Growing up in NC has been interesting, to say the least. Coming from a family of "northern yankees" (that is, if I were to ascribe to a label that predates my family's residency in the US by ~60 years) and being weened into politics in a school system whose history teachers insisted that slavery was only a tertiary issue in the civil war (as an amusing aside, my health/PE class in 2006 showed us a video covering AIDS in which the surgeon general states that only Afican Americans and homosexuals contract/transfer the disease...), I've always had a pretty wide range of ideals to draw my political beliefs from.
I feel that today, the differences between the far right and the far left are engineered. The scariest prospect for any government is to have to actually answer to the population it governs. America, the country that "invented" modern freedom (although it was really mostly English and French ideas, we did it first!) has a rich history of attempting to oppress our collective voices. Whether it be through "free speech zones" or McCarthyism or lately "political correctness," it's just what the government does (or tries to.) The problem is, we have always found a way to make ourselves heard... until now.
As a country, we're so divided by petty squabbles over whatever the hot button topic of the day is, we can never really form a general consensus, in effect, we've opined our way into silence. What I mean by this is, there is so much white noise from everyone yelling about one thing or another that no clear voice can be heard, and anything that DOES end up coming out of that mess is generally rooted in poor (or a lack of) logic.
I am not terribly eloquent, and my grammar is obscene on the best of days, but alas, I am an engineering/science student, not an english major and I apologize. Because of this, I will just list the problems I see with the general political rhetoric of the day.
1. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
- This is one of the most hotly debated topics of the decade, possibly more divisive than the questionably justified "liberation" of Iraq. The idea of socialized healthcare is a noble one, which has been argued for and against forever. As I see it, it's a pretty trivial issue.
Does everyone deserve access to affordable healthcare? YES
Should the quality of this care depend on socioeconomic status? THIS is the grey area.
In my opinion a dual system would be the best, utilize a basic safety net that the populace at large has access to (basic medical care, basic dental care, and life saving procedures) and if you want access to specialists like dermatologists or whatever marginally useful practitioner you want to see, you just buy as a supplement.
The sick irony of a self proclaimed "judeo-christian nation" letting it's populace die of easily treatable conditions because they're too poor seems lost on the population at large. I swear, I am an friggin atheist and I have more compassion and empathy for my fellow man than most people I have ever met who go to church every sunday.
2. (Somewhat related point) Taxes/Socialism
- Newsflash! America is a self-hating social democracy. Here is a short list of socialist programs that would not be government subsidized in a true capitalist society.
+ Military (provided by the government, financed by the people, for the common defense)
+ K-12 education
+ Interstate highway system
+ National/state parks (where would we wheel?!)
+ SSI (it literally says it in the name!)
The sooner we realize this and embrace it, the sooner we can reap the total benefits of it. We tried pure capitalism for the first 100ish years of our existence, and the common worker during our industrial revolution was worse off than most indian children in t-shirt sweatshops. Sorry Ayn Rand, but you were wrong.
3. Illegal immigrants
- Yeah, this is a serious problem, but only because we have made it one. It is impossibly difficult to legally immigrate to this country unless you're average income is >$250,000. So instead of opening pipelines to allow for expedient immigration, allowing the taxation and integration of foreign peoples into America... you know... the land of immigrants. We allow thousands across the border who WONT pay taxes because if they do they'll get deported. The fact of the matter is there are a plethora of jobs that go unfilled every year because we are just unwilling to do them. If you disagree, go look at the orange groves of Florida. They're mostly picked by either legal migrant workers or illegal immigrant workers, and only a small percentage of the actual labor force needed is actually realized.
NOT reforming the immigration process is just cutting off the nose to spite the face, they're coming anyway, they WANT to be citizens, but we won't let them, so they burden our social programs but can't contribute.
I guess the gist of what I am saying is: America isn't a nation defined in black and white. We ARE the original grey area, our whole government and economic structure is meant to meld the best of both worlds. But the media and the politicians do their best to polarize our politics into that black and white because one, it's a lot easier than actually addressing the problems, and two, the more attention we pay to fighting each other, the less we pay to them. My favorite example of this is during 2011, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the US congress was debating legislation to drop the EPA's ability to regulate offshore drilling but the only thing the news could talk about was the whether or not Casey Anthony murdered her child. Meanwhile oil dispersants were being sprayed all over the gulf of mexico to mask the ecological devastation wrought by a single offshore drilling platform (P.S. the oil is still in the gulf, just about 50 feet below the surface... where all of the aquatic life once was).
Because of this division we are beginning to slip, we're losing cohesion as a country and falling behind. Our school systems are deteriorating because we spend time arguing over whether the bible should be taught in school, instead of fixing common core (which, for the record, was an awesome idea that was executed in almost the worst way possible). Our highway infrastructure is falling apart because we spend 55% of our discretionary budget on the military but only 2% on transportation. It's hard to believe in American exceptionalism anymore when our K-12 students rank 20th out of 34 among industrialized nations in science and 27th out of 34 in math.
Anyway, this has gone on considerably longer than I intended. So I will leave you all with this (and seeing as how this was mostly just a rant, I probably won't follow up). We've gotten to the point that the general population of America can no longer see the forest for the trees, and this is grossly unsustainable. If we don't accept the world as it is, instead of trying to make it one idealistic paradise or another, we're going to get relegated to the history books among the other formerly powerful nations we all learned about in school. Personally, I'm learning mandarin