Sunday, March 2, 2008

American Idle

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”-Thomas Jefferson (who, as his record suggests, knew his way around government a little bit.)

The 'Race for the White House' accelerates again this week with four states holding primaries on Tuesday. You have your feelings and opinions and I have mine and that's part of the beauty of this form of democracy that we've had in these parts for quite some time. However, and it seems to be an almost-American national characteristic, we become so immersed in the 'doing of the deed' (the process) that we lose sight or forget the 'purpose of the act' (the product).

Look no further than empty and abandoned factories across the USA, with unemployed skilled laborers filling out forms, standing in line (yeah, we scored tickets for the just-added 13 June show) to see where the flaw in the North American Free Trade Agreement might be. Or to the air and water pollution and non-living wages being paid to South of the Border workers by stockholders of companies who understood NAFTA and the laws of unintended consequences.
I mention stockholders because they are real people (and more often than not are me and you), because we fall in love with making everything and everyone an abstraction. It's easy to hate "Big Oil" and its 'obscene profits' unless, and until, you remember, like me, a piece of your retirement fund is in energy stocks and I need those companies to turn a profit so that when I retire I'm not eating cat food every night while playing checkers until I pass away.

Second example: the streets of any city in Iraq and how we came to have 138,000 active duty military men and women there. The offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan, in light of their support of Al (and his lovely wife, Bernice) Qaeda was expanded to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq with whom the USA in general and the Bush family in particular has had a bone to pick for a decade. All the positives achieved in Afghanistan have been overshadowed by the quagmire perception of the intervention in Iraq (=Vietnam for my generation has been replaced for my children. This is progress?).

All of the above is even more unimportant than always.
Here is what you should do if you have a free hour (an hour? I've come up with something that will take an hour? Jeepers! (jeepers?) Actually, it will take more than an hour to do it right and it involves something most of us hate to do, because we don't do it well: read for meaning) and it ties back into the 'Race for the White House' of which I typed a moment ago. There is a better than even chance, regardless of your political party affiliation or ideology that your first choice for the American Presidency is no longer in the race. Let's forget about the people who ran, okay, and think about the reasons they ran.
Get a copy of the Sunday NY Times. Here's what you're looking for in today's issue: "What I'd Be Talking About if I Were Still Running". You may have to register and set up an account to access it. Quit whining. It takes two minutes and costs nothing and you could do worse than be discovered with an online account to the NY Times, okay?

America is still about ideas. And reading this entire OP-ED effort, from first through last, should get you excited about being an American like nothing else we've done recently. Enjoy.
-bill kenny

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