A Dialog for Today

By on April 1, 2012

I have wanted dialog here at the Post and last week I got it in response to our piece about what the Post is. I reprint the comment below and the thoughts it provoked. I took over a week to finalize them. I have always thought of myself as a moderate, capable of seeing both sides of an argument. I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats, Independents too, in my time. I am always wary of extremists on both sides of the spectrum. But recent trends have disrupted that thinking as you will read below:

COMMENT: I think the statue pictured is very reflective of what I think this Post’s purpose is. To have intelligent, constructive and reflective thought. I would really like to hear your thoughts on the dysfunction that this country is in. Both my parents, one more so than the other, grew up in the Soviet Union. They, my parents, often said the Soviet Union was the most Capitalistic and the US most Socialistic functioning systems. We claimed victory when the “communist”, the USSR, fell apart. Before that time, the Soviets were certain the capitalistic system would fall. Is our time coming? USSR never had “true communism”, far from it. I think we are learning, or hoping, to not have “true Capitalism”. If true and ideal Communism were to prevail, there would be class equality, insightful understanding of social and economic responsibility to one another – this was obviously not the prevailing system in USSR. If true and ideal Capitalism prevails we have monopolies, derivatives and current health care system. In the Soviet Union, education was trumped as a national priority. In the US, company profits are trumped as national priority. Over the last 50 years, this has trampled education. We speak of freedom. I seriously doubt many Americans understand that word. We speak of Democracy and actively try to export it to the world. There is no Democracy in US. US was founded on great principles and ideal of active citizenry. Our system will fail if we do not have each and every citizen active to assure their well-being and that of the nation. For that, we need educated citizens. I feel ignorance serves Capitalism, destroys Democracy. Education would allow Democracy to thrive and temper Capitalism.

RESPONSE: I have spent some time thinking over your comments and your request for me to comment further. I am flattered, but this is a tall order.
I agree that Americans take too much for granted and see themselves with rose-covered glasses. The country has produced many great people but I rebel at demands for American Exceptionalism. So many great contributors have been children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. The old American aristocracy seems to be doing their best work on the golf course or at the 19th hole these days. Our civilization does not seem to advance when they get off the course and into the political arena.
Our democracy is not pure; it is a representative democracy, at best. Keep in mind that it is hard to represent those who are constantly tuned out on major issues, and only enter the discussion when prodded. Marx said religion was the opiate of the people. That’s because he lived before the era of ESPN. Popular culture has anesthetized much of the population.
Staying informed is not a current American characteristic. We seem to assume that it really doesn’t matter all that much who is guiding the country, the state, the city, the district. Things will always work out. That’s lazy and naive.
When those in power stop representing the thoughts of their constituents, they begin trying to shape and manipulate them to their own ends, e.g. hedgemony and continued power. Now with huge amounts of money available to buy friends and lots of propaganda, the situation is even more frightening. Elected officials become indebted to their moneyed friends and do their bidding. That would seem to indicate that we are drifting into an oligarchy, where a small group of people call the shots. They either get legislation they demand or paralyze the process when the process goes against their interests. The country feels to me in worse shape now than at any time I can remember, even the late 1960’s with its burning cities and horrifying assassinations.
There has always been a strong streak of anti-intellectualism in this country. I have written about this. It always bothered me because our competitive edge was our strong university system and the product it produced. It attracted the best and brightest from around the world. Educated people are not always right, but they are right more often than uneducated folks. We did not get to the moon because of a great native gut instinct. As our education numbers in this country roll back because of the increasing costs of higher education and the increasing failure of our secondary school systems, we face the risk that it will be easier for special interests to manipulate large parts of the electorate.
I also think history discloses that we need people of courage to stand up to those who would manipulate us for their own selfish ends. Right now, no one wants to be confrontational. We are still too comfortable and too well fed. I expect gridlock and dysfunction to continue until the level of discomfort becomes so high that someone somewhere has the courage to stand up and oppose the current forces of un-enlightened self-interest. It will require the electorate to follow. I think they were ready for this in 2008, but Obama proved far more cautious than I expected and has lost a lot of good will.
Right now most people are keeping their head down, trying to avoid trouble, parroting the party line that seems safe. If we drift any farther to the right, we will have an oligarchy in this country and individual freedoms will be constrained. That means probing questions do not get asked. History tells us that this is never the best form of government and it usually ends in chaos, if not revolution. The examples of this are too numerous mention. The oligarchs never see themselves as a problem. That’s what makes it worse. I am always amazed at people’s ability to rationalize almost anything they do, regardless of how heinous. Start with Germany in 1930 if you want to test the validity of my argument.
Back to you.  TG

PS I see by new statistics that we are drawing on an international readership. We want those outside the US to join in.


About Tom Godfrey

2 comments on “A Dialog for Today

  1. KrikorD on said:

    Thank you very much Tom. I appreciate the wise perspective. My frustration is in the need to find the target. Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. I am trying to find the target that if feel we are all missing.
    I suppose our situation is not unique, a re-run of so many versions at various scales throughout history. We truly never learn or there simply has not been enough time for our DNA to a change and adapt. It’s an action drama tragedy. The oppressed break out, because they have a vision that is bigger than life with a determination bigger than time or themselves. Will, hard work and determination are seldom a failing combination. Then once success is achieved, the future road is paved with lessons learned from the past. But… the terrain ahead is never the same and the rules from the past don’t fit perfectly. Then we rest on our Laurels as there is not fight, no bigger vision, no determination for anything beyond the most basic life’s pleasures – shallow. To live becomes a physical existence. We have the occasional fortune to come across a great leader to move us forward.
    Then again, we are a unique country. A bunch of Cowboys in the land of Indians. The very philosophical basis of the constitution is founded on this. The idea of property was tailored to favor the colonist against the native Indians. Freedom of religion is a sacred principle I doubt many have ever thought through. Is it a good thing? What takes precedence, civil liberties or freedom of religion. What was separation of state trying to achieve or protect – the religion from the state or vice versa? At some point, we must realize it is different now. When Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Thomas Paine wrote the constitution, it was genius, it was biased and it was the best possible for that time. It was a doctrine to be tested and perfected.
    We need to understand the constitution, not regurgitate it and recite it. The constitution is not a religion. The word socialism is looked at with disdain as this is a concept, not foreign to what we believe in, but threatens the pulpit. We have reached the Western shore, now we need to build our communities on a different paradigm. Put away the 6-shooter, open the schools and take interest in your neighbor’s well-being. Make peace with the Indians, they have much to teach us – they speak for the trees.

    • TGodfrey on said:

      Good points. Are we at a time when we can do that? Genius is viewed with suspicion. Intelligence is often belittled. Poll takers convince us we have the knowledge to make decisions. Most of the public opposes the Health Reform Bill. Most of the public does not know what is in it. Is that the fault of the Obama Administration because it did not spoon feed it to an uninterested population? The everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten school seems to have the upper hand. Except that they are all thumbs when the get their hands on the steering wheel of government. I wish I knew what will turn this around. I do believe something will.

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