Response to “What has America Become?”

Editor’s note:   Some friends, have suggested I not cover this story because, it features my critique of an editorial that is such a nightmare of emotional arguments, special pleading, and comparisons between apples and oranges that it should not be given more attention that it has already received.  I decided to write this entry anyway, because it contained a lot of claims that should be addressed.  

Additionally, the news has just come out that the US government is shutting down due to partisan conflicts over health care reform.  A friend of mine recently  suggested that the people who voted for these politicians only have themselves to blame, reiterating the GG Allin theory of government: “the voters don’t get what they expect, they get what they deserve”.  With that said, I think the piece I am addressing here does reflect the mindset of many American voters, and the media that feeds them, and as such provides some explanation of why we elect the type of people we do.  

A couple years ago, a short editorial piece, presumably from somewhere in small-town America went semi-viral on internet and got surprisingly positive responses.  I responded to it at the time among my friends, but since that was before I began contributing to this blog, and since it is such a great example of the type of reactionary hogwash that The Wilson Report exist to counter, I figure it’s worth revisiting.

Here is the original:

Editorial

Here is my response updated, to accommodate any changes in my opinion, or account for developments during the mean-time.

1.  Has America become the land of special interest and home of double standards?  Sure, but I would argue that it is not for the reasons you suspect and that it was probably case throughout your life and before you were born.

2.  “If we lie to Congress, it’s a felony and if congress lies to us it’s just politics.”

This may be the one point, where I sympathize with the author.  Our elected politicians are often to willing to bend the truth or the law, when advancing their own goals.  There is not enough accountability and little penalty for dishonesty.  However this strikes me as having probably always been the case, and pretend otherwise is simply nostalgia for a time that never was.

3. “If we dislike a black person we’re racist and if a black person dislikes a whites it is their first amendment right.”

Actually if a black or white person dislikes others because of their race or ethnicity, it is racism and should be criticized as such.  However it is also a protected first amendment right to express one’s racism if one so chooses.  That does not mean it will be exempt from criticism.  We American’s are free to dislike whoever we want, for whatever reasons we want.  There is no law saying you have to like anyone.   Frankly, I have trouble sympathizing with the author’s point here.  Maybe, It’s because I’m younger, or from a different background, but I do not recall ever being accused of racism.  Nor do I live my life in fear that I’ll receive such accusations.  I feel completely comfortable criticizing people of all races, colors and creeds (areas where we disagree) without fearing that will be seen as an expression of racism.  Furthermore, I think this is an area where things have actually improved.  Though I do not know the author, I suspect he lived through a time where state imposed racial segregation was the common in much of the country, as were forms of overt racism, that are now seen as socially unacceptable.

4. “Public schools can teach homosexuality is ok, but they cannot use the word God in the process”

Public schools (whose existence I will take for granted, for the sake of argument) should base their teachings about human sexuality (homosexual or otherwise) on empirical evidence from the real world, not on any of the numerous and highly suspect tomes that are claimed to be the word of God.  I would prefer students be taught only the empirical facts, and be allowed to make their own minds about what is or is not Ok.  I for one do not want my tax money to be used to promote other people’s religious prohibitions, superstitions or values.  If you want to indoctrinate your kids this way, use your own money and keep it out of tax-payer funded institutions.

5. ‘The government spends millions of dollars to rehabilitate criminals but they do almost nothing for the victims.”

I’m not sure how true this is.  I know one person who was a victim of violent crime, and the local government paid the entirety of the very costly medical expenses.  I would even go as far as to propose we are hardly proactive in attempting to rehabilitate criminals.  It seems are prison system puts more emphasis on punishing them, and often makes them worse in the process.

6.  “You can kill an unborn child, but it’s wrong to execute a mass murderer.”

This sort of bumper sticker sloganeering over simplifies two highly complex issues.  For one thing, it overlooks the fact that in 32 states the death penalty is a legal sentence as well as in the federal civilian and military legal systems.  So, despite Mr. Huber’s silence on who supposedly has declared it wrong to execute a mass-murderer, it is certainly not the federal government.

Furthermore 43 inmates were executed just last year.  The death penalty has a long history, of killing people who were subsequently shown to be innocent or mentally incompetent, as well as costly and ineffective at its stated purpose of deterring crime, so it is little wonder that there have always been moral objectors to it.  This is not to mention that many of us simply do not like the idea of government killing in our names.  Furthermore when kept alive, mass murders have provided insights that have been used to solve other crimes, as well as provide important insights into how the minds of killers operate.

This is not to mention the fact that even killers are sentient beings, which is not true of embryos or fetuses for much of the pregnancy.  As such the idea of giving a legal preference to a non-sentient being over a fully developed woman is absurd, and I suspect that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be legal in every state.  I reject the notion that anyone should, have an inalienable right to use of someone else’s body.  I would not use the state to force someone to give me their kidneys any more than I would use it to force you to bear my child.  Mr. Huber neglects to mention such cases as rape or situations where the pregnancy threatens the mother’s physical well-being.  I wonder if his outrage extends to these cases as well.

7.  “We don’t burn books, in America we now rewrite them”

Could someone provide an example please???  I’ll also note that Mr. Huber’s side in the culture war is demonstrably quite bad, about rewriting history.

8. “We got rid of communist and socialist threats by renaming them progressives”

What does this author want to do, bring back the Red Scare and use the government to persecute people who don’t agree with him politically?

9. “If you protest against President Obama, you are considered a terrorist, but if you burn an American flag or burn effigies of George Bush it was your first amendment right.”

Who is supposedly saying this? I could be wrong, but most people I know who support the right to burn American Flags or effigies of president bush, equally support your right to do the same towards Obama.  Furthermore, people who protested either president likely got similar amounts of grief from that president’s supporters.  Maybe, I’m wrong but I’m not convinced we live in a dystopia where the President cannot be protested or publicly criticized.  I will though acknowledge though that both Presidents mentioned here have expanded the ability of the state to monitor and punish American citizens without due process, and as such conservatives and liberals should have been vocally opposing both administrations, rather than fighting each other.

10. “You can have pornography on the internet, but you better not put up a nativity scene in a public park during Christmas.

I cannot believe anyone would have to have this explained to them.  Private Internet sites are not government institutions. They are neither supported with tax dollars and their owners have the same freedoms of expression that anyone else has.  If someone wants to display pornography in their own webpage or in their own home, they are free to.  We are served well by the fact that people can express themselves freely on the Internet.

On the other hand a public Park is a government space, and in many contexts displays such as nativity scenes do represent a government endorsement of a specific religion.   Government using its power to promote a given religion (or religion over irreligion) compromises the freedom of religion for everyone.  Frankly, I don’t understand why so many people who are supposedly advocates of small government seem so intent on wanting the government to endorse their religion or their church.  I would think they would recognize the often corrupting influence government has.  All too many Christians in this country seem to think that freedom of religion means freedom for all levels of government to use other people’s tax money to promote their religion, which is in fact the opposite of the truth.

7. “We have eliminated all criminals in America, they are now called sick people”

I don’t have any idea what this one is supposed to mean, or why anyone would be impressed by it.

8.  “We use can use a human fetus for medical research, but it is wrong to use animals.”

We actually still do research on animals.  It is quite common.  Research on fetuses is done exclusively on dead fetuses that would have died anyway.  Researchers are prohibited from any involvement in the decision to terminate a pregnancy or assessing fetal viability.  The current law also forbids altering the timing or method of abortion for the sake of research and the payment of any inducements that might encourage a woman to have an abortion.  Such research, is crucial in many areas of medicine including developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.

9. “We take money from people who work hard for it and give it to those who don’t want to work.”

I often find that people who receive welfare would much prefer to work than live off the state, also note that some of the people are physically incapable of working.  I question the assertion that people with massive amounts of wealth necessarily worked hard to earn it. Also many working class people who are forced to go on welfare are very hardworking, and many people who use the welfare system have paid into in the past or will pay into it in the future. But yes like any other insurance scheme it can be abused.  Ideally we should form alternatives to the welfare system that are not so dependent on the tax dollars of others, but that will have to be covered in a different entry.

10. “We still have freedom of speech, but only if we are being politically correct”

There are no legal restrictions on speech in this country based on political correctness. This author is simply wrong in this assertion.

11. “Parenting has been replaced with Ritalin and video games”

As opposed to the physical abuse of your day?  I don’t think there is any place where a majority of kids are on Ritalin and most kids don’t use videos games as a substitute for their parents.  Also note, during much of this country’s history it was not uncommon for kids to run wild in the street engaging in petty crime, to the extent that video games prevent this, they may be a good thing.

12. “The similarity between Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill is that, neither president did anything to help”.

What does this author think either president could have done but didn’t?

Overall the piece reads like the words of a bitter old nostalgic lamenting the death of some idealized version of the good old days that probably never existed as he imagines.  I understand why he may feel frustrated about the way the country is headed, but not over most of these issues.  We have stagnant economic growth, stagnant wages, and two blatantly corrupt political parties that like to raise spending while cutting revenue and getting us involved in costly military adventures.

We also have a growing surveillance state that is all to happy to spy on us and intrude into our private lives.  Many of us are working long hours with little reward, and are happy to at least be able to do that.

That said I don’t wax nostalgic for the good old days.  We no longer, live with state supported racial segregation, red scares, or fear of impending war with the Soviet Union.  Overt racism is no longer socially acceptable and people who are not part of the majority religion are freer than ever to express themselves.  The social stigma concerning pregnancy is no longer the number one cause of marriage and the government is less involved in telling people what to think about matters, like religion, which should be one’s own decision.  Furthermore, technology like the internet, allows to people freely express themselves and communicate with others at unprecedented speeds and levels of details.  Yes, some people understandably use this to view porn (disproportionate numbers of which live in very conservative parts of the country).

Frankly, I see many of the things complained about here, such as less leeway for government to support religion, more humane treatment of criminals, less tolerance of racism and homophobia, and greater levels of bodily autonomy for women to be good things.

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