Divided

Divided

E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. That’s the traditional motto of the United States. A motto that reflects that our country is made up of people from many different lands, cultures, races, religions, and such. It is a motto that states, although you may be different from me, you are okay. You are accepted and acceptable. You are free to be the person you are, love whomever you love, worship however you wish or don’t worship any deity, and that’s okay.

Yet, with this last election cycle in particular, the idea of unity was tossed out like smelly garbage. One particular candidate with his inflammatory rhetoric managed to abolish a sense of unity within the United States. He created what many pundits, including Time magazine, have called the Divided States of America. This is not to say that there haven’t been factors or ideologies that festered below the surface of American society since the country’s inception. Anyone with a sense or knowledge of history knows those ideologies exist and have existed for decades. They came to a head once before as our country waged a civil war. They appeared during the push for civil rights. They continue to appear as we see inequalities in our justice system, our economic system, and other places within our society. We see people still speaking out for justice, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the Flint water crisis, and the Standing Rock water protectors.

However, what makes the election so much more insidious is that a foreign government helped to fuel the disunity. As has been reported by the CIA and the FBI, the Russian government wanted the GOP candidate to win. Why? It’s more than simply an attack against the Democratic candidate. It’s that the Russian government, as well as other groups and countries around the world know that if the United States is a divided country, then we are weaker. When a country is weak, it is vulnerable. It is that vulnerability that the enemies of the United States wants to capitalize upon in order to either control us or more of the world.

Tomorrow, the Electoral College will meet to make the final decision on who should be the next President of the United States. They have a great deal of pressure upon them to act for the best interests of the United States rather than simply rubber stamp the candidate who received the most electoral votes in our system. They need to realize that that candidate did not receive anywhere near the popular vote as his opponent. Last count was somewhere in the area of 2.8 million more votes were cast for the Democratic candidate than for the Republican one.

2.8 million.

Now, I know that the Democratic candidate has her own issues. I can understand why the electors may not want to allow her to become president even though she won that popular vote. That’s okay. However, what’s not okay is to allow a person as divisive as her Republican challenger to become president either, especially given the interference of a possibly hostile foreign power in the election. The electors of the Electoral College have a choice to make, but they have options in that choice.

They can rubber stamp the winner of the outdated Electoral College vote winner and do so knowing that his tenure in the Oval Office was gained through the interference of a foreign power. Doing so would be easy, but the consequences could be catastrophic for our country.

They can elect his opponent who won the popular vote by a margin that was far beyond most of the popular vote victories in modern elections. She may have her detractors and issues with some voters, but she has the potential of uniting our country once again, plus her votes were not gained through the interference of a foreign power or through gerrymandering or voter intimidation or voter disenfranchisement.

They can choose another person who may have been a candidate who may be able to unify the country. That person could be from either party and a number of names have been discussed who would fit that description.

What the electors must realize is that they have the power at this point to reset our country. They can choose what they think is the easy way, yet risk continued and worsening disunity in our country; or, they can choose another path and create a way toward a more unified country. We, as citizens, need to hope for the more unifying approach. If not, then we need to prepare as best as we can for things far more worse than we’ve already seen.

Thank you for your time.

Borders and Boxes

Thousands of children from Central America are flooding the southern part of the United States on a daily basis at this time as they search for somewhere safe from the ravages of rampant crimes, particularly drug crimes, in their homelands. As is typical for some of those who live in the United States, the call for these children to be instantly deported is loud and sometimes violent.

Turning to another part of the globe, there are refugees fleeing from the unrest in Syria and other parts of the Middle East due to everything from government troops to the rising terrorist group ISIS. Refugees here are fleeing primarily to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, but a few are going to Germany and Sweden in their search for safety. In Europe, a few countries have closed their borders to the refugees, such as Bulgaria and Spain.

Add to this the recent rising of anti-immigrant conversations from the United Kingdom as they deal with a rising Middle Eastern population, and you have yet further division among the human race.

All of this has gotten me to ponder why we require borders in the first place. Secondly, and related to this, why is it that humans feel the need to place people in boxes that categorize and subdivide ourselves from one another rather than looking for those things that make us similar? All these borders and boxes serve no real purpose than to divide humanity even further. They do not serve to bring people together as should be the desire for the sake of the human race and the future of our planet.

John Lennon, the former Beatle, once sang the words, “Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too/Imagine all the people/Living life in peace”(Imagine). I often wonder why we humans cannot strive for this as vehemently as we strive to create more weapons to destroy one another or even more boxes to subdivide ourselves from one another. There is no one thing that causes we humans to do this, of that I am certain, unless the underlying reason is fear.

That may be it. Perhaps we divide and subdivide ourselves so much because we fear having to learn about our fellow human being. As the American poet Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors”(Mending Wall). Yet, if that poem is read, even it goes against the idea of borders and boxes as it states, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out/And to whom I was like to give offence” (Mending Wall). A wall would make sense if there was a good reason for it. If there were, as the poet says, cows to roam and the wall used to keep them in check. Perhaps we humans have no reason for the wall other than to repeat as the neighbor does by simply saying, “Good fences make good neighbors”(Mending Wall). We do not know why it’s there, but that it’s always been there, so it must stay there.

Some argue that the borders we have are there due to the result of military action and the truce documents saying they are located between certain coordinates. If they are there only to mark the areas where one side may venture due to a disagreement, are they not like when two children or roommates share a room and one lays down a line saying that everything on one side is theirs alone and the items on another belong only to the other person? Sounds rather childish if this is the case, doesn’t it? Rather than talk out our disagreements, we fight until we feel there are enough people dead (or, heaven forbid, the other side is annihilated), then create an invisible line to ward off the other side (again, provided anyone is left on the other side). Seems like a great waste of human potential and the opportunity to work together to create harmony rather than discord.

Others argue that these borders and boxes are needed to delineate easier governance of the people. I guess I would argue that perhaps sharing governance of ourselves might be best. Why not set basic laws for all humankind to ensure all are treated with respect and dignity? Basic ones like not killing one another, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, reaching out to help our fellow human being when they need it, and respecting each person’s faith journey or even right not to have a set faith, but just choosing to live and let live. Yes, it makes it easier to set laws specific for a given country or state or region because no one has to talk with anyone else other than those who are set to govern that particular place. The United States does not ask Canada for permission to create a law and the opposite does not happen either. Would it not be worth it to have people talk to come up with what is good for all humanity rather than set up borders and boxes?

I can almost hear the calls of people shouting that I’m a Communist and should be watched or put away. I can even hear those questioning my sanity. Yet, maybe this was what the Christian scriptures refer to when the comment is made by Paul when he stated, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”(Galatians 3:28 NRSV). If one would prefer to hear what is attributed to Jesus, then look at the passage from John 14:2,
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”(John 14:2 RSV). Given I am quoting Christian scripture; it places me not so much with Communism, but certainly within Socialism.

Who cares? It is just a box. A human formed opinion to label me in some convenient way. Does it matter? Not really, except for the person placing me in that box and others who may agree with him or her.

Divisions and subdivisions happening at a rapid rate,
Always building walls and gates.
Keeping someone out or in.
To me, it seems like such a sin
Against humanity.

Back to my opening images, though. For the thousands of children who survived the perilous journey to the United States in hope that the words on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I life my lamp beside the golden door”(New Colossus by Emma Lazarus), are still true; my question remains is it true? It was for our forebears, but will it be for you?

For those fleeing tyranny in hope of safety, will they find it?

For those who are caught between the rockets of Israel and Hamas, will they ever know peace?

When will we, as human beings inhabiting the 3rd planet from the Sun, spend more time trying to erasing borders and knocking down boxes instead of trying to create or build more?

One can only hope it is soon.

References:
Galatians 3:28– http://biblia.com/books/nrsv/Ga3.28
Gospel According to St. John 14:2– http://www.biblestudytools.com/john/14-2-compare.html
“Imagine”– http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html
“Mending Wall”– http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/frost-mending.html
“New Colossus”– http://www.libertystatepark.com/emma.htm

The Tea Party Platform and What’s Wrong with it

Tea Party Platform (And what’s wrong with it)

This is the Tea Party Platform per their website of http://www.teaparty.org

  1. Illegal aliens are here illegally
  2. Pro-domestic employment is indispensible
  3. A strong military is essential
  4. Special interests must be eliminated
  5. Gun ownership is sacred
  6. Government must be downsized
  7. The national budget must be balanced
  8. Deficit spending must end
  9. Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal
  10. Reducing personal income taxes is a must
  11. Reducing business income taxes is mandatory
  12. Political offices must be available to average citizens
  13. Intrusive government must be stopped
  14. English as our core language is required
  15. Traditional family values are encouraged (teaparty.org)

 

 

The above list of the essential and non-negotiable beliefs of the Tea Party was taken from their website, teaparty.org. It is an interesting list of what, on the surface, are the ideals of this movement that has taken America hostage at times in order to force them upon us. In some cases, they read like the platform of the Libertarian Party. At others, they read like the ranting of people who misunderstand the history of our country or even of how the US government works. I will attempt to point out how these ideals are either not being implemented or even truly wanted, cannot be implemented, or are just plain silly in the first place.

First, “Illegal aliens are here illegally.” A redundant sentence begins the list. That in itself should lead a person to see that this movement wishes to prey on the uneducated. My first thought was simply, no shit. If someone comes into a country illegally, obviously, he or she is an illegal alien. There is no debate in the verity of that sentence. However, another comment should be, so what? Our nation was founded by immigrants, from the Native Americans/First Nations who immigrated over the Bering land bridge to the waves of immigration from Europe and other parts of the world to the New World in hope of wealth and prosperity. I seriously doubt that the Native Americans/First Nations wanted the first White settlers to come here, especially after those settlers started to drive them out of their native lands and certainly, after they drove them onto reservations in the hope of slowly eradicating their entire race.

It also does not establish what they want to do about it. If people are coming here illegally, then why not establish a way for those who are otherwise law abiding people to become citizens legally? Many illegal immigrants come here to work because they cannot find jobs in their own country. Many illegal immigrants take jobs that most Americans do not want or are too lazy to perform, such as in the agricultural industry. Rather than simply exercise prejudice against them, why not give them an opportunity to become citizens or at least obtain legal status in the US? If they become citizens or legalized aliens, then they can contribute to our taxes. They can also have rights as workers and citizens. They can vote. They may be able to actually live their life without worrying about deportation and causing misery to their families, including those children they have who were born in the US and are, therefore, citizens of the US. We are a nation of immigrants, so why not welcome others as well?

Next, “Pro-domestic employment is indispensible.” No one can deny this is a great idea. We as a country should create jobs for those within the United States. However, wait, corporations are moving jobs from the United States in search of cheap labour in order to keep prices down or, more sinisterly, allow the corporate executives to pocket more income than most of their employees will see in a lifetime. If the Tea Party is serious about this one, then why have not they advocated taxing companies who move their work outside of the United States more in order to force them to move the jobs back to the United States? Oh, wait. That would be in violation of their 11th principle of “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” It cannot be both ways. If US corporations are moving their jobs to foreign countries without penalty as they search for cheaper labour, then what incentive do they have in keeping jobs here? The Tea Party says nothing about how to do this. In fact, most of the wealthy supporters of the Tea Party have no problem with US corporations moving jobs overseas because there are less stringent labour laws, pretty much no unions, and they can pay the workers there subsistent wages all the while as their corporate executives make scads of money that they can then hide in foreign bank accounts so they can avoid paying taxes that run our economy.

Their third point is “A strong military is essential.” To a point, this is true. Having a strong military works as a deterrent to keep those wanting to harm our country at bay. Yet, it did not stop the attacks of September 11, 2001. It does not stop domestic terrorism such as the incident involving Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. A strong military cannot work without cooperation between nations. In some cases, it acts as an enticement to encourage those who wish to harm us to see if they can accomplish their evil plans in spite of our massive military complex. We need a strong and nimble military as our enemies are not the armies of countries, but smaller guerilla units who do not fight using conventional warfare tactics. Good intelligence between nations working together to keep an eye on the threats that destabilize countries is what is needed in conjunction with having a strong military. This point is not so much false as it is only part of what is needed.

Point number four, “Special interests must be eliminated.” This actually is the first thing mentioned that makes sense. Yet, it only makes sense if it is implemented across the board and not just for those who agree with other points of the Tea Party message. However, in reality, those wealthy Tea Party sponsors, especially the Koch Brothers, are a special interest. Have not seen Tea Party loyalists wanting their influence eliminated. Another problem with this is a little ruling from the United States Supreme Court that is supported by many in the Tea Party called Citizens United. This ruling allowed that corporations can be considered individuals and are therefore treated as individuals when it comes to financing campaigns of politicians. If the Tea Party is serious about this non-negotiable tenet of their platform, then they need to come out against Citizens United and jump on the bandwagon to repeal the ruling. They should also be heavily in favor of limiting campaign contributions to politicians by anyone as the more donated by any one person could be considered trying to establish a special interest group to influence that politician unduly against the needs of the community as a whole for which he or she is elected to represent.

The fifth point, “Gun ownership is sacred,” is troubling for a number of reasons. The use of the word sacred makes it seem as if guns are to be worshipped as a deity. After all, the word sacred as defined by Merriam-Webster means the following:

1 a: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity <a tree sacred to the gods>

b: devoted exclusively to one service or use (as of a person or purpose) <a fund sacred to charity>

2 a: worthy of religious veneration: Holy

b: entitled to reverence and respect

3: of or relating to religion: not secular or profane <sacred music>

4: archaic: accursed

5 a: unassailable, inviolable

b: highly valued and important <a sacred responsibility>

Origin of SACRED

Middle English, from past participle of sacren to consecrate, from Anglo-French sacrer, from Latin sacrere, from sacr-, sacer sacred; akin to Latin sancire to make sacred, Hittite šaklāi– rite

By definition, then, the Tea Party believes that guns are to be worshipped. Somehow, I do not think our Founders wished for firearms to be considered a deity when they created the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Viewing firearms as a deity is akin to prehistoric people seeing fire as a deity. Look, I have the power to kill you without touching you with metal projectiles from my fire stick. It is G-d. Seriously?!?

Guns are not sacred; they are a right given loosely to private owners in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. As such, they should be regulated in order to keep the citizenry as whole protected from those individuals in society who would use them to terrorize or harm others. As this is not writing about the gun control, I will not delve further into the subject. However, guns are not sacred objects and this point is, to use a phrase from my students, messed up.

Sixth point of the Tea Party is that “Government must be downsized.” Okay. This is not such a bad idea overall. After all, most people are frustrated by the amount of paperwork needed for many things having to do with our government. Yet, when looking at how our government is set up as a representational government, trying to decrease the size of the government, yet still be able to function as a representational government is daunting. They fail to mention in what way, aside from Libertarian austerity, that they wish to downsize the government. This point needs more specifics. If it means deregulation and allowing industry to police themselves, then that is not such a good idea as it would be like investing in weasels to protect a henhouse. Regulations are needed to protect the interests of the citizenry of our country from pollution and other things that can harm us if left unfettered and to the corporation’s financial goals. See the issues with our food industry for one set of examples. See the factory pollution issues in West Virginia and other places as another.

The seventh point of the Tea Party platform is “The national budget must be balanced.” This is a great idea in theory. After all, it works in the household when balancing our checkbooks. Never spend more than you have and save a little for when it is needed. However, you cannot run a country like that. There are issues that arise, natural disasters, man-made disasters and the like that happen and money is needed to fix them. Add to this that we have neglected our infrastructure to the point where our roads and bridges are unsafe and in need of repair. In addition, this cannot occur if their additional ideals of “Reducing personal income taxes are a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory” and “A strong military is essential” are to be realistically met. Unless, of course, they are willing to tell the military, for instance, that they can only have a certain dollar amount of ammunition to use in a year and once it’s gone, then no more shooting. Or maybe simply telling the victims of natural disasters to simply deal with it and hope for the best in order to survive and rebuild. Our economy is much larger than a personal bank account. There are too many things to pay for even without a large government. Besides, are they also willing to force a reduction in pay on their elected officials who are getting a salary to do a job, plus funds from speaking engagements? Perhaps this is possible in the unlikely event that a law can be passed that requires elected officials to refund the government any income they receive that is over their legal salary for the office they hold. In addition, they can no longer receive free mail, office space, and they have to buy their insurance like everyone else rather than have a set plan paid for my taxpayers.

Next Tea Party platform point is that “Deficit spending must end.” Great idea, but see the previous point. This would work great if we were still on the gold standard. In theory, it makes sense, but in reality, it does not work. Our government throughout history often runs through deficit spending. The last time there was not a huge deficit was under the Clinton Administration. However, along came two wars that had no financial backing to them and what surplus there was is long gone. You cannot erase a deficit without tax dollars as that is where the government gets its income. Again, this point goes against the other two points of the Tea Party platform of “Reducing personal income taxes is a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” Tax revenues are needed to reduce the deficit and pay for even the most minor government spending.

While we are there, might as well touch on these two tenets of the Tea Party. Their 10th and 11th ideals are “Reducing personal income taxes is a must” and “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.” None of us like to pay taxes. We would all like to keep as much of our income as possible. After all, we work hard for our money. However, in order for us to live with good roads, schools, fire and police protection, a strong military, and even the basics that our government provides, then we have to pay taxes.

Unless, of course, the Tea Party wishes to have these things paid for by each person paying a toll or a bill sent to them for their share of these things as they use them. Yet, if for instance, in order to maintain the roads, people using those roads needed to pay tolls as they drive those roads, then government would need to expand in order to hire people to collect those tolls as well as collect the tolls from those who try to get away with not paying those tolls. There goes the shrinking of government they so much want. In addition, what if people cannot afford to pay the tolls? Are they then banned from using the roads? If so, how will they work? Oh, they can walk. However, in order to maintain the sidewalks, there is a toll because otherwise there is no revenue to pay for the maintenance of the sidewalks. The list can continue ad nauseum. While my examples seem absurd, this is the ultimate in the Randian/Libertarian/Tea Party world. Pay as you go and if you cannot pay, then tough shit on you.

Another fault in this is if you notice the wording of these two tenets. The words ‘must’ and ‘mandatory’ are what I’m focusing on here. Personal income taxation being reduced is only a must for the Tea Party, but when it comes to business income taxes, it’s mandatory. This is a tenet of the failed trickle down politics from the Reagan era. Businesses do not create jobs when they pay less in taxes. Instead, many of them simply keep the money and they keep it at the top of their hierarchy rather than the worker. Better than this would be to keep a more strict accounting of how tax dollars are spent and make taxation such that those who make more pay more as they are able to pay more and usually have more tax breaks than those who earn less. This would lead, in turn, to personal income taxes decreasing since the wealthy and corporations would pay more and the worker could keep more to use to invest as well as spend which would boost the economy.

The next Tea Party tenet is that “Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.” First, the irony of this is huge. After all, I doubt the Tea Party backers would agree that the plans their poster child president Bush laid to bailout the banks and his attempt to stimulate the economy through giving everyone money in hopes they would go out and spend it was wrong. If so, why were they not yelling a screaming for him not to do this? Why didn’t the Koch Brothers tell their paid for politicians to block these efforts? Heck, why didn’t the economists and even the average person on the street demand where our government would get the money to do these things? The reasons are probably more numerous than can be imagined, but it all comes down to a human desire to get something for nothing. There is no way in heck that anyone with an ounce of sense could not realize that simply giving money away, especially money that was not there, is a good idea. Rather than bailing out the banks for their schemes and risky investing practices, then those responsible should have been held accountable and gone to jail for their actions. As far as the bailout of the Big 3 automobile manufacturers goes, it was needed in order to protect our nation’s economy. Yes, there were things done by the UAW and the management of the Big 3 that are reprehensible, such as UAW member’s children getting free college and such as benefits for their working. However, if the Big 3 were allowed to go bankrupt, then not only would the automakers and those working for them have suffered, but also that little subcontractor who makes widgets for the automakers, and so on. It would have had potentially damaging effects on people throughout the country.

What should have occurred is that, in order to receive a bailout, then those receiving it should have been held to stricter rules to not only repay the bailout, but also to make certain the situation causing it does not occur again.

I love the next one, that “Political offices must be available to average citizens.” I agree with this, yet realistically this is already the case. Anyone can run for political office if he or she wants as long as he or she meet the requirements for the office for which they seek. However, the cost to file a petition to run for office is sometimes beyond the financial means for them to do so. Add to this the cost of running a campaign. Yes, a recent person won against a more heavily funded candidate for office. However, how much did he spend? Estimates are that he spent about $200,000 to defeat the incumbent against the $5 million spent by the incumbent. However, this amount of money is not something the average citizen can afford to raise. Many claim rightfully that the reason for the defeat came from the money spent by special interests to make certain their candidate would win. (There’s that pesky special interest thing that the Tea Party claims should not occur, but yet uses to campaign with again).

If the average citizen wants to have a chance at being elected, then there needs to be real campaign reform. There should be a set amount that every candidate can spend on a campaign that comes from a non-partisan fund used for finance campaigns. In addition, no outside special interest should be allowed to run advertisements that support or attack any candidate for office. Free time should be made for all candidates by the media regardless of medium used. That would even the playing field to the candidate and their stance on issues rather than how much they can afford to spend or how much those who want them elected can spend to get them elected. Any Tea Party backers for this idea? I doubt it.

Their next tenet is not clearly defined. They say “Intrusive government must be stopped.” Yet, that tenet goes against their final two of “English as our core language is required” and “Traditional family values are encouraged” as well as that many Tea Party members are also anti-LGBTQ and other issues that are rather personal in nature. For instance, a recent Pew survey found “that 64 percent of Tea Parties want abortion to be illegal” and “69 percent of Republicans who identified with the Tea Party opposed same-sex marriage” (http://www.salon.com/2013/10/21/10_reasons_the_tea_party_is_wildly_unpopular_partner/). If they want the government to be less intrusive, then why would they want to back issues that are very intrusive into the lives of people? Less intrusive would be to allow people to live their lives, especially their personal lives, without government interference unless the things being done are detrimental to society as a whole. Would it not?

The next to last tenet is that “English as our core language is required.” While it is convenient that everyone in America should know English, why should it be required? And, if it is going to be required, then how should it be implemented that people be encouraged and even instructed in the English language so that they can comply? As far as that goes, requiring a language would necessitate that those already here be able to use it properly as well.  As a former English teacher, I can attest that even native speakers of English fail to do this and, thus would be in violation of this tenet should it become law. Additionally, what form of English should be required? Colloquial American English? Academic American English? Slang American English? Who determines the form of American English to be used? Will it be a set standard where certain regional uses of language be nullified in favor of a set standard of American English?

Do they not realize that even the use of English as the language of America was by chance? It was not the first choice of the Founders as many wanted to sever ties with England entirely. Among the languages first considered for America were the following: Hebrew, French, and Greek. We have become a nation where people came here speaking many languages and survived with this occurring. We are also one of the few nations of the world where the learning of other languages is not an academic requirement. American English is a language that has borrowed from many of these languages. In fact, it can be argued that American English would not exist without contributions made to our distinct form of English by other languages. I think that rather than require English, we need to encourage people to learn it and even find ways to help non-native speakers (and native speakers) learn it well.

The final tenet of the Tea Party is that “Traditional family values are encouraged.” The problem with this is that every family has differing values. Some value community service. Others value wealth. Some value athleticism, while others value academics. Who gets to define what “traditional family values” are? This phrase is vague at best and can even be sinister at its worse if a set of values is forced upon people. They should just be more honest about it as they wish to promote White, Anglo-Saxon, and Conservative Christian values. However, those are not the “traditional family values” of everyone who lives in the United States and they should not be since our country is a melting pot of many beliefs, values, and cultures that serve to enrich our nation.

The tenets of the Tea Party movement are a set of ideals put forth by those who are afraid of change and/or are simply undereducated. They are reminiscent of some of the ideals of the Confederates leading up to and during the Civil War. They are impossible to realistically implement and some are even just plain scary to think of being implemented in a rational and civilized society. Yes, my essay had only but touched the overall reasons why these ideas are either not being implemented or even truly wanted, cannot be implemented, or are just plain silly in the first place.

 

U.S.A.–Bought and Paid for

Over 300,000 people are unable to drink or bathe in water contaminated by a chemical spill by a company whose spokesperson does not want to answer for their crime against nature and the people.

Politicians, many of whom are funded by wealthy corporations, make decisions that negatively affect thousands of people who are poor, under-educated, unemployed, and minorities or considered outside the norm, yet are re-elected by pandering to emotional causes such as abortion or gun control.

Massive political lobbies, wealthy individuals, and wealthy corporations control politics at all levels so that they continue to get wealthier while most Americans get poorer and become trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.

The United States of America has changed from the Land of Opportunity to the Land of Greed and Plutocracy. We are no longer governed under the principles of being governed of the people, by the people, and for the people. We have allowed our country to be governed by the wealthy for the wealthy and to hell with anyone who is not lucky enough to make it to the top 1% in wealth. Face it, America is bought and paid for by these wealthy individuals, corporations, and special interest groups. We have allowed this to happen through being brainwashed into thinking that big business cares about the well-being of our nation.

We have been duped into believing that paying the lowest price is always the best way to go. It is the best way to go, for the corporate executives that know those cheap products we consume will need to be replaced shortly because they are of cheap quality. These corporations have moved the jobs out of our country to save money rather than keep them here and help our economy by creating jobs. What they are creating is more wealth for the executives since they continue to lay-off workers and/or move more jobs overseas. They fight against unions claiming they cost jobs because they exist to make working conditions better for the worker rather than the executive. They fight against affordable healthcare because they may lose some profit when they care for their employees needs by spending a little extra on insurance for them. They want fewer regulations claiming it will save or create jobs, yet refuse to admit that fewer regulations means causing environmental and human disasters that will kill people, some in time and others more immediately.

We shop at stores that are filled with junk at affordable prices that we do not need because they have undercut the local shops and sent them out of business. We are made to believe that these store care since they donate a pittance to the local schools or churches. However, we fail to see how much their executives make on the backs of their workers through low wages, no benefits, and fewer hours.

We dine on fast food because we are indoctrinated into it as children as the chain restaurants show cartoon characters who lead us into the world of low quality, calorie and chemically laden foods that are killing us physically, but our wallets still have some cash and we needed to do nothing to get the food but pull through the drive through or order it over our phones and computers. We refuse to see that the cheap food comes at a cost to our health and the ability of people to make a decent living, as the wages in these jobs are low as well as the skills needed to perform them.

We have sat by idly as we have elected people who care more about their next campaign than the people who elect them, except when it comes around to election time. Then, they drag out sound bites paid for by wealthy donors to scare us into believing our rights will be infringed if we elect those “liberals”. Ironically, it is those politicians who are sucking the lifeblood out of our country and our democracy as they pander to the chemical companies who now are in the business of selling genetically enhanced seeds to our farmers and to the oil companies who find new ways of polluting our natural resources rather than clean ways to provide energy that will save both lives and money.

It is time for people who truly care about America to stand up and say enough is enough!

It is time for real Americans to perform an election-driven revolution and unseat the greedy from office and put people into elected positions who will perform the will of the people with openness and honesty. People who will create laws that benefit all rather than the few. Politicians who will raise taxes on those who can afford to pay more and lessen the tax burden on those who cannot. Politicians who are statesmen rather than puppets. Politicians who will do more than promise a better America.

It is time for real Americans to stop patronizing the big box stores and shop locally at stores owned and ran by their neighbors instead of the distant corporations.

It is time for real Americans to realize that value means more than price. Paying a little more for a quality product is worth it in the long run. Putting fellow Americans to work is better than allowing corporations to move their business overseas.

It is time for real Americans to stand up, realize, and demand healthcare for all so that more people can work and contribute to the economy rather than suffer from illnesses and have to work simply to pay their medical bills.

It is time for real Americans to demand regulations on corporations that will protect the welfare of the people and the environment. We only have one earth and

It is time for real Americans to demand that our schools teach usable knowledge rather than teach so that students can pass a test. Bring back vocational courses so that those who want to work in a trade have the ability to learn that trade. With this comes the creation of jobs here for these students after they graduate rather than allowing corporations to move those jobs elsewhere.

An open letter to the GOP elected about the budget and deficit

I have some excellent ideas that I am certain that neither you nor your fellow Republican/Tea Party cronies ever thought to enact that are certain to decrease the deficit, balance the budget and ensure prosperity once again in our great country. While it is my sincere hope that you will consider them, I seriously doubt it. However, in the sense of being fair and a citizen entitled to give my elected officials input, I present them now for your consideration.

First, require all corporations to pay their rightful share in taxes. Far too many have been granted tax abatements in the hope that they will create jobs. What the American public should know is that rather than create good paying jobs for Americans, many have taken these tax exemptions and have used them to further pad the wallets of corporate CEOs and other top level executives. The American public has been forced by your cronies to suffer a great deal due to the austerity measures your party has advocated. It is time the CEOs and top level executives also be forced to abide by these same austerity measures. If you and your fellow GOP representatives would find it possible to make them pay (it is possible, but not likely from you and the majority of the US House), I am certain it will help to lower the deficit a great deal.

Second, many of these corporations have moved jobs overseas putting many Americans out of work. I believe that these corporations should be penalized for doing this disservice to the American public. A heavy fine should be levied on these corporations until they move these jobs back to the US and employ American workers at a fair and decent living wage. That would not only help with the budget and with the deficit, but also with the vast numbers of Americans who are unemployed.

Third, the wealthy should be taxed a rate at least the same as they were under that bastion of GOP values, Ronald Reagan. The wealthy were taxed at a higher rate then than they are now. Our country was prosperous then, unlike now. If you cannot see the correlation of these two things, then you are in desperate need of a reality check. The country cannot continue to ride on the back of the working and middle classes. The wealthy must pay in proportion to their income and investments. Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in America, has even championed paying more in taxes. He is a successful businessman, listen to him rather than the Koch brothers all the time.

Fourth, and this one will hurt politicians the most, only get paid for when you actually work. Many of you are rarely present in Congress. If the American worker would not show up for work, they would not get paid. You should not either. Sounds fair and even balanced, more so than your favorite media outlet.

Fifth, another hurt for you and your fellow politicians, deduct from your pay any fees you receive for speaking engagements or even donate those fees back to the US Treasury for payment to our deficit. Many politicians, both parties mind you, receive speaking fees for going out and talking to civic groups or other organizations. Why should you be doing this on the taxpayer’s dime? You make a really good salary and benefits package as an elected official, surely you could do without some of it given you are receiving over that amount when you are paid to speak outside of your elected job.

If you and your fellow GOP/Tea Party cronies are truly patriotic Americans who are concerned about our country, then you should enact these changes rather than worry about people like the Koch brothers and Norquist not being happy with you or their not being able to buy a new yacht each year. The working and middle classes, which are quickly becoming the working poor and the poor, are fed up with your party’s agenda of trying to repeal universal health care through fear, intimidation, and lies while the corporations and wealthy continue to become more wealthy on our backs. Your party is using the ACA as a smoke screen for your true agenda which is to create only two classes of people in the US–the very wealthy and those who either die or work themselves for the benefit of the wealthy. Enough is enough. Start listening to the American public, ALL of the American public and not just your wealthy donors. Also, stop pandering for votes by bringing religion or morals into your rhetoric. Our US government was not founded to favor any one religion or religious belief or specific set of morals. Our founders, at least those on the Mayflower, were tired of a forced set of religious beliefs, that is why they were persecuted and had to come to this land.

I realize this was a bit long-winded. Some may even think I sound like a politician. Perhaps I should attempt to become one and affect change once I am elected. That thought is for another time and place. Thank you for listening.

What’s Happening to Our Country?

Events unfolding and having already unfolded in the United States cause me, and I am certain others as well, great concern as to where our country is heading. The horrible racist rants against the recently crowned Miss America. The racist rants against anyone who is not white and sings our national anthem. The recent shootings at the Navy base in Washington, D.C. The proliferation of weapons, particularly guns and automatic rifle.  The lack of funding for social programs such as aid for children and education. The attack on education and classroom curriculum, especially in the area of science. The actions of one political party to hold our country hostage through blocking all efforts to create a budget as well as not allowing for universal healthcare. The attacks on women concerning healthcare that is particular for them. All of these things and more are causes of concern about where our country is heading.

What happened to the United States as a melting pot for all of us to become one? E Pluribus Unum.

Excuses are being made that the rampant racism is due to whites being tired of having to take a backseat to other races. I believe it is due more to some whites, particularly the narrow-minded and socially isolated ones, finally realizing that they are no longer comprise the majority of the people in the United States. This scares some of them, as they have never needed to learn about other cultures. One of the pillars of prejudice is ignorance. It is easier for some people to hate rather than branch out of their comfort zones to embrace cultures different from theirs. Sometimes they go as far to accuse people who do not look like them as being foreigners and even terrorists, even though those people were born in the United States and have been nothing but good citizens.

A case in point is the recently crowned Miss America, Miss Nina Davuluri of New York. She is an American whose parents immigrated, prior to her birth, from India. She is an intelligent and beautiful woman. However, at the announcement of her as Miss America, there were hundreds of racist comments calling her things like “Miss Terrorist”, “Miss 7-11”, “a foreigner”, “Miss Arab”, etcetera. These comments come because she is not Caucasian and she now represents our country for the year to come at pageants, especially the Miss Universe pageant.

Since when did a person’s skin color dictate their nationality? The last I heard anything like this was the idea of the master Aryan race promoted by the Nazis. Is our country coming to this? We have been bombarded for the past five plus years by the political “birthers” who accuse our president of not being an American due to his skin color and that his biological father was from Kenya, yet our president was born in the State of Hawaii and that has been proved countless times including through the release of his birth certificate by that state. Yet, there are those who perpetuate his not being a “real” American.

A funny term, “real” American. What is a real American? For all sake of argument, the closest anyone comes to being a real American are the Native Americans who we have relegated to being second-class citizens through broken treaties and forced moves to reservations. Americans are a mixed bag of different races, cultures, religions, lifestyles, and such. We come from all parts of the world. Our ancestors came from all parts of the world. Over time, the cultures and races started to mix. Therefore, there is no litmus test for who is and who is not a true American, except for being those who were born here and those who immigrated to the United States and have worked for citizenship.

We should be past actions that raise up the ghosts of the era prior to the Civil Rights actions of the 1960s and 1970s. If a closer look is taken, though, it can be seen we have a long way yet to go before we get to where we should be when it comes to how we relate to one another.

The terrible shootings that occurred at the Navy base in Washington, D.C. serve as another cause for concern on two levels. The first is the proliferation of handguns and automatic weapons backed by the politically powerful National Rifle Association and their paid politicians who attempt to wrap themselves up in the second amendment of the Constitution as their reason for that proliferation. The second amendment calls for a “well-regulated militia”, not a well-armed, untrained bunch of gun nuts who own any type of firearm ever made. There is no need for private citizens to own automatic or semi-automatic weapons. If the argument is that they hunt with them, then those people seriously need to consider hunting lessons. If you cannot hit a deer with a regular shotgun, then you are a really bad shot and a hazard to society.

Along these same lines, what is wrong with having background checks and registration of individuals who purchase firearms? The argument backed by the NRA claims the registration of firearms is a way for the government to know who has what type and how many weapons and will use that to confiscate those weapons from law-abiding gun owners. That argument is egregious at best.

First, the United States Armed Forces are better armed than any gun owner can be. If the government wanted to take your guns, then they could do so quite easily regardless of whether you have registered them or not.

Second, if the gun owners are law abiding, then they should want someone aside from themselves to have a record of what they own in the event of someone stealing their weapon and using it to commit a crime. If the law-abiding gun owner notices his or her weapon is missing, they can report it to protect themselves from being accused of the crime. If they sell it, then they can switch registration to the buyer much like is done when a car is purchased and the registration is switched. It is a way to protect the gun owner rather than a potential way to punish them.

Background checks for all weapons purchases are to protect people, not to harm them. The argument is made that it is an invasion of privacy to check the criminal and mental health background of a person who purchases a weapon. How much sense does that really make? If a person is a criminal or is mentally unstable, then why should they be able legally to purchase any weapon? It would make it a great deal safer if certain people never owned firearms. Might they still be able to obtain them illegally? Yes, but those weapons either likely would be stolen (and have been reported as such through registration) or brought into our country illegally.

The second point the shooting brings up is the lack of care for veterans who suffered emotional and psychological damage while serving our country in the Armed Services. We are willing to send troops to fight, but not to fund the care they need when they return, unless their wounds are physical in nature. That is ludicrous! I covered this a little while ago in another blog post, but it bears mentioning once again. We need to provide psychological assistance for our veterans as well as physical assistance for them. There are thousands of people who are returning to our country who witnessed atrocities that have left them scarred for life psychologically and they need care for those scars. Without that care, some may become a danger to society through no fault of their own. It is shameful that we can allocate money to send our young men and women to war, but we cannot afford to assist them when they come home shattered in more than a physical manner.

Not funding social programs harms our country deeply and creates future problems that arise, but are ignored in the present. Recently, legislation that traditionally allocates funds for food stamps held cuts to that program, including to the SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Food Program) program. This affects primarily those who have children, are elderly, or are disabled. The number of Americans affected by this could be well over 300,000. It is simply wrong to deny the ability to eat to the old, the infirm, and to children. It is a heartless and callous act taken by those who have against those who have nothing. The excuse is that the program needs fixed, as there are people who take advantage of the system. There are corporations and wealthy who take advantage of the tax system, but the politicians who receive money from them do not seem to care about that very much and would rather attack the elderly, the disabled, and children.

Along this same vein is funding education. While most education funding comes from individual states, the federal government supplements that funding though tax dollars as well. However, the funding to education has decreased significantly over the years at both the federal and state levels. There are schools that have outdated textbooks and buildings that are falling apart. The solution that some politicians are advocating is to privatize our schools and run them like businesses. That is a recipe for disaster. Unlike public education that is free and obtainable for all children, private schools are run like a business. Are there protections for students who do not test well or for whom the standard format of school does not work? Doubtful. The United States needs a strong and free public educational system that treats all students equally and affords everyone with a chance to succeed rather than a select few. As citizens, whether we have children in the schools or not, we need to demand that our schools be funded and should be happy to pay our taxes to make it so.

Within education, there is an attack against sound scientific education being waged by those who believe that our schools should teach a curriculum that is based upon the Christian bible, especially when it comes to science. The advocates for this claim that Creationism needs to be taught alongside Evolution. Creationism has no part in a public school as it is based on faith rather than on the logic of science. If parents want their children to learn the story of creation as told by the Christian scriptures, then they should attend a church and have their children enrolled in a Sunday school class to learn it, not in a public classroom where there are children from different backgrounds and religious preferences. That simply falls under the separation of Church and State guaranteed by the Constitution.

Our country has been held hostage for the past few years by a faction within one of the political parties that wants to cut government funding to its bare bones. They want extremely low taxes and fewer regulations in order to save taxpayer money. Sounds great on the surface, but it is not practical in reality. No one wants to pay more taxes. No one likes to pay taxes. Neither of these are arguable statements. However, if we want safe roads and bridges, good schools, to be protected from enemies without and within, fire and police protection, and a myriad of other items provided by our government, then we need to pay taxes for them. Basic high school government and economics dictates this as needed by a government like ours.

The reality of this faction is that they want to create a utopia for the wealthy on the backs of everyone else. They want the wealthiest to pay less and make the argument that this will create jobs. It has not yet, nor will it ever do so. By having the wealthy pay less, all that is being done is making them wealthier while those who are not wealthy get poorer as a result. Yes, I know this is a rather simplistic view and economics are far more complicated, but this is the agenda in a nutshell that is being shoved down the throats of the American public by this radical political faction. We need to stand up to this faction and the elected officials who are being paid off by the select few and demand that the wealthy pay more in taxes. We need to demand a budget be passed that is fair to all while also reducing the deficit in manageable increments that do not cause harm to the most vulnerable in our society.

Another one of the major reasons why this particular political faction wants to cripple the government has to do with the Affordable Care Act sometimes called Obamacare. They make comments that it will cause insurance premiums to cost more and that people will be denied basic medical services. Most of the information I have read, even from independent sources, state that it will actually save money and more people will have access to care. While it may be true that certain procedures may be delayed in being performed, all should have equal access and be cared for even better than is now available. Those against universal healthcare primarily are so due to it leveling the playing field for all Americans and that those who earn more will fund the care of those who earn less. I find it ironic that many of those against universal healthcare claim to be Christians as well since Jesus healed all people and taught that humans were to love and care for one another. For them to be against universal healthcare that would benefit so many people seems rather hypocritical.

Of particular concern in the realm of healthcare is how much a certain faction is bent on limiting the access women have to healthcare. There are Planned Parenthood and other clinics that are geared toward women’s health issues that are closing down for lack of funding all due to this particular factions attitude toward abortion and access to birth control. Seems odd that this faction also wants a smaller government, but they want to regulate a very personal part of a woman’s life. It should not be surprising that the majority of these people calling for limits in birth control and contraceptives are males, as most males want the ability to procreate until the cows come home. If they had to endure the pregnancy and delivery, then they might think otherwise. (In addition, I say this as a male, by the way). If they truly care about women, not to mention potential children, then they should wholeheartedly back these clinics and access to care for women in particular. As far as the issue of abortion, it is the woman’s decision. The government has no right to regulate moral choices for people’s personal lives so long as they do not harm other beings that are able to live outside the womb.

All these things being said, it is a difficult time to be an American who has a conscience and who engages in thought deeper than what is expected by certain news outlets. We need, as a country, to join with one another and reach out across racial, ethnic, gender, and religious barriers and embrace our diversity in a grand fashion to drown out the racist rants of the few. We need, as a country, to demand strong gun laws to include mandatory background checks and possibly even psychological testing before weapons are allowed to be bought and sold. We need, as a country, to adequately fund education and social programs that assist all Americans and not count the cost as a negative, but as a positive as we can rest assured that we are caring for our neighbors and creating a healthier and happier citizenry. We need, as a country, to demand that our elected officials represent us and not special interests. We need, as a county, to demand that our elected officials pass a budget that helps all people and decreases the deficit in a systematic and responsible manner that does no harm to those who are in need of assistance to survive. We need, as a country, to demand that all people be given access to affordable healthcare regardless of their station in life. We need, as a country, to demand that government stop trying to regulate what goes on in a person’s bedroom or with their bodies.

I love my country, but shake my head in disbelief at the actions going on in it. Maybe I should seriously consider running for public office. Hmmm…

On this date…

As I now join in with the sentiment bandwagon on this the 11th of September 2013, I am lost in rather non-flag waving thoughts. Before I get to those, I will recount where I was on this date in 2001.

I was teaching 8th grade English at Denn John Middle School in Kissimmee, Florida. It was my first teaching assignment in Florida and, to be honest, it was a tough school in which to teach when it comes to the baggage the student body had—low socioeconomic level, absentee and abusive parents, etc. The majority of the students were on free or reduced lunch. Some even had children of their own. Rough place to teach. However, I loved my students. Sure, there were the routine class clowns and gang wannabes, but overall, these kids knew that if they wanted out of their current situation they needed to work for it. I digress.

I cannot recall if it was during my planning or when I was finishing lunch as I usually kept in my classroom avoiding the lunchroom gossip and peer gripe sessions. What I do recall well was that when word came out about the events unfolding in NY, PA, and DC/VA, we were advised NOT to speak about the events with our students and to act as if nothing unusual occurred. Stay the course, to put it another way. However, there were a couple of problems with keeping the status quo and obeying that order from administration.

The first problem was that the kids already either heard a little about it or saw teachers weeping and heard them talking in hushed tones about what was happening. Students are not idiots, they can sense when something is not right. Unfortunately, my administrators either feared mass panic or who knows what else if we talked about it.

The second problem was that many of the students at this school had relatives either in New York City in particular and/or were from there themselves. While the majority of the students were Hispanic, from primarily the Caribbean, they either passed through New York on their way back south to Florida or had relatives who had stayed in New York. As such, it did not surprise me when students entered my classroom clamoring with questions and fraught with emotions. Some were eerily silent. There was no way they could focus on class. They knew what happened from either having overheard it or through text messages they received from family.

The maelstrom of panic was already thick in the air; therefore, I did what any self-respecting real educator would do.

We talked about it.

As we talked, announcements came either by the intercom system or through runners to the classrooms stating parents were arriving to pick up their students. As classes changed, we kept talking through it as necessary. Some students asked to come back to my room so they could feel safe and discuss what they were feeling rather than try to focus on classroom work and pretend all was the same it had been when they arrived at school that morning.
Many students expressed fears that our area would be attacked since it was a heavy tourist area and thus a prime target. I assured them as best I could that we were safe and would remain so and that our government would protect us. I heard stories about their lives and their families. Even those not from the areas attacked felt worried as they had loved ones in the Armed Forces and were concerned that they would have to go to war somewhere or that war was being waged in our own country. Again, as we talked through it, I noticed students starting to calm down more and more rather than panic.

The administration gave me a stern verbal reprimand when school was over for the day. The amusing part was that in the days that followed, many students and parents thanked me for listening to them or their students and not discounting their feelings or trying to make them focus on academics when clearly they could not.

That day changed America. It changed the lives of my students. It changed be a bit as well. I defied my administration for the sake of my students. While they considered me less than professional for doing so, I was probably more professional at that point and beyond than I was before when it came to teaching.

I made the choice to allow the students to see me as a human being rather than a cold professional who could not be flexible or caring enough to listen to them, to their fears. Was my behavior somewhat insubordinate? Yes, it was. I defied a direct order from my principal. Do I regret doing it? Hell, no!

Too many teachers do not allow themselves to be themselves around their students. They see the job and the professionalism of that job, but lose track of the humanity that is an overreaching important component of being a teacher. When a teacher lacks empathy and chooses only to focus on the academics, then they lose having a relationship with their students that makes those students want to succeed, even want to please the teacher because they know the teacher is fully invested in them as people first and students next. Teachers need to be humans first, then teachers. It is not being unprofessional unless the teacher abuses the trust that builds with having a good rapport with his or her students.

Now, for the part where I may seem less that patriotic about this day. Xenophobes, please feel free to stop reading at this point.

Okay. Now, for those of you still with me, I will proceed.

This is not a national holiday.

There is no Patriot Day authorized by Congress.

It is a day of Remembrance. Cowards bent on destroying us as a nation attacked our country.

Notice, I did not call their religion or nationality into this discussion. These people were terrorists. Plain and simple. They just so happened to be from the Middle East and just so happened to be followers of Islam. Too many people mention their religion or cultural background first and make it seem like people from their religion or cultural background are all terrorists bent on the destruction of the United States or the West in general. There are even a few wingnuts out there who threaten to burn the Koran or who terrorize people from the Middle East (or who look like they are from the Middle East), especially on this day.

This is completely unacceptable. More than that, it fails to recognize that we have also been the perpetrators of what should be seen as terrorist acts in the past in order to get what we wanted for our country.

What? The United States engaged in terrorism?!? No! Never!

Tell that to the Native Americans who lived here before our forbears arrived on the North American continent. Our government, in order to expand our territories and gain wealth that was on Native American lands, engaged in acts of terrorism against the Native Americans. There are incidents of giving smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans, the infamous Trail of Tears, and the forced assimilation of Native Americans including the taking of Native American children from their parents and placing them in boarding schools to teach away their culture. How about the involuntary sterilizations of Native American women that took place between the 1930s and 1970s? How about the continued suffering of Native Americans on reservations that have deplorable living conditions? These atrocities continue to this day, albeit on a smaller scale than deliberate murder of innocent people.

How can we as a country dare to flex our supposed grand morals at a country such as Syria with regard to its government’s use of chemical weapons to exterminate innocent people while ignoring our own past? How can we, as a supposed Christian nation, have people here who say that only other religions and/or cultures are brutal toward others and ours is not? The answer is simple. Ignorance coupled with an unwavering belief that we are somehow better than everyone else. We are not. We are humans too. Just like I mentioned earlier, we need to look on the world as human beings first, then as Americans or else we are doomed to do the same atrocities yet claim they are justified because it is for our good.

Along with this is that too many fail to realize that, like so many other things that happen to our country or the world, we helped to cause the animosity that brought about the tragedy. When the Russians attempted to defeat the Afghan mujahedeen, we supplied the mujahedeen with weapons and training to defeat them. We gave monetary aid to the Afghan people in exchange for their helping us to keep Communism from spreading. When the Russians left, so did we, to an extent. Even one of the major players in the aid to Afghanistan, Charlie Wilson, warned that we needed to help rebuild the country. Instead, we continued to fund the mujahedeen until they defeated the government that the Soviets left in place. The problem was that the mujahedeen were often worse than the Soviet-backed government that was in place. The mujahedeen that were allied with the more extreme Pashtun from Pakistan soon formed what became known as the Taliban who promised to bring order to Afghanistan. The United States, as the mujahedeen and warlords within Afghanistan continued to battle with one another, decided to stop aid. The Taliban then imposed strict Islamic law and the rest led to Bin Laden to take exile there and set up al-Qaeda.

Through our interference with regional matters and wanting to stop the spread of Communism, we helped to bring about the very enemy that attacked us.

Now, as we stand on the cusp of a possible conflict with Syria, we must ask ourselves if it is worth it. Yes, the international community must find a way to respond to the Syrian government’s slaughter of innocent people. However, before we proceed, we need to look at our internal and external history to prevent even further and possibly more destructive acts of terrorism against us or anyone in the world for that matter.

Finally, on this day that we stop to remember the heinous act that occurred on our soil, we need to step out of our comfort zone and take a look at all the acts of terrorism that occur on a daily basis in the world. Daily, there are innocent people across the world suffering from acts of terrorism-both domestic and foreign-we need to remember them as well. From the child who fears being discovered going to school for she is not allowed to do so under her country’s law, to the children who are forced in marriage across the world or into the world of human trafficking. We need to remember Columbine. We need to remember those killed in Oklahoma City by a domestic terrorist. We need to remember those killed at Fort Hood. We need to remember the people in the theater in Colorado. We need to remember the children at Sandy Hook Elementary. These are terrorist acts as well.

Terrorism, as defined by Merriam-Webster as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”. It further elaborates through the Concise Encyclopedia by stating it is:

Systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. It has been used throughout history by political organizations of both the left and the right, by nationalist and ethnic groups, and by revolutionaries. Although usually thought of as a means of destabilizing or overthrowing existing political institutions, terror also has been employed by governments against their own people to suppress dissent; examples include the reigns of certain Roman emperors, the French Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and Argentina during the “dirty war” of the 1970s.

Rather than just focus on the act of terrorism that occurred to us on this date in 2001; we need to see the other acts of terrorism that occur each day—domestic and foreign—and work to end acts of terrorism and bring about a more peaceful world.