Friday, July 04, 2008

Our Country 'Tis of Me

It's funny: If you look back over the years, my annual Fourth of July post has grown increasingly irritable.

I would like to believe in this country again. There is much I've been proud about in the past. But we are losing what we once had, and that is nothing to be proud about. We used to sing "Our country 'tis of Thee." To be accurate, we should now be singing "Our country tis of ME."

We were once a strong nation, composed of people who had seen nightmares and lived through them. Nightmares like the War for Independence, the Civil War, the Depression, the Dust Bowl, World Wars 1 and 2, Korea, and Vietnam.

But our modern generation has seen little to no turmoil until the badly-run Seven Year War that is still ongoing in Iraq. I'll admit we don't have a distinction in this. Many wars have been run badly by a government that isn't concerned with losing lives (World War 1 is a classic example). Still, this is startling to see in these modern times. (For those who want to quibble, I'll admit that we are being told that this year is a better year for us over there, but frankly it's 6 years too late).

And instead of learning to cut back or to sacrifice (as our grandparents did in the early 1900s), President Bush encouraged us to spend, spend, spend our way into "prosperity." As a result, we are in a major recession which affects all but the richest of us.

We are also facing an election with two very substandard candidates. Both Barack Obama and John McCain would never have made it this far twenty years ago. Our standards were higher then. But now we are dealing with different factors:

1. Our educational standards continue to decline.

Go here to see an 8th Grade exam from 1895. Obviously our children aren't being exposed to the same materials.

There's a popular TV show called "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" I believe that this is a dangerous show for two reasons:

One, it makes the average American adult seem even dumber than they are. This gives many dummies a false sense of security. They feel a little better about their idiocy when they see fellow idiots on TV. "See?" they say excitedly to each other while passing the pork rinds, "We couldn't have answered that either!"

Two, it gives the average American the false belief that we have high educational standards for our youth.

The dumbing down of America is something that the government finds to be very desirable, over all. Dumb people are more malleable. They'll take what they can get, without questioning it.

2. Campaign Finance.

Because only the very richest and/or best connected people can run for President of the USA, we are now forced to choose among a very small (and morally bankrupt) group. Repeated campaign finance laws have done us little good.

What we need is a law banning ANY campaign spending. This would level the playing field, and would force the news stations to go to the candidates, instead of the reverse. It would also force the candidates to take their campaigns to the internet: A cheap solution for us all, allowing a wider selection.

3. More Money Out Than In.

Our trade deficits are almost laughable. The Chinese "have us by the short hairs", as one of my friends so inelegantly (but accurately) said. Now McCain says that if we try to reverse these deficits, and bring the jobs back home, the American worker will suffer. I find it hard to see how the average jobless American worker could suffer more.

I'll grant you that many of us would have to work minimum wage. But, that's better than making even less through welfare or unemployment benefits. And yes, perhaps the cost of goods would rise somewhat. So, we might need to learn to conserve a little more. But with the rising cost of gas, all consumer goods will be going up. Whether we pay that to China or to our own people is up to us.

4. We are becoming morally bankrupt.

Our standards continue to lower. What is acceptable now would have been questioned even 20 years ago.

Most people know who the leading contestant is in a variety of talent contests such as "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Got Talent" and "American Idol." But many cannot name the Presidential candidates or the Governor of their own state. And if they can identify these people, these citizens certainly have no knowledge of them and feel little (if any) passion about them.

Most people no longer attend church because they want to become better people. They attend it to feel better, or to network, or perhaps they feel that it is necessary for their image in the community.

I would challenge these people to leave church behind entirely, and take up something useful like golfing. Golfing is a great business tool: We know many deals are made at the golf course. In addition, they'd shed themselves of a bit of hypocrisy in their lives.

Which reminds me, I need to get out on the golf course and practice. In this economy, I'm looking for work: I need all the job skills I can amass.


tshsmom said...

Brilliant post, and I TOTALLY agree! My thoughts are running along the same lines this Independence Day.

The Lazy Iguana said...

1. See this site.

2. It has always been like this. When has someone poor and not connected ever won? Never. We have had some people born poor work hard and become connected, but by the time they were President they were not exactly paupers. In this election we have someone born a nobody who became a somebody, VS someone whose grandfather and father was an Admiral in the Navy, who got into the Navy Academy and graduated almost deal last in his class yet was made an officer anyway, and so on....Same shit different day.

3. Who says minimum wage is less than unemployment? If you make as little as twice minimum wage, your unemployment benefits will be more. So tell me this, if you are drawing unemployment (40% pay cut) why would you agree to take a job that would offer a 50% pay cut if you still had time on your unemployment? So you can work for less money, slip further into debt, and have no time to look for another job? Jobs are exported for one simple reason. Chinese work for less. Production is sent to cheap labor markets, then imported and sold for the same price as before. The skim goes to the wealthiest stock holders and executives.

4. Golf has to be the most retarded thing one can do with their time. Most of the time when I pass by a course I see old people. As for the morally bankrupt, the same was said in the 1920s when the young were doing the Charleston and listening to ragtime. Then the youth from the 20s had kids and got older and suddenly Elvis was morally bankrupt. And so on in that manner. Things are different, but so in society. I think that the problem here is not "too little church". In fact the church has very little to do with anything. It is a result of our economic system. Stuff is more important than people. Consumerism. You are what you wear, you are what you have, you are where you live, what kind of car you drive, and so on in that manner.

I am leaving to go floating around Biscayne Bay now. People will see me and define me by....THE BOAT! Look! A poor person! He can only afford a boat with one engine! Might as well tattoo a L on his forehead!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, I don't disagree with Snopes. And of course we don't retain what we don't use (in fact, I almost mentioned that in my post). But the fact remains that our standards simply aren't as high. And this WAS an exam from that time period. And no, I don't think a modern 8th grader's education can compare.

2. It has not always been like this (see Abe Lincoln), so I can't agree with you here. AND, even if it WAS always like this, should it remain that way?

3. At one time you might have been correct. But unemployment is only allowed for a minimal amount of time, and it's a lifetime limit! So even if you can get it for a full 3 years, you certainly cannot ever get it again during your lifetime (or so I understand). It's only a temporary solution. Eventually people must return to the workplace.

No doubt the Chinese people work for less. Which is why we must do something about it here at home, or business will (logically) send business THERE.

4. I agree about golf. I really hate it. The best thing is driving the cart and fetching drinks. As for how each generation has been termed 'morally corrupt', you are right, yet you are wrong. I think we are seeing a larger proportion that is corrupt than ever before.

I don't care if people go to church, don't get me wrong. In fact, if you don't truly believe it, I think you're a FOOL to go to church. What a waste of time!

You're right about consumerism, of course.

Have fun with the boat! Wish I was there!!!

TCHS Mom, Hi there! I don't think we've met before but I'll check out your post today. ;o)

krok12 said...

Happy 4th of July Saur, at least you look hot for your age.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Krok, Same to you, my friend! I miss hearing from you. Hope all's well!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I often wonder if things would be better if Florida had voted for Gore. Heh.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Old Hoss, You devil, you. ;o)

Aunt Jo said...

Great post Saur!

The truth hurts, but it is still the truth!

I dread the elections.......

Ed Abbey said...

You raise some excellent points which I mostly agree with. Yet if given the choice, there is still no other country I would rather be a citizen.

Paul Nichols said...

Interesting test. I'm sending it on to my 8th Grade grandson pretty soon. I have a big problem with it, though. It doesn't seem right to use answers/examples that didn't exist in 1895 (Sputnik; WWI, WWII and the "war eras").

And then, My First Wife and I were just discussing yesterday, that if we're going to list all the naughty businesses that support Planned Parenthood, then we should also list all the good guys who support Right to Life. So along the same lines, maybe you could tell us something wonderful about the way things are now. Like speaking without fear; like the freedom to go to church in the first place; like holding a little child who isn't crusted with dirt and maggots...

I really do enjoy your posts.

actonbell said...

I am personally very happy that finally, we're going to have a chance to elect someone from a family that's NOT connected with the Bushes, Clintons, Kennedys, etc. We've had a long tradition of nepotism in our higher offices, while pretending not to have a ruling class. This means a lot to me.

About education: it gets more important all the time to have a good education, and I am optimistic that more young people will realize this, make the most of their experiences, and speak out about what they need to succeed in these times.

daveawayfromhome said...

1) I'm not so sure that educational standards have dropped. I suspect it's more of a case of simply having too much stuff to learn and a not enough time in which to learn it. Another problem is that where once the teacher reigned supreme in their classrooms, now they are working with their hands tied by red tape and fear of lawsuit, combined with students who care little about learning anything (not really changed) and suffer almost no consequence not only for failing to learn but for disrupting the learning environment for those who do care (changed). Due to things such as No Child Left Behind, teachers are forced to neglect students who actually are learning in order to try and force the ones who are not into doing so; how crazy is that?
The primary trouble with American education is that is attempts to teach using a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone is assumed to be college-bound, whether they are interested or not, or even have a chance to do so. Everyone is even assumed to be capable of learning everything, even though we all know this to be patently not true. We adopt this course (and waste enormous amounts of money on it) because it appears to be the cheapest route, and we hate paying taxes, no matter how handsomely it may pay off in the long run. If you want proof of that, look at what's happened to prices at public universities since the 70's.

2) Support public financing.
Actually, I had another idea, which was to utilize the cable and satellite systems already in place (and soon the digital "public" airwaves) and require the creation of "campaign channels", where, like public access, anyone can campaign for office. Divide the time up evenly among all candidates (perhaps different channels for different levels of service: a national channel, a state channel, a county channel, etc). At a preset time, drop all candidates who dont poll higher on average than some preset amount (you should do this several times, at say 0.25%, then, .75%, then 3%, in order to let unlikely candidates have a better chance). The Campaign Channel would be the only advertising allowed, but it would be open to all (at least early in the campaign. We could also have a campaign magazine.
I dont think you can cut out fundraising, but since advertising is the largest single expense in a campaign, maybe candidates wouldnt need to raise so much money if they couldnt advertise (and maybe we could start calling large and, currently, absolutely necessary campaign donations what they really are - a form of bribe).

3) The way the U.S. economy/tax system is currently run is a disgrace. Any financial adviser telling a private citizen to manage their home budget the way we run our nation's would be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail.
Any idiot knows that you put aside a little extra during the good times and cut luxuries during the bad ones. Any idiot, that is, but those we put in office.
And, lest anyone not understand me: education is not a luxury, nor is health care, nor are libraries and police and fire protection, nor infrastructure or even most welfare "entitlements".
Corporate welfare is a luxury. As are Wars of Choice and poking the nose of our rifles into everyone's business. As are tax breaks for people who have as much as most of the population combined.

4) Morally Bankrupt? Yes, but I'll bet we differ on what that means. I'd say that the consistent bankruptcy in the American Soul is an increased willingness to treat our fellow human beings like objects. Whether you're talking about poor people, terrorists, homosexuals, factory workers or simply consumers, you can justify anything if you forget their humanity and focus only on numbers and personal "needs". I think our lack is not so much of morality, but of empathy. The resurgence of Religion does not help this situation at all (and I'd like to point out that I do not equate "Religion" with religious belief - I refer more to the Organization, which, like Labor Unions, start off with noble purpose but disappear into a smog of self-interest).

As for golf, I've long considered golf to be one of the great dodges of the American Way of Life. Along with going to the zoo, it is the only socially acceptable way to spend an entire afternoon doing nothing but wandering around in a field. As evidence, I'd like to point out that golf seems to be most popular in countries with strong work ethics.