Thursday, October 30, 2008

A political statement...

I got derided a few months ago for considering Obama as a way to improve race relations in the U.S. “Idiotic’” was the term I was lambasted with. This has yet to leave me as it was one of my best friends, whose opinion I greatly respect and value, agreement notwithstanding, who offered me this opinion of my opinion. He feels pretty passionate about the election, as do we all. I was a bit hurt that he implied it was the only reason I had, and it was a terrible reason at that. Having few feelings, I got over that within minutes, though I was miffed enough to think this of him: He’s a Christian and only voting Republican because it’s the party of the “religious” right, which I think is a ridiculous reason to vote for a candidate. Here’s how I see things:
Taxes: Taxes are a red herring. The real problem is spending and neither candidate is addressing this issue at all. A real leader would present us with the same options for our government that we have to face every day; namely, either, or. Especially in an economy such as this, with credit scarce and usurious interest when you can find it, all us Joe the Plumbers have to make tough fiscal choices every day. Somehow that doesn’t apply to our government, which borrows like it’s going out of style to pay for an amazing array of slightly necessary things. Lower taxes on everyone: rich, poor, small business and corporation. That’s real economic stimulus, not bailouts and insultingly small checks which are technically our money anyway. Obama would, in essence, raise taxes on the wealthy, punishing achievement and propagating the ridiculous class warfare politicians foist upon us as the norm. That’s envy folks, a pretty distasteful emotion. McCain would cut taxes on corporations (which technically don’t pay taxes…see the FairTax link,) which would also provide its own stimulus, but mentions nada about what needs to be cut. Both parties are tax and spend parties, with Republicans leaning towards excessive borrowing to appear less taxy than Democrats. Spending reduction is the real issue, not taxes, and neither candidate is addressing this because they know you don’t want to hear it and would swallow such a realist like a beer-soaked oyster. So to vote for someone based on tax policy is short-sighted to say the least. Remember, taxes are a red herring.
Foreign Policy: Fuck might makes right. It’s not working. A few religious radicals attacked us and we invaded two countries and doomed their populations to violence and death. What moral code are you living by that that disparity of reaction is justified? Please cite some source as to when we’ll be even. Neither war addressed the problem, which is Islam’s incredible difficulty adjusting to the modern world. They have the same problems Africa does, which is adjusting to a post colonial existence within arbitrary borders and left floundering without any investment in infrastructure and development. Europe had the benefit of the Marshall Plan. Neither the Persian states, nor Africa were granted that boon. Notice how many totalitarian regimes exist(ed) within the Persian states, then take a close look at Africa. A lot of similarities, huh? Poverty and despair are the problems, as they breed violence, racial strife, as well as political and religious extremism to deal with those issues. Bombing countries doesn’t deal with that at all, now does it? McCain and Palin are war-hawking about Iran and Russia. Enough! The State Department needs 10 times the budget it has. Building peace is incredibly hard and takes a very long time and long-term commitment. We need to make friends, not enemies. We are a wealthy and incredibly powerful nation (thus far,) and we should act like responsible, educated people. Not everything we do is right, either functionally or morally, so stop waving crosses and flags and act like civilized grown-ups who negotiate and compromise for mutual benefit. We should act with humility as the most powerful nation, by far, on this Earth, and not as the enforcer of our morality, come hell or high water and screw your culture and beliefs. Obama has my vote in this arena for two reasons: 1) The rest of the world likes him. We could use that. If you don’t care what the rest of the world thinks and think I’m a fool (at best) for that, then you’re living in 1947. 2) He has quite firmly stated he’s willing to talk with our enemies. So am I. How else will you understand if you don’t talk? Admittedly, understanding is no longer an American virtue. As for war, I’m tired of religious war. While perpetrated by religious zealots, make no mistake that September 11, 2001 was a political statement. The problems that motivated them are largely political. We have yet to deal with them politically. Plenty of people are anti-American. If you think it’s simply because they are Muslim, you’re ignorant beyond my ability to craft words.
Morality: Proclaiming your faith is just dandy with me and you’ll find no greater advocate of religious freedom than me. What sticks in my craw is focus on a “culture” war. “Moral” people make mistakes and bad decisions too. People of faith don’t appear to me to be any better at morality than anyone else. Wait, let me qualify this. Christians don’t appear to be any better at morality than Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Atheists or Pagans. Everyone has their radicals, everyone has their liberals, everyone has their moderates. What really appears to count is your situation: prosperity and security, generally, foster good behavior. If you have enough, you generally won’t steal. Affluent, educated people tend to be less promiscuous and have fewer children (though I staunchly believe the only morality regarding sex that counts is that regarding children and all that implies. If it’s simply a matter of consensual activity between adults, no harm done, please show me your anointment to dictate anyone’s sexual behavior.) Abortion is a horribly divisive issue and I’m torn about it. I envy anyone who has clear-cut convictions about it across the board. In most instances, I find it repellent. In some, I wouldn’t dare intrude and pity anyone who has to deal with that kind of choice. No one’s addressing the causes of needing abortions (other than only promoting abstinence without the benefit of a complete sexual education, sigh,) though Obama did mention that in one of the debates. That’s a first for me, and I’d be curious to see what he has to say about it in detail. But I’m sorry, these days the issue is relegated to the bottom of my cultural in-box.
Here’s what I think the REAL issues are:
International relations: creating more allies and/or fewer enemies, helping poorer nations develop (that’s a HUGE subject, more another day,) nurturing understanding and eliminating the causes of war, not just the people who might want to make it.
Global Economy: Not just ours, but ours is the lynchpin. I’m WAY Democrat regarding regulating the financial sector, but in what I think is a positive way. I have far better ideas than Washington does.
Infrastructure: It’s old and crumbling. How are you going to hold a “gays-are-the-cause-of-all-evils” rally if the bridge is out?
Energy: We need an Apollo-Program sized effort and investment (which, hmmm, would cause huge economic growth) to clean, green and diversify our energy infrastructure (decentralizing and diversifying it would make the Grid far less susceptible to natural disaster and terrorist attack!) Ahem, being the leader in green technologies would also go a long way towards improving our image.
Education: The single greatest long-term investment in peace and prosperity we can make. We need smart people to run the country, create the new energy technologies we need, mind the economy, design the infrastructure, deal with climate change and educated people contribute most to the wealth, health and growth of a nation. We need to teach, not to tests, but how to learn, critical thinking and creative thinking. Oh wait, that’s science. We should teach more of that (but better than the drudgery we pass out as learning currently.)
A minor intermission to address a crossroads with education and morality. W. once said we need to promote science and math as we do and will need ever more now and in the future. At the same time he’s said he’s for teaching Creationism in the science classrooms (oh be quiet. Intelligent Design is Christian Fundamentalist Creationism, period.) This is dichotomous at best and unbelievably (really, I find it incredible to believe) stupid at near-worst. Putting an uncritical, unassailable religious dogma into a curriculum that teaches critical thinking would be disastrous at worst, both for religion and especially science. This would hand our technological lead to any and all nations who wanted it in a box wrapped in purple velvet.
I suppose I should get to the race thing, but as I have to go to school soon, I have to cut it short. Blacks in America need an intelligent, educated, ambitious and inspiring role model, not another gangsta rapper. Just look at the news to see the hope in black high schooler’s eyes. That inspiration just might inspire more blacks to stay in school and continue on to higher education (good for the economy,) as well as reduce the sense of entitlement from centuries of racism on the part of white (Christian) America. So, we might see fewer gangs, less violence and drugs, lower pregnancy rates and an entire segment of our population raise itself out of despair and poverty to become educated and productive, and just might reduce the need for welfare programs, which would reduce government spending. It also just might get some racists to rethink their views of blacks as inferior, lazy and sucking off the government teat either via entitlement programs or exploiting affirmative action I think that would be a great thing. Anyone who thinks this is a stupid reason to vote for a black man has a moral code that puzzles me and as the above shows, apparently has no concept of the complicated calculus I base my political decisions on. This is unnerving in a good friend. In fact, NOT including this facet of possibility strikes me as either racist or unimaginative and living in complete denial of the reality of race relations in the United States, how divisive and destructive it is, and the potential for at least furthering the healing process. Voting for Obama because of his race and thinking strategically and MORALLY about the potential consequences is in fact a very GOOD reason to vote for him.
I need to continue the list of real issues that face the nation, in order to show where abortion, gay marriage and prayer in the schools (just to pick a few) really end up on the list of “actual, real, pressing and important issues that desperately need to be addressed in order to keep this nation going.” It’s a long and sometimes scary list, and they’re pretty fucking low on it.
Incidentally, Sarah Palin believes man and dinosaurs walked the Earth at the same time. Sorry, that completely disqualifies her to be a part of the Executive Branch. I want people in there who will deal with reality. The world is extremely complicated, not a fairy tale.