October 8, 2009

Dr. Americalove ( Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Join The Fight Against Lobbyists)

I've often noticed that when people my age wax nostalgic about growing up in the 70's and 80's, they often only talk about their favorite toys, or tv shows, or movies. That is quite understandable, considering that my generation is fairly defined by it's pop culture touchstones. I am trying to think of ways that America was better in those days without being overly nostalgic or merely thinking in pop culture terms. It's awfully hard to do.

You know what I really miss about those days? Family get-togethers. Easter. Thanksgiving. Christmas. I can still picture my Mom and Uncle standing at opposite ends of Grandma Lois' kitchen table, pulling it out to add the center leaf. My family, like every family, was full of colorful characters, who loved to gab and joke and laugh while passing the mashed potatoes around. It was the same situation at Grandma Sudie's house. I'm not sure what "Family Values" is defined as nowadays. I do know that my family members often helped each other to accomplish goals, big and small. I know there was a feeling of unity, love, and human kindness that made life wonderful.

This is not to say there were not arguments and secrets and rifts. Every family has those. But we had those things as a family. Today, more and more families are estranged. It is like we are all on individual journies now. In my family, the separation happened slowly. As the burdens of life increased, it seemed to get harder and harder still to find the time to break bread with our loved ones. I did not see much of my family after I got married for the first time. 60 hour work weeks can do that to a guy.

You see, I think there is a tendency for Americans to let the greedy bastards who write our checks also change the way we live our lives, and it's not a good trade-off. Imagine an America where everyone could have a job working less hours and making more money. There would be plenty of time to rekindle family ties if the people at the very top didn't have an unholy desire to own EVERYTHING. It's hard to get along in today's Monopoly society, where a few people own everything from Park Place to Marvin Gardens, while others are forced to sell their bodies to buy fast food dinners.

This, in my opinion, is the fundamental flaw of capitalism. It works great for building a society, but then the Law Of Diminishing Returns sets in. Because there are winners and losers. Say Burt's Ice Cream becomes extremely popular. Burt gets richer and richer and is able to have all the finest things in life. The same goes for his children, who are able to go to the finest colleges to get degrees as lawyers. It is a fairly safe bet that Burt's great-great-great grandchildren will prosper, if they don't squander their inheritances.

Now take Ernie. Ernie's Ice Cream doesn't do so well. His business fails. Even if the fault is entirely with Ernie, because his ice cream tasted like rancid underwear, Ernie's children will still enter their American lives at a considerable disadvantage to Burt's children. If America is supposed to be a land of equal opportunity, then Houston, we have a problem. Because as the cycle continues, Burt and his succeeding generations will do better and better, unless they face an unlikely crisis. And Ernie's succeeding generations will do worse and worse, unless there is an unlikely miracle.

Of course, most Americans are materialistic. That goes without saying. But most Americans don't have to have mansions and a fleet of cars and butlers and private jets. We all know the difference between needs and wants. I need fresh air to breathe. I want the new Beatles: Rock Band game. I need healthy food to eat, although I want to eat fish 'n'chips in London someday.

I, like most Americans, am a proud individual. I do not want a handout, and I don't know many people who do. But folks who work hard for 50 years deserve better than to have their pensions raided. Folks who work hard, even if they don't go to college, should be able to afford a home for their family and they should not live in fear that some health-related issue will lead to that home being foreclosed on.

It is clear what needs to happen in America. We must outlaw lobbying. Not reform it. Outlaw it. Because rich people should not have more power to influence Congress than poor people. Because people should not run for office as a get rich quick scheme. They should run for office to represent the needs of the people they are sent to represent.

This must be the focus of the revolution. To end influence peddling in Washington. If we can, we will reform healthcare, end wars that only benefit greedy profiteers, and secure a better future for each and every American child being born today.

I know I am not the first person to come to this conclusion, but you have just witnessed a real-time epiphany. Does anyone want to join me in learning more about the efforts that must surely already be in place to end influence peddling? For my children's sake, I sure hope so.

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