1) Helping Somalian Children
I am fascinated by a few stories (or in some cases non-stories) in America today. One is our non-involvement in Somalia. We are all scarred by Black Hawk Down, both the actual incident in 1993 and the disappointing film by Ridley Scott. But every day the news and the newspapers report the fact that around 500,000 children are close to starvation in Somalia. The options for the innocent in Somalia are go to a Taliban-style Muslim section where freedom is non-existent, or live in a war zone. Now that would seem to be all the things “real” Americans care about – there are children at stake. After all, the Super Bowl was never the same after “the children” saw Janet Jackson’s nipple, so naturally if half a million kids are dying we should surely care. Plus, it is a chance to take on the scourge of radical Islam, which has provided a nice replacement for the Red Scare in post Cold War era (admittedly real in many cases, but used as a boogyman in others). But we can do nothing? It is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. I was all for fighting in Afghanistan, but once again this is related to the decision to fight in Iraq. All the money and international good will it cost us is still relevant even though people have “It’s Bush’s fault” fatigue. Who gives a sh*t if you are tired of hearing that – it doesn’t make it any less true! And why is it so hard for so many “real Americans” to wrap their heads around the idea that sometimes a problem that took between 7 and 30 years to develop (our Frankenstein-esque de-regulated capitalism), might take more than 2 1/2 years to solve? As a country we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg of how warped a spoiled nation, with increasing ADD and an overflow of information sources, both credible and absurd, can become.
2) Building A National High Speed Rail System
This could be the stimulus the country needs. A WWII level stimulus project that employs people in 48 states, uses real American labor and builds something that doesn’t involve a dot-com, but rather a tangible product to be used by Americans. It could help reduce the use of oil as a nice bonus. And it would be a long-term project, not some 12 month replacement of a small bridge (I am talking to you Cleveland). These are all the advantages I see for building a high speed national rail system. Admittedly, I have only been to two foreign countries (and neither is Canada or Mexico), but my more well-traveled friends tell me that in developed nations in Europe and Asia the rail systems put ours to shame. So if we pride ourselves as a nation as being number one (even if only in our own minds) why do we have such a substandard rail system.
I am a huge fan of rail travel and have travelled most of this country by Amtrak. Imagine how many more people would if they tripled or quadrupled the speed of it. Instead of 21 hours to Chicago from New York it was 6 or 7. Instead of 17 hours to Atlanta, it was 5? All presumably built with some form of updated green technology. Why can’t Amtrak be this decade’s Man on the Moon? Well, of course there are several reasons. One is the oil lobby. Another is the aviation lobby. Another is we have been conditioned to see the rail as some sort of purgatory between the Heaven of aviation and the Hell of Greyhound. But how could America not take a renewed pride in the rail system if it was a massive and beneficial national project? Well, of course that probably sounds like socialism so I guess if we got beyond negative perceptions of Amtrak and intense lobbying we would still have to compete with American stupidity.
3) Use a Dictionary and an Encyclopedia
With the Internet providing any “fact” that anyone wants to support their pre-existing belief I think we need to get back to agreement that words and facts exist and are sometimes not up for interpretation. A standard Merriam-Webster dictionary and an Encyclopedia Britannica should do (if we can agree that those are not tools of the radical left or right). These texts used to provide a basic presentation of facts that we could all agree with if we bothered to read them. I would not go as far as to suggest that the New York Times, which until the advent of Fox News Propaganda (which it is – brought to “real Americans” by an Australian with a pro-business agenda), was known as the public record because of its thorough and excellent worldwide reporting, could possibly be this in our current society.
I have a selfish reason for suggesting this. Yesterday I made the mistake of getting into a Facebook discussion with a conservative on his Facebook page. His ignorant cabal of friends then proceeded to jump on me with the usual Tea Party rhetoric that is more faith-based than historically based (random assertions of “The Constitution says” as if there are not actual words that can be verified). Here are some of the highlights that I think an Encyclopedia and a dictionary would have helped:
- “Liberalism is all about socialism and stripping us of our Constitutional rights” – Funny, liberals are often accused of giving people too many rights (see the Warren Court). You know who else is about socialism? Your police department, your fire department, your public schools, your parks, your sanitation workers and your libraries to name a few.
- “What about groups like the Black Panthers that Obama endorses?” – I am not sure a comment is needed here.
- “Liberals bringing socialism is definitely as dangerous a guy with a bomb strapped to his chest” – see #1
- “Ask the Brits how well gun control works for them… they can’t own anything to protect themselves. Even if they use a toy gun to seize a burglar the home owner gets arrested for assaulting the criminal. Thats what the liberals want for the USA.” – see also the murder rate and gun violence statistics for Britain. I know it is Europe and that is “faggy” and “awful” for “real Americans” but fewer dead Americans would seem like a good thing for America. As of 2000 their murder rate with firearms was 10 times less than ours.
- “This is laughable. As if the left hasn’t practiced these same exact tactics (referring to when I said the Tea Party nearly brought our government to default): gay rights, environmentalists, gun control, the list goes on and on. What was it we were talking about again? Small, well-financed groups of people holding a party hostage? – In other words this person (these comments were from several different individuals on the same comment stream) took an unprecedented event and claimed that there were several non-existent precedents. When exactly did the left brink the country to the brink of economic disaster over “gay rights,” or the environment? Even though perhaps they should since civil rights and the future of the planet are more important to America’s creed than low taxes for the wealthy.
So in sum, my platform is simple:
- We should intervene on behalf of half a million dying children before we intervene on behalf of oil interests;
- We should develop a national high speed rail system as a tangible stimulus plan and;
- We should all read a major newspaper (that hopefully hasn’t been fact-raped by Rupert Murdoch’s minions – and despite his vast empire this DOES NOT exclude all conservative leaning publications) and occasionally open a dictionary or an Encyclopedia Britannica if we want to verify something that maybe sounds outrageous.
20 years ago this would have seemed sensible. Today it seems too ambitious. Sadly in another 20 years it may seem like a fantasy.