The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Washington’

GET A ROOM

What do football and wealthy liberal donors have in common?  Apparently, not very much.

You may remember the controversy that was roiled up over the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins team.  Outcries of racism surfaced faster than videos of MIT professor Jonathan Gruber calling the American people “stupid” for buying into the lies that were used to pass Obamacare.

The outrage extended to the highest levels of our elected government with soon-to-be-former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spearheading the effort in writing a letter (co-signed by many colleagues with a similar limited mental capacity) demanding that the team’s name be changed.  Fortunately, because the good senator had altered the Senate’s rules, no filibuster on the content of the letter was permitted.

This issue, of course, superseded the need to vote on any of the 340 bills that the House had sent to the Senate and which are presently accumulating dust somewhere in that upper chamber (possibly in violation of an EPA regulation regarding the permissible amount of dust that may be accumulated before it constitutes a health hazard).  It is likely that OSHA may soon weigh in on this matter as well.

So what does this manufactured “controversy” have to do with liberal donors?  We know that liberals, being liberals, have etched into their DNA an inherent abhorrence of racism in any form and are dedicated to stomping it out wherever it rears its ugly head.

This week the Democracy Alliance, a coalition of well-heeled liberal donors dedicated to electing leftists in state and national office got together to discuss strategy going forward to the 2016 elections.  The meeting took place in Washington, D. C. – at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, an extremely attractive property and one of the city’s finest.

Stop.  Did no one tell these self-styled do-gooders that “Oriental” is a pejorative term and is denigrating to Asians?  It has been officially deleted from the PC Handbook and no longer exists as a word.  And there they are, patronizing what obviously is a racist hotel.

Hopefully the reality of the situation may have dawned on some of these contributors and, if they decided to hook up for a little afternoon delight, they booked themselves into a Motel 6.

CONTRASTS

It’s hard not to see a tremendous similarity between today’s America and the America of the mid-1960’s.  The country was and is divided – severely so.  In the 1960’s the source of this division was the War in Vietnam.  Today it is divided by many more issues.  If there is one thing that unifies these two periods in our history it is the involvement of young people in the political process.

The protests against the Vietnam War were categorized by biased reporting by the mainstream media of the time and generally characterized as the activity of “hippies” and other ne’er-do-wells when it began to evolve.   As President Lyndon B. Johnson increased the number of American soldiers in Vietnam to its greatest level of 535,000, as the war began to affect more American families with the losses of their sons, the protests swelled through the mid-1960’s to climax at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968.

America brought the war home to what was then America’s “Second City.”  The protestors, generally supporters of Senator Eugene McCarthy or Senator Robert Kennedy whose brother President John F. Kennedy had escalated the number of troops in Vietnam from less than one thousand  to 16,000 came unarmed, to be battered by the Chicago Police under the direction of then Mayor Richard J. Daley.

The country realized that this was no longer about a small group of “radical misfits.”  This was not about burning draft cards or burning bras.  This was a war against Americans fought by other Americans.

Fortunately, there was no dropping of napalm, the flesh-searing chemical compound developed by Dow Chemical, which we liberally used in Vietnam, ultimately killing or  disfiguring  thousands of innocent civilians along with our intended targets, the Viet Cong.  We personalized the chaos in Chicago by applying police night sticks to the protestors who tried to voice their opinion and their rage against the war.

Beyond the hundreds of protests and rallies and sit-ins which had grown in number across the country as we continued to send more and more of our young men to their deaths in a war which could not and would not be won, the brutal response of the “authorities” at the Chicago Democratic convention was a true turning point in the minds of many in mainstream America.

It would take seven more years after the convention before our troops finally withdrew from Vietnam.  It would take four more decades before Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense under President Kennedy would admit something that most of the country already knew, “Vietnam was America’s greatest mistake.”  The concept of the “domino theory” which it was believed would cause southeast Asian countries to fall victims to communism have long since been dispelled by the evidence of history.

People, wherever their location and whatever their skin color have rejected that economic system.  Even those countries which provided a nascent home for communism, the former Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China have moved away from the musings of Karl Marx and Mao-Zedong.  Today’s Vietnam has a vibrant and capitalist-based economy and is flourishing.

It took the events in Chicago at the convention of “The Party of the People” for many of us to realize that it was only the party for some of the people.  It was willing to include only those of the people who heeled to the party line.  It accepted only those who fit into the mold that its leadership had determined was appropriate.  It was welcoming – but only to those who met the standards that those in control of the political machinery had set forth in their agenda.

The protests against Vietnam were at first viewed as an anomaly.  As they grew in size and number and frequency, the political authorities began viewing them as an annoyance.  When they built to a crescendo that swept across the country they were viewed as a threat – a challenge to the entrenched politicos and their ability to retain control of their fiefdoms.

The protests changed American opinion and  ultimately forced those in political power to exit our shameful undertaking in Vietnam, leaving millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians dead.  The rosters of the deceased included over 58,000 Americans.

Toady’s America is again divided – but without the single-focus that Vietnam provided.  We are divided over economic and social issues.  We are divided because it is to the benefit of those in power to keep us divided – to divert our attention from the fact that our leaders are only leading us further and deeper and faster into the abyss of mediocrity and failure.

We are divided because we are still at the stage of denial and are willing to hope and believe that the sops that are being strewn by Washington will be effective in staunching the blood flowing from our deep wounds.  We will ultimately emerge into the step after denial and that is acceptance – acceptance of the reality of the true nature of our politicians – and their motivations – which have little to do with the welfare of this country’s citizenry.

It is fascinating  to see to whom the young men and women in this country are rallying in their support for President of the United States.  Ron Paul is the oldest of the candidates in the race.  He carries a message which is different than any of the others of either party.  He is genuine – and the young people of this country, in their short lives, have already been able to differentiate between a genuine message of hope and the hopelessly fetid sausage that is being cranked out of the meat grinder by the rest of the field.

Those of us who remember the Vietnam protests need to get off our comfortable duffs and dust off our consciences.  We have proven that it is possible to change the path which a country follows – and that though it may take some time – that change can be achieved through the cohesive efforts of millions of us unified in a common effort.  We can start a movement.  And the young may well be heading up the parade.

Sometimes it is true, “A little child shall lead them.”

ON FAIRNESS AND STAR TREK

If you walk into a casino you know (or at least you should) that no matter what game you play, the odds are stacked against you.  This is obviously unfair but it is the mathematical model that the casinos have developed to make sure that they are guaranteed to make money.  That is their business model.

Of course, you have the choice (being the perspicacious person who you are) of not walking in and playing any of those games.  But perhaps you view the twenty dollars you are likely to donate as “entertainment.”  Well, that’s reasonable and hardly more expensive than a movie.  The interactive games that have been created are, frankly, a lot more engaging than most of the drivel that appears on our big screens.  Besides, there’s always the chance that this is you lucky night and you will walk out with more money than you brought to play.

I understand that. This is not meant to be a judgment on the virtues or evils of gambling.  As an informed adult you certainly have the right to determine how you spend your money.

When Gene Roddenberry’s original “Star Trek” series aired, I remember one episode in which Kirk, Spock, McCoy and an alien were playing a card game.  This game was exceptionally complicated for the alien because the three humans kept making up and changing the rules as the game progressed to insure that the alien could not possibly win.  (Today we refer to this behavior as a “scam”).  They played by one set of rules and set a totally different set of rules for the alien whom they were in the process of fleecing.

As I was thinking about today’s America, that Star Trek episode came to mind.

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As I believe in advance planning I have set my agenda for the night of Election Day, 2012.  After hearing the results and weeping for an appropriate amount of time, I plan on taking my twenty dollars and going to a local casino where I will hopefully parlay it into kajillions.  (That is assuming our esteemed leaders in Washington have still allowed me possession of that much money by then).

ON BEING HOMELESS

I was invited to Stephanie and Will’s wedding in Washington, D. C. Steph was the manager for my temp business. She was a young woman with incredible talent and she was going to marry her college sweetheart. Naturally, I accepted their invitation. I hadn’t been to Washington for many years and looked forward to doing a little sight-seeing in conjunction with attending the wedding.

The wedding was a beautiful affair. It was held in an outdoor setting and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom that Saturday. I couldn’t have been happier for the two of them. They were a wonderful couple.

My departure from Washington was scheduled for late afternoon on Sunday which allowed me plenty of time to attend services at the Church of the Advent, about a three quarter mile walk from the Marriott Hotel at which I was staying.

As I started my walk I noticed two homeless people sleeping against a building. And in the next block there were several more. And yet more on every block. Washington’s clement weather allowed them to sleep outside in relative comfort.

But I found this to be extremely disturbing. In less than a mile I had counted over twenty of these homeless people sleeping on the street – within a few minutes’ walk of both our nation’s Capitol Building and the White House.

I thought back to an experience I had more than a decade before – and the thought caused me to shudder. I had been a homeless person for a week on the streets of Chicago.

My encounter with homelessness occurred as part of a “sensitivity training.” I was trying to gain an understanding of what it was like to be someone who was less fortunate than I was. Although I was never a member (and am not now) of the “upper-crust,” I had never experienced real want. This training would correct that deficiency in my life.

The “group leader” for this training, (I was a group of one), met me in his office at two in the afternoon one Sunday. I had arranged that a friend take care of my two dogs for the week I would be absent.

I met him at his office and his instruction was that I go into the other room and change my clothes to the ones I would find there. These clothes consisted of a ragged pair of bluejeans, a torn flannel shirt and a pair of shoes. The clothes had a nasty smell to them and the shoes were about two sizes too big for my feet. As I put my hands in the jeans I felt a piece of paper in the right pocket. It was a dollar bill. That was all the money I had to spend for the next week.

The instructions for this week of training were simple. I had no friends or family on whom I could call or rely on for help. I had this dollar bill to spend as I saw fit. I had to live on the streets of Chicago for a week. I thought to myself – am I merely stupid or just insane even to consider doing this? (I was offered the opportunity by Cal, my instructor to back out). But I decided to give it a go – although unenthusiastically.

So I left Cal’s office on Michigan Avenue and entered the world as a new person – a homeless person. As it was a beautiful spring day, I walked across the street into Grant Park, trying to develop a plan for how I was going to survive.

As I sat on a park bench, the weather started to change. Clouds swept in from the west and a light sprinkle began. I moved from my spot near Buckingham Fountain and tried to find some cover under some trees – but they provided little protection from the rain as they were just beginning to bud. Nevertheless, a little protection was better than none.

Then the downpour began in earnest. I was getting thoroughly soaked. The only good that could come of this was that I hoped the rain would wash away some of the odor that was attached to my clothing. It did.

I slept in Grant Park that night – next to a clump of bushes. And when I awoke in the morning I felt a little refreshed – but very hungry. How would I spend part of my dollar? What could I buy for a dollar? And when that dollar was gone – how would I survive another six days.

I realized that I had only one option – and although it troubled me to do it – I would have to beg for spare change. And so, like the people that I see on the street today who hold up signs on the side of the road, I began asking strangers if they could spare a few cents – anything.

Some people were kind; some people gave me money just so that they could get past me without a confrontation; most just  ignored my request.

This experience helped me gain a new understanding of what real need is all about. I had settled into my routine of sleeping in Grant Park and was counting down the days until I was released from my training. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday … I was over the hump. Less than three days to go.

And then a startling realization came over me. I had only a few days to go and I could go back to being your average middle-class person. But the other homeless whom I had met along the way had no such expectation. This was their life and it was the one that they were condemned to follow for however many days were left to them.

Because of this experience and because of dad’s statement, “There but for the grace of God go you or I,” I never refuse to give money to those who are less fortunate. And I hope that this post will give you reason to do the same.

 

 

THE POWER OF ONE-UPSMANSHIP

 

One of the few people for whom I have ever voted who was actually elected to public office was the late Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois. I liked his common sense approach, his gravelly voice and his grandfatherly appearance. He was the senior senator from my adopted state. He also had a sense of humor.

One of his quotes which I remember was, “A hundred million here – a hundred million there – pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” I guess it was a Washington mind-set (and truly small change by today’s standards).

He and Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey who lost his election bid for president against Richard M. Nixon was one of Sen. Dirksen’s adversaries in the upper house. They were opposed on nearly every issue brought before them.

This rivalry extended beyond their political disagreements. It took on a personal nature when Sen. Dirksen was one of the first to get a phone installed in his car. And he couldn’t resist making his first call to Sen. Humphrey’s office to let him know that.

In an age where everyone has mobile communications at our disposal – this may sound strange. But back in the days when a car phone was a big deal – only the wealthy and powerful could get one.

Humphrey made every effort to catch up with his rival. Apparently the fact that Dirksen had something which he wanted but couldn’t get truly bothered him. And then one day he got the word from his staff that the FCC had approved his request. His car phone would be available within a few weeks.

Humphrey counted down the days. He checked with his staff every morning to see if they heard anything about whether today was the day that the phone would arrive in his office. And then one day it was there.

Humphrey wasted no time having his secretary call the installer whom he had contacted to get this modern invention installed in his car. And leaving the office early, he placed his first call. Naturally, this was to Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen.

As it happened, Dirksen was on his way home in his car when his phone rang. Dirksen picked up the phone and in his distinctive voice said, “Hello.”

Humphrey said, “Hello, Ev. This is Hubert. I’m calling you from my car phone.”

To which Dirksen replied, “Hang on a moment, Hubert. I’m on the other line.”

And that’s the epitome of Washingtonian “One-Upsmanship at its finest.”

 

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