Thoughts for November

As the primary season winds down for our two main political parties, it comes time to question within ourselves what direction we wish our country to take. With that in mind, ruminate on this quote:

A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.

The quote, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, seems to actually have originated from Gerald Ford. Regardless, the message of the quote is clear: big government does not act in the individual's interests, and given a chance, will take whatever it can from you. The perception that we Americans seem to have of our government as fundamentally good is dangerous. When we view the body of history, we see that the more of life government controls, the less liberty the individual is able to express. Both political parties trumpet a decrease in personal liberty, though they would never admit it outright. Democrats hide it under themes of "saving the children" and "eliminating poverty". Republicans hide it under themes of "family values" and "patriotism". How are the parties doing? "Saving the children" has led to a fear, especially among men, that helping a child in need, even if it's your own, will be misconstrued as a sexually-motivated, dangerous activity. There also seems to be an article or editorial every month or so lamenting the lack of un-monitored exploration by children. Indeed, I had free reign of my childhood, traveling the town and surrounding wilderness alone and with siblings. Today, children are fenced in, constantly monitored, given highly structured and "safe" activities, "diagnosed" with ADD or ADHD or whatever they're calling it today, given pills to reign in their natural exuberance. I call bullshit! This sheltered lifestyle, in my opinion, leads to what some Internet commenters call "sheeple", people unable to question authority and assuming those in power know best. While property values have dropped across the country and foreclosures increase, the low-income borrowers have been hit the hardest. Improper lending practices (such as no-money-down, ARMs, especially to first-time buyers) have packaged up debt and exported it worldwide. Because lines of credit have been relatively scarce in low income areas, with the decrease in standards in the lending industry, low income families gravitated to the credit with little more that rosy visions of owning a home of their own. While a noble goal in and of itself, it seems most homebuyers allowed this dream to overshadow the stark realities that came with a mortgage, particularly the adjustable rate variety. So as this housing collapse has come to light and the ramifications are just beginning to be felt, where are the Democrats? Oh yeah, allowing the "Federal" Reserve to bailout the very financial institutions that got the housing market in this mess. What about the little guy? Not a dime. With a majority in both the House and Senate, the Dems have failed to bring help to ailing homeowners. You know what could help the economy? $3+ trillion dollars spent overseas maintaining our empire. Oh wait. With a majority in Congress, their hands on the purse of the government, the Democrats have continually caved to Bush's demands for more funding of the occupation in Iraq. So while Obama and Hillary debate about the war, they and their Democratic cohorts continue to feed the beast. Condemning Bush's foreign policy is easy and takes no guts; opposing funding and actually bringing the troops you claim to support home is hard and takes intestinal fortitude, something history has shown lacking in the Democratic party. Why is that? Oh yeah, 100+ members of Congress directly profit, through their investments, from the military activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. Why actually take a meaningful stand and cease to vote for funding when it hurts their individual bottom line? Don't kid yourself…the top echelon of Democratic and Republican leadership all hang out at the same country clubs, are members of the same corporate boards, eat at the same high end restaurants. They are cut from the same cloth; they just think they can keep power by espousing different ways of stealing your liberty. So how does "family values" steal liberty? Probably two of the hottest issues, abortion and gay rights, are both attacked under the guise of "family values". Abortion, in my mind at least, is the trickier of the two. At what point does a fetus gain the right to individual liberty versus the right of the mother to determine what happens to her body? It is a contentious point and not one that is solved, as far as I can tell. Each must draw their own line, and I think at this point government cannot weigh in here with law. Leave it to the mother, her support structure, and the doctor, to determine what is right. Gay rights is, to me, a no brainer. The ability to marry should not be restricted by law. Indeed, marriage between heterosexuals has lacked the moral fortitude that "family values" pushers claim. While the examples are numerous to the point of depressing, let's take a high profile case: John McCain. After his first wife had an accident and was no longer desirable to him, McCain "upgraded" to a newer, younger, richer, and more influential model, Cindy. Sure, he acknowledges his misstep but does that give him the right to tell Ellen DeGeneres she can't marry Portia de Rossi because he believes in the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman? The failings of the religious right in upholding their "values" far outweighs any perceived damage from a homosexual lifestyle. Plus, as near as I can tell, the only rationale for opposing gay rights is Biblically based. While the Bible certainly has great stories and examples of noble living, it should not, cannot, be the sole basis for law in a "free" society. I have not seen arguments that are not rooted in Biblical passages. Under the guise of Patriotism, President Bush brought us the Patriot Act, torture, Abu Ghraib, warrentless wiretapping, PROTECT America act, and more. He illegally invaded and occupied Iraq and has, more recently, been beating the drums of conflict with Iran. He speaks to Middle Eastern countries about increasing their levels of democracy and personal freedom, and yet enacts domestic policies that curtail free speech and political dissension. In our current state, we do not represent the country envisioned by the Founders. And exhale! So as we journey down the road to another President, take a real look at what each candidate offers. Obama offers hope. Hope for what? That the Democrats and Republicans can work together to more efficiently to steal our personal liberties? Hilary seems all but out, unless her ace up her sleeve is a hit on Obama, which she recently alluded to in a speech about why she was still in the race. Her voting record and words show she won't get us out of Iraq anytime soon. "Responsible withdrawal" is code for "my generals will 'find' intel that requires prolonging the stay for national security". McCain wants more war (Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb bomb Iran, anyone?). All three want more government control of more aspects of our lives. Try to think of something you do in your day that is not affected directly by government on some level. It's hard. And heaven forbid you rise in dissent…