Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Money, It's A Hit: How Cash Perpetuates American Ignorance

I know that today is the day after Super Tuesday, but I don’t really have anything to say about the contest that hasn’t already been said. I was happy to see such a good showing for Edwards, even though he has left the race. I think that goes to show that people are very connected to his positions on the issues, many that aren’t addressed as forcefully by the remaining candidates.

Moving on, I was talking with friends last night and we were talking about how poorly Americans handle foreign affairs (and domestic, too, but that’s another story). What is it about our society that let’s people feel that it’s okay to ignore and be ignorant about the rest of the world. I have been thinking about this and I came up with my answer: Money. In our capitalist society, money is the driving factor. But, it’s gone beyond influencing careers and motivating 80-hour weeks. The desire (need) for money is showing itself in every facet of our society. People are lining up to take lie-detector tests in front of the whole country, for the chance to win money! It’s an embarrassment. And our weakness is in the fact that society devours the spectacle.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the show ‘Are you smarter than a fifth grader’ (and if you’re not, don’t feel bad…you’re not missing anything). But, I caught a clip that literally made me cringe. Kelly Pickler of American Idol fame was the celebrity contestant. Her question was, “Budapest is the capitol of what European country?” And do you know what her response was? “I don’t want to sound stupid, but I thought Europe was a country.” Yes. That is true. And the sad thing is that she isn’t unique. International ignorance is the norm, not the exception.

The flip side to this story has to do with another celebrity. Montel Williams, retired Naval Officer and talk show host, was on a Fox News program to discuss the death of Heath Ledger. Instead of focusing on the one celebrity who died, Montel challenged the anchors to talk about the war in Iraq and the soldiers who die in harms way. They couldn’t do it. They didn’t know. And they kept trying to bring him back to Ledger, but Montel held his ground. Well, they couldn’t let the embarrassment continue so they went to commercial and Montel never came back. A few days later, his show was cancelled after numerous Fox affiliates refused to renew his 2008-09 season. Unbelievable! A television personality who tries to bring the attention to international affairs LOST HIS JOB. This is not acceptable.

You’re probably wondering how this goes back to money and why it keeps Americans from being valuable international citizens. Well, TV is driven by money, money comes with ratings and “boring” world events don’t draw ratings. But, people making fools of themselves for money? Instant ratings! And why? Because Americans are focused on money. We need money to live, to meet our basic needs. And many Americans’ aren’t able to meet their needs in their current situation.

People in the most dire situations worry about having enough to eat, a safe place to lay their head at night, having clothing that is sufficient. So of course, they must focus their energy on earning enough to meet their basic needs. But, many people are not at the basic level. They worry about having enough money to cover medical costs, about whether their child is getting a decent education at the local public school, and about whether all that money they pay to Social Security will be there for them in the future. So again, the focus shifts to money.

But, imagine what it would be like if people could take some of these issues off their minds; if they knew that they were medically secure, if they knew that their children were getting the best education, if they knew that their money was going to be there for them in the future. Imagine how people would respond if they knew their taxes were being used in ways that are tangible to them. I argue that people would be better citizens if their needs were being met.

And it doesn’t take a miracle. It takes a responsible government, a government who gives back to the people in order to strengthen the country. The way I see it, the government is the greatest benefactor of satisfied, well-cared for citizens. A government can only take from its citizens for so long before unrest sets in (see the Declaration of Independence if you have any questions about that). We are at another fork in the road. Do we take the path on the right that promises greed and government waste, or do we take the path on the left that promises a government that is will to take responsibility for its citizens?

We must choose the path of responsibility. We must free our people from the burdens that the government has piled on them. When we have citizens that have met their basic needs, they will be able to focus their energy outward. They will be better neighbors, at home and abroad. America will be able to return to a position of leadership and respect when our citizens are freed from the cycle of greed that has been forced upon us by an irresponsible government.


goodfoe said...

Excellent article, very clear and well written.

Beej said...

I whole heartedly agree. Very articulate and to the point.

FlyingSquirrel said...

Excellent. Yes, people would be better citizens if they had basic needs met, and this is supposedly the intent of the Constitution - to promote the general welfare. Guess that didn't work out so well.

Our system of education doesn't help, of course... keep 'em ignorant, that's the best way to keep 'em subjugated.