“The Land of the What?”
A few days have passed since the anniversary and hopefully everyone has had a chance to engage in their false piety and is done pretending that our country was somehow irrevocably changed on September 11, 2001. The only changes I’ve noticed are that our country, never actually the land of the free to start with, has become even less free. In the last eleven years our citizenry has acquiesced to a dismantling of our Bill of Rights, gone along with people being jailed indefinitely while never being charged with an actual crime, warrantless wiretapping, an ever-growing religious extremism, and a wave of anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic (Yes, Arabs are Semites; look it up) hatred unseen in this country since World War II. Yes, those are changes but those aren’t the changes people refer to when they look back on 9/11. Instead they pretend that it began a renewal of love of country, a renewal of patriotism, even if said patriotism involves little more than wearing flag pins, waving massive flags made in China and accusing your political opponents of hating America (which some will probably accuse me of after they’ve read this) and insisting that a Defense budget already plagued with a Chris Christie-like bloat, needs to be increased further so we can invade even more countries (while, of course, cutting benefits for those who actually do the fighting).
The idea that America is the freest nation in the world borders on laughable considering that a greater percentage of our population is imprisoned than in any other country in the world. Russia, not exactly a place that evokes visions of freedom in the typical American’s mind, has the second highest percentage of their citizenry imprisoned, with 23% FEWER citizens incarcerated per 100,000 than we do. Are Americans simply more dangerous, more criminally-oriented? Is there something about this continent? Considering that Canada, a country similar to ours, ranks 123 when it comes to incarceration rates, and that 72% of those in American prisons are there because of non-violent, primarily drug-related, offenses, the answer is no. It is simply that we have far fewer freedoms. And as our populace becomes less and less informed, it becomes more and more willing to give away what few freedoms we have left.
We are a country where a large percentage of our population not only does not value higher education; they call it “elitist.” The Texas GOP clearly states in their platform that they are against Critical Thinking. They are against children being taught anything which challenges their long held beliefs, anything which contradicts that which their parents and pastors have taught them. In the meantime, our math, science and reading scores are plummeting compared to the rest of the world.
A full 15% of Ohio Republicans believe Mitt Romney gave the order to kill Osama Bin Laden. Forty percent of Republicans believe President Obama is a Kenyan born Muslim. While 97% of climatologists believe Global Climate change exists (the other three percent funded and paid by the fossil fuel industry to deny reality), over 80% of Republicans believe it is a hoax. A majority of Republicans believe Iraq attacked us on 9/11, that we found WMD in Iraq, and even crazier, three quarters of them still insist George W Bush was a great president and not the disaster he actually was.
Not to just pick on Republicans, though admittedly people running around with tea bags hanging from their tricorn hats, carrying misspelled signs telling the government to stay out of their Medicare, are a rich target, the ignorance is not solely theirs. According to a Newsweek/Daily Beast poll, 73% of all Americans couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6% couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.
Are we supposed to ignore this insanity? Are we supposed to continue to extol the virtues of this nation and pretend this ever-growing dysfunction doesn’t exist? I love the hell out of my kids and I wouldn’t trade them for anyone, but I’d be delusional if I claimed they were perfect, that they are better than any other set of children alive. I would be irresponsible if I ignored the occasional bad grade on their report cards, if I looked the other way when one of them was disrespectful or refused to do their chores. But compared to my kids, who get better as they get older, my country is headed in the opposite direction, It is the kid down the street who sets cats on fire, in need of a good, old-fashioned ass beating, a massive dose of Thorazine and intensive therapy. To look the other way and do nothing would be abuse of the highest order.
– Tom Bonfiglio
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