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writing for godot

Whither Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

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Written by Ivars Vilums   
Friday, 28 April 2017 01:51

The Democratic and Republican parties, like corporations and other artificial legal entities, are only powerful tools. How they are used is up to the people that control them. The Republican party has been, at different times, the anti-slavery party as well as the white supremacist party, the pro-war interventionist party as well as the isolationist party, the party of big business as well as the party of fiscal responsibility. The Democratic party at one time was a staunch defender of slavery and segregation and later the party that spearheaded civil rights. It was the party that brought us Social Security and Medicare but solidified its transformation into a party owned by special interests when wildly popular progressive vice president Henry Wallace was drummed out by party bosses at the 1944 Democratic convention in Chicago in favor of Harry Truman who they felt was more easily controlled. The vice presidency was of particular importance that year because of the failing health of President Roosevelt. A Gallup poll at the start of the convention showed Wallace with 65% of the delegates and Truman at 2%. Claude Pepper was seconds from reaching the podium to nominate Wallace when Samuel Jackson, the party chair, under strict orders from the party bosses suddenly adjourned the convention in spite of the overwhelming voice vote against adjournment. After a furious night of deals, bribes, and gifts Truman won the vote and became President the following April ordering the use of nuclear weapons four months later against civilian targets and ultimately starting the policy of endless wars that we are still paying dearly for today. Today both parties are completely controlled by their big money donors who use their power to ensure the election of candidates who focus exclusively on their goals while making sure no other party can compete.

Much is written about the the divide between so-called conservatives and liberals. In actuality conservatives do not conserve anything and liberals are not liberating anyone. Those labels only exist to ensure the dominance of a controlling elite by obfuscating and misdirecting the real concerns of the people that actually make up the country. I have lived in a number of states over the years and traveled for many years on business, much of it by road, from coast to coast and every state in between including parts of Canada and Mexico. During that time I met and talked with many interesting and different people. On a personal level most people everywhere are concerned about the same things - their health, happiness, and the well-being of themselves, their family, friends, those around them, as well as the country at large. It is amazing how much overlap there is between most conservatives, liberals, progressives, libertarians, and independents when the discussion is about needs and not policies or personalities. It is how those concerns are addressed that we start to see a dichotomy. Some people believe that an authoritarian approach is necessary while others are more egalitarian in their solutions. The authoritarians see the world as a hierarchy of classes requiring control by strong leaders whereas egalitarians take a more peer-to-peer approach and look on artificially imposed distinctions and imposed order with disdain. It seems to run so deep that I wonder if it is not built into one's DNA inheritance. In reality both approaches can produce results but taken to extremes start to look alike and break down. The fact that authoritarians have won at the ballot box in recent years is only a testament to their followers overriding obsequiousness. Those command and control systems are much more diffuse among egalitarians.

This country's strength lies in its diversity. Nowhere else (except perhaps Russia and China where it has not yet had a chance to flourish) can we find such a breadth of experience, history, culture, and beliefs to draw on. What we lack are the mechanisms and the will to take advantage of it. Schools, currently focused on job skills and passing tests, do not teach the thinking skills needed to create novel solutions that draw on that diversity. They punish questioning authority and straying too far from accepted ways. Our culture does not foster those skills. The popular media teaches that violence is always the ultimate arbiter. Those in power have found in divisiveness, ignorance, and fear a powerful tool with which to amass ever more power and wealth for themselves. Drawing from knowledge gained from decades of research in the innumerable fields of study that we have already funded and undertaken we know there are tools to not only bridge the divides but to synthesize and put to powerful use what seem at first to be contradictions, to build and act out of paradigms that incorporate and treat disparate ontologies as different viewpoints into the same domain.

To that end government has an obligation to ensure that all of its citizens not only have the knowledge and well-being they need to be functional and productive citizens but also have the tools they need to use that knowledge to craft and maintain the democracy they participate in. The answer starts in education, not just with children but as an ongoing lifelong process. But to be effective citizens it is also necessary to ensure that all people have access to health care. Sick and suffering citizens cannot focus on making good decisions. Basic health care must be divorced from profit making and political power. People have a right to choose what they want to do with their own bodies but require good education resources and personal well-being to be effective empowered citizens. The well-being of the government is a direct reflection of the well-being of its citizens.

Health care in the US is an abomination and has been for quite some time. Like its close relative the so-called "defense" industries, which have little to do with defense and a lot to do with wreaking violence upon the world to create new and better enemies while stoking fear and distrust among citizens to justify extracting ever greater profits from all sides, the two headed ghoul comprised of insurance and drugs is only interested in extracting all it can from its captive clientèle of sick and dying people and then disposing of them as quickly as possible. Actually caring for their needs is explicitly secondary. Although many young people start out with noble intentions of helping their fellow humans they are soon indoctrinated into a system that is so completely focused on profits that few are able to see beyond let alone rise above it.

The United States is, right now, the wealthiest nation that has ever existed yet all we hear is how we have to cut back and how people have to sacrifice because we can't afford to help people in need or even maintain a standard of living enjoyed by previous generations. I don't see the Trumps, the Clintons, the Bushes, the Romneys, the Obamas, the Ryans, the McConnell's or any of the so-called elites cutting back. The problem is where the focus of government and the people who exert control over it put our vast resources. The US already is spending many times over the total that the entire rest of the world combined spends on war and killing. Of course, certain individuals profit immensely from this and will do anything to ratchet up the drumbeat of fear and violence while keeping people too busy just staying alive to think or do much about it. Meanwhile they continue profiting from selling to all sides while applying a small percentage of their profits to maintaining their hold on political power. It is an addiction they are very skilled at maintaining and, like addicts, they will do anything to keep it going. As highly decorated Marine General Smedley Darlington Butler said "War is a racket" and President Eisenhower warned us all of the dangers of the "military industrial complex"in his farewell address in 1961.

Just to put things into perspective, the taxpayer money spent on just one contract for just one military airplane, the $1.5 Trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which still tends to blow up and doesn't really have a working gun (and the military establishment has hundreds of thousands of ongoing contracts) would have been enough to buy every homeless person in the US a $500,000 home, pay for education for everyone, and still have plenty of funds left over. Think how far those trillions of dollars spent on the endless military wars since WWII, the wars on drugs and immigrants and the homeless and the poor and so many other expressions of hate would have gone in paying people real wages to fix our infrastructure, address suffering, and raise everyone's standard of living. Not that giving every homeless person a half a million dollar home would be such a good idea but it's something to think about when someone starts complaining that this country can't afford to take care of just the basic needs of its citizens so that they can have the "luxury" of enjoying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We must start excising the control that the insurance, drug, war, financial, and other powerful interests wield over our government agencies, our elected representatives and officials, and especially the blinders they have pulled over all of us. There is more to healing than drugs and hospital beds and being healthy and happy takes more than buying particular brands of products and services. Being educated is more than reciting lists of facts or exercising rote business skills. Being a beacon of light to the people of the world takes more than bombing them for profit while treating them as less human because they are not card carrying citizens of the USA while telling them they will never have that chance. The Almighty God of Wealth must give way to more diverse human values in our culture and unfettered access to education and health care for all, all of the time. It will take divorcing money from influencing the people that are entrusted with our government. It will take a re-evaluation and a commitment to start using our resources to ensure that everyone has access to what they need. It will take a real commitment and working strategy of treating all people as equal. Only then can the real work begin.

Only then will we be able to start seeing the possibilities so simply expressed long ago, "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 — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." That is truly the national security and human crisis of our time.

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