Monday, March 14, 2016

#205 - A Nation Divided, Part 1

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." - Abraham Lincoln

First, a disclaimer. I pay little attention to the news these days, not because of the "distortion" and "fabrication" of stories in the "liberal media" (sorry, but when a small group of corporations controls nearly all mass media outlets, there is nothing "liberal" about it), but because, after spending more than a decade in broadcast journalism, I no longer need or desire the aggravation, stress, or depressing thoughts that come from watching or reading the news on a regular basis.

I do occasionally scan the headlines, and I read with utter amazement some of the things a handful of my Facebook friends post. As a result, I have come to the conclusion (suggested once before on this blog) that this nation, in its present form, is not long for this world.

We've reduced positions and arguments to their lowest common denominator (perhaps we always have). Serious discussion followed by consensus or compromise no longer exists, and we reduce issues and views to a black and white battle between two opposing sides when, in fact, there are likely a multitude of views and positions between those two polar extremes. Each extreme pushes back against the middle, further polarizing the other and driving the margins further apart.

I was told once by a former friend that as I got older I would become more conservative. That has not happened. Because of what I described in the previous paragraph, I have, if anything, become more progressive or liberal in my views.

For instance, I support Bernie Sanders' call to make college tuition free. Not because I want a lot of "free stuff" (as critics deride this stand) or believe I am "entitled" (another argument used against young people and certain classes of society, neither of which applies to me), but because I believe it is an investment in the future of this nation.

We need more scientists and engineers and doctors and philosophers, and the best way to get them is to make college affordable and available to those who are academically and intellectually able to attend without requiring those students to all but mortgage their futures in order to do so. I believe this country's decision to deregulate student loans (thereby allowing banks to charge higher interest rates and make the ultimate cost of college that much more expensive) was a huge mistake.

I believe affordable access to health care is a basic human right. By this, I don't simply mean access to hospital emergency rooms. I mean maintenance and preventative health care. One way to make and keep health care affordable it to make sure symptoms are treated before they become serious problems and require a hospital visit. A healthy people is a productive people, and I don't believe funneling the sick and the poor into and through overworked and overcrowded hospital emergency rooms is the best solution or the best use of health care resources.

I also believe that everyone working deserves to be paid a living wage. Conservatives will argue that some people work harder and deserve more or that those who want to succeed can. I don't disagree with the first part of that argument but believe the second part becomes less true every day (if it ever was true).

Not everyone can be a millionaire/billionaire and not everyone can own his/her own business. We will always need people to collect our garbage, to serve us in stores and restaurants, to clean in our businesses. Have we decided that these people are less worthwhile, less deserving because of what they do?

We complain about illegal immigration while making certain jobs so low-paying that only illegal immigrants can afford to take them. We believe certain jobs are not worth more than minimum wage and then complain about the service we receive from those workers. We complain about the quality of our education system while at the same time we pull our children out of public schools and put them into private or charter schools.

The very first phrase of the U.S. Constitution reads "We the people of the United States." It doesn't read "some of the people" or "only the people who are like us" or "those people who think like us." To me, "we the people" means all of us, which I believe means we have to do certain things and provide certain services for all of us, not simply those who can afford them. From where I sit, that means access to affordable and quality education and health care.

I've written all of this and realized I did not even touch on the one thing that inspired or provoked this post. I'll save that for another time.