By: Grainne Rhuad
The first step in healing any problem is admitting there is a problem. We all know this from the many pop-psychology references in our daily lives from Cinematic comedy to Church billboards. Admitting something is wrong or that YOU are wrong is the key that sends you down the rabbit hole of healing.
So why, since we know where to start do we have such a hard time beginning? I’m not talking about the addicts out there; clearly they know where to go- Reality television with Dr.Drew- because why not get paid while getting clean? And bonus! If you happen to have any celebrity at all like maybe you spun the wheel on the price is right one time. Or won a poetry contest; this cleanliness also affords you the chance to remind everyone you’re not dead yet. (And to sell tickets for your eventual demise party/lotto/raffle/Gangnam style dance off)
No, I’m speaking to the nation. We need to admit to ourselves that our national myths are in fact lies. Here’s a list to get you started.
1. We don’t give enough to returning soldiers
Most of us were brain washed by “Born on the 4th of July” and other Oliver Stone movies to believe that Veterans returning from Vietnam were mistreated, ignored and took on the blood debt of a generation. What is more stunning and would likely make a better movie is the truth. This simply did not happen. According the The Veterans’ World Project at Southern Illinois University, it was found that many Vietnam Vets felt supported on their return, both by their friends and family-even those who were against the war. In fact many supported antiwar protests themselves and were more effective because they had a reason to protest and a message to go with it. That Vietnam war memorial wall didn’t build itself.
The researchers for the Southern Illinois University study found almost no veteran who finished their service in Vietnam believed that what the United States has done there has served any purpose in favor of our nation. It is this powerful message that kept us out of a lot of global conflicts. Until, it seems, people who had never served in a war got into office.
But that’s not all; we also give quite a lot in benefits to returning veterans and their families including re-entry services for civilian life both for them and their widows. Also found to be false is the myth that they don’t receive enough in health services. Returning and active military personnel receive more new medical technology than civilians.
The difference is unlike civilians; their health care is basically Socialized. You know that awful bad word that nobody likes which means everyone gets what they need according to their need? It also means they have to go to specific hospitals equipped to deal with the care and scope of their needs so very often they have to travel.
Another myth is that Veterans’ benefits are constantly on the chopping block. This is a myth very often propagated by the GOP who also actually turns out to be the ones most likely to vote for cuts to veterans’ benefits. See, when they are reading their stump speeches they see Veterans’ benefits as a rightful thank-you handshake for getting shot at. But, when they are voting they see the same benefits as welfare. Somehow when politicians aren’t in front of people, anyone not actively working is a welfare queen.
Luckily the GOP aren’t the only ones voting and Veterans’ benefits haven’t actually ever been threatened. In fact one of the few executive increases proposed for 2013 is a 10% increase to veterans’ benefits.
2. We have no power in Government
Coming out of an election season like the one we have just been through has brought to light all sorts of ugliness. From the usual lies about the other side to attempted guilt statements about those who would choose not to vote. I watched with interest as normally rational people turned downright rabid over voting issues this year.
But there were some stand-out attacks like: If you aren’t voting you are helping evil win.
This was the main message given by everyone on every side this time around. If you were voting for the main republican or democrat parties you were targeted by your friends and family on the other side letting you know you were clearly voting for evil. I’m sure at some point in our short history as a country there has been a more divisive race, but not in my own memory. I heard from Republicans who truly believed that a vote for Obama was a vote for the “evil of socialism” I’m still trying to work out how socialism is evil. I truly am, because I do not see how a system that provides for the needs of all according to their needs can possibly be evil. However the other side wasn’t any better. Democrats would have you believe that a vote for Romney meant you believed in rape and forced pregnancies. They practically came out and said you would be voting for the “Handmaiden’s Tale” if you elected Mitt Romney.
But beyond all of this, the most evil was to not vote at all. Even Green party, libertarians, etc. All of them agreed that if you simply refused to participate in a presidential vote you were evil incarnate and clearly wanted to hasten the reign of Satan on the earth; or something to that effect because not everyone pointing fingers were “believers” in fact, the most vitriolic of finger pointers during this race turned out to be atheists. Whatever the case, not voting for some reason turned into not caring. This could not be further from the truth.
Let’s try to remember for a minute what casting a vote means; or should mean. When you cast a vote you are saying you will stand with this person or policy. That you are in essence “down” with it. It was reported that 3% of people casting votes (counted so far) either wrote in a candidate or declined to cast a vote for president. This is actually record making in the voting arena. 3% of people, who registered and bothered to show up, did not feel like they could support any of the above.
And, this, contrary to the decriers is actually saying something radical. It’s saying voters have had enough and want other options. Even if those options are not to be responsible for the status quo.
3. We can’t balance our own checkbooks ergo, it must be really really impossible for anyone other than Odin’s accountant (or fill in the god of your choice) to fix our economy.
Let’s not forget that Bill Clinton inherited the trickle down fuckmuck of Reganomics and left office with a balanced budget without bankrupting anyone and without engaging in any wars that weren’t sanctioned by NATO. This is a president that we impeached for bad behavior. If he could do it, why do we imagine that it is somehow impossible for anyone else to turn our economy around? We as a nation have given up our power to fix our own economy because we have bought the idea that taxes are automatically bad and so are people in debt and need of help. This somehow doesn’t apply to businesses, for some reason we have so much sympathy to indebted businesses that we will bail them out over and over again. But why won’t we vote in favor of ourselves as Icelanders have done? Why do we give absolute power over currency to one agency with no checks or balances even when they aren’t doing their job? That’s like continuing to pay your landscaper when they have turned your garden into mud because they promise they meant to turn it into Xanadu and someday, just never in your lifetime, it will be Xanadu. It makes no sense. You would turn those yard-tards out into the street right? You would even tighten up your spending and get focused on replanting that garden. But why won’t we do this with our own budget?
It’s because we have been tricked into believing that our neighbors and friends are fuck-wits who don’t deserve to do better. So we are willing to suffer to make someone else, hell everyone else suffer. We have been psychologically manipulated. We are victims of Stockholm’s syndrome and if that isn’t enough assholes like Donald Trump are our captives. It’s time to get some therapy, pay some taxes and get out of debt.
4. We have no responsibility/ accountability for or to each other.
For some reason we have decided being a nation means being a collective group of cave hermits. Somewhere along the line the idea of banding together for cooperation and survival have gotten lost and we began to believe we can and should make it on our own. Nowhere was this exemplified more than in the ill fated speech of Mitt Romney days before hurricane Sandy hit in which he stated we should do away with FEMA. The supposition was I guess, that people should be preparing for themselves like Doomsday Preppers and if they don’t guess that a hurricane will strike instead of a super volcano, too damn bad, it’s not the government’s problem. The problem with this thinking is not only are we left with people out of homes with no help but if nothing is the government’s problem; why do we need the government anyway? Do you see? Getting rid of “socialist” ideas means getting rid of government which means all government officials need to find new sources of their retirement income not to mention barbers.
Of course we are accountable for each other. It’s the reason for society. Now, there will always be some people able and willing to live outside of that compact and that is okay too. But you cannot live in a subdivision and water your lawn with water provided by a community well and get pissed at your neighbor whose weeds are infecting your lawn AND say we aren’t all interconnected. Because if we weren’t you wouldn’t have any of those things in your life; the good or the bad.
5. Your (fill in group name here) is super duper awesome (if you belong) and sucks (if you don’t.)
We have gotten very good at being exclusionary and this plays out in so many places I have already talked about in this article. The exclusion of your neighbors, the exclusion of those in need, the exclusion of those who don’t believe in the gods/goddesses that you do and especially lately the exclusion of those “stupid” enough to believe in something. That’s right; I’m looking at you, you atheists because really you have become the thing you really hated about religious people, exclusionary. You attack believers just because they believe, never mind that they may be good people, helpful people, reasonable people who would never argue with you about your non-belief…It’s gotten very volatile. And this is especially true in our modern politics. Republicans are automatically “Republitards” and Democrats “Eat fried Rats” (okay, that’s not new- my grandmother; a life-long republican told me that every election season. She thought it was funny) But you get the idea. Green Party people are either wasting votes or helping the other side win and Libertarians are just plain insane.
It is all this polarizing behavior that is keeping us from the change that it sounds like we all want. If you listen to people from all sides, it seems like everyone is tired of the two party dominant system. We all secretly want the Whigs back. Or, you know, something new and different for our democracy. Because our democracy is stale and not really worth the trouble of rallying around anymore. It is this staleness that is keeping young people from getting more involved. It’s the stagnancy that keeps house maids from hitting the voting booths on their 15 minute lunch break. Because if any side were worth salvaging, the maids of America would walk down the street and vote instead of taking a smoking break and watching their stories. They would. But the stagnancy in anti-empowering. And we all accept it. We rail at people for “stealing votes” from one side or the other by protest voting or protest not-voting. What we need to wake up to is this is the perfect time to do something really different. Like introduce a wacky 15 party system complete with wrestle mania side-shows. Or maybe elect Ralph Nader like we should have; or you know, whatever gets people excited because you can only exclude people so much until you are left to peter our just like all the other dying out Fraternal orders of America like the Eagles, the Buffalos and the Juggalos which admittedly are likely going to be the last ones standing.
6. Just because the Fresh Prince lives in your neighborhood doesn’t mean segregation doesn’t still exist.
Racism still is a huge problem in America. It’s a huge problem in your hometown and mine. Take a minute and look around your neighborhood, right now. How many people of color do you see? Take a look even if you are a minority. Okay so maybe you’re like me and there is exactly one black person in your neighborhood or you might have one or two Black families that are middle class living in your neighborhood. But does that mean that racism doesn’t exist in your ‘hood? Not likely. If anything last year’s shooting of Trevon Martin should show us that even people who own homes in middle class neighborhoods and are darker are met with suspicion and death.
But this doesn’t play out in just our neighborhoods; it is still reinforced in our media. There is still segregation in film and fiction.
Yes, Tyler Perry has a media empire that films nothing but afro-centric movies showing black people living everyday lives. Tyler Perry also makes a shit-ton from these movies. Now without lying, how many white folks out there have seen more than one Tyler Perry movie?
Any why is it a Black man has to dress up in drag to get your
money attention America?
There are no movies or television shows where there is a token white person who isn’t an obvious token, as a statement to the blatant token-hood of minorities. While you will sometimes see white people and people of color paired up in couples in film, they without a doubt are going to be the first to break up or die depending on what genre you’re watching. The black person is still the first to be eliminated in any given scenario. Just look at this season of Dexter. (spoiler alert) They lost another Black detective. You’d think Black people would turn down a posting to Miami Metro by now.
The problem is we are fooling ourselves into believing that by electing a black president we have somehow crossed a line and we no longer have to worry about teaching our children about racism. If anything we have gotten exponentially worse in our country at racism.
And to be clear this is not just about racism against black people. Showtime’s newest darling, Homeland which garnered critical and popular acclaim last year by winning four Emmy awards, is nothing if not a cesspool of racist imagery designed to keep us afraid of Muslims and Arabs alike. There are no redeeming qualities assigned to the Arab characters in this series and while it seems we are perfectly okay with the idea of a mentally unstable CIA agent running surveillance on Americans; the series portrays every Arab as either violent aggressors or helpless, abused women. And why wouldn’t America love this show? We still need to feel okay about the ongoing war of aggression against Arabs currently occurring in every Arab nation on earth. Otherwise we’d have to ask ourselves why we aren’t more upset at Israel; right?
But why worry about admitting we have problems? Good God, there are obviously so many problems we aren’t tackling that we can’t possibly be worried about the denial that gets us through our day right?
And this is the big BIG denial that keeps us all in place. The idea that we aren’t the problem. That we aren’t the ones who personify the issues that face “US”. The fact is we are. When we consume media that is racist, when we peer pressure our friends into voting a certain way, when we allow ourselves to feel ashamed of our own spiritual beliefs be they in a God or Nothing, when we allow ourselves to believe we cannot overcome something and it is too big to ever be tackled we have become the problem.
Admitting that may be the first step in doing something about it.
Because the only real thing we can have an effect on is ourselves. When we do, it changes everything.