First World Problems

Philosophy, Politics, Religion

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If it’s one thing I can’t stand to hear from someone is how some particular thing is “destroying our nation.”

Whatever it is, no it’s not. Our country is just fine. Lately every single politician, political movement, religion, atheist, communist, socialist, fascist, congressman, president, governor, mayor and the Post Office is destroying our country.

What exactly is so bad that some sort of harbinger has been unleashed declaring the end of the United States? Are we slugging it out in the streets for a top spot in bread lines? Do we face some kind of energy crisis? Are armed guards kidnapping random people in the night? Do we wake up to assault gun fire and mortar shelling every day like they do in Syria? Any genocide going on?

No. None of that is happening. We don’t have any REAL problems. We bitch about the political fighting in Washington, tax breaks for the rich, lazy people on food stamps, etc. But, I’m sorry, those are not nation-destroying troubles. Ronald Reagan’s Iran Contra scandal, George Bush’s recession, Bill Clinton’s philandering, George W.’s warmongering and Obama’s fight for his healthcare plan have not destroyed this country and none of it will.

Do we have problems? Yes, we do. The government spies on everything from our phone calls to our top scores on Angry Birds. Politicians on both sides lie about facts and use fear and anger to generate fervor among their electorate. Our economy at times seems to hang by a thread. The public denies scientists when they don’t like what scientists have to say.

But by and large, these things ARE being held in check. We still have our smartphones and our memes. We still drive our gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. We still have McDonalds, buffalo wings and Pizza Hut. This Sunday our nation will sit collectively for five hours while we enjoy our annual descent into junk food and beer during our beloved Superbowl.

Can things escalate to the point that our country will be destroyed? Of course. But we’re nowhere near that point. The fact that we’re so much in arms about the NSA, political discourse, climate change, economic regulations, welfare costs and healthcare shows that we do at least care about what’s happening even if we keep electing 90 percent of incumbents in Congress who do nothing about it.

And I won’t lie, sometimes I get caught up in the drama of it all and join in the chorus of doomsday. But I think enough is enough.

I’m not saying we should never be worried. I’m saying stop it with the histrionics. Let’s keep our eyes on the realities of our world. There are countries with genuine war zones, food shortages, widespread disease and genocide. But it’s not our country. Our issues are, at the end of the day, first-world problems.

It’s the deep paranoia and the actions that people take based on that paranoia that can cause serious problems. But even then, that won’t be the end of us.

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Marijuana v. Alcohol

Politics

Although no one tells me, I’m positive everyone gets annoyed when I start a comment off with “I used to be a newspaper reporter and I…”

I apologize in advance but the thing is, journalists see things in this world that most people don’t. They have a unique perspective and a more informed perspective than those who are content to just watch TV news.

I say all of this before talking about something that I haven’t before and that’s drugs. Obama said in a recent New Yorker article that marijuana is perhaps not the pariah on society that it was painted to be in the likes of Reefer Madness. While it could be a gateway drug and is damaging to your lungs, it doesn’t cause as much ill effects on the body and on society as previously advertised. There’s all kinds of research about the subject. Some say marijuana’s bad. Others say it’s not that bad.

I won’t profess to know one way or the other. I’ve never toked up nor have I smoked a cigarette in my entire life. Watching my grandfather wither up and die from lung cancer solved that problem for me.

I do however, drink. Not excessively but regularly.

As a newspaper reporter I witnessed a lot of the things that go wrong when it comes to alcohol and drugs. One of my responsibilities with some of the papers I worked for was covering the courtroom. Most every single murder case I covered involved alcohol and/or drugs in some manifestation. Either the victims or the killer were on drugs, buying drugs, selling drugs or fighting over drugs. As far as alcohol is concerned many times killer was drunk or had been drinking.

Then there are the manslaughter cases from drunk-driving fatalities. There’s a lot of those, especially in Texas. The trials were especially painful to watch because, unlike homicides, there’s no real explanation for someone dying in a drunk-driving wreck. With a murder, there’s some known motivation. With intoxicated manslaughter, it’s really about chance. The victim just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and then, poof, their gone.

Like it or not, alcohol is part of American culture but it is also an element of many heinous things that happen in the criminal justice system. Aside from the wreck deaths and the murders, there’s an untold number of domestic violence, assaults, robberies and more that are fueled by people with alcohol in their system.

While it was a prevalent theme in many of the cases I covered, one thing that I didn’t see a lot of were suspects who committed crimes while under the influence of marijuana. I’m not saying that it never happened, just that it was exceedingly rare.

There’s two ways of looking at that, of course. One is marijuana isn’t much of a factor because it isn’t legal and therefore less people use it than alcohol. True. The other way of looking at it is (and I’ll borrow the pro-gun lobby logic here) criminals don’t follow the law thus they’re more than likely to light one than regular people and thus more likely to commit crime while under the influence.

Regardless of how you look at it, it’s not something that you see a lot of when it comes to people who commit crime and their mental state. Yes it does happen but not near as often as you see with alcohol.

So why are so people fighting the legalization? My guess is they’ll use the point of view that if it’s legal more people will use it thus leading to more crime, etc, etc. These detractors are more than likely conservative and the same people who use the criminals-are-criminals-and-don’t-follow-the-law-anyway argument when it comes to the gun control measures that they oppose.

Why is it that alcohol is acceptable to use and marijuana is not? A close look at the criminal justice system will show that alcohol seemingly has a more damaging effect on society and yet it is legal.

With Washington and Colorado blazing a new trail with their legalization laws, time will tell if marijuana will create the rise in crime some believe will happen.

I’m guessing it won’t. Some people are happy drunks. Some people are mean drunks. You’ve never heard of a mean pothead.

 

Madness Control

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Tragedy. Nothing brings people around like dead children.

Despite our Second Amendment right to keep a gun, politicians will almost automatically start looking at gun control measures after the devastation at the Connecticut elementary school. There has been just too many mad man shootings in the past year to ignore. A shopping mall, a school, a movie theatre, a mosque. It has been endless.

For a few years now, gun control has been a topic which politicians have been remarkably and uncharacteristically mute. Despite the constant barrage of socialist accusations, Obama has done nothing to pass any gun control laws. Even after the Colorado movie theater shooting, O’s people said they would not be looking to ban any weapons.

That hasn’t stopped trigger-happy, gunpowder-sniffing firearms fans from stocking up on ammo during his presidency. Women in record numbers have been getting their handgun licenses. There are lines to shooting ranges everywhere.

Obama has been the best thing that has ever happened to gun dealers. But the man has done nothing to lock the triggers.

I think now he has to.

How do we pursue it? I’ve never been a gun control advocate because it only takes guns away from law-abiding citizens. Americans also have the Constitutional right to own a firearm. Guns are a part of our culture. Bottom line: they’re not going anywhere. No matter how many kids die, none of that changes.

But, Adam Lanza was a law-abiding citizen as was his mother, who owned the guns he used to kill first graders.

A simple assault weapons ban likely will be the likely scenario. NRA followers will throw out their old arguments. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Criminals will find a way to get a hold of guns illegally.

Gun control proponents will counter with their standbys. Fewer guns mean fewer shootings. If we can’t get rid of them, let’s at least reduce the number of them out there.

To me, here’s the answer. If we’re going to control guns, let’s control the damned things. Firearms need to be licensed to users. The government have to set up an agency that establishes all of the rigorous restrictions. No criminals. No mental patients. The licenses have to be renewed. They have to swear to safety measures. In other words, make the fucking things hard to get ahold of, not illegal. Keep the casual users from buying them as easy as it is to get a case of beer at a grocery store.

That makes sense. If a person with a seizure order can’t drive a car, how can someone mentally unstable or a con be able to buy a gun?

People do kill people. The issue though, is guns industrialize killing. A flick of the finger can take someone’s life. A trigger is easier than a knife or a bomb.

Something like that has to be controlled.

White Anger

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I think maybe it’s time for conservatives to do a little soul searching. Just a little, because denial kills.

No they weren’t trounced on Tuesday. They were beat. But the fact is they lost to an incumbent president in a sour economy. That says a lot. The president won every single swing state, except one, North Carolina. A state in the south, big shock.

For so long conservatives have expected the middle class to fall in line with their fiscal ideology and fundamentalist social agenda. They figured with a beleaguered, black commander in chief, that whites would pour into the polls by the millions to vote the bum out. Conservatives thought white guilt got the president in and it would take white ire to get him evicted.

At first, it seemed that the plan would work. There was pessimism with the economy; A LOT of pessimism. Unemployment was lowered but in all, remained high. Health insurance reform was somewhat unpopular. There was a tragedy in Libya. There were all the trappings for ousting the man they felt was responsible for so much depression.

And yet, it failed.

Why? Well conservatives didn’t count on the fact that women, Hispanics and a record number of minority voters would turn out in droves to keep Obama in office. Apparently when you only care about whites, it pushes the other potential voters away. You can’t tell Hispanics that you’re going to deport their relatives. You can’t tell women that rape is something “God Intended.” You can’t tell people without health insurance that they’re not entitled to it.

So sift through the ashes, cons, because the clues are there for you. While you only lost by 2 percent of the vote, it might as well have been a rout.

Don’t worry. Angry, self-righteous whites will still cling to your side. But you might want to consider getting rid of the zealots, Rove, Norquist, etc. You probably have to come out into the open with the fact you will do nothing about illegal immigration and you never intended to. Given the rising number of single mothers in this country, it’s imperative to understand that women do, in fact, care about their civil rights.

In short conservatives, you might have to think about being inclusive rather than exclusive. Stop fighting to limit people’s rights and start broadening them.

White anger is no longer enough.

Factual Factfest

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Facts just don’t matter anymore.

This presidential race keeps proving one fact time and time again: if you say something enough times, people eventually will believe it.

Barack Obama keeps spreading a “fact” that Mitt Romney once supported legislation to outlaw all abortions, even those in case of rape or incest. Romney’s camp constantly says that Obama removed a work requirement for people seeking welfare benefits.

Wrong and wrong.

Romney said in a 2007 debate that he would not support banning abortion in case of rape or incest. Obama left the decision regarding work requirements up to states; he never eliminated it. Guess who asked for the right to adjust the work requirements? GOP governors.

But none of this is important really. Most voters don’t do their own fact checking and they sure as hell don’t read PolitiFact or Factcheck.org. Fact checkers do their damnedest but no one listens. Apparently nobody likes the guy who starts off a conversation with “Actually…”

Where does this come from? Ironically, it’s too much choice. With the Internet, Fox News and MSNBC, people can live in their opinion 24/7 now. It has created so much division in the past 15 years that the facts behind a politicians statements mean little.

And Republicans, Democrats, pundits and political strategists flood the airwaves and Internet tubes with the same shit because they know people don’t care.