I can remember John F. Kennedy winning the presidency. I remember Woodstock, the first moon landing and the original Shelly Cobra. I can also remember Viet Nam, the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy, John Lennon and the death of Jim Morrison. I remember the LA race riots and Martin Luther King.
Of course, all old men are inclined to wallow in past decades, scoff at the new generation and relive past glories. (As the saying goes, the older I get, the better I was.) You know who we are. We are the ones that congregate at McDonalds each morning and, with great conviction, solve all of the countries problems. As an official old man, I would like to share some thoughts.
During my lifetime, there has definitely been a liberation of life styles and a loss of morality. Not that anything there is new. Perhaps it is just that we talk about it more and there seems to be a lot more acceptance. Hollywood is still trying to shock us but the shock value is gone and now their efforts are just disgusting. Some youth are still trying to rebel but after the 60’s there really is nowhere to take it (which renders my children’s attempts rather cute.) Discrimination has greatly abated, really. It wasn’t that long ago that it was much worse. We are still not prefect; of course. Nevertheless, we have made a great deal of progress in at least pretending to accept others. We will know that we have arrived when we no longer have to worry about political correctness.
We have become much more of a police state. Policemen used to be your friends. Now if you smile and wave they look at you like you’re the local drug dealer. I have been noticing for some time now that police departments have become little armies. When did that happen anyway? The increase in the police state seems to go along with a lessening of community. Your neighbors used to help raise your kids along with theirs. Now if they try to help you sue them. So instead of the neighbors calling you about your wayward children they call the police and police are really bad at parenting. Well, to be honest only about 30 percent of them are. (My own observation from having been in law enforcement.) The rest are fantastic.
Politicians still lie and denigrate each other. If you think that has gotten worse just go back to the Lincoln, Douglas debates. Political organizations have just gotten bigger and more efficient at inaccurately defining opponents thanks to statistics, technology and money. We are still arguing over the constitution, the deficit and presidential authority. So, in many ways things have not really changed that much. There is one thing however that really does concern me.
I worry about spin and the gullibility of the American voter.
The founding fathers realized that a democracy only works with an educated electorate. Since the American population really wasn’t all that educated at the time, they set up a democratic republic instead of a pure democracy intending that we be represented by a local leader who was wise and educated. Today we actually go the ballot box and cast our own vote. For democracy to work, the voter must be familiar with the issues and be sufficiently educated to make a decision based on their own personal evaluation rather than on hype. So how are you doing at seeing through the spin?
Here is a little test. Do you…
- Like to listen to Sean Hannity and tend to believe what he says.
- Believe that President Obama was not born in the United States.
- Believe that we need to build a fence on the Mexican border and deport all illegal immigrants.
- Believe that we do not need to change our laws (tax, estate, etc.) to make them fair for all including the LGBT community.
- Believe that we are a Christian nation.
- Believe that the police acted appropriately in the death of Eric Garner.
Or, do you…
- Like to listen to MSNBC and tend to believe what they say.
- Believe that Mitt Romney was out of touch with the poor.
- Believe that all government services along with a path to citizenship should be made available to all illegal immigrants currently in the US.
- Believe that the shooting in Ferguson had anything to do with race.
- Believe that the demonstrations in Ferguson have anything to do with the shooting.
- Believe that Gay Marriage has anything to do with love.
- Believe that the constitution prohibits religion in public places.
If you agreed with more than one statement in either of these groups, (everyone has one bad vice.) you have fallen prey to modern political spin. If either group of questions has made you angry, you are brain washed. (The anger proves it.) If you answered yes to all of them, you are probably psychotic and need to see someone.
All of these statements are hype; spin, misleading, or incomplete. Sadly, one side or the other of this debate has swayed most of the people I visit with about politics. I would simply suggest to them that they need to change the channel every now and then but can you really find any station, publication or channel that does not spin these and just about any other issue one way or another? It is either Democrat or Republican; either modern liberality or conservative; either left or right. So where is the truth? It is usually in the middle.
So what worries this old man about America’s future? I worry that the media is unduly and inappropriately influencing the voter and that the voter is not capable of seeing through the façade. I worry that the rich and powerful are having too much self-serving influence in the direction and policies of our nation. I worry that there are very few places left in America to find accurate news without spin or a hidden agenda. I worry that the American people will not take the time to find the truth. I worry that our children are not getting an education that will help them see through the foggy haze of obfuscation. That is my worry. I worry that democracy is a fragile thing and we are seeing warning signs that it is in danger.
Samuel Waen Jensen