My rights are more important than yours

As a 60 year old white man, I have come to several conclusions living in America. Where we are supposed to have equal rights, what that really means is “my rights are more important than yours.” The examples are many and seem to be more at the forefront in a spin-doctored to disinformation news cycle. The other thing I have learned is democracy is hard work – you have to work at it to keep it flourishing. That is why it so easy to harm it.

One of the best examples can be gleaned from the letters to the editors in the newspapers or the comments on various blogs. The comments/ letters I am speaking of occur when a celebrity, athlete or entity espouses a political opinion that differs from yours. The comment ranges from they should stick to their art or sport and not use their popularity as a platform to espouse political views. Or, it might read, I want to watch a ball game and not be told what I must do politically.

It is OK for these people to wear eight corporate sponsor logos to sell you things, but they should not tell you what they believe. Yet, what is not being said, is it is OK for me to use my platforms or read that of others because they agree with my belief construct. In other words, my right to espouse an opinion supersedes yours. So, how dare Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem or Megan Rapinoe say what she thinks. That is unpatriotic. Call me crazy, but siding with a Russian president’s opinions over that of your own intelligence people sounds pretty unpatriotic to me.

Another good example is the Religious rights activity. These laws grant the right to discriminate because it violates a religious belief. The subtlety of this being different from protecting one’s rights against discrimination is not heeded. But, it also causes a very slippery slope of the same folks being discriminated against by other religions or groups. This could be a LGBT owner not selling to someone with hate speech on their T-shirt, a Muslim owner not selling to an evangelical as they do not like their extremist views, a Jewish owner not selling to non-Kosher buyers.

Back in the late 1960s, three black athletes – Jim Brown, the star NFL running back and actor, Bill Russell, the star NBA basketball player and Muhammad Ali all spoke out against poverty and oppression of opportunity of black Americans. They did so knowingly and convincingly. What disappoints many is that Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods do not use their popularity to speak out against similar issues that still fester.To their credit, Lebron James and Stephen Curry are speaking out. Kaepernick actually hurt his career in so doing.

It is more than OK for people to speak out. That is the way it works. I recall when the US invaded Iraq, the country singing group The Dixie Chicks were vilified for speaking out against this. They were hailed unpatriotic by people supporting the Bush administration. Yet, history proved them right to question such a move. What is more unpatriotic – invading a country under false pretenses where over 4,000 American and additional numbers of allied soldiers die or speaking out against such an invasion?

Call me crazy, but if we are going to send Americans and our allies to die, we better have done our homework and exhausted all other options. It should be informational that a UK report found Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush at fault for not being forthcoming to the British people. As Forrest Gump would say, “That is all I am going to say about that.”

 

Jingoism sells and the peddlers profit

Most Americans are exposed to jingoism on a routine basis, but many cannot define the term. Per the Merriam-Webster dictionary: Jingoism is the feelings and beliefs of people who think that their country is always right and who are in favor of aggressive acts against other countries. While it is good to be proud of our country and support those who defend it, jingoism is as ugly in meaning as it sounds.

We are a people of imperfections, yet our forefathers were able to craft a government construct that is the envy of many. Our government construct lives up to and supports our ideals and democracy. The problem has always been we have imperfect people who lead the country and their biases and conflicts of interest cannot help from being exposed. Even though leaders try to hide their biases, with so much money influencing elections and decisions, their opinions will flip back and forth depending on who they’re talking with. *

However, many politicians, funders and pundits like to play the jingoism card to garner support and gain public sentiment on doing something that usually needs much due diligence. The reason is jingoism is sells. And, the peddlers of this naïve “we are the champions” mentality know this. It makes the peddlers richer or promotes a cause that will win votes. Jingoism is intended to influence people with simple concepts, when the issues are more complex. A few examples may help:

  • After 9/11, the White House portrayed anyone who differed with their plan to invade Iraq as unpatriotic. Although I voted for President Bush, this offended me. The band “The Dixie Chicks” were vilified for daring to speak out against invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. Yet, they were representing what is best about our country, the right to speak up against our leaders. By the way, looking backwards with 20/20 hindsight, they were right to question the invasion.
  • We have many politicians beating on their chests to use more ground troops to fight ISIL. ISIL wants this as they can make it about “an us against the west fight.” Yet, this has to be a coalition effort where we support Muslim countries fighting these terrorists. One of the challenges for Americans getting involved is this is an extremely complex situation. Our troops are valiant warriors, but they have thanked others for speaking up against sending them to fight unwinnable fights. In fact, they would use a common military phrase, saying fighting in countries with so many factions is a “clusterf**k.”
  • The commercials that play on our competitive nature are back saying we are number one in the production of natural gas and soon to be oil. The caring and earnest actress notes how safe hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is. This is to combat the mounting evidence to the contrary. Our energy future must involve the growing renewable energy industry more than it is now. Yet, these commercials and similar ones tout our number one status like it is a football game. This is one game which we don’t necessarily want to win, so we need to think about the best path forward.

I will leave it at these three examples, but there are many more. We are a great country, but we are not perfect and it is more than OK to speak about where we have dropped the ball and where we could do better. This year will be the 50th anniversaries of some very ugly events in our country around denying blacks the right to vote, so we should never forget this history to avoid it from happening again. We must question things and protest when things are out of sort.

Yet, the folks playing these jingoistic cards want to gain by creating and playing on our fears. The issues are more complex than portrayed. Jingoism sells and the peddlers tend to profit. We need to listen, but ask many more questions and hold people to answers. This is the patriotic thing to do. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

* Note: Please check out this excellent post by Roseylinn about Jonathan Swift who saw the lack of truth-telling in politicians  over four hundreds years ago. https://roseylinn.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/jonathan-swift/