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Friday, July 23, 2010

Loss of faith: government by defamation

The AP carried  stories a few weeks ago on how the floundering around in the Gulf oil spew has thrown many Americans into a state of doubt. They have lost faith in the nation's resourceful ability to meet challenges with new ideas and prodigious efforts to make things work.  I would have to count myself among them.  I frankly am at a loss at the lack of decisive effort to get on top of that stupid drilling mishap,  something that was inevitable as long as the corporate suck-buddies are in charge of things.  The nation seems to have reconciled itself to the prospect of the Gulf becoming a great sea of toxic waste water.

There is an aspect of the oil spew which has not been emphasized.  Neither government or the oil industry had any kind of provision to deal with the  kind of blow-out that occurred with  Deepwater Horizon.  In fact, the engineering for drilling in such deep water into strata with which science and industry has little experience was largely experimental.  The BP engineers had to invent a solution for capping the well almost from scratch.  It has taken some inventive problem-solving to put a cap on the well, but its ultimate success depends on whether the well casing itself is engineered strongly enough to withstand the immense pressure exerted on it.  

But the oil spew is really just an extension of a malaise that became evident some years back and is part of a shifting of attitudes in the country. That sinking feeling isn't so much a loss of faith in America's ability to tackle problems as it is a growing recognition that a large portion of Americans don't want to tackle problems.  Worse than that, the refusal to address problems is more than dull obstinacy: it is an overt malevolence and exercise of ill will that some Americans bear toward their fellow citizens.  It is the inescapable acknowledgment that  a good portion of America has adopted the rule of malice toward  most with charity for none.

The malaise became evident after Tom Daschle's loss to John Thune.  A loss in a system of contested elections is expected.  It was not Daschle's loss that so dismayed people.  It was the propaganda tactics that won the election.   The dismay was that a majority of South Dakota voters bought into the character assassination by false and contorted accusations against Daschle, which included attacks on his family.  If Daschle had been defeated by a candidate who opposed him on honest differences in policy and substantiated matters of record,  the results of the 2004 election would not have had the lasting after-effect that it has.  What stunned observant people, both Democrats and Republicans, was that a majority of voters chose to accept malicious distortions and contrivances, fabrications, and insults as cogent political dialogue.  John Thune hired some unprincipled character assassins to mount an ad hominem campaign of insult, abuse, and slander against Daschle and his family,  In a state where people deeply resent, often hate, anyone who makes a mark in the world outside the state, the slanders were greedily accepted.  The most popular form of communication in the state is the malicious gossip served as entertainment in the small-town cafes and their larger-town equivalents.  The campaign was effective.

The Thune campaign in South Dakota was equaled for its degeneracy only by Saxby Chambliss' campaign against Max Cleland in Georgia.  On scriptural standards, the campaigns bore false witness. On a Constitutional standard, which gives states the power to retain all inherent rights not enumerated in the Constitution, every state has in their legal codes a right expressed in South Dakota's: "Every person is obligated to refrain from infringing upon the right of others not to be defamed."   Unfortunately, this right is countered by the protection of free speech, and in the current interpretation, defamation is free speech. Consequently, we have elections decided, as in the cases of the  aforementioned,  by defamation.  Shameless character assassins claim to represent the will of the people in Congress,  and the people have willed a government by defamation.

Since the election of 2004, I have seen many close friends leave the state.  That election was a large consideration in their decisions.  They were all people of unusual and constructive talents, and they found that their abilities could be better used  elsewhere.  I liken them to the many people I have met and known who came to America to utilize talents that were suppressed and demeaned elsewhere.  A doctor I knew, like Einstein and many other intellectuals, left Germany as the Nazi movement gained control.  A professor of mine left Latvia as the Soviet Union began its suppression of intellectuals in earnest after World War II.  And a fellow professor left Cuba where he was a newspaper editor to teach Spanish at a college where I taught.  They were welcomed and encouraged to use their talents which were regarded as demerits in their home countries.  With the resurgence of racial hatred and resentment and the anti-intellectual movement in our country, I fear that good people across the nation, like my friends who left South Dakota, will be looking for other places to exercise their talents, their aspirations, and their inherent rights.

This year, we will be spared one of John Thune's campaigns.  His previous campaigns have much to do with the Democratic Party's lack of a candidate.  No one wants to put up with the malicious abuse on which he campaigns.  No one wants to subject their families to it.  And if the people elect someone on the basis of a campaign, anyone of principle must think hard about whether he/she really wants to represent the values demonstrated.  No one of any humane decency expects anyone to endure the slanderous abuse that goes with running for office.

  We still have to see how the campaign for House seat works out.  Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin no doubt feels earnestly that her voting record in Congress reflects the people she represents.  But those votes have created a diffidence in many people who were avid supporters in the past.  She voted against health care reform, consumer credit reform, and student loan reform.  She stands strongly with the Blue Dogs on making fiscal restraint the controlling principle.  But that leaves her seeming to side with the opposition party.

Health care reform reveals the problem for voters.  Since the Nixon presidency, people have known that health care problems had to be addressed.  By the Obama presidency, there were 47 million people without health care coverage.  The country was forced to make a decision:  did it think health care should be available to everyone, or just to those who could afford it?  That question formed the political divide.  The Republicans opposed the idea that everyone should have health care available to them, and they launched spurious and inane attacks against the bill being proposed--such as the nonsense about death panels.  The big problem with the Republicans was that they merely opposed reform; they did not offer any serious alternatives that would provide reasonable access for people who needed it.  Or they did not candidly admit that they dismiss the needy as worthy only of the ultimate end that a lack of health care will provide them. 

In explaining her opposition, Herseth Sandlin said that she was opposing the bill on the basis of its cost. She specified some areas where she thought the bill could be improved.  She was firm in her opposition to the bill as  reported out to the House, but she assumed the same position as the Republicans.  If the bill did not meet her demands, she opposed it.  The Blue Dogs and the Republicans left people to ask: what are those who do not have health care and cannot afford it supposed to do in the meantime?  There did not seem to be any effort by the Republicans or the Blue Dogs to do the negotiating and compromising that goes into any piece of legislation.  It seemed that if they did not get their way, they were satisfied to let the needy languish.  This apparent dismissal of such a huge segment of Americans regarding health care and other issues and the inability of Congress to hash out solutions is the real motive behind the loss of  faith.  Congress and their constituents would rather make accusations and condemnation of each other than address the life-and-death problems confronted by a large portion of the citizens.  America resembles Germany of the 1930s when "useless eaters" were effectually given a death sentence, and it resembles contemporary Iraq in which Sunnis and Shiites would rather commit mass murder on each other than find a way to coexist in peace.  And America is sending signals to many that the great experiment has come to another brink of failure and may have to be continued in some other place and time. 

Obama's election has proven that it doesn't make any difference who wins elections:  the political climate is toxic and the poison is being brewed at the grass roots.  The politicians and propaganda media are merely serving the interests of their constituents.  So, there is a diffidence among many about voting. 

The domestic malaise is aggravated by wars that cannot be won, but will consume the lives and resources of the nation.  The Islamic mass murderers have succeeded in spreading their gospel of violence and hatred to the country they hate so much.  And Americans have, by and large, bought into it, just like they buy into the defamation and falsehoods of the political campaigns.

Americans have lost faith in each other.  When fellow citizens and neighbors show that they regard people who think and believe differently as "useless eaters" whose lives are expendable, there can be no trust or faith.  As the media cites poll after poll that indicates the low regard Americans have for Congress, it cannot grasp the idea that they are registering a disapproval of the fact that Congress would rather fight than work.  Nor can it grasp the fact that Congress is responding to the noisiest of the agitators in the media and to their adherents, not to those who expect more of themselves and their representatives.

The re-emergence of race as a political plank provides a definition of how far America has come and far it is regressing.  But race is not the only dividing point on which people arrange their favorite hatreds.  The Tea Party movement is strenuously denying that it is racist.  But its events have featured race-baiting antics in their front lines.  The racist incidents draw the most attention because they are the most offensive.  Clearly the racists form only a part of the Tea Party movement and do not represent a majority, but as a member of Congress who has chosen not to run again commented, the movement is a coalition of haters.  They are united in their hatred of anything they can term liberal.

But racism exists as a potent force.  When black congressmen were insulted and abused, the defenders of the Tea Party say that there is not one shred of evidence that the epithets and spitting actually took place.  The contention that the black congressmen are lying is ironic.  After all, we all know that their word can't be trusted because "those people" are given to "stinking, cheating, lying, and stealing," to borrow an old KKK meme.    No, there is no racism in the Tea Party movement.  It is something made up by the NAACP. 

And some people wonder why people are losing faith in America.  


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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States