Can We Put Up With Anything?

Copyright © by Len Holman, 9/21/11


   The benevolent tolerance (some might say indifference and/or ignorance) of the American population is truly amazing.  This fact was noted long ago by Thomas Jefferson in his Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, where. in his florid but clear style, he commented that the American people would—and had—put up with poor government just because of inertia, and it was only because such execrable rule from the British Crown that SOMETHING had to be done, viz. start a new country: ”Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” 

  Of course, some of this must be taken as truth, some with a grain of salt—given the teleology the Founders had pointed at for so long.  But now the wheel of history is turning and that small band of Enlightenment survivors, carrying the memes of reason, evidence, and argumentation, are more and more frustrated to hear that what seems to them to be nonsense or foolish joking is taken seriously by a large part of those who hear the message.  A case in point would be Michele Bachmann’s guarantee that, should she become the next President of the U.S, gasoline would be two dollars a gallon. Well, THAT would be nice, wouldn’t it?  But what’s the subtext here?  Michele wants to (apologies to Sarah Palin) “Drill, baby, drill!”  And I’m sure she’s licking her chops over the three—line summary she got about the 7 billion dollar pipeline, the Keystone XL, from Canada to the Gulf, carrying oil from tar sands in Alberta.  All that oil MUST mean lower prices because every school kid—even in Minnesota—learns about supply and demand.  What most kids don’t learn is how complicated the world is.  Will OPEC stand by and applaud?  “Hey, look at those innovative Americans!  They’re gonna have two-dollar gas and they won’t need us anymore!  Great…now we can go back to herding goats!”  Of course, getting the oil liquefied, pumped and put into your Lexus will take ten years, but we can wait.  Hell, here in California, we’re still waiting to see who owns the Dodgers.  No, sorry, Michele, it’s not that simple, except to those who ARE simple, and who don’t mind having tons of carbon leaked into the air and gallons of oil leaked into America’s river system.  Your grandkids can always see polar bears in the zoo.

  Governor Perry touts his own courage for facing down the “problem” of Social Security.  But he never quite gets around to saying what he would do to “fix” it.  My guess is he would either bet the whole system on “red, 28” at the wheel in Vegas, or give a block grant to each of the states and say, “YOU choose.”  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want Haley Barbour deciding if I was going to eat cat food every night or be able to pay for my meds.  But who knows?  He says he’ll fix it, and his followers smile and nod and trust.  This is the same guy who wants smaller government or no government—except when half his state is on fire and THEN he wants federal help. 

  But no one seems to notice—or mind, and candidates slide around questions like oiled monkeys on latex.  When Bachman was questioned by Jay Leno about her claim a woman had approached her, telling her that her daughter had suffered mental retardation as a result of receiving the HPV virus, the injection, good old Jay mentioned that 30 million shots had been given with no ill effects, and SHE said: “I wasn’t speaking as a doctor.  I wasn’t speaking as a scientist.  I was just relating what this woman said.”  Nice and slimy and not on point.  But the choir already knows the words, and everyone else is really not listening yet—if they ever do.

  There are always call for the elimination of the Department of Education—mostly because it violates the 9th or 10th Amendment (or both) and listeners to this rhetoric nod and say, “Sure, that makes sense.”  But all states will not be equal in this.  Witness the skirmishes we’ve already seen about “intelligent design” and textbook fights, and books removed from libraries.  Will Alabama and California equally educate their kids to meet the world demand?  Will Tennessee’s parents move to Oregon so their kids will learn anthropology, or even how to count?  Remember those stories which occasionally pop up on the news about cults “educating” their young?  Do we want any of those kids to fire a rocket or perform heart surgery?  What is to prevent some state, or portion thereof, to become cult-like in education, and send its children into the forest to wait—not for the answers to a trig problem—but for the Rapture?  Will we, the United States, become disunited?  Will we become covens or sanctuaries or fortified compounds in the mountains?

  It seems that the candidates we’re seeing can say, so, claim anything and get away with it.  There seems to be no thought that what is claimed or asserted will hurt or help the country, just hurt or help the candidate.  With the huge amount of money it takes to be elected to anything, and the huge influence the media plays in creating bumper-sticker thought, there is little room—or thought—to changing anything.  So we will not change.  The media pretends to “examine” this issue by highlighting all the wackadoo pronouncements of various candidates, which gives these proclamations even more media attention, with no true examination in sight.  So whither goest the next generation?  What will they be familiar with and take as “normal?”  And how will the Balkanization of the United States be stopped—or even be slowed down?  Remember, just 14 years after Jefferson’s document, the first U.S. census counted about 3 million of us, with a huge swath of the continent to be plundered.  If someone got fed up with the local sheriff, he’d take his family and move to where there were few, if any people and lots of space.  So, where are we going to go NOW?


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