Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Are Americans Selfish?

Our OM coach is a force onto herself. By last night she and another mom had hit the phones, called businesses and local foundations and secured promises of funding that will cover airfare and lodging for the Colorado trip. We still have to raise money to cover spending money for the trip so we will be doing a car wash, a garage sale, and bake sales.

If it was hard getting Anna to do her homework before, it is nigh unto impossible now. She is too excited, too tired, and she has people all over telling her how great she is. She doesn't want to hear from grumpy old Mom and Dad who don't care how great she is, they still want her to do her homework and practice piano. It reminds me of when Shelagh was in tenth grade and played piano to accompany a number of people in the high school talent show. She did a barely passable job, got praise heaped upon her, and literally never practiced seriously again. She told me that she didn't need to practice, that "faking it" was good enough.

In Whacking Gophers I spoke of my frustration over the erosion of support for the programs that form the underpinnings of communities, things like public schools and Cooperative Extension. I have been researching for the underlying causes of this trend. Today I will refer you to three long articles that give some insight.

Rolling Back the 20th Century by William Grider outlines the far right's ambition to fundamentally change American life:
The movement's grand ambition--one can no longer say grandiose--is to roll back the twentieth century, quite literally. That is, defenestrate the federal government and reduce its scale and powers to a level well below what it was before the New Deal's centralization. With that accomplished, movement conservatives envision a restored society in which the prevailing values and power relationships resemble the America that existed around 1900, when William McKinley was President. Governing authority and resources are dispersed from Washington, returned to local levels and also to individuals and private institutions, most notably corporations and religious organizations. The primacy of private property rights is re-established over the shared public priorities expressed in government regulation. Above all, private wealth--both enterprises and individuals with higher incomes--are permanently insulated from the progressive claims of the graduated income tax.

The article is from 2003, but it is no less true today.

How are they doing this? Americans don't want to short change schools. We don't want the poor to starve. We like social security and pension funds. We like having good roads and well funded police forces. We expect our utility companies and airlines and manufacturers, even the stock market, to be regulated by the government and courts so that our health and pocketbooks are protected. Yet we are told that "everyone" wants less government.

In Simple Framing, George Lakoff, a cognitive psychologist, shows how the conservative movement has used language to frame debates and win elections. Progressive values: empathy, responsibility, fairness, community, cooperation, doing our fair share, are still embraced by most Americans, but they are not discussed in the political arena. Progressives need to My Whacking Gophers piece was my first attempt at "reframing".

Finally, and I told you these were long pieces, there is the first chapter of Jim Wallis's new book God's Politics.
Many of us feel that our faith has been stolen, and it's time to take it back. In particular, an enormous public misrepresentation of Christianity has taken place. And because of an almost uniform media misperception, many people around the world now think Christian faith stands for political commitments that are almost the opposite of its true meaning. How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American?
This is a piece to read and meditate on. Wallis doesn't doubt that the current administration has faith, but he characterizes them as bad theologians, ignoring Jesus' repeated calls to care for the poor, weak and sick and proceeding with a war of choice in spite of the advice of religious leaders.

Americans aren't mean, narrow minded and selfish, but we are being typecast that way.

This is the last day of good weather for a while, so I am out to the yard. Happy Spring.


Anonymous said...

A single thought comes to my mind as a reflection on this. It comes as a sort of counterpoint but also lends itself to my more paranoid side.

Terry Schaivo. (or however it was spelt) We truly desire the government to leave us alone and let us live a peaceful life, or in this case death. However we need the government to keep us under control. I'm sure there is someone willing to develop just about every squard mile of state park and I'm sure there is more than enough people to buy it.

So, (conspiracy theory coming) is the fox news coverage of terry schaivo a good example of taping a target on the back of government regulation and intervention. I realize that this is a civil dispute brought to the courts by citizens, but why was it such a huge deal for the media. Maybe I missed a few things due to not really paying close attention to the case, however, it was judicial branch affair.

So, should we slap the executive branch and the legislative branch on their behalf. Thats as ridiculous as believing that the president creates laws instead of just proof reading them.

Susan Och said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan Och said...

Maybe it's odd to post a comment to one's own blog, but I'm not letting more debate on that poor dead woman take over a main page.

I think the debate over brain-deadness is on the verge of resolution simply because we are in a period of better and better brain imaging. One of the reasons that the Schiavo mess could happen is that the technology has progressed beyond our current collective understanding. Here is an article with more background on this.

I would also encourage everyone to actually read the Bible instead of letting neoconservatives, Fox News, or anyone else tell you what it says. Jesus was big on humility, charity, peacemaking, and putting one's own house in order before you start telling others what to do.

9:11 AM

Susan Och said...

If you're wondering why the Schiavo case got so much coverage, check out William O'Rourke's Chicago Sun Times column.