Thursday, August 11, 2011

The "Wrong Way"

You have no doubt seen the reports on the polls that show 73% of Americans (more or less depending upon the poll) think we are going “the wrong way,” are on the “wrong track,” going in the “wrong direction,” are dealing with the “wrong problem,” and so on. Similarly, a recent poll indicates that a mere 14% of Americans believe Congress is doing a good job. What do these kinds of polls tell you other than the fact that people are very discontented with what is going on in Washington, D.C.? Nothing, unfortunately, they tell you nothing other than that. The question that needs to be asked, that seems never to be answered, is what is the “wrong way,” and according to whom? Personally, I believe we are going in the wrong way because we are not about to have universal health care (Medicare for all), we are not about to withdraw our troops from the useless “wars” we have been pursuing around the world, we insist on continuing the obviously failed “war on drugs,” we are in the process of destroying what was once the finest educational system in the world, we are not going to raise taxes on the rich, and so on. But I am sure there are others who think we are on the wrong track because we are continuing “Obama care,” we are not attacking Iran, we need to accelerate our war efforts, increase funding for the war on drugs, and so on. In other words, while we are all upset about going the wrong way, there is no agreement on what the wrong way is, and absolutely no apparent interest in what might be the “right way.”

Some believe the right way is the way we have been going, free-market capitalism, privatization of everything, while others believe we should have a much stronger governmental presence, better ”entitlement” programs, more regulation, and so on. There are those who wish to continue the status quo and those who absolutely do not. Given there is no agreement on the “right way” how on earth are we ever going to cooperate to do anything? We desperately need to decide what kind of society we wish to be. Are we going to continue preying on the poor and the middle class, transferring more and more of the public wealth to the wealthiest among us and the corporate giants, or are we going to improve Social Security, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, health care, rebuild our infrastructure, improve our schools, and etc.? To me the answer is perfectly obvious, but it does not seem to be at all obvious to those who are willing to protect the wealthy and the corporations at all costs. We are, it appears, at an impasse, unable to come together to solve our problems, and unable to even agree to what the problems are, or what the solutions to them might be.

With one side absolutely unwilling to budge on their apparently hypnotic mantra of “no tax increases” no matter what, it seems to me there is no way out of this dilemma, short of revolution, a possibility in America to be virtually out of the question. We have no solution other than depending on the next elections when we may or may not be able to disenfranchise those who refuse to cooperate. But with corporations allowed to donate as much money as they wish, to win, even this might not be a solution. At the turn of the 20th century, when we faced a similar situation, there were sit-down strikes and violent protests of different kinds, workers against management, citizens against strikebreakers and hired goons, and so forth. It seems to me when one side remains unwilling to give even an inch to compromise they are deliberately provoking such confrontations. Will we have to go through such violent times again or will “better heads prevail?” Might we have learned enough to know that non-violent protests will work better than violence? Will it, alas, come to that? It appears to me that it will, but I wonder if we are any longer up to the task.

Once I made a telephone call where I had dialed a wrong number. Realizing this I apologized, saying, “Sorry, wrong number.” The recipient of this innocent mistake replied immediately in a loud, unpleasant, and sarcastic voice, “Why doncha get the right number?” This unnerved me at the time and still bothers me to this day. It seemed to me to be so unreasonably angry over an innocent mistake, so uncalled for, so unnecessarily unpleasant. What was worse, however, was the implicit message left out, “you stupid jerk” (or some such other) accusation. Even though this unpleasant experience has bothered me to the present day, I would not hesitate to say the same thing to Congress, “Why in the hell don’t you get the right way!” (You morons).

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