Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein opposed the draft. The reason, he wrote, was that any society that had to force its people to fight for it wasn't worth preserving. I suppose that goes for a society that won't pick its leaders wisely, too. In the last few elections we've had some sorry choices. Try as I might, I can't just blame the news or special interests. People didn't want to take the time to understand what each candidate stood for, if anything, and what his record really was. They either trusted their opinionated friends, or the cool guys on radio or TV, or they just figured they could determine whom to vote for based on how they looked or how they shook hands.
I often wonder just how stupid you have to be to think that's a good way to choose a leader. I suppose it's better than the way chimpanzees do it, but it sure doesn't say much for our intelligence, does it? For anyone who might feel that they can read a person this way let me tell you something.
You're an idiot.
Politicians are people who are good at making you like them. They are people who are good at sounding as though they hear your concerns and agree with them. Most people just assume that when a politician feels a certain way on an issue he'll vote that way. Often times, he won't. Joe Lieberman made fools of such people during his last election for the Senate. He said he wanted the Iraq War to end. People who voted for him were shocked to find out that he hasn't voted that way once since. To know that Lieberman was lying, all you needed to do was look at his voting record, but they figured he was just such a nice man that he wouldn't lie to them. Idiots.
So, on this Independence Day, I'm going to give you some of the best advice you've ever read about politics. It requires effort. You have to learn things. You have to check out what politicians say, and you have to check out what people who say things about those politicians are saying. No one speaks the truth all the time, even those of us who try. Sometimes, we're wrong. Find out what the facts are, and then figure out who knows what the facts really are and how to interpret them.
This Fourth of July we're seeing what being wrong about politics can mean. We're in a ruinous war. One of our major cities is still a mess almost two years after it was flooded, with no end in sight. We have seen our government abuse powers it was never supposed to have, fire prosecutors who were doing their jobs, and replace them with partisan hacks. We've watched as they exposed the identity of a CIA agent to discredit her husband, who had criticized their rush into that ruinous, and completely unnecessary war. If you have children, they may some day be involved in that war, or in the next war that's caused by the results of this one.
What freedom means is that your fate is in your hands. It's your country, but only if you make it your responsibility to stay informed about what's happening in your world. If you leave it to your bigmouthed friends, the cool guys on radio, or even the earnest blogger, you leave your fate in their hands. Which means you really leave your fate in the hands of whoever controls or manipulates them, people who should never be trusted, because they don't give a damn what happens to you. The sort of people, in short, who are
I'm not resigned to this situation we're in by any means, but there are times when I really wonder whether we're a society that's worth saving. Well, we're going to have to save ourselves this time, and if we can't do it because not enough people cared, I guess I have my answer.
So, how about it, America? On this Independence Day, why don't you do your part to preserve freedom? Turn off the fucking American Idol re-run and pick up a newspaper, or go read a blog, or take a class in history or government. Do some damn thing to get yourselves informed about how your country is supposed to work, and why. Because trust me, folks, when the shitheads who invaded and destroyed Iraq finally get around to finishing off this country, I won't have any patience for your complaints.
UPDATE: Added third to last paragraph. Somehow, it makes more sense to me with that transition. Happy Fourth of July.
UPDATE 2: Go check out Christy Hardin Smith's essay and then scroll down to Cynic's comment at 149. You'll be glad you did.