Saturday, May 29, 2010

Are You Living The American Dream?

The American Dream?This topic came up on another blog. The piece discussed what the American dream is not, without being too definitive about what it is. That's when I dropped my post in the midst of the discussion, hoping that it would force a new examination of these oft-repeated words.

It got one comment. The comment followed my statement, and was positive. The host responded briefly, but it was clear that my comment received little more than a perfunctory glance.

I'm not angry.

It's a good blog, but the locust have descended upon it, threatening to strip it of the verdant growth of thoughtful comments, fresh ideas, intellectual banter, the vastly different, but interesting perspectives, and the treasure-trove of information we've come to expect and appreciate--all that the blog used to be before the coming of the locusts: the ideologues, the trolls, and the malcontents.

Five regulars make up roughly 72% of the posts. The remaining 28% often conceal a few nuggets of gold, and a gem or two, but the nuggets and the gems are becoming rarer.

And that's a shame.

I read a blog as much for the content, as for the comments, and see them both as an intricate part of the overall experience I've come to expect from frequenting a blog.

In case you're curious, and didn't see it: Here's the post I left:

What, in fact, is the American dream, and when do you know that you have it?

Does it come on like a cold, with symptoms so clear that you can't mistake it for anything else, like say the flu?

Does it creep up behind you in the night, and snatch your purse, or your wallet, and leave you glad that you didn't lose more, like say your life.

I'm thinking about all those lottery winners who won millions. If you had asked them right after their sudden win, if they're living the American dream, I believe to a man or a woman that they would have grinned broadly and said, "Yes."

Are they living the American dream? Hard to say, too often these mega-millions winners end up dead, or as impoverished as before they won, or meet with some other ignominious end.

What is the America dream, then? Is it material wealth? Or is it something else?

I'm thinking about all those starlets, and other celebrities of stage, and screen, and courts, and fields, and courses, and tracks.

Are they living the American dream? Hard to say, too often they're caught up in scandals--sex scandals, drug scandals, and ripoff scandals.

What is the American dream, then? Is it fame and public acclaim? Or is it something else?

Martin Luther King defined what he thought the American dream to be, and immortalized it in a speech, of which most of us are familiar, his, I Have A Dream, speech.

Upon close examination of the speech, you're struck by how often King used the words "free," "liberty" and "freedom," or some other similar reference:

"Emancipation Proclamation," and "a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity," and "the solid rock of brotherhood."

What is the America dream, then? Is it freedom? Or is it something else?

Our founding fathers conceptualized it by encapsulating it with these words from our Declaration Of Independence, ostensibly to enumerate a deficiency in governance to which they rebelled:

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Now this brief passage is open to endless interpretations, and have been so subjected.

But what's remarkable about it, is that man's "unalienable Rights," which are "self-evident," come not from government, but from God ("their Creator"), suggesting that it's government's role to assure that these Rights aren't trampled by the whims of men, or tyrants.

If this is the American dream, then it's nothing more than a Gift from God, and not man. And the government that governs best, is not the one that governs least, but the one that seeks to protect those "unalienable Rights."

We might quibble over how best to do that, and when we have done that, but the charge is unmistakable:

Government is entrusted with the solemn duty to protect what God has given to each equally--an endowment, a Gift of "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

So, is this the American dream--a Gift from God, and a government charged with the protection of that Gift?

I like to think so.
So, to answer the question posed in the title of this piece, "Are You Living The American Dream?", let me say it depends, and answer it this way: You live and experience the American dream in direct proportion to how well government protects the Gift with which God has endowed us all--"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rush to the Rescue!

A Dittohead, because I couldn't bear another pic of Limbaugh.I'm going to quote Rush Limbaugh here a couple of times, but trust me: this entry is not about Rush Limbaugh. It's about the gullibility of those millions that listen to him daily, that drink in his every word (Rush-Ade), believing that his is the voice of Zeus, and, therefore, infallible.

I have a theory, as to why, but I'll save that for later. First, let me introduce the quotes and get that over with. The quotes are disgusting enough in their own right, so, to use them as teasers, only serves to make them more disgusting. By now, you've probably heard them. They have been used several times as lead-ins on cable news programs, with the hosts wide-eyed with disbelief at the utter insanity tucked away in the words.

Rush is many things, but he's not insane, not in the classical sense. Nutty, perhaps, but he's been a nutbar almost from the beginning, his audience growing exponentially, as the number of radio stations that picked him up grew, all wishing to cash in on the Rush phenomenon that was sweeping the nation.

Words have consequences. But don't tell that to this conservative "entertainer":

"The amount of seepage, seepage is what it is, not a gusher, but seepage. Throughout the world oil from subterranean deposits leaks out and it never reaches the surface because it's eaten up and destroyed by the ocean. So let's not panic here, folks. If there's plumes of oil ten miles wide under there it's probably not going to be nearly as bad as all the doomsayers say. It never is as bad as the doomsayers say, is it? Global warming is not as bad as they say. In fact, it's a hoax. So why not have a little common sense, a little reason attached to this, but you can't do that because then you stall the advancement of the left's agenda, then you have Juan Williams, "Oh, yeah, well, let's just go pour some oil in there, let's do that, yeah, ocean will take care of it," and these guys said, "Who said that?" Nobody is saying that. Nobody, not one person that I know of has ever said let's just go dump some oil in the ocean. So it's just fascinating to watch this. And again, the environmentalist wackos, I think this oil spill is a lot on you. I really do."

You see where he's going with this, right? He's shifting the blame for this environmental disaster, this oil-rig explosion that killed 11, sinking the oil platform, and with it, not the future of British Petroleum, but the efforts of "environmentalists" who have fought long against such risky and potentially disastrous enterprises.

Here's Rush's other inane quote:

"When do we ask the Sierra Club to pick up the tab for this leak? Everybody's focus is on BP and Halliburton and Transocean. Let me connect the dots here for you. The greeniacs have been driving our oil producers off the land from offshore to way offshore to way, way, way out there offshore, from low risk to high risk, to higher risk. We are now forced to drill. One mile under sea, that's 5,000 feet. Obviously it's going to be a much more expensive problematic proposition to get oil from that depth than elsewhere and yet that is what has been forced on everybody here."

That's it. I promise. No more Rush Limbaugh quotes, at least for this blog entry. I'm not sure if I can take more.

With his words above, Rush is laying the groundwork for future discussions of who's to blame for this impending ecological disaster. Note, it's not BP, Halliburton, or Transocean who are at fault, it's those pesky "environmental wackos," the Sierra Club by name. He's saying, essentially, if you're going to be mad at anybody, don't go after those poor souls who're actually responsible for this disaster, go after those "wackos" who petitioned the government to stop oil drilling on land, and forced the oil industry to do what they clearly didn't want to do--risk life, and capital drilling in inhospitable environs, miles out into the Gulf, and a mile down--to extract the lifeblood of this economy: Oil! Oil! Oil!

I'm not going to link to articles detailing the severity and magnitude of this oil spill, and who's to blame for the growing threat in the Gulf to coastal wetlands, fisheries, aquatic wildlife, tourism, and the livelihoods of thousands--having an economic impact in the billions of dollars, not only to locals, but to the nation.

Yet, is it not conservatives, and Republicans in particular, who wax eloquently about personal responsibility? And, yet, we have Rush Limbaugh flouting this major tenet of conservatism, and the battle cry of Republicanism.

We know why Rush is protecting Big Oil, we have only to look at his garish Internet site, and its naked appeal for his slavish listeners to buy something, to understand why.

But why do people listen to Rush's insanity? And this is not the first time he's said something this close to the edge. Why are millions tuned in to his daily claptrap, believing that, if Rush says it's so, it must be so? They aren't called "dittoheads" for nothing. If you've ever listened to his show (I did when he first appeared on the airwaves.), you know Rush rarely allows on the air a listener who disagrees with his position. From time to time, a few deceivers get through, but his scrupulous screening process is designed to keep undesirables out, and dittoheads in--Rush doesn't handle dissent very well.

As I was saying: The callers who do manage an audience with Rush invariably begin their spiel with a "ditto, Rush" before proceeding.

I'm no psychologist, but I'd like to take a stab as to why. But before I do, I'm going to break a promise. I'm going to quote Rush one last time. It's not a quote, exactly, but a description of The Rush Limbaugh Show. It's a short one, so I'll need only feel a small pang of contrition for breaking a vow. I wanted you to read how Rush describes himself, and his show. Don't read this just after eating, or on an empty stomach. Let your food settle, first.

"The Rush Limbaugh Show is the most listened to radio talk show in America, broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide. It is hosted by America's Anchorman, Rush Limbaugh, also known as: America's Truth Detector; the Doctor of Democracy; the Most Dangerous Man in America; the All-Knowing, All-Sensing, All-Everything Maha Rushie; defender of motherhood, protector of fatherhood and an all-around good guy.

"There is a 'consensus' among the American people, who have made this the most listened to program, that it is also the most accurate, most right, and most correct.

"People who disagree with this are Rush Deniers."

This statement is as bloated as Rush, but offers important insight into the man, and how he sees him role as a "radio entertainer." I use the term, "radio entertainer," facetiously, because Rush is no "entertainer," as many on the Right would have us believe. A rabble-rouser, to be sure. An opportunist, undeniably. A self-serving, money-focused, take-no-prisoners showman, indubitably.

I confess, I have a penchant: I exalt rationality, introspection, and critical thinking, and abhor groupthink, and mass appeal. In addition, I avoid organizations built around personalities who surround themselves with cultish-like followers who express an "obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to, or veneration for, a person, principle, or thing."

From Rush, his followers can expect certain predictable, but indispensable outputs: a daily dose of confirmations, a daily dose of reinforcements, and a daily dose of acceptance of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that differ dramatically from the mainstream, but which he enthrones.

Rush gives his slavish listeners all they need to maintain their narrow worldview. Rush reinforces bigotry. Rush confirms biases. And Rush tolerates and accepts irrationality. Rush reinforces these things with the sheen of respectability, a respectability that comes from having a nationwide, radio talk show, and an army of "dittoheads" that generally agrees with his harebrained positions, beliefs, and attitudes--and his demonization of all things liberal, and progressive.

Rush gets paid amply to give legitimacy to bigotry, biases, and irrationality, and then call it conservatism.

To call Obama's presidency a regime, with the connotations that that word elicits, and have it "dittoed" by millions of Americans, seemingly without thinking about the implications of such usage, gives this country a black eye, mocks our democracy, and calls into question the inviolability of our constitution.