Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Politics of Racism

How ironic that the election of President Obama was supposed to herald in a new age of racial harmony.  Through the election of a biracial president, we as a nation had finally made a grand enough gesture to show our sincerity about the notion of all men being created equal.  The United States was now a sufficiently color blind nation that we were able to look beyond skin in the selection of our national leader.  The problem is, however, we didn’t look beyond skin.  Instead of being the reason why someone wasn’t considered, it became the main reason they were.  Unfortunately, the new age has not materialized in the naïvely hoped for manner as the last five years have been riddled with incessant claims that racism is at the core of all opposition to the Obama administration.  To disagree with the 44th President of the United States cannot be due to having a differing political ideology, opinion, or vision; no, according to those that ardently support and defend the president there is but one factor, race.  Evidentially racial harmony doesn’t have quite the political advantage as labeling one’s ideological opponents racists, and dismissing qualifications that truly matter for skin color does not a competent president make.

In 2008, Barack Obama was the benefactor of a perfect storm.  Coming to the end of eight years of Republican occupancy of the White House with the country engaged in two increasingly unpopular wars, many voters were ready for a change.  They were so ready, that the always slippery mantra of “Anything is better than this” was gaining traction.  This was fertile ground for people to easily convince themselves that the candidate the other party put forth was the better choice, regardless of that individual’s experience or core political beliefs.  With this most enviable position, the Democratic nomination was just a formality in the selection of the next president.  Though Hillary Clinton believed she had the nomination all but locked up, during the primaries there emerged an upstart.  The junior Senator from the state of Illinois who hadn’t even served half of his first term, and sported a resume completely void of executive level leadership examples, somehow derailed Hillary’s presumed coronation.  Even the allure of national prosperity that many associated with the Clinton name was no match for the momentum summoned by the Obama machine.  With Hillary dispatched Obama’s ranks were swelled by the Democratic faithful who vote for whatever candidate their party puts forth.  This support was further bolstered by scores of voters wanting to be part of something historic and others anxious to punish the Republican Party for a financial crisis that fortuitously broke mere weeks before the election.  The stars aligned and with an unprecedented defensive effort by the majority of the national media, Senator Obama was bestowed with an aura of majestic flawlessness.  Christened with lofty though baseless expectations, he was touted as the one that would deliver us from the doldrums and lead us to the Promised Land.

“There is just something different about him.”  These words were repeated incessantly during the campaign by the scores quickly becoming enamored with candidate Obama.  But when asked to elaborate as to what special quality he possessed, an explanation seemed to escape most voters.  Was it his message of change?  Every non-incumbent candidate since the dawn of time has spoken of change, so that couldn’t be it.  Was it his perceived charisma?  Political history has no shortage of people that displayed this trait.  How about a professional life full of experiences and accomplishments that could only properly culminate with being selected as President of the United States?  A state congressman serving his first term in the US Senate with no previous executive level leadership role in government, business, or the military is not the optimum set of qualifications to be a successful leader of the free world, let alone one that would redefine excellence in the position.  The difference people were reluctant to verbalize was something that had no impact on his ability to be president, but greatly impacted his chances of being elected president.  To say it out loud would be racist, but somehow using it as the basis of one’s vote was noble and made us a better nation.

There is no doubt that slavery and the racism that fostered it are grievous blights on our nation’s collective soul.  We were founded as a nation that embodied freedom and the premise that one was defined only by their actions, nothing was to be preconceived.  Racism is in direct opposition to this, so it is not just morally reprehensible, it is inherently un-American.  The problem comes in when we try so desperately to right this wrong by perpetuating the wrong.  The mistakes of the past must be learned from not continued as a misguided notion that it will make amends for previous transgressions.  Simply electing a man of color to be president does not make up for sins of the past, especially if that was one of the defining reasons for his election.  The historic significance of the election of the first African-American president is tarnished because he was selected in large part due to skin color.  He was not elected because he was a qualified candidate that happened to be black; he was an unqualified candidate that was elected because he was black.

Racism is an accusation where one is believed guilty until proven innocent.  It touches on something that we as a nation are rightfully very ashamed of; a scarlet letter that usually evokes immediate and lasting condemnation.  This makes it an extremely effective and tempting political weapon, especially when the facts and results are not supporting your party’s message.  The best way to stifle a strong legitimate counterpoint is to discredit the person or people delivering it.  The validity of the cause is lost if the messenger is labeled an undesirable.  When the truth is inconvenient, distraction is the only course of action.  It just so happens, that the perception of hate is very distracting.

While the increasingly illogical standard we live by would disagree, anyone who voted for President Obama because of the color of his skin is just as racist as anyone who didn’t vote for him because of the color of his skin.  We must recognize that whether it be an advantage or a disadvantage, if race is a factor in the decision, it is racism and it is unacceptable.  President Obama’s election did not make us a better country; it made us a delusional one.  A man wholly unqualified was elected leader of the free world because it was believed to be time, historic, the right thing to do, or cool.  If you believe this to be untrue then ask yourself would we be in the second term of the Barack Obama presidency or the Hillary Clinton presidency if Barack Obama happened to have two white parents?  How sad that President Obama will hold the historic position as this nation’s first African-American president, for he has proven himself most unworthy of the honor.  And shame on us, for we as the American electorate are responsible.  While many heralded President Obama’s election as a triumph, it was in fact a tragedy for it is proof that we are still not up to the challenge of being a nation that judges a person not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Mistake We Currently Call Our National Government

As we continue to collectively rant and rave about those out of touch politicians that are making a mess of our country there is something we must remember, this government is our fault.  The very definition of dysfunctional we see playing out in Washington currently is a creation of our making for it was our votes that placed them in office.  It is really quite simple, when knowledge and prudence are not part of the selection process an effective government is not a realistic possibility.  Further, when something is not held accountable there is little motivation for it to act responsibly.  So, we have a government chosen by an ignorant electorate and then allowed to freely exhibit its incompetence without fear of retribution.  These facts make it much easier to understand how we arrived at the point we are today.  We have a president who has absolutely no clue about or interest in leadership, a Democratic Party that has allowed itself to be shanghaied by a trio of deceitful political thugs, and a Republican Party wallowing through a schism between moderates and ideological purists.   The result is the spiteful, confrontational, and failing government we have presently.  One that has already far exceeded its intended role, but continues to insert itself into more facets of our lives all the while becoming increasingly derelict in the execution of its Constitutional duties.

The key ingredient in our government of the people is an electorate that is aware and cares.  First the citizenry must be well-versed on the true role of government, and be vigilant in keeping it confined to its important but limited role.  Qualified people must be chosen for elected office and then their performance must be staunchly evaluated.  Only the very best should be rewarded with the honor of reelection or election to an office of greater responsibility.  We must understand that the immense power that is the ballot far exceeds our petty desire for state bestowed benefits and is deserving of better than our lazy selection process based solely on party affiliation and the extent to which a candidate will cater to us.  When these standards are not adhered to the result is present day America: a nation without direction, a people without a clue, and a government without limits. 

Thomas Jefferson once stated, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."  Unfortunately, the nation he helped to create seems determined to dismiss his sage advice.  Today there is no interest in being engaged in the process.  Politics are boring for many and ignored by most.  This has created an environment where we willing offer up this nation as fertile ground to those eager to exploit it in their efforts to amass power.  Sadly, the nation that defied the old world order and set a new standard for governing is now patronizingly looked upon by those of other countries as a people who willing allow themselves to be taken advantage of.  Ironically, the country that was created to show that self-rule was man’s natural state seems instead determined to prove that the masses are not capable of the rigors of such a burden.  The power of choice must be guided by the knowledge and prudence to choose wisely.   But such is not our current state, for we allow ourselves to be easily sold a bill of bad goods and then be endlessly strung along with promised results that never materialize.  Lies are the gospel and prosperity a thing of the past for ignorance is bliss only for those that ride it to the very heights of power.  We are in the midst of the ultimate nightmare of our democratic republic, an elected government chosen by an electorate of fools.  
Ideologues beget ideologues.  Regardless of the flowery campaign rhetoric about creating a new age of abundant bipartisanism, naïve is an understatement for anyone that believed an ardent lifelong member of the far left would be capable of the type of political tolerance and leadership necessary to achieve such lofty aspirations.  To add insult to injury, not only have we not experienced a great coming together but instead an exponentially more adversarial relationship between the two major parties, and in turn their supporting constituencies.  This situation of hardening views is the direct result of the election of a socialist president who along with a small and dedicated patronage has eagerly moved the Democratic Party progressively left and the rise of an ultraconservative contingent in the Republican Party in response.  We now have a government capable of creating only gridlock and stalemate with little prospect for anything better.   The fundamental changing of America that many voters bought hook, line, and sinker in the past two presidential elections has yielded only a government increasingly at odds with itself as each party fortifies positions on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  Ideologues by their very definition are incapable of compromise, and a two party system grinds to a halt when compromise is dismissed as an option.

We are upset with a government of our own choosing, and according to recent polls sentiment is growing that we should expel all currently in office and begin anew.  The problem with that idea is that it does not address the root cause of our current ineffectual government.  When the same electorate uses the same selection criteria and then holds them equally unaccountable, the result will be more of the same.  It is much harder to admit a problem when you are the problem, so we point the finger at the result and curse the mysterious external force that burdened us with this endlessly bickering government of liars, cheaters, and crooks.   The key to fixing our government is to fix the way we select those that serve and our expectations of them.  Mistakes are lessons about what not to do, future elections will determine if we have learned the lessons of this mistake we currently call our national government.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Choose Wisely

Though the situation of the recent deployment of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict seems to be fading into the background with the self-serving arrangement orchestrated by the Russians, I want to address those that said the United States had a moral obligation to intervene.  While I understand how the scenes of people writhing in pain and suffering the disturbing effects of poisonous gas on the human body incite a primal, or for some, a political reaction, we must go beyond instinct to that which supposedly separates us from all other life on this planet, reason.  When we allow emotion to play too large a role in our decisions, it is interesting how quickly a mere civil war in the seemingly always tumultuous Middle East can escalate to the global threat of the widespread use of weapons of mass destruction.  Something we watched from a distance for years as the casualties mounted to 100,000 eliciting but an occasional comment about what a tragedy war is suddenly became a defining moment for our nation.  It seems that many view our position as lone world super power indentures us with an obligation to always get involved regardless of the potential costs or the absence of tangible benefits.  Somehow our rise to prominence carries with it a price tag of nobility that could lead us down a path of self-destruction.  

For those that clamored to address the evil we saw unleashed in Syria, we must acknowledge that unfortunately evil happens every day in our world.  In some cases it has become so commonplace that we no longer notice it.  Though eliminating evil and those that perpetrate it should always be a goal of mankind, reality makes this a multination venture with no foreseeable end.  As long as there are people there will be evil.  So, unless we intend to be in all places at all times and become a nation solely focused on this crusade, we must make honest assessments of world events with defined parameters when deciding our course of action.  We must have the understanding that military intervention should be the choice only when it is absolutely necessary to protect or defend our national security or that of our allies.  War should be the last option, for when it is chosen it must be fully committed to and executed with the understanding that total victory is the only acceptable outcome.  Initiating military operations is a lot like starting a fire; it can quickly get away from you if you are not properly prepared.  Ironically, if our national government has proven anything in the last five years it is that being prepared is not something they excel at.

Our military is the most professional and technologically advanced force on the planet; its capabilities far beyond that of any potential rivals.  But everything has a breaking point, and what better way to degrade the advantages our forces enjoy than to spread them out and keep them engaged in continuous regional entanglements that never seem to result in a clean or finite outcome.  As history has shown us, small events can rapidly escalate into world wars.  While an isolationist policy is completely unrealistic, choosing our battles wisely is imperative.  Today, we must face facts that we cannot afford the steep price of unfettered idealism.  Being the world’s super hero has weighed heavily on this country.  In the real world there are consequences for inserting yourself in the affairs of others.  And, as anyone who has ever read a comic book knows as the burden builds with the endless number of those needing rescuing, tragedy usually befalls the hero.  Is the cause of the hero’s fall that the people become too dependent on the hero as being saved transforms from a stroke of luck to an expectation?  Are we expected to sacrifice ourselves for the greater good of an undeserving world?  Does our sacrifice gain us anything in a region of the world where we are viewed as the epitome of evil regardless of our endless financial aid and long list of deposed dictators?  We must ask ourselves if the effort in blood and additional debt are worth trading one tyrannical and repressive regime for another.  Hoping for a better outcome this time when history has proven otherwise time and again is foolhardy.  The point of diminishing returns has been reached and we must accept the fact that other people’s battles must sometimes be allowed to play themselves out, or we will travel the infamous road that is paved with good intentions.

Those that do not learn from the past are doom to repeat it.  Some seem very determined to dismiss the lessons of very recent history and become embroiled in yet another Middle East conflict.  This region is in a state of constant strife.  While not surprising due to the overwhelming influence religious faith has in all aspects of this society, we must understand that the resulting passionate discord is something that must come to a conclusion on its own.  It is not our dispute to resolve and our continued interventions in what is essentially a religious civil war does not win us any favor.  Our most logical strategy is containment combined with vigilance in ensuring the fighting does not extend into the areas controlled by our allies in the region or threaten assets we have positioned in the theater.  Outside of that, we have no national interests in this contest.  We must do all we can to divorce ourselves from the chaos in this part of the world or we risk it being the rock upon which we smash ourselves into oblivion for some abstract nobility.  Our repeated forays into the Middle East are the incarnation of the saying - No good deed goes unpunished.

Military action used to be a more cautious decision, but unmanned machines of war have lessened the moment of pause that is associated with sending our men and women into combat.  While any technology that reduces risk and saves the lives of our military personnel is a great thing, we must also consider that this same technology may actually cause our military to be involved in more conflicts and increases the possibility that they will eventually be put in harm’s way to finish a confrontation started by an intended limited action.  This means every decision concerning the use of military forces, regardless of the initial intention to commit ground forces or not, must be made with the same mindset that our men and women in uniform will be engaged.  Murphy’s Law must always be a consideration.  This means the necessity of involvement must be worth the loss of American lives.  Intervention in the Syrian civil war does not currently meet this criterion. 
This trend of intervening in conflicts that do not directly threaten our country or our allies is a new one.  In the past, military force was reserved for times when defense from attack was needed or retribution for attack was justified.  In either case it was personal; our actions were driven by national needs.  Today there is no rhyme or reason for why we engage in certain areas, while ignoring others.  In some cases, situations may be very similar and yet we chose opposing courses for each.  Perhaps it is not the details of the situation at hand, but the politics of the situation that is now the primary determining factor.  It seems to be in this case, for while no military action has been taken to address the attack on American facilities and personnel in Benghazi due to its political inconvenience, strangely enough an attack that no American was involved in somehow rates a more impassioned response from our current administration.  Timing is everything and the Syrian chemical weapons situation occurred after the election while Benghazi happened during it.  Yes, politics is the primary determining factor regardless of the rhetoric about moral imperatives.  Either way this regional conflict simply isn’t our fight, and for those of you unfamiliar with the mission of the US military it is to fight and win our nation’s wars.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Tragedy of Self-Rule

It is absolutely disgraceful what we have allowed to happen in this country.  Self-rule is a most noble concept and the greatest leap of faith in humanity, but it becomes the greatest tragedy when the people prove unworthy of the supreme challenge it presents.   Unfortunately, this is the point we have reached.  Knowing what is best is really not very hard; it is doing what is best that proves more difficult for many because of things like desire and denial clouding one’s judgment.  The current state of our nation and society show that our moral compass seems to be skewed by the aforementioned clouded judgment.  Consumed by the trivial and blinded by our own ignorance we have squandered the priceless inheritance passed on to us by preceding generations.  With the people no longer willing to fulfill their duty of selecting capable leadership, the ensuing power vacuum has been filled by a collection of opportunistic pretenders.  The war waged on responsibility by those hoping to barter a thinly veiled existence of subjugation in exchange for the support of the dependent masses has proven successful. 

No longer familiar with the true qualifications or appropriate behavior of a leader, we are willingly handing over the direction of this nation to individuals who take advantage of a distracted and disinterested electorate.  Our best interests are not their concern, so division; envy; anger; victimization; and entitlement have supplanted character, logic, and relevant experience as the things people look for in their champions.  The world has never been at a loss when it comes to people that feel slighted or owed, so exhibiting the traits of leadership is no longer required or even expected of those that hold positions of leadership.  Today the majority of those anointed with the once revered title of leader are nothing more than rabble-rousers that capitalized on some group’s grievance.  It is always easier to stoke the fires of discontent than advocate substantive solutions based in the ever elusive and often avoided truth.   Reality, practical solutions, and logical approaches to the many problems currently confronting our society are casualties in the battle waged for the attention of an American public that just doesn’t get it anymore, and worse yet doesn’t even realize it or care about it.  Any person foolish enough to layout an honest assessment of the country’s current state and propose legitimate courses of action to set conditions for genuine improvement will never see the titles of Representative, Senator, or President precede their name.

The vast majority of people are naturally selfish and prone to submission when confronted with adversity; it is what relegates them to the role of follower.  This is not an insult; it is simply a matter of truth.  However it also means that in order for society to stay the course someone must be on the point, out front shining a light so others may follow.  Their guidance and confidence borne of experience coupled with their natural ability to inspire are the fuel that enable them to sustain the embers of perseverance that are so vital to ensure we are not just wandering around aimlessly in the dark.  Success and prosperity are potential outcomes only when efforts are focused and viable courses chosen, a situation possible only when true leaders are part of the equation.  Nations and causes are the products of people, and without those capable of articulating a productive and sensical direction the masses will continue to foolishly follow those that appeal to the malevolent side of human desires.  The very situation we face today.

We are a nation with the awesome privilege and burdensome responsibility of selecting our national leadership.  Most of human history is filled with rule by the one or the few.  The reason being that the people are generally unable to mount a concerted effort to liberate themselves and then sustain any authority they are able to wrestle from the iron grip of their ruler.  The ability to come together for a cause greater than the group is fleeting.  As quickly as power is attained, solidarity begins to fracture and conflicting motivations surface.  Resisting the allure of the shiny red apple is far too much for most.  Shortsighted, the impulse is to get what you can, while you can.  Appreciation for the sacrifices made and elusive freedoms achieved quickly fades, replaced by a nonchalant and ultimately self-subjugating willingness to exchange the priceless for the petty.  The very situation we face today. 

Where have all the leaders gone?  They have been driven to the brink of extinction by a people that no longer value the essential role they play in any successful venture.  The leaders have disappeared because we no longer choose to follow them.  This situation is particularly ironic considering our nation is the most definitive testament in the annuals of human history to what is only possible when strong leadership is present.  Our founders were the spark that ignited and sustained the American cause throughout the epic struggle that was the Revolution and the formation of our national identity that followed. The ever present hardships of doubt, in-fighting, and fear were then as they are now the ultimate threats to success.   Couple this with the enormous task of creating a new country based on the highly advanced concepts of natural freedoms and self-rule and you have the greatest of all leadership challenges.  And yet we proved to be more than equal to this challenge.  A remarkable people, supporting a remarkable cause, focused by a remarkable group of leaders resulted in a remarkable new nation.  This is not the situation we face today.

How quickly the mighty have fallen.  We are in the midst of an overall societal downturn made so much more frustrating and senseless because it is fueled by choice.  We willingly choose to support and elect do-nothings, incompetents, frauds, and demigods.  So is it really all that surprising that we are a more divided, dysfunctional, disrespected, and dependent nation that at any other time in our short history?  No, it’s not.  Those we select to follow are a reflection of us; we continually choose poorly and base our decisions on factors that have no legitimate impact on the individual’s prospects for success.  Experience, results, and qualifications are afterthoughts when compared to such irrelevant things as historical significance, perceived slights, and political promises.  Reality is a casualty of wishful thinking.  We allow ourselves to be fooled into believing certain people are much more than what the real world irrefutably shows us they are.  Seeing what we want to see instead of what is actually staring back at us.  When you place your faith in a façade, disappointment is the only certainty.  The very situation we face today.

Leaders are the shepherds that steer us away from our inherently self-destructive tendencies.  Chaos is the only fate for a leaderless society.  Without those capable of shaping the overall visions and creating the coalitions necessary to bring them to fruition, nothing positive is accomplished and desperation ensues.  In this unsettling environment people are ripe to make poor decisions and be taken advantage of, as anyone promising to make it all better is viewed as a legitimate option regardless of any evidence of their abilities to fulfill their promises.  Hope is a powerful thing, even when the most undeserving are believed to be the source of it.  Logic and standards become expendable when the truth is inconvenient.  When we are the reason we are a leaderless society, those that tell us the disappointments that have befallen us are not of our doing are rewarded with loyalty and power.  Liars are confused for leaders, accountability is curiously erased from the national lexicon, and baseless expectations are labeled as destiny.  The very situation we face today.