is America addicted to guns, or just crazy? We can distinguish between kinds and shades of madness. The guy who shot up Fort Hood was fanatical. The kid who shot up Sandy Hook was crazy. The guy who shot up the Washington Navy Yard was delusional.
So, as a nation... What's our excuse?
The killing goes on, but Heaven forbid we should have a substantive or productive national debate about gun control. The all mighty NRA will continue its broken record-like tirade, claiming that more guns are the answer, not fewer. Through their mock tears and empty platitudes in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the NRA posited the theory that schools are targeted by the deranged and suicidal for one simple reason: Schools are gun-free zones, and therefore vulnerable. (Huh. 'Never knew the deranged and suicidal were that pragmatic.) Of course, this argument fails to address mass shootings which take place at heavily armed facilities such as military academies and Navy yards, where the victims were not defenseless children but trained killers. That crazy woman who just tried to plow her car through the White House gates in defiance of an army of cops wasn't even armed. (What if she had been?)
A renowned (and published) American military sniper was, a short while ago, fatally shot by one of his own students, a troubled young man whose mentor apparently felt would benefit from channeling his dark impulses into focused gun use. The mother of the Sandy Hook shooter apparently had the same reasoning regarding her son, whom she trained with her legally obtained firearms before he shot and killed her, a school full of kids and himself. We're a country immersed in the culture of the gun. It seems part of our national soul, part of our identity as a people. Senseless shootings in our streets still shock and sadden us, but not to the point of getting guns under control, as other countries (Scotland, New Zealand, Korea, etc.) have effectively done in the wake of their national tragedies. No, to us as a nation, gun control seems unthinkable. Almost sacrilegious. At the first feeble stirrings out of the Obama administration regarding the possibility of gun control, the gun nuts start hiding and stockpiling their precious firearms, conjuring disturbing images of underground militias and rural rebellion. No matter how many mass killings happen, no matter how many schools or government installations get shot up, no matter how many innocent people die needlessly, the gun nuts will continue their stale litany: "Just 'cause there's a few bad apples out there, they wanna ruin it for all of us." They always seem to miss the larger point: One bad apple is all it takes. That's why we need gun control. And, what is it that's being ruined, exactly?
Why do so many Americans cling to their guns? Partly out of fear, naturally. But, that's not the whole reason, or even the primary reason. There are other ways of defending the home against intruders, after all. Reinforced steel doors, alarm systems, panic rooms. No, the gun is more, psychologically than security. It's power. More than that, it's identity. Freedom, or at least the illusion of it. It's bred into us, from the blunderbuss of the pilgrims to the flintlocks of the revolutionaries, to the six guns of the old west, and perpetuated throughout our culture in romanticized celluloid images, made flesh in Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, etc. etc...
The gun has, for the American psyche, become both madness and addiction. Some seem to equate disarmament with castration. We've even perverted the meaning of the Second Amendment with artfully warped logic, conveniently ignoring that part about a well-regulated militia and twisting an amendment which was clearly about a nation's collective right to raise an army into the demented idea that an individual has a sacred, God-given right to own a gun. (Not healthcare, of course, but a gun.)
We're not individually addicted to guns, but as a people we clearly are. Like all addicts, we need to break that addiction, or it must inevitably destroy us.