Tuesday, October 04, 2016

On turning 70 - My report card to the world in general and the United States in particular

   There is a Stephen Wright story about two babies who shared a room in the maternity ward, then were taken their separate ways. Then, by a cosmic coincidence, 80 years later they are in adjoining quarters on their death beds. One looks over and says - "So. What did you think?" Turning 70 makes that tale resonate with me. As a milestone birthday, it does something dangerous. It gets me thinking.

   I grew up in a very different time. Doctors and hospitals could not advertise their services, and neither could the pharmaceutical companies. In spite of that, people in the medical profession seemed to make a better than adequate living. This has been confirmed by my wife, whose dad was a dentist. It never dawned on her that most  kids growing up in Phoenix could not spend their summers by the beach in San Diego.  The telephone in your house was owned and maintained by something called the "Phone Company." Every four years we had the Olympics, and they strictly enforced a rule that athletes could not make money from the sport they competed in. Millionaires did not show up to play tennis or basketball. I'm not sure when that went away, but it did.

   In politics, you had two parties who both wanted basically the same thing for America, but disagreed often on how to get there. But they worked together, compromised, and got things done. Roads were built and maintained. We sent rockets to the moon. We invented lasers and the internet. Rich people were still rich, even though they paid a very high tax rate. In 1956, Eisenhower got half of the African American vote.

   There is an old story about the frog and the pot of water. If you boil that pot and throw a frog in, he will instinctively get the hell out. However, if you start the pot at room temperature, he will swim around as you increase the heat a bit at a time. He won't notice the change until it is too late. That's where we are in politics as of 2016. I think it is too late to have any Congress that works to solve the problems of most American citizens. Mitch McConnell blatantly spelled it out when he declared that his job was to ensure that Obama was a one term president. He didn't see his role as a way to solve problems for normal people.

   The Republicans have been at war pretty much every day of my life. In the 1950's through the 1980's, the Republicans defined themselves as "Anti-Communist." Every Republican hated the Communists more than the one standing next to him. By 1990 the Communists had pretty well become irrelevant, so they needed to find a new iteration of Satan. That role fell to the Democrats. Over the next decades, they set up a new system of gerrymandering that was so thorough that it became our version of Apartheid as white votes counted more than black votes.

   This led to corruption on a scale that is almost hard to fathom. The Republican Party has become, quite simply a very powerful white supremacist hate group, working harmoniously with other evil entities like the Klan and the National Rifle Association. They promise that if we vote for them, they will make our lives worse. For once in American politics, this is a promise that is being kept. Five years ago when I was ready to start collecting Social Security I called their number. I was told that the wait would be a half hour but if I left a return number they'd call me when my  place in line was reached. This year my wife had a question and she was told the they would call her back in seven weeks and 2:45 in the afternoon. I'm starting to suspect that any branch of the government that is there to serve normal people is being eaten away by Grover Norquist and his evil followers.

   As of this writing, the Republicans have chosen a potty-mouthed, ignorant, hate mongering gasbag as the best they have to offer for running the country. If he gets in America is finished. If not, I still see little hope for this country. I don't like being so deeply pessimistic, but I see no other choice. Right now we are poisoning our planet - there is no other way to put it. We are poisoning our babies as the number of autism cases is skyrocketing. We are poisoning our old people as the prevalence of Alzheimers and dementia cases becomes more and more obvious. The only solace I can take is that I have lived a long and fairly successful life before horrible people ruined it for everybody.


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