Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Irony of Celebrating a Nostalgic Past

The fourth of July is seen as this great holiday. Well, by some people. Some people use it to remind people of the "Good Old Days", those halcyon times when everybody was happy and lived in blissful peace and nobody ever hurt anybody ever, or took away another's free agency, and everybody could buy guns whenever they wanted to.

Other people (*coughtumblrcough*) ironically celebrate the idea of the fourth, using it as an excuse to post sarcastic pictures of bald eagles and American flags, with the all-caps protestations that we are, in fact, free dammit.

I am not guilty of this honestly sorRY CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF MY FREEDOM
But by celebrating this sometime-in-the-past state of freedom, as enshrined in the comic above, which I've seen in a few places today, I think we're forgetting something very important.

Freedom hasn't ever really, truly existed in America. Yeah, predominantly white, rich landowners rose up against an unjust tax over 200 years ago and threw off the shackles of one government that was, I will grant you, incredibly repressive in a few very important areas. Taxation without representation, tea in the harbor, blah blah blah, all that jazz. Poor and rich rose up together and fought a war, even though in the Continental Army was vastly over bloated with officers, mostly because rich people were the ones who wanted to fight, and the poorer side of the population (while enlisting in larger numbers initially), had to leave because--surprise, surprise--they couldn't support themselves when the government wouldn't pay them for the time they were spending.

Meanwhile, the Virginians we all know and love (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, yadi yad), while outwardly professing some kind of adherence to liberty and fraternity and equality, yay, were all slave holders. That means that they kept people in bondage against their wills, without ever returning anything but food and shelter. Technically, according to some viewpoints, probably okay--after all, why do you need anything but food and shelter in order to survive and, at least in part, live happily? That doesn't change the fact that the free agency of these individuals was being infringed upon. Strike one against the beautiful, utopian vision of ~freedom presented by nostalgic right-wingers.

Okay, so slavery sucked and it wasn't really our best moment. I think we can all agree on that. But let's fast forward. Surely after the Civil War there was ~freedom! Well sure, if you ignore the Jim Crow laws (both in the south and the north), and the crippling economic and political sanctions placed upon the south in the wake of that conflict. Not to mention the restriction of the vote from blacks, and the continuing fight for suffrage for women.

This fight for equal rights for all sorts of people still isn't over, meaning we still don't have true freedom. Blacks are still discriminated against, especially in the south. The poor are kept poor under an enormous pyramid of governmental power, through taxes and health insurance requirements and child support laws and a bevy of other idiocies. Ordinary people are being spied upon and--if things get too out of hand for the government's taste--they can even be assassinated by drone strikes. In order to take advantage of mass transportation within one's own country, one must submit to molestation. A woman in a hijab can't even walk outside her front door without being subjected to racist comments and the small-minded idiocy of her fellow Americans. Homosexuals can't get married. Doctors can't help their patients make the best choices for themselves.

We're not ~free. We've never been ~free. Oh sure, there's been a modicum of 'freedom' that's been offered to the American populace--so long as that populace has been white, male, and owned property. So yes, by all means, celebrate the fact that at least once upon a time, America had representation that actually meant something. Celebrate the fact that there is at least something left of the framework that could have gotten rid of these injustices centuries ago if rich, white men hadn't gotten in the way. But let's not look back at some idealized past that, in the end, didn't exist and yearn for a return to it.

I have no desire to lose my right to vote, thank you very much.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

More Quandaries

I'm still not sure what to say. I suppose that's the horror of tragedies like that in Newtown--it sort of consumes everything, pulling it into itself, coloring everything remotely connected to it. This probably isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, if we didn't look at certain issues through the lenses of something like this, we might potentially make a grievous mistake. Then again, decisions made in the midst of emotional turmoil are rarely sound ones.

On the one hand, I agree with the people that say that, in the aftermath of this tragedy, it is important that we make sure nothing like it ever happens again...and to accomplish that goal, we have to make sure that people don't possess things that could kill other people. On the other hand, I also agree with those who remind us that a disarmed populace can never protect its liberty, that a nation of people that gives up its means of defense is open to both tyranny from within and conquest from without.

The answer to tragedies like this and the prevention of future ones is not to remove means of defense from law-abiding citizens. To those who would say that taking semi-automatic weapons from regular citizens would keep them from those who break the law, I would offer exhibits A and B: the drug war and Prohibition. Have fun. The answer is not removing a sovereign right from the American people. Lord knows we've had enough of those taken away through the PATRIOT act and like pieces of legislation. No matter how you interpret the second amendment, no matter if you err towards what the Founders meant or what it should mean to us now, no matter if you believe in controls or not, I believe you should at least acknowledge that.

I can't say I know precisely what the answer should be. I'm not connected to any of these tragedies in any way, and I have no desire to be. I'd rather not lose any of my friends. But I don't think, at this point, that taking away weapons is at all the answer. Disarming those who abide by the laws does not stop those who do not; it simply puts the former even more at the mercy of the latter.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Senseless Tragedy

I'm not quite sure what to say. I feel that I should say something, even if nobody cares to read, if only because it will make me feel better, might help my mind make sense of things.

Yet what sense is there to be found in a situation like this? Twenty children are dead, along with seven adults. Another ordinary person suddenly went berserk and slaughtered dozens of people, only to shoot himself afterward.

I suppose we could focus on the fact that guns allow people an easy way to kill many people. We could reflect upon the fact that loss of life suddenly becomes important once it's our schoolchildren being killed, while those in power don't give a damn when it's schoolchildren in Pakistan or Afghanistan being slaughtered by our drones. We could. And I think that in the coming days those are definitely questions and aspects of this that should be addressed. We cannot ignore the fact that crazy people can easily get hold of weapons that can kill many people; nor should we ignore the fact that hypocrisy runs deep in our national psyche and that the lives of children should be sacred no matter what color their skin, the religion they adhere to, or the nationality they hold.

But to do so today, as this tragedy is so fresh, seems cheap to me. It turns these deaths, this senseless tragedy, into a political play. Whether you are on the side of gun-control or not, whether you find it mildly interesting that a rash of shootings has suddenly cropped up as efforts to instate meaningful gun control laws in the US are ongoing, or whether you really don't care either way, please don't let this incident, this tragedy, be so easily covered up and used for the gain of one side or the other.

We must talk about it, of course. As someone on Tumblr pointed out, when is the 'right time' to talk about such things--after Columbine, or VT, or Aurora? Why not now? But give time for families to grieve. We will have time to discuss the politics. For now, it is enough that this happened, and that it is horrible. We will consider, reflect, mourn, and then we can discuss the meaning of it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Persistent Source of Annoyance

I'm sure I do far more complaining about the (very) conservative republicans who I'm surrounded by than is absolutely necessary. But quite a lot of it is true. And they do annoy me. And since this is my blog, I'm allowed to complain about them all I like, no matter how much this is going to come back to bite me in the rear at some point in the future.

With the election season really getting started now (you know, what with the GOP having finally chosen their death, Romney having officially made a complete fool of himself numerous times, and Obama being hailed as All Things Good by the left), it seems that the beautiful citizens of this great nation are falling all over themselves to proclaim which party hack it is they want to live in the White House for the next four years.

do we want this unprincipled corporatist hack
Everybody from a Walmart checker to the people in our local government get in on this ritual. No joke, I encountered a Walmart checker a couple days ago who, seeing my mom's Ron Paul shirt, asked who she was going to vote for now that Paul wasn't in the running (I give her props for actually knowing who's in the race. That takes work. Sort of). My mom's response, that she was going to vote for Gary Johnson, was greeted with a huffy, disbelieving stare, as if she'd just said that she was going to sacrifice her children on the altar of the liberal media.

I don't know. Maybe this lady thought that was what she said. In any case, she recycled the old lines--about how Romney was the "best choice" we had, how we "couldn't live through another four years of Obama", and how we "only have two choices anyway."

or this one oh gosh choices choices so difficult halp us world
So perhaps the last part's true. Maybe we really do only have two choices that have a snowball's chance in hell of actually getting elected--and these two choices are so alike in all but a few aspects, that they might as well be one. Add to that the fact that only one of those two "choices" will, realistically, have anything close to a shot. Romney lacks the charisma and broad appeal that his opponent has in plenty. So in reality, the entire machine of American media and politics has presented me with one option, wearing two different faces, with only one face that will actually manage to "win".

And I really just don't like that much. Perhaps it's simply the overwhelmingly almost-anarchist part of myself. Perhaps it's simply that I'm a rebellious teenager and can't stand authority. Either way, I don't like being told how to vote.

Besides that, I don't think that our system is supposed to be a sort of one-size-fits-all, let's stick to the status quo kind of thing. Remember that whole freedom and justice and no-taxation-without-representation thing that people once fought a war over? Yeah, that. Perhaps you've read about it. I get this distinct feeling that those guys wouldn't have quite approved of the current idea of what a free election is supposed to be. I think they would vote for the person who most accurately reflected their own ideas, and to the dickens with whatever the rest of the world.

And so, as this gentleman stated, I am voting for Gary Johnson, and not because he will win. I am voting for him because he ought to win, and that's really all that matters.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mandated Milestones

One week ago, I celebrated my eighteenth birthday. Thanks to that auspicious occasion, I can now make decisions about the health of my lungs, how to dispense of my money, and where to live. Because I am, apparently (at least according to the government) officially capable of making the most responsible decision about each of these subjects.

For instance, I can now be depended upon to not take money out of my bank account and fritter it away on drugs or sex or other irresponsible forms of entertainment. This is evident by the fact that I am now able to have my own, independent bank account, and able to draw money out of it whenever I want to, without my mother co-signing the withdrawal slip. Forget the fact that it caused my mother no end of inconvenience to take me to the bank every time I needed money, or that I couldn't withdraw money on the 21rst, but was suddenly able to on the 22nd...all of that. I am now responsible enough to make the best decision for myself.

Oh, and I can buy cigarettes now or something. Not sure why I'd want to. But I can. So go me.

I suppose the whole point of this is that arbitrary age-limits for certain aspects of life are sort of ridiculous. Because there is nothing fundamental that changes in a person's moral makeup or their thought processes when they reach a certain birthday. But the government must be seen to be doing something about certain behaviors (since God forbid people be allowed to exercise good judgement, or even poor judgement, and make a hash of it), so in the process they simply remove the ability to make choices at all.

O, Nanny State. Your ridiculousness will never cease to be amusing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I have an apology to make

It's an advance apology, really, that will probably come into effect on November 7th.

You see, apparently my one vote for Gary Johnson/not Obama-Romney will be the one thing that manages to tip the balance in favor of All That Is Evil And Horrible In The World And Will Destroy America As We Think We Know It.

So I would like to apologize for my vote in advance, and for all the undeclared wars, out-of-control spending, inflation, and loss of rights that will come about because of it.

Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lest We Forget

For some reason, people in my hometown think that a good response to the tragedy of 9/11 is a carnival. I kid you not. There have been radio advertisements going out for the past three weeks, inviting all of us to a massive cookout with games for the kids that, somehow, helps us all to remember 9/11 and what occurred there.


America, you make no sense.

Of course, it's also the nation that responded to the deaths of 3,000 with the retributive killings of nearly a million, who invaded two countries because of it, ruining infrastructure and governments and sweeping them aside as "justifiable risk" and "collateral damage" because it's the Superpower of the Ages and are allowed to. It seems to me that, in the face of great tragedies, Americans en masse lose all power to think clearly, and since we lived in the Wild West era for too long, our lack of thinking skills translate to pulling out guns.

And so our country's ultimate memorial to our tragedy is causing more tragedy. In an attempt to "never forget", we've forgotten what it feels like to have your country attacked and people snatched away prematurely, to the point where we dismiss other countries' concerns about the deaths of their people.

So I suppose what I'm trying to say is: we don't have to forget what happened. That would be unnatural, and pretty cold. Because people did die, and lives are still being affected by that. But let's not remember so hard that we start sending more bombs places and justifying it because, in the logic of the playground, "they hit us first".

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I honestly don't know

Perhaps I'm simply too surrounded by passionately conservative Republicans who spend a majority of their time coming to Chick-fil-A and "supporting our cause" (which is, near as I can tell, giving me $800 in month in funds for my future. I don't really mind), and harping on the fact that illegal immigrants are sure to bring about the downfall of All that is Dear and Good, or that dem ebil Mooslims are going to ruin the world...mostly because the Democrat party supposedly took references to God and Jerusalem from their platform.

Because, you know, this wouldn't be America if we weren't sending billions in aid to another country that doesn't really give a crap about us anyway.

Either way, I've found that politics--at least on a federal level--has become, for me at least, an endless cycle of cynical uncertainty. I know I don't like Romney or Obama, and I can tell you why. I know I don't like a lot of the things that our legislature insists upon doing, and once again, I can tell you why.

It's just that the desire to keep track of all the horrid things they're all inflicting upon us is gone, or at least not as dominant as it used to be. Perhaps I've just reached the 'meh' stage of cynicism.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I promise our chicken is still eatable

My entire Facebook feed and Tumblr has blown up recently with the news of Chick-fil-A's support of focus groups like the American Family Association. Since I work for a local Chick-fil-A store, I thought it might be fitting (or maybe not, I just wanted to) for me to offer a word on the subject. It's neither in defense or opposition to Chick-fil-A's stance, by the way; it's more like something in the middle.

Personally, as a private individual with moral ideas, I agree with Mr. Cathy, the president of CFA. I do believe that homosexuality is not part of God's sovereign plan for humanity, that it is a perversion of what God created, and that it is not moral. That is my personal belief. I hold that belief in the same way that I hold the belief that premarital sex is wrong, or that wasting your money on gambling is wrong. Yes, it's wrong, yes, it's not wise, but there's really nothing I can do to stop you.

Especially not through the law. The way I understand it, though, CFA has not done or said anything that would express their desire to do so. Basically, they just gave funds from their profits to AFA. Yes, AFA is pretty ridiculous with some of its stands (I mean, c'mon: the "War on Christmas"? Really?). But at the same time, any business is perfectly free to give their money wherever they want. I can guarantee that most businesses give money to places that the vast majority of people probably wouldn't like. That's the way it is, though. Businesses give money to organizations for lots of reasons, sometimes just to buy them off so they don't run into each other.

In the end, I think both sides are inflating this issue far beyond what it needs to be. If it will make you feel better to abstain from eating waffle fries and chicken sandwiches, fine. Your loss. If you whole-heartedly agree and are determined to shout down the opposition with Bible verses, I suppose that's your business. I'll just go back to selling chicken, as always, and let you live your life. Because this whole thing strikes me as kind of stupid.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Today We're Selling Rotten and Rubbish!

Last night, in an attempt to get back into the swing of politics and bridge an ideological gap in one fell swoop, I attended fifteen minutes of a Tea Party Patriots meeting. It turned out to be only fifteen minutes because, after we'd gotten there late, that's how long my mother managed to sit through it before walking out in disgust. Since she is my primary source of transportation (still), I went with her. I had no desire to walk ten miles back to my house. No thanks.

That being said, it is already clear that our local Tea Party has reduced this year's presidential race down to the media's level--which is why my mother was so disgusted. Basically, they are saying (as ever) that a vote for anyone other than the GOP candidate is a vote for Obama. Because, you know, we all realize and acknowledge the concrete fact that the GOP would never nominate someone who wasn't...well, ideologically sound with their beliefs, and sincere in his own belief in that ideology. Obviously.

In any case, besides the mathematical odds of your vote even doing anything for your candidate, much less against him or her, there is the matter of the choices I, a young voter, am being faced with. I feel a bit like a harried shopper. Let me explain.

Imagine, for a moment, that you walk into a grocery store. Perhaps you are hankering after some good beef, some potatoes on the side. And pie. (Pie is a necessary part of any good meal.) But as you go to select your steak, a wild-eyed employee comes running up, apron flying, hair rumpled as he screams in your face and quickly replaces the steak you'd picked up, practically yanking it from your hand. You protest, as you should, that you quite liked that steak, and had been planning to buy it. No, he screams, that steak is bad for you. That steak would ruin the store if you bought it! No, no--you want one of these steaks. And into your hands he places two old pieces of meat.

They smell as rank as they look, and for a moment you're nonplussed. Surely these two can't be the ones he means! And besides, look at the price tags! But the employee insists, and somehow you've dropped one of the steaks, and the employee has already put an arm around your shoulders and is steering you towards the check out, chatting your ear off about how you've made the right decision, and the choice was inspired, truly inspired, sir, and bravo and cheerio!

Ridiculously lame attempt to be British aside, it seems that sometimes this is precisely the kind of choice that is given voters. Romney or Obama, they say--"Here you are, have the compromising hack or the suave liar. Which do you prefer?" The media has reduced the debate down to which one stinks less, rather than which one will actually help the country and abide by the Constitution while he's at it. And then of course, there's the lovely citizens of this fine country, who insist that if we don't vote for their candidate, we're "wasting our vote"... and God Almighty forbid we vote outside the two party system! Why, that would be tantamount to treason.

Let it be known here and now, then, that I will vote for whoever I please, fearmongering notwithstanding. And I know, quite well, that my vote will not be wasted.

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.
John Quincy Adams