Obama urges Americans not to get angry. This, despite the fact that so many have so much good reason to be angry.
Blame Politicians’ Lies, Not Apathy
I can’t stop thinking about what Obama said about Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl shot to death in Tucson.
Christina-Taylor, said the president, saw politics “through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often take for granted.”
Those are disturbing words. But not the way Obama intended.
Obama relies on a deeply flawed assumption: that becoming cynical is an inherent part of growing up.
That’s a lie. As American citizens travel the long road from childhood to adulthood to valued members of the AARP, their political system repeatedly lets them down. Cynicism is taught. Optimism is ruthlessly crushed.
People vote for politicians who break their promises. Disappointed by the limited choices offered by the two major parties, they pick one only to see it repeatedly sell out its purported principles. As year after year slips by they watch the problems they worry about go completely unaddressed, much less solved, by their so-called representatives.
On those rare occasions that “their” government impacts their lives, it does so negatively, with taxes, fines, paperwork, parking tickets. Meanwhile the pols fatten themselves and their cronies at the public trough (before moving on to the even richer private one).
Say you have an absentee parent who drinks up the grocery money and beats you up. To protect yourself you develop a bit of a shell. Who can blame you? When you finally stop talking to the deadbeat SOB, is it fair to call you cynical?
Hardly. You’re merely acknowledging reality. You’d be a fool not to.
In researching this column I found countless articles and studies that try to explain why the United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates on earth. Almost all suggested ways to get more Americans to the polls. None focused on the supply side of the equation: improving politicians and politics so they become more appealing to the electorate.
Ask not, Mr. President, what Americans can do to become less cynical, but rather ask what you and your pals in D.C. can do to deserve our trust.
It’s interesting to ask why many Americans are registered to vote but rarely cast a ballot. (Usually whether or not a person is registered is the best predictor as to whether or not they actually vote.) A 2006 Pew Research survey found that 42 percent of these individuals were “bored by what goes on in Washington,” 14 percent were “angry at the government,” 32 percent said “issues in D.C. don’t affect me,” and 30 percent said “voting doesn’t change things.”
These people aren’t stupid or lazy. They’re cynical, and rightly so. They think the government is evil, irrelevant, or both. Lords knows politicians give them lots of reasons to hold those beliefs.
Start, for example, with President Obama himself.
In a September 2010 interview with Rolling Stone Obama claimed to have “accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do—and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum.”
These politicians! Even in a line about keeping promises, the dude fudges facts. “Minimum”? You can’t assume a second term when you’re president. Moreover, no one who voted for Obama in 2008 wants to wait until 2016 to see the fulfillment of a 2008 promise.
Anyway, Obama has kept a mere 24 percent of his 2008 promises. That’s according to Politifact—and their assessment is generous.
Totally broken promises—promises Obama didn’t even pretend to try to keep—include the following:
He said he would close Guantánamo concentration camp.
He said he would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.
He said he would create a $10 billion foreclosure prevention fund.
He said he would let the Bush tax cuts expire.
He said he would eliminate warrantless wiretaps.
He said he would eliminate extraordinary renditions.
He said he would eliminate torture.
He said he would create a transparent online database related to government ethics and lobbying activities.
He said he would close the revolving door between government and private sector lobbying.
He said he would create a national publicly funded healthcare system.
So many broken promises. No wonder so many optimistic kids turn into hardboiled adults.
Politicians lie and lie and lie. Then, when we notice, they accuse us of being faithless. Us! What about them?
“I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it,” Obama said. “All of us—we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”
No, Mr. Obama. “All of us” don’t have to do jack. It’s not our job to take an interest in politicians. It’s the politicians’ job to take an interest in us.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL
Media Spokesmen Move to Stifle Violent Speech
The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 11 other people is tragic. But it is not shocking. It isn’t even surprising.
What is surprising—weird, even—is the response of the corporate-owned political and media establishment. They’re coming out against violent rhetoric. Not real violence. They want to stop talk about violence.
Liberals accuse right-wingers of creating an atmosphere of hatred that fuels incidents like the Arizona shootings.
“We need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently,” urged MSNBC’s Keith Olberman. If he gets his way, a lot of people in Hollywood are going to be out of work.
Violent-rhetoric-causes actual-violence-is-a-liberal-meme. “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin,” tweeted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos after the Tucson shootings. Moulitsas noted that the website for Palin’s PAC featured an image of Rep. Giffords’ district with crosshairs over it. There is, however, no evidence that the accused gunman ever saw Palin’s website.
Righties counter that the really inflammatory rhetoric comes from the left. From, for example the likes of me: “Left-wing cartoonist Ted Rall’s most recent book calls for a violent response from the left against the right,” Erick Erickson of RedState whined after Giffords was shot. “The point of all of this is not to blame Ted Rall,” he then backtracked. Like hell.
The cognitive disconnect between reality and self-perception in American society and politics is bizarre and frightening. Whenever there’s a school or workplace shooting spree, Americans act shocked! shocked! shocked! To hear media commentators, you’d think this was a peace-loving nation of Dalai Lamas rather than a bunch of brawlin’, trash-talkin’, gun-totin’, foreigner-bombin’ yahoos who drive around Iraq shooting people while listening to death metal.
“Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our democracy,” said Keith Olberman. Does he live in America? Americans worship violence. Kicking ass is our national religion. “Violence and threats of violence” are part of our daily lives. As a kid, I got beaten up by bullies. As an adult, I collect death threats in response to my cartoons. When I ride my bike, motorists try to run me off the road. Most of my female friends have been raped.
When I served jury duty in New York prospective jurors were asked whether they or someone close to them had ever been the victim of a violent crime. Down the line they went, 50 at a time. They went through 150 people. Every New Yorker there had suffered the effects of a brutal assault or the murder of a loved one.
The first time I felt any self-respect was when I sent a high school bully to the hospital.
Sorry, Keith. Violence has plenty of place in our lame excuse for a democracy. Remember how Bush became president in 2000? He hired goons to assault Florida election workers and had a representative threaten a coup on national television.
“Such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society,” chimed in President Obama. Who was either coming from or en route to a meeting with Pentagon generals to discuss America’s wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, or perhaps the occupation of Haiti, or expanding the new concentration camp at Bagram. How many assassination orders have you signed so far, Barry? How many extraordinary renditions? How many torture memos?
As I recently explained to an interviewer: “The reason I oppose this particular regime is because it is so aggressively violent.”
And I’m not talking about gun violence.
I’m talking about the wholesale over-the-top violence of neo-colonialism abroad, fueled by a cult of militarism here at home. U.S. forces are currently engaged in combat operations and propping up puppet regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and many other countries. They are hated and reviled there. Here every other car’s bumper urges us to “support our troops.”
We kill so many civilians we can’t be bothered to count them; not even America’s wimpy phony Left opposes the killing of “enemy” uniformed soldiers who die defending their homelands. Military action is America’s default response to every major news story. The 9/11 attacks? Kill them all—even if we’re not sure who “they” are. Hurricane Katrina? Send in the troops—not help. Indian Ocean tsunami, earthquakes in Pakistan or Haiti—anything and everything is an opportunity to invade, corrupt, pillage and murder.
The young man accused of shooting Rep. Giffords is portrayed as sick, deranged, and fond of oddball conspiracy theories. In these things, he is a typical American. “Typical” Americans, after all, believe in angels and creationism and that Bush found the WMDs in Iraq and trickle-down economics. Typical liberal Americans think it’s perfectly fine to give trillions to bankers while millions lose their jobs and get no help whatsoever.
The Tucson gunman is accused of an act of “senseless violence.” Here, too, he is just another face in the crowd. We all pay our taxes. None of us loses a minute of sleep as those taxes are used to make bombs and hire men and women to drop them on innocent people, who then blow into bits of flesh and bone.
Then there is the covert violence all around us: the tens of thousands of Americans who die annually because they can’t afford to pay for a doctor’s visit, the millions of children who go to bed hungry every night, the millions evicted from foreclosed homes (tell them it’s not an act of violence), the hundreds of thousands who sleep outside and the millions who couchsurf with friends and relatives because shelter is too expensive. We don’t even think about getting serious about solving these problems.
Like terrorism, political violence is a relatively minor issue. And as guys named Lincoln and Garfield and Charles Sumner—who was nearly beaten to death by a fellow member on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1856—could attest, it is not a new one.
The brutality being carried out by the political system and its corporate sponsors is responsible for the equivalent of tens of thousands of Tucson-level shooting sprees each year in the U.S. alone. For example, a peer-reviewed scientific study published in 2005 found that the death toll directly attributable to income inequality is “comparable to the combined loss of life from lung cancer, diabetes, motor vehicle crashes, HIV infections, suicides and homicides.”
But the ruling classes doesn’t want us to think about reality. They want to make us shut up. Thus their calls to ramp down high-octane political speech.
Political violence? We should be much more worried about violent politics.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL