After living and working in Europe for 9 years (1996-2005) and then returning to the United States in early 2005 I soon discovered that the United States of America I left was not the same country to which I returned. I am ever fascinated by how the people of America and the society at large has changed so profoundly in such a short time. Perhaps it was Bill Clinton. Perhaps it was the internet. Perhaps it was 9/11. Perhaps it was the resurgence of Christian spirtuality. Perhaps all of the above in equal doses.
Of particular interest to me has been the impact of the national, public and local media, and how Americans like me get their information and form public opinions about events both local and further afield.
I left the United States of America in the summer of 1996 with Bill Clinton in the White House, the Chicago Bulls winning their 4th NBA title, the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and the birth of a cloned sheep named Dolly. I returned to what I now call the Divided States of America in early 2005 with George W. Bush in the White House, no NHL hockey season, north Korea with nuclear weapons and virtually little if any conventional war coverage as to what is happening on the ground in Iraq.
Whether you as a reader are politically a conservative or a liberal (or libertarian given today's PC, semantic-driven culture), you cannot deny the fact that our country has been completely divided and polarized by poltical dogma. If you don't support the Iraq war, you are painted with the blue brush. If you support faith-based charities receiving government funds, then prepare to be painted with a red brush. Like NASCAR? You're red! Do you watch HBO comedy specials? Your blue! Believe in God? You're red! Agree with Darwin's Theory and understand Ocham's razor? You probably blue, or a just a communist.
It's all a huge joke.
I find myself wondering just what in the hell happened to the United States of America I knew?
There is a complete and utter lack of focus on important national issues. And as a result of political compartmentalization (right or left) and the consequent discounting of public opinions, public dialogue about the important issues and ways to solve them has been stifled to a whisper:
National Trade Deficit
(i.e. racial prejudice. The word "racism" is a useless term anymore in American
society. It's too loaded.)
Health Care Crisis
Protection of privacy and consitutional
The 5:00 p.m. national news in America has morphed into "national irritainment" with names like Sean Hannity or *gasp* Katie Couric, and more coverage of the deaths or incarcerations of buxom blondes than any of the national or international events that shape our world, nation and local communities. Entertainment has replaced journalism altogether and crushed the American spirit and thirst for being properly informed, responsible citizens. The most popular source of national and international news in United States of America is FoxNews. In 2007, that sentence alone pretty much speaks for itself.
Since coming back to the USA, Americans around me seem to support the notion that one should "toe the line" politically on all issues. Either you are Republican or Democrat. There should be no "waffling" or "flip-flopping".
Well, this has pissed me off to no end. And I'm sure that I'm not alone.
I agree with the sentiment of comedian Chris Rock who once complained in a very funny way during a recent stand up act about this "toeing the line" on issues in America. It's the issues that matter, not the political allegiance. Personally, as Chris Rock stated, I am conservative or liberal depending on the issue at hand.
When it comes to crime, indeed I am as conservative as it gets. When it comes to the arts and freedom of speech, privacy rights, access to information, I'm a "bleeding heart" liberal.
Is that in an of itself an oxymoron or contradictory? No, it is not. And yet perhaps it is, but again, it would depend on the specific issue at hand.
Ain't it cool? It's called being American.
I, for one, am hoping for significant change in the future of American culture. I am optimistic about this because even for a country like the United States shit can go horribly bad for only so long. I believe that goodness and common sense can prevail again. Americans are innovative and inventive. They want the latest, the greatest and the best. They love the underdog. They value modesty, common sense, respect for the fellow man. They value self-sacrifice and self control.
Today I'm picking a horse for the 2008 presidential election and I recognize already that it is a long shot. No one believes he will be nominated by the Republican party. Nevertheless, I am supporting Ron Paul for President in 2008. And if I may be so bold as to say so, my fellow Americans, you should too. Here's why.