Saturday, December 22, 2012

When is Enough Considered Enough?

Here's something the NRA won't tell you. Since Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 and counting up to last week's massacre in Connecticut, the 44-year running total of murder victims in America whose lives were taken by gun violence is actually greater than the number of American military service members who have given their lives in all the wars undertaken by our country since the beginning of our history in 1776. In this comparison, the American Civil War is counted as a war rather than as domestic gun violence. No enemy nation (or group of nations) on earth can kill American citizens with anything approaching the furosity and frequency of gun violence inflicted by the American population on itself in just the last 44 years. No other nation on earth (including modern Syria and North Korea) kills its citizens the way that we do.

Of all the guns on earth owned and used as personal firearms, more than half are owned by Americans and are kept in the homes of individuals. We have more guns than people in America. And all of this is made possible by the Second Amendment. The problem is this... the Founding Fathers who wrote the Second Amendment never told us how many guns were sufficient. When is enough considered enough?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Creating and Killing The American Dream

The general election which concluded (mercifully) a month ago reminded us once again about the power of propaganda, and the force of myths that get repeated again and again. And chief among the many myths that permeate the American belief system is the myth that the American Dream is the result of our freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the 1930s, The United States was well on its way to becoming a third world nation, plagued by poverty and desperation. The Federal Government stepped in with numerous programs like the WPA and the CCC and many more, and while these programs didn't totally transform the bleak economic situation into an American Dream, they kept the situation from becoming worse than it was. Then came World War II, and jobs were created in abundance.... all paid for with Federal dollars. It's always worth remembering that military spending is the biggest job creation mechanism of them all.

In the post war years, returning GIs were granted college education opportunities under the GI bill. A college education is one of the main keys to the American Dream. The FHA (the F in FHA stands for Federal) made it possible for a man to buy a house with no money down. Home ownership is another key to the American Dream. Both of these programs were completely funded with government money.

In the 1960s, federal spending absolutely mushroomed with dollars flowing to the Pentagon for the Vietnam War, and to NASA for the space program, and to the Highway Department for construction of the Interstate system. Jobs back then were so plentiful that there was a job for anyone who wanted or needed to work. That's the very definition of the American Dream. And that period in time was the high point of the American Dream.

Contrast those four decades with the last four decades of the 1970s up to the present time. Nobody doubts that the American Dream is dead now. The jobs created in the 1950s and 1960s were outsourced by the millions until the number of jobs left in this country became insufficient to meet the needs of those who wanted to work. That's NOT an American Dream. It's an American nightmare. And here's the irony. The outsourcing was made possible by freedom.... the freedom of corporations to operate without government regulation, and the total freedom to pursue profit above everything else. Freedom, at least at the corporate level, became a dark force rather than a shining light.

I think the case can be made that, back when times were good in this country and the American Dream was a reality, much of the financial and economic impetus was fueled by the Federal Government directing tax revenues right back into the population in the form of jobs. There's a word for that. It's called Socialism.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What Happened After Christmas?

As Christmas time fast approaches, we are reminded that the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago was seen as a big deal. A really big deal. The mythology tells of shepherds and visiting foreign dignitaries and heavenly hosts (I don't have a clue what these are) standing by as Jesus came into the world, and even if we dismiss this as fluff and fable, we still have to admit that the notion of a human being springing from the loin of a virgin represents a decidedly atypical obstetrical event. Yes, that first Christmas was a very big deal. One would think this might have prompted some interest in following the subsequent life of the young Jesus.

And every Spring time when we get close to Easter, we celebrate the crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus as something truly monumental. So clearly, people at the start and the end of the life of Jesus recognized his coming and going as a thing of importance. So here's my question: What the hell was Jesus doing in the 30 odd years in between?

Mozart could play the piano when he was two years old, and he wrote his first symphony when he was four. As a result of his demonstrated musical ability, an ability that was truly exceptional, his life was chronicled in great detail by a great number of contemporaries. We know almost everything about Mozart at almost every moment of his life. But Mozart wasn't divine, and never claimed to be anything but a brilliant musician and composer. Mozart never went around claiming to be God. Contrast this with Jesus, a man who was (in my opinion) the biggest narcissist of all time.

As Christmas comes upon us, we need to ask ourselves: If Jesus was so remarkable, then why didn't his contemporaries remark about him for most of his life? In fact, if not for the Apostle, Paul (who never actually met Jesus), it's quite possible that nothing would ever have been set down in writing about his life. How does the son of God go unnoticed and forgotten for 30 years in a world of mere humans?