We Shouldn’t Have To Buy Our Freedom

by Shadra L. Bruce

ethicalrevolutionist_buyfreedomThis country builds its values on freedom, but the only people who are free are the ones who give the “system” the finger and literally follow their own agenda. The only freedom we have as Americans is that we get to pick who tells us what to do. Let me explain.

The American dream: get an education, get married, buy a house, build a good career, have kids, buy toys, retire comfortably. And everything in this country is set up to support that dream, to funnel us as zombie-like slaves into corporate servitude, to encourage and enforce (and reinforce) reigning social values, by offering tax breaks for getting married and having kids, to entrap us with promises that if we just work hard enough, we too can be rich (all the while offering a mind numbingly below-par, over-priced education to ensure that we stay as sheep-like as possible).

What if you don’t want to live in the American rut? Everything – every law and societal attitude – attempts to force you into a lifestyle indistinguishable from anyone else’s: stay in one place, work at one job, and raise your kids to become the same mindless robots you become, kids who will ultimately believe in and reinforce the same system.

Imagine living in a society where the Earth is still appreciated, where people appreciate and respect each other, and where a person is truly free. People work to meet their needs and wants; that used to be about 8 hours a week. Now it’s 40-60, or more. We work, we eat, we sleep and we try to squeeze in a little fun.

Does that seem wrong to anyone else?

I think things really need to change. Peaceful revolution. Whether we evolve into small, self-sufficient, self-governing communities, or simply wipe the political slate clean and choose our representatives from among real people and not wealthy, out-of-touch imbeciles, I don’t know.

I understand why others look at Americans and think we are pigs. A good majority of us are greedy, gluttonous and hard-hearted; overweight, undereducated and lazy. We’re materialistic and demanding, and we all want something for nothing.

And it’s never our fault.

And yet, this is the only country where the potential for improvement is so possible. It has the POTENTIAL to be fantastic. I love being an American. The ideas America were based on are glorious. But politics corrupts men – hell, politics corrupts the Boy Scouts of America. And instead of a country of the people, for the people, and by the people, we have a country of political pigs getting rich off our growing poverty.

It disgusts me that in a country of freedom that touts itself as the greatest country in the world, children starve, people graduate from high school without being able to read and we can’t live peacefully with people of different cultures and beliefs.

How far down the wrong path are we willing to go before we make the effort to change? Who cares if children starve, if crime does pay, if politicians are greedy, lying, pigs? Most of us have it easy – and actually contribute to the greed with our materialistic demands – so why would we want it to change? Just don’t mess with our evening TV programming, OK?

Listen to your heart, your gut, and your brain – whatever part of your body you trust in an emergency. Listen to it. You should hear sadness, the lost soul, the warning that you’re on the wrong path. You feel the danger of doomsday (and not in any biblical sense).

Right now, we worry about the wrong things and don’t care about the important ones. Who cares who is having sex with whom? It doesn’t matter when we’re all going to get screwed by the government and by the freedom rhetoric. You want to be free? It IS possible.

You know what traps us all? Credit. Because we all want more than we can afford, we extend and overextend to the breaking point. On paper, we might look like the asset column is running ahead of the debt column, but it simply isn’t so. But there is comfort and security in the rut, and that’s why we’re stuck. Until enough people are willing to see past their own big screen TVs to see true reality, nothing will change.

The Real State of the Union

by David T. Bruce

income_inequality_chart_erAs the presidential election year looms over the political horizon, President Obama finally has something to say during the most recent State of the Union Address about income disparity in our country, as if the debate about the income gap and tax liability were new.  Most of us have devastatingly realized that the thirty-year economic experiment in this country has proven that Reaganomics works only for those citizens and companies that enjoy wealth and the power to augment that wealth.  No one in this country who has lost a job, lost a home, and struggled to get by during this perpetual recession is oblivious to the fact that it takes money to make money, and for those who do not have money, striving to break even is a way of life.  This is the reality of the American Dream, and this reality is unlikely to change any time soon.  During the battle to remain in power or obtain power, our elected officials choose now to acknowledge a problem that has been inherent in our capitalist society for many decades.

Republicans and Democrats posture and politic as they draw lines in the sand and point fingers across the aisle, each blaming the other for dividing the country and building a national debt in excess of $15 trillion.  These are the same leaders who enjoy a lifestyle at the expense of their constituents, a truth made painfully clear to American citizens now aware of Mr. Romney’s wealth and associated tax burden.  This not only highlights the disparity in income and tax liability between “the haves” and “the have-nots” in this country, but it also highlights how brutally out of touch our elected leaders are with the majority of the American public.  How can leaders argue on the behalf of a demographic of which they have no understanding?  How can we believe that our leaders will lobby to balance the country’s tax burden in favor of the lower- and middle-class when doing so would obviously raise their tax burden?

Burden: “something that is carried, something oppressive or worrisome.”

We are told by President Obama that the country is on the mend; we are told that the economy is bouncing back.  Please do not insult our intelligence.  According to GasBuddy, the median price for gas in 2012 is forecast to reach $3.95.  The USDA has projected that food prices will increase overall 2.5% to 3.5%.  An “alternative economic forecast” released by researchers in the White House suggest “an unemployment rate of 9% in 2012. These are not realities that suggest the country is mending or is bouncing back.  Those that live and thrive on Capitol Hill, those that are voted into office by their constituents do not want for food, healthcare, education, or a future.  Those that live and thrive on Capitol Hill have no idea what “burden” is.  They have created an economic disparity by their ignorance, their indifference, and their arrogance.

This is indeed class warfare, a battle that has been waged for centuries between “the haves” and “the have-nots.”  The malicious intent of the 1% – the “Mitt Romney’s” and the corporate “Goliath’s” of America – , however, is to convince those who have a bit more than “the have-nots” that those who have the least in the United States are trying to take away what they have earned.  In truth, the argument is that the tax system is structured as such that the “Mitt Romney’s” can conceivably pay less tax by percentage than those that earn minimum wage.  Major industries can relocate to foreign lands to avoid paying United States taxes.  The wealthiest citizens and companies of the United States need to pay their fair share.  This has nothing to do with Republican, Democrat, or American values.  This has everything to do with human values, and the majority of our elected officials value the citizens of the United States as humans only once every two or four years.  Beyond that, we are as insignificant as the pointless posturing and “policy prescriptions” presented as a way to placate a populace that is sick to death of the endless pandering by leaders who could not care less about our burden.

America – A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others

by David T. Bruce

dc-3My family and I just returned to our small village after spending four days visiting Washington D.C.  During our visit, we enjoyed the exhibits of a few Smithsonian museums, and we toured the obligatory streets and malls of the district in which resided the various presidential monuments and federal buildings, to include the Capitol and the White House.

Admittedly, I felt a sense of awe as we entered the District of Columbia via the George Washington Memorial Parkway and saw the Washington Monument behind a screen of haze and setting sun.

During our stay, I rekindled fond memories of the Apollo lunar program, satisfied the child within by exploring decades-old pop culture artifacts, and explored the history of the area that is our nation’s capital.

As a parent, I patted myself on the back for fostering the development of my children, introducing them to a history they had only skimmed in a text book or glimpsed in a Hollywood movie.  At the same time, as a citizen, I became more cynical as each day passed.

While the architecture is beautiful, the streets are clean and well cared for, and the transportation system is exceptional, I became increasingly sensitive to the disparity between what the District of Columbia represented versus what the reality of America is for the better share of the population of this country. While our family toured a region of America symbolic of freedom and democracy, our Representatives and Senators, perpetually embroiled in a debate over how to spend tax payer dollars, were gridlocked to the point in which the government is at risk of being shut down.

As I conclude this writing, the two disparate halves of our government have somehow come to a consensus that allowed for the budget to be passed and the federal government to continue doing business. Of highest concern, however, are those items that contributed to the heated debate: budget cuts that most affected elderly, disabled, and low-income Americans.  At the same time I and my family contribute tourist dollars to the District of Columbia economy, as our elected representatives and their families enjoyed the luxury of private schools, exceptional transportation, and an environment in which money is obviously no object, at least half of our nations representatives had the impudence to propose cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Planned Parenthood programs, directly affecting those who have little or no means to help themselves.

While the federal government proposes that funds be cut from the budget that, funds that support the elderly, disabled, and low-income citizens of America, and as the federal government proposes that states and the private industry (entities who are already in financial distress and have shown themselves to be incapable of providing adequate, affordable services) take over programs for the same, our government has exhibited little or no concern for these that have, as I say, no means to help themselves.  Those representatives that have raised their hand in support of such measure should be ashamed.

As an American and a father, I too feel shame, as I lead my children around a part of American they should be proud of.  Instead, these monuments and museums become mere shadows of what was and what could have been.  Today, there is to evident truth that all citizens are created equal.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are for those fortunate enough to be young, healthy, and God-fearing.  As a nation, we must come to grips with the reality that we will not survive as a nation divided.  At some point in time, we must all realize that “live and let live” means we must embrace our neighbors and offer a helping hand regardless of where they come from or where they are born.  Our government must begin to set the example by cutting the budget for everyone, by living within their means (as families do across the country), and by showing compassion for those who do not enjoy a fraction of the American dream that they do.  If America can spend in excess of $100 billion per year to take away lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, then perhaps they can spend at least that amount to help promote the health and welfare of America’s elderly, disabled, and low-income families.  The American dream is becoming a nightmare for many.