Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Strange Muddle of American Incompetence and Apathy

Speaking from personal experience, unless a person knows those around him are like minded it is best to not say anything that might be perceived as critical about the United States or Americans. The best example I can give happened several years ago while I was hanging out with a couple of friends with a few others tagging along. It was a Saturday afternoon and we were all drinking beers while daydreaming we were on some tropical beach when I made a casual mention of someday permanently moving to Mexico. At that particular moment my desire to expatriate had more to do with finding some rustic beach shack on the Yucatan or Baja California coast and begin looking for the proverbial lost shaker of salt.

I made no mention of rancid and self destructive American politics nor the putrid nature of popular culture but the bother-in-law of one of my buddies was quite bothered by the idea of someone permanently leaving the United States. It would not be an exaggeration to say he considered it a form of treasonous behavior on par with the infamous Benedict Arnold.

“So the United States is not good enough for you?” This person asked with his voice betraying a heaping dose of righteous indignation. Since this event was taking place in the American South for several minutes there was the mandatory pissing contest between me and him that was only defused when my buddy explained the nuanced nature of my statement that also involved beautiful senoritas, ample supplies of tequila, along with cheap and easy living.

The explanation placated the overly patriotic brother-in-law and he apologized saying that he didn't like anyone who criticized America. He went on to mouth something along the lines that if a person didn't love America they should quickly leave it. To him, America was the freest, smartest, and greatest nation God in his infinite wisdom ever created on the planet. While not exact quotes I can say with near unquestioning certitude that my friend's brother-in-law's face took on this look which was a combination of total serenity and absolute fanaticism as he explained his fervent and devoted patriotism. I just stood there looking at him figuring similarly dedicated individuals gleefully burned heretics at the stake in the name of Jesus Christ during the Middle Ages.

Given the state of patriotism these days and how easy it is for people to be insulted I figure I should go ahead and say that there is nothing wrong with a person being proud of his or her country. The problem comes when patriotism is replaced with a fanatical certitude that their beloved homeland is not only perfection but deserved total and unquestioned obedience.

Yeah I know, such active proto-fascist dickheads have always existed in one form or the other but they have generally been offset by significant populations of thinking adults that while proud of the United States understood its flaws and took an active interest in trying to correct them. That seems to have changed, while exceptions exist with millions of good and intelligent Americans still working to make this a better country and improve the world, they seem overwhelmed with a stagnant and near moronic population preoccupied with trivial issues seemingly created just to distract from real problems.

There are more examples of this self destructive disinterest than I am frankly comfortable with or have time to discuss. I could mention the blatant disregard and utter lack of concern to the human suffering going on at the Mexican border with thousands of Central American children coming to this country. Entire towns of Anglos have been on the television news waving signs saying that they don't want any of those kids being kept there as our dysfunctional congress dithers over funds and a humanitarian way to solve this problem.

The bizarre nature of this xenophobia is that I'd guess that a majority of these nearly riotous red-blooded American defending their precious country from children just seeking a safe place away from drug gangs and stifling poverty is that they consider themselves Christians. This is where dear reader that you need to remember all the New Testament quotes from Christ on helping your fellow man.

I could carry on about our crumbling infrastructure and how expensive it is to continually patch roads and bridges that in all actuality have long exceeded their workable lifetime and need to be replaced. But that would requires some knowledge that our infrastructure is the vital backbone of our economic strength and that it might mean Mr. and Mrs. Joe Middle Class might have to pay more in taxes. No, the windmill I will attempt tilt today involves a subject the vast majority doesn't give a damn about and in fact, is always eager to increase.

Way back in those wonderful 1980's a movement swept the country to stop cuddling criminals, laws were enacted that required mandatory sentencing for some crimes as well as a simplistic idea where if a person was convicted three times they would spend the rest of their lives behind bars. This placated the frightful population concerned that some evil intruder would do them harm or steal their precious stuff. Now to be fair, like the late Richard Pryor once said, “thank God for penitentiaries,” because that is the best place for some people who are clear and present dangers to society.

The fly in the ever comfortable idea to sending someone into prison then throwing away the key comes with the nature of their crimes. Mandatory sentencing requirements and Draconian drug laws have caused the American prison population to explode until the freedom loving United States has 2.2 million under state and federal confinement while the commie People Republic of China has only 1.7 million. Now the mathematically challenged might think that we have only around a half a million more prisoners than the Chinese but when you take into consideration that the total population of China is well over 1.2 BILLION, by percentages it is the United States, with a population of only 313 million, that seems authoritarian. If you add up the numbers that means we incarcerate 716 people people per 100,000 of the national population, the highest in the world. And while we only make up 5 percent of the world's population we house 25 percent of the world's prisoners.

When you add to the mix that mandatory sentencing and drug laws hit African-American and Hispanics far harder than Caucasians you have a recipe for conspiratorial ideas that at the very least say if you are white, the scales of justice are weighed down in your favor. Because dear folks the best evidence that a person is going to found innocent in the United States is not facts pertaining to the case but the size of the defendant's wallet. 

For me though the exploding embarrassment of our prison population says more about the simplistic and childish intellectual nature of Americans. Like I said some people need to be in prison but the nature of crime isn't black and white, when a person is born into poverty with no genuine opportunity for escape it is human nature to lash out whether in crime or through substance abuse.

Possibly the most insidious little fact about the American obsession to throw as many people in jail as we can is how there are companies whose sole purpose for existence is to make a profit running penitentiaries. Given that a few other highly sleazy facts exist about these businesses that should make any decent person's skin crawl I will defer to the John Oliver video below.

Another aspect of strange nature to the current state of dual American fanatical patriotism and abject apathy is the condition of the United States' nuclear arsenal. If there is one things many Americans are inherently proud of in a semi-psychotic and surreal way is the idea that the United States is the lone superpower in a world of piss ant nations. Now we do still give lip service to such accomplishments like the Apollo Project which put humans on the moon and war effort by the people who fought in the armed forces and worked in the factories during the Second World War but they pale in comparison to the current fixation on our ability to sterilize the planet.

The trouble is that while we Americans own way over four-thousand nuclear weapons, more than enough to render Earth unlivable except for cockroaches and Cheneys the management of these weapons is marked with sheer incompetence, lack of proper maintenance and upgrades, and the occasional accident that should send freezing cold chills down the spine of any sane person. Once again I defer to the John Oliver video below for a more thorough explanation.

In short, and I sincerely apologize if this offends anyone, but there is more to maintaining a coherent and great society that ignorant bluster and insane thinking that we are somehow special either through a direct condition with God or military might. History is littered with peoples and empires that had their time essentially ruling the world only to dissolve to dust overnight. With a willfully ignorant population that increasingly gets upset when some fault of the country is pointed out I'd say we are will on our way to joining the ranks of Babylonians, ancient Egyptians, and Roman Empires.     


Pixel Peeper said...

Wow - I knew we have a proportionately high prison population, but your statistics really made me shake my head.

...except cockroaches and Cheneys... Snort!

Life As I Know It Now said...

I like that show with John Oliver. We need shows that explain in simple terms why we are heading the wrong fucking direction. There are rational caring people still left in our country, it's just that the ultra conservative christians are so loud and obnoxious. We have to fight their brainwashed mass hysteria and I like to do that by laughing at and mocking them. :)

Marja said...

A lot of food for thought. I think things like ignorance,xenofobia and
and inequality are world wide. The figures for people in jail are shocking. Has it not also to do with the fact that America hasn't much of a social system. If you loose your job or your health you are basically doomed. In the countries I lived in you get at least a reasonable benefit to survive. Although that is getting worse now as well and the gap between the haves and the have not's is quickly widening.

Pearl said...

Right on.

And once you have a record, the odds of getting a job fall impressively. We are a very right/wrong, black/white, Puritanical society, and I cannot imagine what the next decade or two hold for us...


Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Throw in Walmart employees having a holiday charity food drive so the poorer folks working there can have something to eat on Thanksgiving and you can't help but get a warm fuzzy.

Life As I Know It Now: What worries me is simple inertia, it's hard to fight a strong tide.

Marja: Yeah, Americans have completely bought the myth of the mighty, independent individual who needs nothing but a strong back and the ability to work. In many ways the American mindset is hopelessly outmoded. The Americans that are convinced poor people are lazy and only need to work have no idea just how brutal life was back during the frontier days. Throw in the current level of economic inequality in this country and the United States begins to border on failed state status like Somalia.

Pearl: Most rich folks would immediately discount what I'm about to write but there is an growing resentment at their privileged and protected life. There will be revolution if steps are not taken to fix our screwed up society.