Many people wonder what is wrong with Washington. Why can’t our politicians carry on the basic business of governing this nation effectively, and why can’t they solve the problems they are elected to solve?
Some would point to the fact that one of our two political parties is essentially doing everything it can to make sure our government doesn’t function, while at the same time making every effort to obfuscate and malign the truth, and this is a very real problem. Make no mistake, the Republican Party and its supporters are continuing to conduct what is essentially guerilla warfare and a full scale campaign of propaganda against the government of the United States and its people. Before Obama’s re-election, they at least had the excuse that grinding government progress to a halt bettered their chances to win the 2012 election, but now, it’s just plain old bitter crotchetiness and assholery. One can only hope that voters with Republican members will see this in upcoming elections.
However, there is a much more pervasive problem that exists below the surface: cowardice. Cowardice is one of the truly destructive human behaviors at work within our society, and it has everything to do with our government’s dysfunction.
For one, our elected officials are cowards—Obama, and many Democrats included. They’ve spent their whole lives chasing fame and power, and they’re loath to give them up, which means that job number one for these guys is to get re-elected; to remain in power where they can have their wheels greased by lobbyists, where the health care is free and comprehensive, and where they hardly even have to work. In 2012 for example, the Republican controlled House scheduled only 109 workdays, and each member earned $174,000 while doing it. In short, being an elected official of the United States government is a sweet deal—and the people holding these posts value their self-preservation far above the best interests of the country they serve.
What’s worse is that the press lets them get away with it. Why? Because they’re cowards too. The modern American press has decided that when it comes to political reporting, they’re going to glaze over the surface of what’s really going on, and whenever possible, make it seem as if both parties are equally culpable for Washington’s dysfunction.
Consider, for example, the work of NPR. It’s listeners consider it to be a paragon of unbiased truth-telling, and its detractors accuse it of leaning liberal. In truth, NPR is neither.
Just recently, I heard a ridiculously dumbed-down report by Cokie Roberts, who said, speaking of the debt ceiling, that both parties used it as a political football, citing the fact that the Democrats voted against its extension in 2004 and 2006. Then trying to be funny, she mocked the fact that President Obama called his vote against raising the debt ceiling in 2006 “political.” The inference was that Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans, and we shouldn’t be upset that the Elephants are threatening to default on America’s financial obligations. End of story.
But what Cokie, the stupid bitch, failed to mention, was that when the Democrats voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2004 and 2006, THEY DIDN’T CONTROL CONGRESS. So, in essence, their votes didn’t matter, and in that case, if say, you were a Senator considering a run for President, like Obama was at the time, you would probably not want to be on record for increasing the national debt—especially being a Democrat, because contrary to the facts, the press likes to play along with the right wing myth that Donkeys are big government spenders. So he voted no for political reasons—but it didn’t mean that America would default on its debt—which will be the consequence if Republicans get their way in our current situation.
The other thing the wide-eyed idiot Cokie failed to mention, was that much of our debt was run up by those same Republican majorities from 2000 to 2006. So the GOP is basically saying that the government should run up as much debt as it wants giving tax cuts to the rich and starting unnecessary wars, and then when it comes time to pay the bill, they should threaten not to pay it, unless we take away medical benefits for the poor and elderly (Medicare and Medicaid) , and/or steal pensions from retirees who’ve paid into them their entire lives (Social Security). Oh, and all of this while refusing to cut a military budget that comprises almost HALF OF ALL THE WORLD’S MILITARY SPENDING. And Cokie fucking Roberts mentioned none of it.
I’m sure the cowards at NPR loved it—a nice piece of completely toothless reporting that won’t offend anyone. By the way, here’s the basic formula for the modern American press:
1) Tell the story in a way that doesn’t offend liberals or conservatives (or offends them equally).
2) Tell the story in a way that it doesn’t hurt advertising revenue.
3) Make certain that an illiterate fool could understand the reporting; omit key details and complex vocabulary.
4) Don’t challenge conventional wisdom.
5) Interview the dumbest fucking local idiot you can find and ask them leading questions in order to get the answers you want.
6) If you’re interviewing someone with any kind of power, be it political, social, or economic, become overwhelmed, grovel at their feet, and ask softball questions so that you can be friends afterwards.
In other words, be a coward instead of doing your job.
Thus, we have politicians that are cowards, because they’re more attached to having their jobs than doing them, and a press corps that is too cowardly to hold them accountable for basically the same reason. And guess what? Many, if not most Americans are cowards too.
The gun nuts are a perfect example—oh sure, they’ll talk tough about their guns, but deep down, why do they own them? Because they’re afraid. They’re a bunch of scared little babies that can’t walk around town or go to sleep without their phallic pacifiers. They’re cowards—such cowards, in fact, that they’re willing to sacrifice the lives of people who either can’t own guns or choose not to, by opposing any reasonable measures of gun control. Your Second Amendment rights? What about my right to not be killed by some idiot that owns a shitload of guns?
Unfortunately, it goes much deeper than that. Most cowardice is a casual, practiced, innocuous habit. Listening to the same conservative lunatics on the radio and agreeing with their every word, and in so doing, engaging in the laziest thinking possible. Watching sports on television, not because they’re good, but because they’re on. Going to lousy movies, eating fast food, or getting and staying fat for no better reason than it’s easy and it doesn’t matter in the short run. All of these actions are forms of cowardice, and people fall into these habits because they’re comfortable, easy, and don’t require thinking.
Moreover, our cowardice protects us, just as it preserves the jobs of those in government and those who cover (or cower from) them. It’s much easier, see, to insist that the solutions to our problems are simple and require no sacrifice (like saying that all of our economic issues would be solved if we cut regulations and taxes on big business and the rich), than to do the hard work of analysis and study in order to arrive at complex, multifaceted, targeted policies to address them. In this sense, laziness and cowardice go hand in hand.
To put it differently, think of the whole of our society as standing at the bottom of a cliff. At the top, life would be better for everyone—where we could go from there is limitless, and the view, at the very least, would be magnificent. The dilemma is that almost everyone is too cowardly to climb; furthermore, the cowards insist that even those brave enough to scale the cliff be held back. Some even suggest that the cliff can’t be climbed. And so…we’re stuck…but only by our own devices.
Because, the truth is, we possess solutions to the problems we face, we’re just too cowardly to enact them. The economy could be humming right along—there are a number of steps we could take to get it going: a stimulus project dedicated to education and infrastructure, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and/or the forgiveness of student loan debt, to name a few. But we won’t do it—we’re not even really focused on improving the economy except to mention it obliquely, because everyone’s obsessed with the national debt, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the short term health of our economy.
We could also improve our schools, but again, that would require an investment of time and money, and we’re afraid of those commitments.
And we could invest in green energy, so as to prepare our economy for the future and at the same time address climate change, but no, sorry, there too we’re paralyzed. Paralyzed by the cowardice of lazy thinking, a lack of political will, and almost zero pressure from the press, all despite warnings that by the end of the century by credible scientists, the sea level will be 1 to 4 feet higher than it is now.
Yet, we now have finally, perhaps, a chance to make a difference. On the issue of gun control, there is tremendous pressure from rational Americans to finally do something to restrict access to firearms designed for armed combat, and to catalogue and properly license the people who own, sell, and/or buy guns—any guns. Even our highest elected official, President Obama, has come out full force for a range of restrictions on guns. And, if, for once, we have the courage as a people to put pressure on our congressional members, to put pressure on and confront out gun toting peers, we might just be able to get something done—and that will save lives. Possibly yours, mine, or someone we care about.
So please, join the fight to regulate guns as we move forward. Be willing to confront your neighbors, peers, friends, or family if need be. Send letters and call your Congressperson and Senators. Fight. But please, don’t think that we can win this by sitting back on our couches and waiting for someone else to solve our problems, and don’t let the cowards get away with it either.