Wednesday, July 21, 2010

America, The Dissonant

The United States of America is the land of the dichotomy; that is to say, we are the nation that embodies both the best and the worst of attributes of humanity simultaneously. It is at once a privilege to live in a free nation such as this, and a travesty having to live with the hypocrisy and ignorance so rampant. People would wave the flag and the Constitution at you, as if to say they are our country, but the flag is a mere identifier, and the Constitution, while grand, is but words on paper. It is what we do with these things that gives them meaning, and makes us angels, or demons, or both.

We live in a country where we are told there is an epidemic of obesity -- just look around. Even as this is said with breathless alarm, there are those who, with a meager income, public assistance, and the charity of food banks, still find themselves hungry several days out of the month.

There are those in this country who have city apartments or country mansions worth thousands of dollars a square foot, and those are only second homes. Meanwhile, families are being forced by economic chaos, to abandon homes they can no longer afford, to join the roles of the homeless, forced to seek shelter wherever it can be found.

Corporations beg, plead, and pay to receive tax incentives to create new jobs, claiming they cannot while they are so oppressed by the poor economy. This, when during the good times, they were cutting jobs, fattening profit margins, and driving up productivity, working the remaining workers harder and for lower pay.

We are outraged by the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster, scandalized by the way oil companies and the government have acted, even as we continue to fill up our SUVs and drive a mile for a gallon of milk.

Our immigrant heritage is celebrated, the bravery of those who voyaged here to start a new life held up as a shining example of the strength of our nation, even as we seek to expel immigrants who fill some of the most unwanted and back-breaking jobs in our country, because we could not find a way to let them enter legally, nor help them escape poverty in their own country.

Many trumpet their right to speak their mind, even as they shout down those who try and voice an opposing opinion.

There are those who claim that the American family is under siege, and that family values must be restored, even as they cheat on their spouses, to great public scandal.

Some firmly believe that the current administration is tearing down the Constitution, even though not one Amendment has been repealed and the Supreme Court of the United States continues to function as it ever did. Their right to freedom of speech is undiminished, yet they claim they are not being heard, even as they spout their vitriol on TV, the radio, and via the Internet, unfettered, all the while not complaining about the fact that the Federal government was ceded the power to monitor communications virtually without oversight.

Freedom, liberty, and justice are touted as our birthright, even as some seek to deny them to people who happen to be homosexual.

We are allowed to worship as we choose -- so long as "Christian" values take precedence over any other.

Americans are proud that they continue to have the right to bear arms, so long as the right is not infringed by pesky laws requiring background checks that might keep chronic abusers, criminals, and the mentally unstable from owning guns, and guns can be sold to anyone, no questions asked.

Public figures constantly tell us we are a "Christian" nation, even as the poor get poorer, the hungry get hungrier, and intolerance rises. Christian virtues of charity, compassion, and fellowship are espoused, if not practiced.

We seek perfection in our public servants, even as we elect the same crooks and charlatans again and again, never holding them to account for failing to provide a decent life for all Americans, even as they enjoy the fruits of American taxes.

Some are afraid that government is too large, though they would be hard-pressed to say just how large government should be.

Senators and Representatives from some quarters do not believe that tax money should be used to fund entitlements and social programs, even though they are charged with the welfare of all Americans. They instead believe that lining the pockets of the rich is the best way to provide for all Americans, even though the rich are under no obligation to spend the money. They decry the inflation of the national debt, even as they, themselves, pile onto it with their pet projects and spendthrift boondoggles.

The "free" market is the cure for all our ills, even though our choices are limited by the arbitrary decisions of out-of-touch corporations, and our consumerism is driven by marketing, not quality, costs passed back to us at every turn.

We cannot fail to see that such dichotomy is our ruination; to push ourselves to the margins, rather than move toward the center, where the bulk of humanity lies, is to divide ourselves, and a house divided cannot stand. If we are true to our founding, true to the words in the Constitution, true to freedom and liberty, then it is up to all of us to ensure that every American receives these benefits, regardless of individual belief. It is the protection of our individuality, while at the same time being knit together under one banner, that is what is truly great about America. Let us no longer allow the disparities between what is and what must be divide us -- let us seek to unite behind the proposition that every one of us is of worth, and deserves decency and respect. Only then will we truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave.


  1. to push ourselves to the margins, rather than move toward the center, where the bulk of humanity lies, is to divide ourselves, and a house divided cannot stand.

    Oh Newt, so true. It drives me mad this dissonance. I cannot understand what "country" so many claim to want "back," when what they are fighting for has little or nothing to do with the American Idea.

  2. I think it's the same basic mechanism that makes us long for childhood, or a first love... time smooths out memory, removes the rough edges, and our recall of those times is often flawed compared to actual events. I think these people honestly believe the country was better "back then," because maybe they were younger, happier, and more naive. When pressed, they can rarely tell you how it was better, just that it was.