Angry, Frustrated, and Disappointed With U.S. (and us)? 10 Wishes For Change
by Joshua B. Hoe When I talk about politics here, it usually is linked to something happening in music.
Today will be a bit different, I am just going to rant...Kind of the Punk Rock thing to do.
You may or may not know that my academic background is in Political Science and my Masters degree is in International Relations.
I have long been of the opinion that virtually everything we talk about is political, and I try not to shy away from speaking my mind (mostly in the hopes that it helps spark discussions). I believe an informed public is the cornerstone of an effective democracy, so discussion and sharing thoughts is part of being a good citizen.
I feel like I have to speak up today, I am not the best person, I have done bad things, I am far from perfect. But, deep in my heart I have always believed in what we as a country stand for in the world. I believe in the values we frequently evangelize to the world.
And more than anything else, I believe that how we (as individual people and as a country) treat people matters (maybe more than anything else).
I believe not that we are not a perfect country, but that we eventually, even at great cost to ourselves, come to grips with our failings and try to be a force for good in the world.
Yes, we owned slaves...we committed genocide on Native Americans...we interned Japanese-Americans (and recently we pulled some insane corporate nonsense with Haiti earthquake relief funds...grrrrr).
We also went to war at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives to try to correct slavery. We sent Federal troops to try to enforce desegregation. We elected an African American President, and we (finally) legalized gay marriage.
What moments like the gay couple who talked about their victory on the steps of the Supreme Court gives hope to people, and not just LGBT people, all over the world that governments can transform and evolve.
Plus, in fairness, American’s have done an insane amount of work to eradicate diseases and provide assistance to countries all over the world (Just look at Ebola response, what Carter did with Guinea Worms, what Pepfar did with AIDS).
We are doing some bad things (terrible things) too.
Today I am shaken by the news that we (America) accidentally (and apparently carelessly) bombed a Doctor’s Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan...Killing around 21 people (I say “around” because reports vary). Among the dead were 10 doctors who volunteer to go to deadly warzones to help people, several children, and many people wounded by the Taliban.
Despite the good we have done in the world. I am having a really hard time with how often we are killing innocent people (and the threshold for acceptable on this should be zero).
Who are we becoming?
In approximately the last decade, we have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians in and after two conflicts, as the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University puts it:
No one knows with certainty how many people have been killed and wounded in Iraq since the 2003 United States invasion. However, we know that approximately 165,000 civilians have died from direct war related violence caused by the US, its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the invasion through April 2015. The violent deaths of Iraqi civilians have occurred through aerial bombing, shelling, gunshots, suicide attacks, and fires started by bombing. Because not all war-related deaths have been recorded accurately by the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition, the 165,000 figure for civilians killed from 2003 to 2015 is lower than the actual figure. It is unknown how many Iraqi civilians have been wounded in the war, though one report states that as many civilians have been wounded as killed.
This does not include the incredible amount of civilians we killed in the first gulf war.
We have killed many civilians through drone strikes...more than are ever reported.
We arrested and rendited hundreds and perhaps thousands of people to countries where we knew they most certainly would be tortured. These renditions were in addition to the torturing we did ourselves.
And of course there are the people we removed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba...and 50-60% of those prisoners were determined to have been innocent. Not maybe a little innocent, entirely innocent. Yet, we were told over and over again that they were the worst people on earth (so bad that they deserved zero legal protection or legal recourse).
And how can we forget what happened at Abu Ghraib?
And of course, there is also what we have done to the people who were translators for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And of course how we have treated our own troops returning home.
We should care about this, deeply.
But we don’t.
For some reason, we don’t...
Why We Should Care - Part One
Killing innocent people is wrong.
It is wrong when they are Americans...It is wrong when they are Iraqis..It is wrong when they are Afghans.
Torturing people is wrong
it is wrong when they are Americans..It is wrong when they are Iraqis...It is wrong when they are Afghans.
Asking people to fight for you, then not taking care of them is wrong….Always.
I am not the world’s most religious person, but, pretty hard to call yourself a Christian and support killing innocent people.
What we have been doing is just not okay...It just is not.
That’s pretty much it.
Someone will probably point to my doings and say something implying hypocrisy...I have never once said what I did was okay or that I should not have paid a price for it. I paid a legal price for it and I pay a price inside myself everyday (and a soul cost forever).
I believe deeply (and you can see this in my book) that consequences should be paid for bad behavior. And as we are a government for the people and by the people, this is on us.
Why We Should Care - Part Two
You hear people talk a lot about “branding.”
Over the next two years you will hear a bunch of politicians running for President talking about America as “The Greatest Country on Earth” and sometimes you will hear them talk about how we are a “City on A Hill.”
That “City” part is about living our values so everyone else in the world wants to emulate them.
It is about being so amazing that everyone wants to be like us.
But for that to work, we have to actually live our values...Not just talk about them...People have to want to emulate and model us.
Right now, we are not living our values (see above).
I imagine virtually every single family in Iraq has lost loved ones (civilians) to the never ending US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. How can we speak to them with any moral authority? How can we talk them into looking up to our city on the hill?
How can we expect them to take our side in anything...and how sad is this, we have thousands of our own people who sacrificed their lives to create a better future for Iraq and Afghanistan...How sad is it that most people there probably hate us...Not because our soldiers didn’t sacrifice for them...because we killed lots of innocent people indiscriminately.
People have a hard time forgetting about bombs falling on innocent loved ones heads.
Imagine it was us living there….how would you feel?
And it is not just the killing.
One of the most important parts of our brand is “The Rule of Law”
One of our major contributions to making the world a better place has been to get people to emulate and model our legal system...to try to ensure due process and fair trials all over the world.
How exactly is that supposed to continue when we have spent the last decade arbitrarily arresting and torturing people (or giving them over to other countries to torture)?
Heck let's go even farther, how are we supposed to sell Democracy modeling at all when we sold out the Democratic revolution in Egypt (because we disagreed with the leadership of the legitimately elected government).
If our commitment to our own system of government is so shallow that we change sides to favor a dictator because we don’t like the democratically elected government, how are we supposed to make anyone believe that Democracy matters?
How are we supposed to sell Democracy when we hear our GOP leaders constantly talking about what a great leader Egyptian President Sissi is when he is a terrible dictator and came to power overthrowing a democratic regime.
How are we supposed to sell respect for human rights when we torture people?
How are we supposed to sell respect for human rights (and lecture governments constantly about their lack of respect for human rights) when we are aligning with repressive dictators all over the place?
How are we supposed to sell respect for human rights when we have the largest prison population in the world (by far) and when we have new videos of police repression hitting the international airwaves almost weekly?
How are we supposed to encourage people to adopt Constitutional systems when we have sold our own fourth amendment (and just about everything else) down the river to protect our “safety” from terrorists?
Our brand is caring about people - all people - you know...that whole “created equal” thing...The “equal protection of the laws” thing….the first and fourth amendment things.
Our brand is respect and equal treatment of people.
Our brand is about protecting people from their governments...And defining limits to what governments have the power to legitimately do.
We are burning our brand into the ground.
And despite this, when you turn on the television all you hear is politicians falling all over themselves doubling down on how awesome we are.
Doubling down on how the problem is weakness and that all we need to do is intervene more...To get tougher...To enforce order everywhere with a re-funded most powerful military in the world.
Right now, we are not suffering a crisis of hard power (military force) we are suffering a crisis of soft power (everyone thinks we are militaristic fascists not people working for good in the world).
People no longer believe that we are who we think we are...and they might be right.
The Results Are Clear
We have been operating almost entirely on hard power for a decade….Realpolitik, Neo-con machismo, and bombs...How has that gone for us?
ISIS is almost entirely our own creation, it’s fighters are the members of Saddam’s Baathist party that we fired when we took over Iraq (great call Paul Bremer). It’s weapons come almost entirely from the United States (and our ceaseless belief in training foreign armies - something that has never worked in the history of forever but that we keep on doing over and over and over again).
Most everyone who is good in the Middle East doesn’t trust that our motives are pure, or even remotely good anymore...We have wasted thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern lives, trillions of dollars, and almost all the good will we had built up everywhere in the region...and for what?
We need to stop this, we are not just making things worse, we are destroying everything we stand for in the process.
We Americans Have To Stop Being Silent
I am so damn tired of hearing politicians talking about “Making America Great Again” when nothing they say diagnoses the problems we face correctly.
Let me suggest a real agenda for “Making America Great Again”
- Start Preparing for the New Work.
Manufacturing is NEVER coming back...sorry Bernie, sorry Trump, sorry Bush etc. Stop lying, the reason manufacturing is dying is not foreign competition, it is robotics. Either read and learn or shut up. The biggest shift America needs to prepare for is the shift from work as we know it.
There is a great scene in the movie Primary Colors where the President talks about how we need retraining for a new economy...and tells workers that the old jobs are never coming back...That movie came out a LONG TIME AGO...and we are still pretending the manufacturing middle class is coming back?
- We do not need a stronger military. We need a smarter military (most of the dumb does not come from the military leadership itself) So many reasons...Here are just a few:
We have, by far, the best military in the world by every metric. We spend more on the military than any competitor (by far).
The problems in readiness are caused by spending priorities more than budget (spending billions on tanks we don’t need, planes that suck, instead of real military priorities). In addition, we continue to spend billions on winning past wars (mostly because congress people like keeping factories and companies in their districts rolling out crap we don’t need to keep voters happy).
Nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to causing our Deficit like military spending. Notice how all the supposed Deficit hawks are also Military hawks...That should tell you something (they don’t give a damn about the deficit, they want to cut social programs).
We should spend smarter, get rid of about a billion programs that cost way too much and the military doesn’t want, and we need to spend our funds equipping our troops for the wars of today and making sure they have all the support they need (before, during, and after their tours of duty).
Trust me, or do the research yourself, when you hear politicians talk about increasing the military budget, they are most often giving gifts to defense contractors, not making our military stronger.
Ask them to fund our troops and stop building fighter planes that cost billions per plane that we do not need.
Don’t believe that hype.
- Cut the shit on tax cuts
We have become so obsessed with cutting taxes that we:
Underfund public schools massively (to the point where we are becoming non-competitive).
Underfund our Universities so much that they have to charge so much tuition that most graduates are so far in debt by the time they graduate that it will take a lifetime to pay off (this is also on Congress who are selling our future for high interest loans).
Underfund prisons to the point where they provide next to zero educational rehabilitative programming. And load prisoners with so much debt (incarceration fees, court costs, victim restitution, monitoring costs etc) that successful reintegration becomes very unlikely.
What possible social benefit comes from manufacturing recidivism?..Just curious...more crime = bad right?
BTW, guess what really inflates deficits...Tax cuts. Again, isn’t it funny that all the deficit hawks love military spending and tax cuts.
Trust me, I could go on for days on this one…We are so obsessed with tax cuts (which overwhelmingly favor the wealthy) that there are thousands of things going wrong throughout society.
If you really want to “Make America Great Again” quit the tax cutting...Not only has supply-side economics been utterly discredited in study after study, but the devastation is all around us.
Also, stop listening to people who both claim to be Christian and claim to love Ayn Rand. Selfishness and Jesus do not mix...Period. You cannot read the New Testament and the Fountainhead and live them both. Ayn Rand herself said the same.
- Support the Constitution
Did you know the only promise our elected officials in Washington make is to defend the Constitution? Wouldn’t it be nice if they actually did exactly that?
I hate guns...But, I would be more than willing to make a deal to shut up about guns if everyone would defend the fourth amendment as vehemently as they do the second.
The Constitution is the most amazing document in the history of government, it literally defines the legal lines beyond which government cannot go. It restrains the legal power of governments from infringing on the rights of individual citizens.
Or at least it is supposed to.
If we want people to believe in the Constitutional system of government, we need to quit eroding the lines.
We need to treat people with decency, we need to support due process of law in every instance and for everyone we imprison, we need to stop collecting data indiscriminately without warrants.
The police need to stop killing poor and suspects of color when deadly force is not a necessary last resort.
While I am at it, we need to stop making mockery of fair trials by actually funding public defenders offices adequately. We need to ensure public defenders have a reasonable caselist so that the results of plea bargains and trials have some possibility of being just.
In other words, we need to live our values.
- We Need to Make Foreign Aid About Helping People
Congress hated Foreign Aid and Assistance so much that they turned it into a cash grab for US Corporations. If you want to see the results, just ask what happened in Haiti.
When we tell people we are a giving people who want to make the world a better place, it probably should be the people in need improving their lives...not our official corporate partners (often at the expense of the suffering).
- We Need To Stop Killing Civilians in Foreign Countries
Whatever we have to do, this is by far the most important...No matter what you think, every one of these deaths is a moral catastrophe...Our national conscience can never fully recover from this.
There is a reason “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is one of the Ten Commandments.
American exceptionalism is supposed to mean that we are exceptional and the world knows it.
Unfortunately, now, US Exceptionalism means that “The US is exempt from the moral standards we demand that every other country operates under.”
People all over the world understand hypocrisy.
If we want the world to care about US citizens, we have to stop allowing the indiscriminate killing of world citizens.
It might seem tough or macho to not care about people outside of our borders, but we cannot have it both ways...We cannot expect them to embrace America or be a moral lighthouse when we are literally killing them.
If we want the world to treat our troops with the respect and by the standards of international law, we have to stop treating enemies with contempt and we have to quit violating international law whenever it doesn’t suit our purpose.
If we can’t use drones without killing civilians, don’t use them.
If we cannot get our rules of engagement enforced, don’t bomb places (especially not hospitals).
Dead civilians are not collateral damage, they are people and should be accorded the respect all people deserve.
- Stop Believing that the War On Terror means All Bets Are Off
We do not get to do anything we want in the world because we hate terrorism.
War has always been hell...And guerilla tactics have always been used in war..how we treat people matters.
We fought WW2 to set up an international order that created expectations for all countries. We do not get to simply be assholes and treat people like animals because terrorism.
If we don’t stand for something, we stand for nothing.
Either what we stand for and believe in is worth dying for, or it isn’t
- Stop Listening to Nonsense Just Because It Is Entertaining
Immigration is a net positive for this country - every single reputable study concludes this. Immigrants are not an undue risk for criminal activity...Immigrants are not an economic problem at all for the United States.
The problems we are facing in the world are NOT because we are not kicking enough ass...The problem is we have pissed virtually everyone off and nobody believes we are anything but militarists now.
The best way to cut deficits is increased growth (certainly not cutting social spending) and tax cuts do not magically cause growth (but they do massively increase deficits).
The Iran deal gives Iran access to nuclear power because they are an NPT signatory (it is part of the treaty guarantees). The reason we can’t renegotiate the sanctions is because the other participating nations do not want to enforce sanctions any more (which means they won’t work). And we do not give Iran billions of dollars in the deal.
And while we are on that subject, if Iran got nukes...we still have thousands more warheads than they will ever has (China for instance has a few hundred warheads after decades of development, we have thousands and better delivery systems). It would be suicidal for them to use nukes (just like it was for the USSR, China, Pakistan, India, North Korea etc.). I am not saying it is a good thing, or that we should encourage it, but have some perspective for God’s sake.
- Could the Press please be a watchdog?
Stop pandering to Donald Trump for ratings.
Ask actual tough questions (even when they act offended).
Today I saw Dana Bash talking to one of the new “Freedom Caucus” republicans...and he kept repeating that the press was “criminally” undercovering the Senate Democrat’s use of the filibuster to block House legislation...Ummmmm….Dana, I love you (I actually think you are generally good) but come on, why didn’t you ask the logical question?
Ummm, are you seriously blaming the Dem’s for cloture? Hasn’t your caucus been using it to frustrate every Obama nominee for both terms?
At least ask if that means if cloture should not be used by either party.
My point is not to call out the GOP as both parties use cloture while in the minority to frustrate legislative progress.
My point is to stop letting people say sly but untrue things designed to gin up public opposition. Every day congresspeople, presidential candidates, and Presidents, say things that are factually incorrect…(see above - Planned Parenthood and Immigration are made-up..and don’t even get me started on the inanity that is Benghazi).
Your job is to stop it, not go along for the ride.
Your job is to be a watchdog...Be a watchdog, not a lapdog.
- Take It On Yourself To RAISE A FUSS!
We are democracy...our representatives are not in charge...They represent us.
Trust me, if we bother them every day en masse on social media, on their official sites, and on our blogs and through our social networks, they have to pay attention.
Participation is not just about choosing sides while you watch candidates, it is being active and informed.
It requires participation.
It requires that no matter your place or status, getting involved and saying that we are not okay with this nonsense.
Whatever you believe, don’t sit on your hands.
What if everyone who read this blog committed to sending messages for ten minutes a day to work toward change on even some of these issues?
Stop counting on personalities to save us...we have to save us. Presidents, Vice Presidents, Congresspeople, and Senators work for us unless we check out.
We are responsible for what is happening now. ONLY concerned and active citizens can stop it. The way to stop it is through smart participation and non-violent protest.
STOP CHEATING TO WIN
Last but not least….Most of what the GOP candidates are arguing for is pretty transparently about voting...Not about truth, not about justice, not about the American Way.
After the last Presidential election the GOP did soul searching and considered actually trying to reach beyond their actual “old-white” demographics….then they came to their senses and decided it would be better to rig the game.
- They know African Americans overwhelmingly vote for Democrats...So, all of a sudden, it was time to create an imaginary controversy about voter fraud (to disenfranchise black voters) which has gotten so absurd now Alabama is not just requiring voter ID’s but choosing to shut down all the Drivers License agencies in neighborhoods of color.
- They know union members overwhelmingly vote for Democrats...So, all of a sudden, it was time to push for right to work legislation in union areas and states.
- They know teachers unions overwhelmingly vote for Democrats...So, all of a sudden, what is needed is school choice (which is really a way to funnel public money to religious schools - who do they favor hmmm?).
- They know immigrants overwhelmingly vote for Democrats...So, do everything you can to complicate laws, including suggesting getting rid of birth citizenship.
- Every time they take over a state they go to work gerrymandering districts expressly to disempower areas likely to vote Democrat and also to create unassailable illogical districts that protect their numbers. Not exactly a lesson in Democracy.
Sacrificing civil rights and disenfranchising and gerrymandering rather than actually serving the country is pretty terrible behavior. If I found a GOP candidate I liked, it would be hard to support them given these tactics.
And while I certainly lean liberal on social issues, I don’t much trust either party to serve my interests. If I vote Democrat it is because I trust their core constituencies to keep them in line on issues I care about...Not because I have any faith in the party or it’s representatives.
It is not hard to connect the dots people...you have every right to be a conservative or a republican but this stuff is awful...Hold your party to a higher level of civic responsibility.
Disagreeing is okay, cheating to win because you know you are losing the battle of hearts and minds (beyond your base) is pretty awful.
Why would they do it (and don’t get me wrong, were the positions reversed I would not put these tactics beyond most Democrats either)?
Having political power is a golden ticket now, it means having access to insider information that you can trade on legally..it means golden parachutes..and it means lobbying money forever.
The ONLY thing that can stop it all...The ONLY thing...is us.
We have to call bullshit, loudly, every single time (after we research it) and use our networks to share the truth...And we have to actually care, every day. Because at the end of the “not caring” story lie hundreds of thousands of dead people at our hands, lie trillions of dollars in debt that comes from profiteering and collusion (not from food stamp cheating), and lies the end of the real story of America.
Okay….Rant over...back to music.
I am sure many of you will disagree...Feel free to comment, I certainly understand that there will be many opinions on this, I am very deeply upset about the bombing of the hospital...I welcome discourse!