The current state of these United States of America shows us not very united in the states of America. It’s pretty sad because for the last two hundred and some years, we’ve weathered some pretty strong storms that should have only made us that much stronger. You know the old line of “whatever doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger” which ironically is the only thing I have left from the woman I once loved named Marisha; it used to be her favorite line for reasons that are neither important nor all that interesting. Well, that line isn’t working anymore. We seem to be much more about divisive politics than any concept of working together for a better solution.
The political writer, Morris Fiorina once wrote a brilliant book called Divided Government. In this book, he argues against common sense in that he shows through statistical examples that when our government has been divided, we’ve actually accomplished more in Congress than when we’ve been under united government. Unfortunately, his analysis wasn’t forward thinking enough to project what might happen when divided government becomes an unworkable government, when the divisions between both sides might turn out to be the destruction of government, rather than the process that allows time for “cool and deliberate reflection,” a concept once deemed that would lead to the “real voice of the American people” by George Washington in a letter to Henry Knox on September 20, 1795. Right now, we’re in a weird political process that is completely destructive and causes very smart people to act petty and stupid. When looking for leadership, which is what people do when surrounded by annoying destructionists, we’re finding all of our leaders have become ten year old children who think that pointing at the other kids and saying “he did it” is somehow what America is looking for in its leaders.
If one were to look for allusions and metaphors to explain what is going on today, I can find no better example than that of television, which is often referred to as either the “idiot box” or the mind-numbing device that causes people to stop thinking. Why should we be surprised that what we’re receiving from our leaders is nothing less than the ridiculousness that comes from stupid television shows anyway? Unfortunately, the metaphors that make sense indicate that we’re watching the wrong television shows in hopes of finding some kind of mechanism to lead us to a better tomorrow.
Right now, we seem to have leaders who have latched onto some of the worst television metaphors to dictate the types of actions they are emulating in our government. If you watch any type of television news, like CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, basically all you’re getting from commentators and pundits is analysis that sounds like Howard Cosell or John Madden describing some kind of football game where players are trying to create brand new plays by doing stuff that people have been doing for decades, yet seem to think that it’s all original. During the election, it was like watching professional wrestling, where oversized behemoths yelled “I’m going to get you, Hulk-man!” as they rip off their t-shirts and promised bloodshed of the like never seen before. But we have seen it. It’s called bad politics, and it leads to bad government and horrible representation. What these types of metaphors really show us is that our leaders are playing another zero sum game with each other where no one actually wins because each side is only focused on winning, not on what they get out of winning in the first place.
I’m going to include another television reference that can explain where we need to be going and how we should be looking at our current political dilemma. Before I do so, I apologize because I’m going to be calling on my geek nerd credentials to do so. But in the end, it will be worth it, so stick with me on this. I promise. It will be worth it.
The show I’m referring to is one that was developed by J. Michael Straczynski called Babylon 5. Without getting into all sorts of geeky crap about the show, I’m mainly interested in one of the races that was developed during the series, called the Minbari, a race of balding aliens who were also deeply spiritual. What made them significant in the show was that they were running around the galaxy for thousands of years before humans took to space, so they had a lot more time to really mess things up. Their government was run by a 9-member council that was made up of 3 members from the religious caste, 3 from the warrior caste and 3 from the workers’ caste. During the seires, the Minbari ended up in a civil war between the two more powerful castes, the religious and warrior. Why I’m discussing them is because their spiritual leader realizes at the end of their war (and the way to solve it) is that the religious and warrior castes had completely forgotten the most important caste to their civilization: the workers’ caste, the one that created all of their ships and buildings and was the one caste that suffered the most during the war fought between the two vying for power. As a result of this realization, their leader then elevated the workers’ caste to more positions on the council so that they would then be the dominant caste from that point forward.
We have the same problem right now. We have two political parties who are fighting amongst themselves for power in our government, yet the ones suffering the most are the workers, the common citizens who don’t actually have a seat at the table, yet are the ones who are victimized by whatever decisions the two political parties make in their name. But these two parties have stopped being representative of the people a long time ago and now only really represent themselves, but claim to represent everyone else. But they do so in name only. Look at the events that have transpired over the last decade and that should be readily apparent to everyone. We’re fighting two wars that were picked by people in power who cared zero for what the common person thought about these wars. Yet the people fighting these wars are the common folk who make up the entire organization of the military that has no voice in the decisions the government makes for them. During this last election, the people were angry and spoke by using the only voice they have (the ballot box) and threw a whole bunch of people out of office because they haven’t been listening but speaking rather than listening. So a new group of people are now moving into office, and they don’t seem to get it either. Rather than realize the people sent them to Washington to get things done, their leadership thinks the people sent them to Washington to continue fighting with the government and again, getting nothing done.
So, let’s look at this from a different angle and treat government as a hospice where our goal is to treat the situation as triage. Perhaps if we look at it that way, we might realize what needs to be done to fix this problem. But I suspect that even with such an easy allusion, they still won’t get it. Or they just won’t listen. They’re pretty good at not doing that. But this triage is a blueprint to what people actually want done, even though I realize no one is interested in actually listening to the people. Think of this triage as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where we take care of our basic needs first and then work our way up to actualized desires once our struggle to survive is taken care of.
1. Our people need jobs. That’s been hurting us from day one. This means that the first thought should be to getting people to work. This doesn’t mean fast food jobs or retail jobs. We are a post-industrial nation that has a high-end technologically driven citizenry. This means that we need manufacturing jobs that develop high-end concept materials, like electronics, medical needs and computerized knowledge. This means government needs to help these types of industries grow and grow in our own country, not by farming out the manufacturing to third-world countries so only executives of these countries have jobs. We’ve done enough outsourcing as it is. We need stabilized positions in this country, which requires a serious focus on technological education for a workforce that has grown stagnant in building 20th century technology that is now being taken care of elsewhere. We need to focus on the 21st century and beyond by satisfying that market in a way that only our workers can do it. That means constantly being at the forefront of these markets like we used to do back in the early part of the 1900s with the previous markets of technology.
2. Once jobs are stabilized, we need to focus on making sure that people have money to spend. I’ll let you in on a little secret that government right now has no clue about (because they certainly don’t seem to get it). People don’t care about the budget. Politicians and government wonks do, but the average person doesn’t care about the budget. What the average person cares about is that the government doesn’t keep taking more of what they bring home from the jobs that they do have. This means that this whole budget mess that Obama, the Republicans and the suddenly backbone finding Democrats are fighting over is pissing off the average American. Right now, those out of work are about to lose their unemployment benefits that were about to be stretched out further. The fighting means they will now receive nothing. That pissed off a lot of people who still can’t find jobs (see number one). The second plank of the problem is the Bush Tax Cuts. People don’t really care that the rich are getting them, too. They only care that when January comes around they don’t end up paying hundreds of dollars more in taxes that they weren’t paying before. If you want to piss off the bulk of the American people, let those tax cuts expire.
This is the wrong time for the Democrats to suddenly rise up against their own president. They somehow think that people are going to believe they’re now on their side because they want to punish rich people. The average American isn’t going to agree with that. He or she is only going to see a smaller paycheck and then be really pissed off at the government. If you want to lose any mandate you think you have, that’s going to do it.
3. People want to see their government getting along. They don’t care that one side wins over the other. Most Americans aren’t that tied to the fight that they care. When they are suffering and see infighting, they see a system that doesn’t work. That makes them go nuts during elections, kind of like the last one. If nothing happens as we move towards the next election, people are going to revolt again. And when they start to realize that revolting doesn’t actually change anything, they’re left with one of two choices: Ignore it and become apathetic, or revolt the way people have done historically. That second choice seems like such a wild card that no one in government believes it will ever happen. Almost every revolution that destroyed a previous government came from nowhere and happened almost overnight. NO ONE sees it coming. And that’s what makes them so scary. So, continue to ignore the problems and hope they’ll go away, or do something about it.
What that means is our government representatives need to start looking at how to govern rather than how to zing the other side. If that doesn’t change, our government probably will. Just not as anyone wants, because changes of that magnitude rarely turn out as anyone actually wants.