Monday, August 23, 2010

Fact Versus Fiction

It is intolerable to think that a great section of Americans are being led around by the nose, pumped full of prevarications and obfuscations, then let go to roam the streets, parroting back these talking points without having fully considered what they are saying. True, we are each responsible for how we determine what we believe and how we verify those things we consider "facts," but it is insidious and immoral, in my opinion, to go about spreading deception and half-truths, cloaking them in fiery rhetoric, and attacking anyone who does automatically swallow them whole. It seems that certain forces are at work, shaping and molding the opinions of those who choose not to think for themselves, while simultaneously waging war against anyone who shows any reticence toward the "truth" as they see it.

The examples are there every day:

- President Obama is just like Hitler: Since the countryside is not dotted with concentration camps, jackbooted minions are not prowling the streets in search of people to intimidate or arrest, six million citizens have not been incinerated in the most ghastly manner, and no small and otherwise helpless countries have been invaded since he took office, this one is easy enough to dismiss as hyperbole.

- They are building a mosque at Ground Zero: I'm pretty sure that this is being perpetuated by the media, which seems to use the word "mosque" too often in describing the proposed Islamic community center to be built two blocks from Ground Zero. The supposed "slap in the face" this represents is probably more like a tickle, compared to the iron fist in a velvet glove of greedy industrialists and real estate developers who can't wait to park a new office building on top of "hallowed ground."

- Health care reform will include the ability to kill old people: Yes, the highly touted "death panels," which, as it turns out, did not exist, the language being nowhere in the bill. How easily funding palliative care and doctor's visits for end-of-life planning are turned into the knock on the door and the elderly being herded into vans to be disposed of in the dark of night.

- Extending the Bush tax cuts will help the economy: Far be it from me to point out that during the reign of the Bush tax cuts is precisely when the economic decline began to happen. Perhaps putting more money in the pockets of the already wealthy had the opposite effect than what was intended? Reaganomics did not work in the 80's, and it certainly isn't going to start working miraculously in the 21st Century.

- People using unemployment compensation aren't out looking for jobs; they are just lazy: Oh yes, this makes perfect sense. They were so lazy, working 60 hours a week for 40 hour a week pay, that the companies that were looking to extend their bottom line and pump up their profit margins had no choice but to lay them off, even as they shipped some of their jobs overseas and eliminated others, heaping the work on the few who remained. It's called "productivity."

- President Obama and his cronies are Socialists: Well, to a degree, that's true, just as much as the rest of us are. We share police and fire services that everyone pays for, have local governments to run things, that we all pay for, have Social Security and Medicare to support us in our retirement, which we all pay for, and we have schools to educate all the children, which we all pay for. The fact that we are called the United States of America, may, in fact, have something to do with having created our own, mutually interdependent society.

- The Federal Government is too large: How large is too large? Give me some numbers. What's that? You don't have any numbers? You just know that government is too big? Next.

- Taxes are too high and the budget deficits are too large: Try living in Europe, if you'd like to see what high taxes look like. Yes, a large chunk of what we make goes to pay the government. Well, they're responsible for protecting us and making sure the freedom and liberty of all Americans is constantly maintained. That costs money. Do they always spend our money wisely? No, but then try blaming the people who cause the problem: the elected officials you put into Congress and the White House. Those deficits didn't come around overnight, and they certainly didn't show up during only one administration. Of course, if we all did without a lot of basic services the government provides, I'm sure they could have it paid off in no time.

- The Constitution is under attack: As far as I can determine, there are no new Amendments to the Constitution currently in the pipeline. The Supreme Court is still looking out for the land -- though imperfectly at times. Freedom of speech. Yup, still available. Freedom of worship? No churches have been shut down yet. Able to carry a gun? Haven't noted any wholesale roundup of weapons to be melted down. Miranda rights? Still got 'em. Can't be forced to incriminate myself? Nope. Where, exactly, is this attack taking place?

It's far easier for people to accept statements laced with fear, than coolly delivered facts. America, it seems, is filled with Chicken Littles, fairly certain that the sky is falling, even though none of them have looked up. They are simply listening to a continuous stream of fear-mongering, panic-inducing rhetoric, which they have allowed themselves to substitute for good judgment. As they race like lemmings to the sea (a metaphor based on fiction, not fact), they cannot be dissuaded by reason. They are so certain that these maunderings are the God's honest truth, that they will not stop long enough to take a cold, hard look at them.

It is important that those of us who see that the Emperor has no clothes continue to speak up, for until the chorus of our voices is loud enough to drown out the ridiculous and absurd, we are still vulnerable to having our freedoms yanked right out from under us. It's time we started paying attention to the man behind the curtain.

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