Sunday, April 17, 2016
If civil unrest breaks out this summer, should we join the fight or wait it out?
The US Is Becoming A Failed State:
How Do We Turn This Around?
By Rev. Paul J. Bern
The United States of America, if I may risk pointing out the obvious, is failing. Failing to adequately tackle the systemic problems in our economic system. Failing to reflect on the deep flaws in our system of government. Failing to repair our damaged image abroad. Failing to adequately protect its citizens from violence at home (the plague of murders by rogue police officers across the US is only one example of many). Failing in education, in health care, in human rights, in religious tolerance, and even with regard to incarceration of its citizens, as the overcrowded and dangerous US prison system attests to. In fact, we look a lot like the USSR in 1990 – except with a lot more big-screen TV’s. And we all know what happened to the USSR during the 1990's.
Of course, you may well take issue with my central contention. You may say that we are prosperous because our GDP is so large, or because America is the richest country in the world. Or that our government works properly (pardon me for a second while I LOL), or even that we have a great health care system (laughing even harder), and that since most of us are Christians anyway, who do we have to tolerate? I respect your right to those opinions – freedom of expression is one of the few things our country hasn't managed to screw up in the last couple of hundred years. But in every case, the data backs me up. I will try and substantiate my claims first, before putting forth a few solutions of my own.
The first problem is the economy. For example, in 2009 alone 131 banks failed. The 2008 TARP bailout granted hundreds of billions of dollars – with strings attached – to private companies who then used the money to short-sell the market, make countless billions more, hand the government back its money (removing the strings) and pay out lavish bonuses while Americans lost their jobs, savings, houses and cars. America's national debt threatens to exceed one year's Gross Domestic Product. While this is occurring, a record number of laid off workers are leaving the US workforce forever due to a complete lack of opportunity to better themselves. One in four US workers who are long-term unemployed and over age 50 will never work again. I know this to be true from personal experience because I was one of those most unfortunate individuals. To this day people find themselves struggling financially to keep their heads above water. Meanwhile, the median family income is less today than it was a decade ago. Our government, as everybody knows, is no longer run by competing ideologies but by corporate interests (I include both parties in this category since both are moneymaking enterprises). There are good Republicans who would prefer that your cancer-stricken child had health insurance. There are responsible Democrats who are horrified by our country's spend-now pay-later approach to finance. But since they are beholden to a higher power – money – they have to vote with their wallets, not with their hearts. At the Federal level, AT&T and Goldman Sachs have contributed over $75M over the last 20 years, and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, plus the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers aren't far behind.
Across the world our reputation is tarnished, perhaps irrevocably. We are seen as an economic and religious bully, and we don't seem to care. We vilify our political enemies for their human rights records while we import cheap goods from countries that we know exploits child labor, while America has more people incarcerated than all the other countries of the world combined. We are, to much of the world, intolerable hypocrites! Is it any wonder that they see us this way? When it comes to medical care, health care apologists will continue to defend our system at all costs, claiming that so-called “socialist” states such as England, France and Sweden kill their citizens at will in order to save money, or they may make you wait up to thirty years for a kidney transplant. When our kids can't even get health care, that should be a major 'red flag' indicating that something is terribly wrong. Any anthropologist will tell you that we took care of our young much better when we were Neanderthals – so what's changed? For one in four kids to be dependent on food stamps at some point in their formative years – and 25% of them are – is a social injustice of the highest order to the point that it foments much outrage. As such I think that this issue should have people out in the streets protesting and being disruptive against the whole darn system! Why it isn't happening hardly at all is a complete mystery to me. Is everyone asleep or drunk? Wake up already and smell the coffee! Revolution is in the air, can't you feel it? The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign is only the tip of the iceberg, my dear readers. I am so glad that those exciting but perilous days of insurrection will soon be upon us. I can't tell anyone exactly when, but it will happen in the near future, you can count on it. Violence in the streets will be a sure bet if both outsider candidates get forced out at the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer and the American people are only left with the status quo.
Why do I think so? We deny basic human rights to our own people, and Americans of good conscience everywhere are fed up to their eyeballs about it. Women still make 79 cents for every dollar a man earns in the workplace. The overwhelming majority of those who are incarcerated are people of color. Moreover, whom anyone chooses to marry is not a matter for the government, it is a matter for the individual as well as for the churches. Speaking as a mature Christian man and Web evangelist, although I am not in favor of gay marriage personally, I adamantly refuse to judge same-sex couples for getting married (that's between them and God, or it had better be). Forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian doctrine, and it is central to the self-identity of every true believer. As to what religion to follow, since I am a full-time ambassador for Jesus Christ, I will lead any and all toward Christ who want to go, and often with plenty of encouragement along the way. Although some may not like or agree with the choices others make, they are inalienable rights of choice, and you should be free to exercise them as you will because that is the law of the land (see the 1st Amendment in the US Constitution).
As far back as 2005, statistics showed that hate crimes against Muslims were increasing 50% year-on-year. Even so, the FBI reported that in 2015 hate crimes against homosexuals had increased 9% from 2014, and those motivated by religion had risen by 12%. This is discouraging to say the least. The track we have taken over the last fifty years has been the wrong one. We have let corruption, greed, fame, intolerance and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge our problems almost ruin our nation. We are failing to live the American Dream, and if we don't start now our children will never even know what it was.
I have eight common-sense but fairly radical ideas, and I'm sure you have some of your own. I have chosen not to expound on what I personally think the consequences of these actions would be, as I would be diving headlong into speculation that could easily (and should be) challenged.
. Immediately and totally stop all corporations from giving money to political parties.
. Acknowledge that, when it comes to government, politics and religion do not mix.
. Make a promise to our children: you will be well-educated, and you will be well-treated when you are sick.
. Change the game. Capitalism is a debt-based economic system combined with a federal republic system of government. It is a system that has run its course for all practical intents and purposes. So much debt has accumulated throughout the world that there isn't anywhere nearly enough money in the entire world – all the combined world economies – to pay it off. At some point in the near future, more and more countries are going to find themselves insolvent. When no one can pay back their debts, the whole thing comes crashing down, and that includes the USA. Are you prepared?
. Take a leaf out of the Bible and just treat everyone else with dignity and respect. “Love your neighbor as yourself”. If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for you. Leave the gays alone because you're a sinner too, you just commit different sexual sins than they do. Leave the Blacks and Latinos alone, because racism has no place in church, and because equality is scriptural. Leave the Muslims, the Jews and the Christians alone. When respect departs, lawlessness is the next train along.
. Pay for it. Child labor is inexcusable. If it costs an extra ten bucks, or extra hundred bucks, to buy something that was made by willing workers, pay it. And the same goes for government. You want health care? Pay for it. More troops? Pay for them. Tax breaks for corporations? Ditto. If you have to raise taxes to pay for it, raise taxes. Stop acting like giddy schoolkids with mom's credit card, and pay for what you consume!
. Form coalitions based on issues, not parties. Not every NRA member is anti-abortion. Not every tree-hugging hippie thinks that owning a gun is wrong. When a party tells you how you should think, and what issues should be thrown together into what bucket, you're a lot closer to communism or fascism than you think you are.
. Buy American products whenever possible. From what I can tell, the great empires of yore – from Egypt to Rome to England – were 'first-to-market' with some manufacturing innovation or other, that led to more innovations, and greater strides, that in turn led to them becoming the largest producers of goods in their region. This happened to the USA from the dawn of the twentieth century until the 'fifties. Then we began to transform into a service economy, just as those others did. Producing goods is what is making China become a world powerhouse, and if we are to compete, we must produce our own. American isn't always the best, and it's almost never the cheapest, but if we are to reinstate our status as the world's greatest country, we need to start by supporting our own businesses and workers. To refuse to do so is to commit an injustice. Enough said!