Thursday, January 20, 2011

Political Civility: Really?

I suppose I really wasn’t too surprised to hear political pundits on both sides talking about “political civility” following the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords on January 8, 2011 (20 people were shot, of whom six died, including a nine year old girl). Democrats and Republicans, for one brief flickering moment, agreed that the political rhetoric needed to be turned down. What is supposed to be adult discussions has long ago morphed into schoolyard taunting with ever increasing hatefulness in tone, and sometimes action.

The problem with this temporary truce was that no longer had it been uttered, than the “if only” inserted itself into the conversation. Originally the Democrats accused the accused murderer, Jared Lee Longhner, of being a Rightwing stooge being manipulated, at least indirectly, by the “Great Rightwing Conspiracy” and its evil overlords, former Governor Sarah Palin, and conservative talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. The Republicans and those on political Right cited examples which claimed that Longhner was actually a left-leaning wacko and it really was the fault pseudo-socialist Left (amusingly, both sides largely cited the same “evidence” such as past comments, videos, music, books he likes, and quotes from friends taken out of context to support their claims).

In that brief moment of lucidity, the Left and Right agreed that the shootings were perhaps inevitable because of the level political discourse in this country. It’s become just plain ole mean and hateful. However, both sides just couldn’t leave it at that. Nope. They took it one step further and said that if only the …insert political party’s name here… would back off; turn it down and listen to reason, everything would be better. Of course, the finger pointing (use your own imagination as to which finger was being pointed most often) began all over again.

Have we, as a society, progressed (or perhaps regressed may be more accurate) to the point where we are incapable of civil debate? There was a time and not that long ago, where both sides could engage in vigorous discussions and yet at the end of day, remain at least cordial to each other. Sure, I recognized this is politics. I’ve been in it for over 35 years. It’s a full contact sport. I’ve bloodied some noses and had mine bloodied a few times too. But even in sports, there’s such a thing as sportsmanship. Now, our so-called “leaders” talk over each other in what at times amounts to shouting matches. We have some very serious problems in this country and they’re growing to the point where hard and unpopular choices must be made.

Do we really have time for mean-spirited and petty partisanship? Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t care what platform you choose to run on. Pick a political banner and fly it high. However, once they take that oath of office their only obligation is to the American Taxpayer. Period. They are no longer a Republican, Democrat, Green or Libertarian. The only initials behind their name that they need to care about should be “USA”. They are public servants and hold that position at our discretion, not their party’s. And by the way, they were elected to serve all the people equally, not just one segment of it (I’m taking about racial and ethnic caucuses here, which need to be disbanded).

So, when the Democrats or Republican start with this civility rhetoric again, they need to look in the mirror first. Americans are onto their tricks and beyond being sick and tired of the usual political grandstanding. Politicians are often the last to recognize the change in political winds. Those who do, often go on to greatness. Those who don’t usually fade into oblivion at best. The winds in America have changed, and it is no longer blowing Left or Right.

The Politics of Food

There’s been several articles of late about the economics (and politics) of food. They always seem fall on the heels of recent weather related disasters such as blinding snow storms along the US East Coast, the flooding in California and Australia, and the perpetual disasters which seem to befall Africa and Southeast Asia.

The question which comes to mind first is what can “we” do? Well, there are a large number of charities out there who will be more than happy to feed your guilt and take your money (a few feature images of adorable looking ragamuffins staring blankly into camera with some overweight host calling them by name and asking what “you” will do to “save” them). Of course, the US government pours billions of dollars annually into these same countries year after year with little, if any, progress (several other advanced industrial nations also add to that total by hundreds of millions of dollars), which raises another question, why?

Well, as with most questions of this nature, the answers are often interrelated, but often have just a few common denominators. A few of these countries are situated in areas that are natural disaster magnets (such as Bangladesh for instance). Others are natural resource deficient. As a result, sizable portions of the population are migratory. They use up available resources in one area and move on, only to return later. Some groups have been very successful at this such as the Bedouins of the Middle East. Many, however, are not migratory as a result of tradition, but because of war and ethnic cleaning (which is a politically correct word for genocide). This is especially true in parts of Africa. They have unsustainable populations because of lack of birth control education and resources, cultural bias toward birth control and women (often rape is actually a rite of male passage and even openly celebrated. Condoms are made unusable), or their religion requires them to forgo birth control methods even to their own determent (notably the Roman Catholic Church).

As a result of tribal or nationalized wars and terrorist acts, once arable land, suitable for farming is decimated. Water is polluted. Diseases become rampant. Doctors are a rarity. There are simply too few doctors and medical facilities. Sanitation is often basic. Medicines are rationed. Many doctors weary of the never ending lines and perpetual lack of resources and leave. Another common feature is the populations tend to be uneducated. As a result, there are few if any jobs. What few jobs exist are back breaking and often times brutal; little more than slavery (which is still common in Asia and Africa). Why are there few schools?

Schools are often destroyed. Teachers are beaten and chased off. Some are murdered. Those few who remain, like the doctors, deal with a lack of resources, and are often subject to the whims of the ruling clique, who restrict who and what is taught. An educated populace is a dangerous thing to dictatorships, which leads to the next common feature. Many of these countries have a history of violent military juntas and corrupt governments. Some masquerade as democracies. Some are just in your face military dictatorships that came to power based on tribal loyalties under the pretense of this or that political ideology. Much of the imported food and other resources are locked away; to be used for bribery or sold outright. Very little of the populace actually receives any assistance. As long as West (and East) continues to send these industrial sized handouts, the juntas and corrupt leaders remain in power.

Today, the world faces increasing food and water shortages. Whole populations are not just shifting from one corner of a country to another or slipping borders, but crossing continents. Many are leaving Southeast Asia and moving north into China, India, and Turkey. Those in Africa are crossing into Europe. America is feeling the effects of millions of illegal immigrants coming north from South and Central America, and Mexico. The result is greater strain on the host countries, which, in long term, will collapse under the shear weight of number. What is at stake here is the survival of entire nations.

The liberals on the Left would have us open our doors and blindly accept the onslaught. All we have to do is accept a new lower quality of life amid crushing taxes and a loss of national identity. The conservative Right would have us round them up and ship them home, only to repeat the process lest some wall or mount saves us a-la-Fortress Europe of the Third Reich. Like so many of our domestic issues, we tend to think about solving global ones in terms of “Left” or “Right”; all or nothing. I think the time has come for not just Americans, but nations to take off their ideological blinders and examine issues based on existing facts as they are, not as our ideologies want them to be.

Finally, here’s a great article I came across on MSNBC by John W. Schoen which illustrates my point. Check it out:

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