It always takes a disaster
I've been thinking about how to write this. This is one of those times that I want to make sure there is no way to misunderstand my words, I'm going to do my best and hope you won't misunderstand me. If you do then it's probably my fault.
So as everyone knows Houston got the shit kicked out of it by a hurricane. The stories coming out of there are numerous and many things can be inferred or presumed about one political side or another. I'm not going to bother addressing most of those. I'm sure we've all seen many memes, general facebook quotes, and plenty of tweets centered around our particular ideology that supports whatever viewpoint we hold and that's fine. No matter your view point I am going to talk about facts, what we can derive from the facts, and where we should go from here as a country.
Fact 1. We as Americans show an incredible ability to pull together after a disaster, and we've seen many instances of it throughout the years. September 11th we pulled together after a horrible terror attack. We pulled together after Katrina, after Sandy. In times of crisis, we are remarkable in our ability to put differences aside, come together, and do what needs to be done for the betterment of all. It's awe inspiring.
Fact 2. We as Americans show an incredible ability to politicize any god damned thing. The perfect example is the hoopla around melania trump wearing high heels on her way to Texas. Seriously? Who gives a shit what she was wearing? I mean come on, given that we have a first lady we can all use google to see naked maybe we shouldn't worry about her shoes?
Fact 3. Megachurch leaders can be counted on to do the right thing... so long as they are harassed mercilessly about it on the internet first.
Fact 4. Most Mosques and many churches willingly opened their doors to provide shelter for the people that needed it. This is an important fact and one that we should learn from. A lot of people like to claim that Islam is a religion of hate and that Muslims would like nothing more than to see the eradication of the western way of life. This argument fails to pass the litmus test. It would have been easy for the Muslim community in Houston to turn their backs on the community. Hell, it would have made sense for them to do so, the current administration and its followers have made it abundantly clear that Muslims aren't welcome. Still, they opened their doors, they helped their community. Maybe in light of this information, we can agree that not all Muslims are evil?
Fact 5. This is my last fact though not nearly the least important. When the shit hit the fan in Houston the people of Houston showed us something. They showed us, and are continuing to show us, the same lesson that we should have learned after 9/11, that we should have learned from Katrina, and that we should have learned after Sandy. That lesson is simple. We are all Human. Black, white, Hispanic (don't forget Mexico offered and in fact brought aid while the cry baby in chief sat indecisive about accepting it), Asian... whatever... we are all human. We need to look after each other, help each other, and by doing so there is no limit to what we can achieve.
So ends the factual portion of this blog. Now I'm going to move into speculation. I admit this speculation may be a little pie in the sky, maybe it's wishful thinking, but I don't think so. I think my speculation is possible if we want it to be.
trump ran on a platform of making America great again. It's a wonderful thought, but he's going about it all wrong. I know some of you will disagree with this but stick with me for a minute.
When was America great? I think most of the time people think about the prosperous times of the 1920's, before the depression obviously, and then the 40's and 50's. I believe most people tend to think that America started going to hell in the 60's and it'd be hard to argue against that. The 20's were a very prosperous time, so were the 40's and the 50's. Granted they were due to the economic boom brought on by some pretty important wars but still, they were prosperous times.
What else made those eras great? In all honesty, I don't know first hand. I'm much too young for that. That being said, through reading, studying history, and watching what I assume are highly romanticized movies (which by trumps definition is seeing it first hand) I think I have an idea. It's why people think that small towns are great... or at least use to think that before meth became common in small towns. Okay, so why were small towns great places to raise a family? I'm glad you asked.
What made small towns great is that everyone knew everyone else. Everyone kept an eye on each other's kids, property, and well being. If a family member was ill or passed away you could almost be sure that a lot of the town was going to pitch in and help. If a kid was going down a bad path you could bet that someone was going to let that kid's parents know and, more importantly, that kid's parents would listen to the adult and correct their child rather than getting upset at the adult. If you fell on hard times, you knew you could count on your neighbors for help if they were able to help.
So yeah, that was a great time. It was a simpler time and it was a safer time. I'd like to see those times come back but there is a problem. See what isn't often talked about from those times is the racism, the discrimination, and the misogynistic values that were common. Now, I'm not saying that the people who held those views were bad people. They weren't, it's what they knew, it's what they grew up with. That isn't their fault, it's a simple nature vs. nurture argument and by nature, we don't hate anybody, that is a learned behavior. That being said often times discrimination isn't born from hate it's born from simple lack of knowledge, from fear, and from lack of understanding. Those aren't bad things, those are things that need to be approached from a place of caring and not from a place of divisiveness.
I would love to see us go back to a time when you could count on your neighbors when everyone worked together to make the country great. When bad grades in school were a failing on the part of the student and not the teacher. When we trusted scientists because the advances they made were astounding. When writers, artists, and musicians were respected and were respectful. A time when we as a people understood that united we stand, divided we fall. It seems like most people don't understand that anymore. It seems like most people are concerned with what is best for them and only them and to hell with the next person.
As Americans, our greed has been growing and growing and now we don't care about our neighbors. We assume that if someone has fallen on hard times it's because of a failing in their moral fiber, it's a failing in their work ethic. We want praise for overcoming our own obstacles and refuse to accept that other people have obstacles to face that may be greater than ours. This is a sad state of affairs and one that is not helped by at least 3/4ths of the politicians running our country.
So what do we do?
In my opinion, it's simple. It won't be easy, but it's simple. First and foremost we listen to scientists. We don't assume that by reading a couple articles we know more than they do. We understand that the scientific definition of theory is different than the layman definition. We accept that climate change is real. I use to deny it, I thought Al Gore was full of it... still do, to be honest... but there is too much evidence to suggest that he was completely wrong.
So step one, pay attention to science, accept that we are destroying our home, and figure out what to do about it. Accept that vaccines work and quit trying to act like they don't.
Step two, fund the hell out of education and science. Throw more money at education than the schools know what do with. Pay teachers what they are worth (seriously, I'm not a teacher but anyone that claims they are overpaid is just so wrong I don't have enough time to explain how wrong they are. If you think they are overpaid just remember that they are educating the next generation that will be taking care of you in your old age. They are literally shaping the future, how can you ever pay some one too much for that?), also... listen to your child's teacher and quit thinking you know better than they do how to educate your children. If your child's teacher says that your little angel is slow, needs extra help, or needs to repeat the grade... they aren't doing it to embarrass anyone they're doing it because your child is slow, needs extra help, or needs to repeat the grade. They are trying to help your child out... let them.
Step three, stop with the homeschooling BS. Yeah, that's right, it's BS. With very few exceptions there is no parent that is more capable of teaching their child than someone who has spent years studying the subjects that they are teaching. Now, I'll admit, currently, our educational system is completely screwed and it's not likely to get better during this administration. If we do step one and step two though, it will get better.
Step four, help your teachers. When your child goes to school they are not going to day care. They are not going someplace that will magically endow them with the ability to be productive members of society. Schools give children the tools to be productive as adults, it is your job to teach them how to use those tools to the benefit of all. It is your job to teach them compassion, empathy, caring for their fellow man regardless of race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, right or left handedness, poor, rich, whatever. Stop teaching children to hate.
Step five, health care. Stop fighting universal health care already. Think about the arguments for this one. They usually fall around the "I don't want my tax money going to help somebody that doesn't want to go earn it themselves", vein. With everything I've already said do I have to say that I find this logic to be exceedingly uncaring and selfish? That's okay, you care more about money than your fellow human beings, no problem. Consider this though.
In England, the average person pays about 5-8% of their taxes for health insurance. For this bit of information though I'm going to make my life a little simpler and round up to 10%. So let's have fun with math.
In my non-writing job I currently make about 30k a year, which is about 2500 a month, and 1250 a pay period before taxes and health insurance and all that fun stuff. I get paid twice a month. Twice a month I pay for my insurance which covers myself, and three of my children. My wife is on her own insurance plan from her job because if I added her to mine I would basically lose a pay check to insurance and taxes every month. My insurance payment is about $250 per pay check, or $500 a month. Which if you are doing the math means that I pay about 20% of each pay check into insurance before taxes, leaving me $1,000 to pay taxes with. I pay about $200 in taxes per pay period so that leaves me about $800 per pay period after insurance and taxes. Not bad, actually though it's less because I'm only using what I pay for straight health insurance, so I'm not counting dental, life, or any of that.
With that, I have a 3K deductible. So I have to accrue $3k in bills before my insurance really helps me. Even after that they only pay about 80% and I still pay 20%. This adds up, trust me.
Now let's switch to the English model.
You remember I said 10% tax for health insurance. In reality, it's lower as the 5-8% is for National services that cover more than just health insurance but I'm not going to get into the minor details so we'll go with 10%. Also before you complain yes I do know that they pay other taxes as well. Though I just showed that even after paying 20% of my check for health insurance, I still pay another 20% in various taxes. So total that is 40% of my check that I never actually see.
Anyway, 10% tax on 1250 would be $125. So Each pay check I would have 1125 before the other taxes. In England for what I earn I would still pay roughly 20% more in taxes so ultimately I would bring home about $900, or an extra $100 every pay check, so an extra $200 every month, and an extra $2400 per year. There is no deductible, and very little out of pocket expense.
So, If we went to that model ultimately you would have more money. Now think about your argument and what you are saying. You are saying that you don't want to bring home MORE money because someone that contributes less than you might benefit from your contribution. In other words, if little 6-year-old Suzie was born with a heart defect and her family makes an average income you actively want to make less money to make sure her family either can't afford Suzie's medical costs or will have to declare bankruptcy to do so. Not only that, but you have to pay deductibles for your healthcare as well.
Your argument doesn't quite hold water now, does it? In fact... if you think about it logically and do the math (and trust me you should be able to do the math, anyone that knows me knows that I suck at math but with just a little bit of research and a calculator I was able to figure this out) Your argument against Universal Health Care actually makes you sound rather heartless and just a little dumb.
On the plus side, you don't seem as greedy since you're willing to sacrifice about 10% of your pay check just to make sure people that you don't know but consider lazy (and realistically some of them are, but the majority aren't) can't get proper medical care without going broke. So hey... good job on not being greedy, I guess.
Step Six quit acting like the way somebody else lives actually affects you. I mean honestly, does it hurt you in any real way if Joe decides he wants to be Joanne? Are you really that concerned about what genitals other people have? Does it really hurt you in any real way if Bob and Joe get married and adopt a child without a family? Or if Rachel and Jessica do the same thing? If you think about it and are honest with yourself, no it doesn't hurt you in the slightest. In fact, it actually improves the life of the child they adopt, and they are happier people because they are in a loving marriage and raising a child with love... in theory... in practice it probably works out that way about as often as heterosexual marriages with children, which is to say maybe half the time. Either way, it doesn't concern you.
Yes, their marriage may go against your religion. That's fine. If two people, of the same sex, getting married is against your religion then the best thing you can do is not marry someone the same sex as you. It's that simple. Now if two people that do not belong to your religion decide that it's okay for them, well then your religion doesn't really matter. It's not that hard of a concept. More importantly, if two people you don't know getting married detracts in some way from your own marriage... maybe you should take a good hard look at your own marriage and let them worry about theirs.
On the flip side of that coin, if someone believes they have to pray to Mecca five times a day... let them. If they believe that their god wants them to go to church on Sundays, let them. If they believe they can't use electricity during the Sabbath... let them. It doesn't affect you.
Now before you say anything about how wrong I am because of this fallacious argument or that fallacious argument let me address those concerns now. Yes, there are limits to this. If your religion requires the sacrifice of virgins... yeah that shouldn't be tolerated. That actually is hurting someone in a very real physical sense. If your religion requires you to have multiple spouses and doesn't care if those spouses are 5 or 50... now we have a problem. A 5-year-old can't consent to marriage. That also causes very real harm to someone. Do you see where this is going? I'm sure you do. At this point, if you don't then it's a willful decision.
Step Seven understand that someone's race, religion, heritage, or culture doesn't mean a damn thing. Again this one has caveats but let's deal with the basic premise first. If I tell you that Joe is an African American male what do you automatically know about Joe? I'm pretty sure some of you came up with the wrong answer there so I'll tell you what you know. You know that Joe is a male that may or may not have darker skin than someone who is of Irish descent, Spanish descent, or some other descent that isn't African. That is all you know about Joe. You might be able to reasonably assume that Joe's name is Joseph but you might still be wrong. If Joe is proud of his African heritage, well... good for Joe. I'm proud of my Scots-Irish heritage, and at least once a year a lot of you are proud of Irish heritage regardless of whether or not you have it.
Now for the controversial side of things. I have German heritage also, and I have Southern heritage. I'm proud of those as well. That being said, I don't want to see statues of Hitler, or Rommel, or Goring. Now I don't know if I have any relations that were in Germany during that time period. If I do then I'm pretty sure they were rather distant. With that said I could rightfully argue that that portion of German history is not a part of my heritage with potentially some degree of success. I wouldn't make that argument though. The same blood that spawned those atrocities, to some degree, also runs in my veins. Like I said, I have Southern heritage. I don't know for a fact but I wouldn't be surprised if I had family members fight for the Confederacy.
My father was from Tennessee, and I am proud of those southern roots. That doesn't mean that I think Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, or J.E.B Stuart should be a revered part of that heritage. I'm not saying destroy all of the statues already erected for them. I'm saying move them to where they belong, museums and battlefields. Along with that, I am no more proud of the Confederate flag than I am the Nazi flag. Like it or not both of them represent hate, oppression, and murder.
No, taking down the Confederate flag, or statues of Confederate leaders is not destroying history nor will it mean that history will be forgotten. Just like the tax argument above this argument is pretty bad when you look at what you are really saying. Right or wrong the Civil war ultimately was about slavery. It did not start that way no, but it did turn into that. That is what people associate it with. To say that honoring the generals who fought for the Confederacy, or the President that led the Confederacy, is paying homage to your southern heritage is to insult that heritage. It is to say that your heritage is one of treason, is one of subjugating other people. I don't specify the subjugation of African slaves because yes there were white slaves (I know this because like I said I'm proud of my Irish heritage). In a way that is not much different than being proud of the fact that Hitler and his ilk subjugated the Jews and others.
If you want to honor the Southern spirit there are many better ways to do it. The Southern Spirit is so much more than the Confederacy and the civil war. The southern spirit is one of hospitality, of helping your neighbors, of awesome food. If you want to memorialize the Southern fighting spirit there are more wars and better soldiers to base those statues on. There is so much more to be proud of being Southern than that ugly period of history. If you want to put up memorials to that period of American history then maybe make a museum that is a replica of a Slave ship? How about a statue of a whipping post, an auction block, maybe a lynching tree?
You want ideas of people you can honor that exemplify the true Southern spirit, I'll give you four without having to look them up.
Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Hal Moore.
Hell, even Dwight Eisenhower was born in Texas. Granted he moved to Kansas when he was 2 but the point remains. There are plenty of great Southerners to be proud of without resorting to the leaders of the Confederacy. So let's do that.
Step Eight. This is the last step. Respect each other. It's that easy. None of us know what experiences have shaped all of us. We have all had different teachers, different role models, different choices, and taken different paths. Our pasts make us who we are and we should never be judged for who we were but who we are. So until you know someone personally, and know that they do not deserve any respect... maybe they are a rapist, a child molester, murderer, a racist, a neo-nazi, or something else along those lines, then show them respect as a human being. If you see someone struggling, help them.
Now you may get the idea that I'm some kind of new age lovey dovey peacenik left-handed liberal hippy. Well... you could be right. Compared to the current right wing political sphere... yeah I'm a liberal. Yes, I'm ordinarily a pacifist and feel violence should be a last resort, I see nothing wrong with free love, and I am not a Christian. Then again, if you do go around judging people based on their lifestyle, their skin color, or refusing to help the poor and the sick... well you aren't really a Christian either. Jesus never once asked a leper if they could afford to pay him for healing them. He never once turned someone away because he didn't like their lifestyle. He did not tell the poor that if that weren't so lazy they wouldn't be poor, and when he fed the people with fish and bread he did NOT ask who had jobs and would pay their share, and he did NOT exclude those that didn't, or couldn't.
So... do you want to really make America great again? I just gave you a blue print. The question is... what are you going to do with it?
Have a good evening.