Tag Archives: society

We’re not them, so who are we?

 In the quarter-century after World War II, the country established collective structures, not individual monuments, that channeled the aspirations of ordinary people: state universities, progressive taxation, interstate highways, collective bargaining, health insurance for the elderly, credible news organizations.

That’s from a NY Times op-ed today by George Packer (author of one of my favorite Iraq War era books, The Assassins’ Gate). It was true then. But we all know it’s not true now.

Later in his piece (which is about individualism as reflected by a celebrity obsessed culture), he uses the phrase ‘the great leveling’. And that perfectly explains I think why that post-War era succeeded and did so on every level.

The shared experience of WWII touched everyone, whether at war or at home. At war, the mechanic served with the lawyer whose car he fixed, and the young kid with an 8th grade education spent lonely nights talking to college professors.  Even more powerful in its effect on the later society was that they not only shared the experience but during it they were equals – all called to service by their country, wearing the same uniforms, fighting in the same battles with the same weapons. ‘GI Joe’ carried the same rifle as his lieutenant did.

They shared too, by rising to the challenge. And when it was done, they shared the tears and the pride.

It’s possible for societies to exhibit those values even without war. There are some here on our planet who manage it. But for us, that day is past.

We’ll never be those people again.

Now go have a nice day!

The timeless truth

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.     – Margaret Mead

The American way of guns: what’s next – the maternity ward?

It seems mass murderers here in the US, especially at schools, have become so commonplace that yesterday’s killing of six college students didn’t even make it to the front page in my paper.

When Columbine happened in 1999, it stunned us. The story dominated the news for weeks. Newspapers ran long biographies of those who died.

But that was then. Today, events like this have started to define us, even as the sickness of the lone gunman mowing down innocents for no reason or because of some paranoid delusion or perceived slight, begins to spread into other countries.

And our uniquely American logic dictates that we therefore must have more guns and be allowed to take them everywhere. So now, in my own State, the gun-loving land of the clinically insane, I am not even surprised by  this:

TAMPA — If Tampa’s proposed rules for the Republican National Convention are passed, protesters could not bring squirt guns into a designated protest zone.

But they could bring real guns if they have concealed weapons permits.

That’s because state law does not allow local governments to enact laws regulating guns, City Attorney Jim Shimberg Jr. said.

“Even if we tried to regulate it, it would be null and void,” Shimberg said Monday.

Not that the city didn’t consider it.

. . . “It was just kind of common sense,” Assistant City Attorney Mauricio Rodriguez said. “We felt if we’re going to regulate people carrying sticks and poles, why wouldn’t we regulate people carrying firearms, because those could pose significant risks to police and other protesters.”

But later, city attorneys removed the ban on guns after finding that Florida Statute 790.33 prohibits local governments from enacting any laws on the sale, purchase, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, storage or transportation of guns or ammunition.

Passed last year, the state law allows judgments of up to $100,000 against local governments that enforce local gun ordinances. It also says local officials could be removed from office and fined $5,000, with no representation from the city or county attorney.

There is, however, one place where guns won’t be allowed. That’s the convention itself, and it’s because the U.S. Secret Service has authority to make the rules inside the convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 27-30.

Who are we really? Part I

Today, Nicholas Kristof suggests we indulge in a feel-good fantasy when we describe who we are. He starts with a quiz – identify the country:

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country . . . Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t even imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution.  . . .citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan. . .

This sounds like where today’s Republican Party want to take us.

. . . as America has become more unequal, as we cut off government lifelines to the neediest Americans, as half of states plan to cut spending on higher education this year, let’s be clear about our direction . . .

A provocative question

If it were up to you, which of these outcomes would you chose in the event of a terrorist attack on the United States?

  • A bomb destroys the venerable Capital building in Washington DC. The dome collapses into the ruins. An American architectural masterpiece is gone along with a huge chunk of our history. One hundred die.
  • A bomb destroys an office park in suburban Pennsylvania. Two hundred people die with the attendant suffering of families and loved ones.