What you Need To Know

Opinions expressed in my articles are my own, and opinions in the articles and comments section written by others are strictly those of the author or commenter and not me.

Please be civil, it adds nothing to the conversation to engage in name-calling.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where is the R-E-S-P-E-C-T ?

Our conversations of late have been filled with discussions about what is wrong with our society. I would argue that it is simply lack of respect. We do not respect ourselves. We then lack respect for others, and that leads to a lack of respect for the planet, the belongings of others whether personal or business, and just about anything else.

We wonder how to disagree without being disagreeable. By being respectful. If you respect that the other person has the right to have an opinion, a right to feel the way they do the same way that you feel the way that you do, then you can have a discussion, disagree on the issue and not wind up calling each other vile names and shouting at each other.

When we respect each other we don't vandalize others' property. We don't litter, pollute, destroy, and pillage the earth and its resources. When we respect each other we don't vilify others who are just tryiing to do their jobs. We don't blame certain groups of people for things that individuals do. We don't criticize others for our own faults.

Respect is something that is learned from a very early age. Respect has to be taught to children. We have not been doing this for a long time. Respect doesn't mean unquestioning subservience. What it means is that you admit that other people have a right to exist. And that they might have an idea or two that are valueable, just as you yourself do. You also must admit that 99.99% of people are working to try to make things better - they just differ with you about they way in which to do that.

We need to begin to teach our children again to respect others. This starts very young. Instead of sending children to school with the message "don't let that teacher tell you anything or I'll give them the what-for", and making teachers afraid to enforce absolutely any kind of discipline, we should teach our children that these adults (and all adults) should be respected. They are adults - and children don't know everything. Children are to learn from them.

Now this is not to say that all adults are perfect and that they should never be questioned. There is a right way and a wrong way to do that as well. But questioning can be done in a respectful way as well. And if we begin to have a respectful culture - adults can be respectful of childrens' questions as well.

Children should also be taught respect for others' things. This includes close family members, the neighbors, and people who you don't know. The lesson is that of the golden rule - someone else did something to acquire that item - and if you destroy or damage it, it will hurt them. How would you feel if someone did that to you? This can then logically extend to care for all things - including the environment. It is just as easy not to throw litter on the ground as it is to hire someone else to pick it up later. It is easier not to pollute the water than to try to clean it up later. It is easier not to pollute the air than to try to fix the mess later on.

Most indigenous people have lived in harmony with their surroundings for hundreds of years. They managed to take only what they needed, being careful not to over-use, and by so doing, had plenty of resources. So-called Western Civilization on the other hand has a history of constantly acquiring vast amounts of resources for no other reason than hoarding vast amounts of it and bragging to each other about it. We have stripped the land of timber and minerals, overharvested fish and wildlife, driven other species to extinction, destroyed whole ecosystems, polluted the water we drink and the air we breathe, and are now on a course to possibly destroy the livability of the entire planet. For what? Not for our needs - for our wants. This displays a complete and total lack of respect for not only the planet but for every person who does not live the way we do, who does not have the lifestyle we have, or who does not even grasp after the lifestyle we want.

So the next time someone wonders what is wrong, let us remember the wonderful song by Aretha Franklin, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, because that is really what this country needs right now. Lots and lots of it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

We Needed to Invade Iraq to Spread Democracy Around the Middle East?

Yeah, remember that was one of the reasons why we invaded Iraq - to bring democracy to those people there at the point of a gun.

Well, the people in Tunisia and the people in Egypt and who knows how many other countries in the Middle East (Palestinians anyone?) are trying to bring democracy by peaceful protests. And who are 'we' siding with? The dictators of course. We want stability above all. And the dictators who have been our friends ensure stability above all. So we will urge Mubarek to step down in favor of our hand-picked CIA sock-puppet torture-master because we want stability.

In the meantime our right-wing flame-throws around the fact that somehow the Muslim Brotherhood is forming a caliphate with Code Pink and Jon Stewart to take over the world so everyone should be afraid, be veeeeeery afraid.

What is remarkable in all this in Egypt is that the Army has said they will not fire on their own people - and are mostly acting as a 'fence' between the peaceful anti-government protesters and the pro-government violent thugs - many of whom appear to be members of Mubarak's secret police.

The people in the street want a European-style democracy, one with lots of political parties in a parliament. That parliament will elect a Prime Minister in much the same way that Britain, Germany and yes even Israel does. And yes, the Muslim Brotherhood will be one of those parties. But not the only one, and probably not even the most powerful one. Israel has political parties that are more radicalized than the Muslim Brotherhood - they participate in the Likud. All these groups ask is to be heard and to participate - as citizens - in the governance of their country.

I thought that was what this country - the United States - was supposed to be about. But looking at the US lately I am beginning to wonder. The GOP seems to feel that if you are not a member of the extreme right wing of their party that you are a traitor, you hate America, you are un-American, that you are automatically a socialist (not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion), a communist, a fascist, and that you can hold all those contradictory positions at the same time. Anyone who objects to this characterization or questions them is accused of being a hater and vilified for daring to speak up. They are told that they are trying to deprive the GOP and its followers of their constitutional rights, and the name-calling begins or continues louder and in more obnoxious fashion.

Controversies are manufactured where there are none, the talking heads on the networks and the cable shows all chime in and 95 percent of the voices are coming from the right so the entire megaphone of the press magnifies and amplifies all the screaming and self-victimization, the false-equivalency preening and contributes to an almost complete and total disinformation campaign that leaves the average person completely demoralized, disgusted and disenchanted with the entire political process that is so necessary for a democracy to function. And that is the whole point.

The fewer persons who participate the easier it is for the special interests to get, and keep control of our now-broken government.

So how does this relate to Iraq and now Egypt?

Think about it. Iraq was a war for the special interests - Halliburton in particular, oil companies in general, and Dick Cheney and Eric Prince both managed to become very wealthy indeed off the proceeds. How did they do that? Rigged elections, putting idealogues on courts, lots of money in the right places, and it continues to this day with no prosecutions for war crimes.

We have propped up Mubarak because he and his new vice president ran our torture and rendition program for us, they helped us keep the Palestinian problem under control, and they have given us first place in line in the shipping through the Suez Canal. That means billions of dollars to the special interests here in the US.

All of this is one of a piece. Democracy - true democracy is trying to break out all over the Middle East. We - the US - need to get out of the way and let it happen. We need to stop propping up corrupt dictators and overthrowing democratically elected governments just because we don't like them. It's not our decision to make. We have enough problems of our own to clean up.