Monday, April 02, 2012

The clear and present danger of mandatory broccoli

A lot of us who love your country [America] do not see where change can come from. We see all the barriers you have now to structural and fundamental change. It feels like you've lost your amazing ability to adapt politically.

(Jon Johansson, political scientist, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)

The creaking system

It was the “official” story shrouded in cobwebs that came to mind as I listened to some of the audio recordings of the recent Supreme Court debate on the health care law. I am neither a lawyer nor a constitutional scholar, but it was hard not to conclude that some of the justices were clueless about the reality of the American health care system, among other things.

One of the justices in particular stood out. Antonin Scalia, nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1986 and one of the better known proponents of Originalism or New Originalism, depending on your tolerance for minutia, came across as smug and arrogant. He wondered sarcastically if Americans would be forced to eat broccoli next and then proceeded to put on his “legislative” hat to muse about the votes in congress.

More Americans may by now have warmed up to the idea that revolution and upheaval cleans out the societal rot. After all, it was Thomas Jefferson who talked about the “tree of liberty” needing to be”refreshed” periodically. But a lesser known aphorism by our third president observed that an “ignorant” nation cannot be free.

It is however not blood in the streets or some Syrian style apocalypse that needs to be flowing at the present time in the U.S. but a new story, one that's true and reflects a 21st century world. We're way overdue.

Who gets to decide

The narrative needs to say that liberty, freedom, fairness and social justice must all be present if we are to have a country worth caring about. You don't get to choose the one or two items that you like and discard the rest.

Yes, millions of immigrants arrived in America in the early 20th century seeking “freedom,” but America was also founded on genocide and slavery and only one form of slavery ended in 1865.

We had a good chance after the Civil War to get closer to the ideal but failed to do so. Ozark Reflections, an American Story.

We're clearly at a crossroads today and accepting the fact that the cavalry isn't coming and George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or FDR won't be arriving to make it better may be the most difficult concept for Americans to come to terms with. As well, a new story is of course threatening to some.

I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.

(Eugene V. Debs, American Labor Organizer, in speech in 1910)

Additional Reading:

States with the most laxanti-corruption laws

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