Friday, March 11, 2011

When You Ask the Wrong Questions . . .

You Get the Wrong Answers.
One of the first things you notice when you return to the good old US of A after a prolonged absence (especially an absence that was all about cutting off all connections to the web, emails, and media in general, while living in a tent in Africa) is what America and Americans are talking about.
No, I don't mean Charlie Sheen, although apparently he has a firm grasp on the media's imagination.
I mean things like the Wisconsin State Legislature, which apparently thinks that the real, deep, underlying, systemic cause of that state's economic problems is the ability of public employees to bargain collectively. Interesting connection, that one. I did not see it coming. I thought the deep, underlying, systemic cause of that state's economic problems--and much of America's--is our national sense of economic entitlement. We want what we want, except we don't actually want to pay for it.
Or I mean the hearings called by US Representative Peter King, an elected official who is apparently the poster-child for Ding-Dongs, or maybe that's just a connection that I make based on his seriously misguided attempt to explore the connection between Islam in America and radicalization. Perhaps it would be unkind to point out to Representative King that it wasn't exactly Muslims who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, or holed up in a mountain cabin sending exploding letters to people, or dropped anthrax powder into the mail.
Maybe we should have hearings into why Americans are disaffected from America.
Because that's the hit I'm getting upon my return home.
Americans aren't too happy about America these days.
The feeling is, I sense, that, for too many people, we've gone over to the dark side of the American Dream. The old deal was, work hard, study hard, pay your taxes, play by the rules, and you'll get ahead.
Today, people hear that and just laugh.
Today the tax code seems reserved for the already-wealthy, access to power is reserved for the already-powerful, and the laws protect those who are already very well-protected, thank you very much.
A meritocracy (or the promise one) has turned into a plutocracy. Them what has, gits. Them what doesn't have, gits blamed.
It's not a pretty picture, and it wasn't always this way, and there are plenty of things that can be done and are being done to try to fix the situation.
But meanwhile, we've got people in Wisconsin and Washington, DC, to name just a couple of places, who are steadfastly asking the wrong questions and consistently coming up with the wrong answers.
It may make for great political theater.
But it also makes for lost national opportunities and a sad betrayal of the promise of America.

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