It's all about perspective

Archive for September, 2009

545 People

I got an email this morning from my father. It was a simple email containing no words, but a simple attachment I was beckoned to read (you can read it at the bottom of this post).

As is normal with nearly every email my parents forward to me, I immediately hit snopes.com to investigate the email’s validity. To my surprise the email was true and in fact was written by Charlie Reese. To my further surprise, this was originally written 25 years ago. (To see two more versions other than the one above hit up this piece on snopes.com.)

After reading the three versions I’ve found (I’m sure there are more) I’ve come to the conclusion that good old Charlie was either a brilliant clairvoyant or a vitriolic idiot. I’m inclined to lean toward the latter. For twenty five years the conservatives in this country have been blaming Congress for every single woe we’ve faced. In fact, the conservatives have been blaming Congress for far longer than that (even way back when the Democrats were the conservatives).

So does this little missive, with its updated names and places, serve as the “I told you so” to the rest of America? I don’t think so. What it does show is the real problem: a lack of personal responsibility. The piece touches on it a few times, but lays that responsibility mostly in the hands of the infamous “545 people.” What about our responsibility as voters? (It’s mentioned once)

There certainly are more than 300 million people in this great nation, but good old Charlie neglects to mention voter turnout. There aren’t 300 million people voting in these elections, not even close. According to infoplease.com voter turnout was only 56.8% of registered voters.

And I bet some of you are saying “Oh wait, what’s this registered voters thing?”

Me: “That? It’s just the number of people in the country who are actually of age to vote; 18 or older.”

You: “Oh. So there aren’t actually 300 million people who could replace these 545 wicked sinners?”

Me: “Not even close, but I was just talking about the number of people who could vote. There’s an entirely different number of people who are eligible for any of these 545 positions.” (I’ll direct you to the Wikipedia page on the qualifications of a Senator and a Representative so this rather generous number shrinks even farther now.)

You: “Damn lazy reporters.”

Me: “Damn right.”

Then again, voter turnout is only really high every four years during a Presidential election. On the “off years,” as I call them, the voter turnout is closer to the high thirtieth percentile. (37.1% – roughly 80 million voters)

The only part of good old Charlie’s letter I agree with is the last few lines, which comes down to this: “Bitch, follow, or do it yourself.” The first two do no one any good, but the last is imperative to the health of any republic. The personal responsibility lays with us. Every registered voter in the United States has an obligation not just to bitch and whine, but to actually do something. Get out and vote your opinion. Don’t just scream it. Don’t just grouse behind a computer screen or newspaper. Support the representatives you support with your votes. But before you can even do that, they must be supported financially and physically. If you can’t donate $5, then donate a few hours of your time to help the people you believe in get to where they can do some good. And if you don’t find anyone out there who agrees with you then run yourself and find others who believe in you.

If you’re unwilling to do any of the previous, then the Common Sense Committee hereby revokes your right to bitch about this or any future situation the United States finds itself in.

Attachment follows the jump:

(more…)

The Speech

On September 8, 2009 President Obama will give this speech to schools around the U. S. This speech is designed to:

Help get America’s students engaged! On Tuesday, September 8 — the first day of school for many students — the President will talk directly to students across the country on the importance of taking responsibility for their education, challenging them to set goals and do everything they can to succeed.

Ever since the announcement there have been people screaming about how it is illegal, immoral, and just propaganda. This, coupled with the Right’s attempt to paint President Obama’s health care initiative in a similar light, just goes to show how far they have actually fallen.

Let me assure you, it is not illegal. The President is not setting curriculum. To do that he would have to say something to the effect of “Today all science classes will now teach Intelligent Design.” This is not something he’s doing, nor will he ever. The President is not changing all schools over to the metric system. He is giving a speech. About personal responsibility. Something that I will agree should be taught by the children’s parents, but a concerned country and member of this society can only blame the parents for so long until action must be taken.

For that reason alone, it is not immoral either. The right wing, and many others, in this country want the government out of their lives. I can understand that and can even sympathize with that. I want corporate control out of my life and feel that’s a much bigger issue than government, but that’s an issue for another time. However, personal responsibility, a skill that very few members of my generation learned and thus, were not able to pass on to their children, is something that must be taught. If we did not learn it from our parents and we did not learn it from school, where were we supposed to learn it? So as a concerned citizen and leader of a society President Obama is stepping up to address the challenge of that very question. He’s not trying to supplant parents, nor is he trying to supplant schools, he is merely challenging the youth and future of our nation to do better than the generation before them. What loftier goal is there?

As far as propaganda is concerned, yes it is a bit of propaganda, but so is education. In fact, every educational system on the planet is designed to lay out the propaganda of that society. “U.S.A. is #1!” The pledge of allegiance and all that jazz. Yet President Obama is not putting a left spin or a right spin on the speech. He is trying to use his own experiences and the experiences of others like him to motivate our children to do better. Not because they’re failing and not because they’re lazy, but because as a parent he knows, just like every parent out there knows, that our children can do better.

It is a speech to our kids about something important that the vast majority of you never would have even hinted at to you own children, but because someone else is doing it, you have to scream and whine and moan about “parent’s rights” and “government influence.” Get real and wake up. There are far worse influences than the government speaking to our children every day.

As a final note, I would like to challenge everyone out there who is a member of the “screaming me-me’s” to tell everyone else where they were when President Bush did the same thing? Where were you when any President addressed the nation like this? I’ll tell you where you were. You were safe at home, or at your jobs, or at your bars not worrying once about it because that time it was “no big deal.” That President was just “one of the boys” what harm could he do?

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