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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugAs a long time user of, and subscriber to this site, I find myself among the more thoughtful (mostly) examples of American Society.

So involved and aware are they that it can become difficult to see America for what it is, and what it has recently become.

Yet outwith the sphere of liberal thought there exists a wider population, and they can be said to represent "middle-America", the status quo, that large populace that provides stability and continuity. While the political polar opposites stress and fight over radical notions of either persuasion, the inertia in the general adult population should serve to buffer the extremes.

Is it working?

I worry about the citizens of my adopted home. Worry about them, and worry for them. Whether or not it is my place to be so concerned I cannot say, but I try to be thoughtful, I try to analyze that which I see and hear around me, and as a sentient being it is hard not to form a view. I read the Constitution and I guess I have a right not simply to form a view, but to express one too.

When seeking to draw out themes it is very difficult not to paint with too broad a brush. It is not my intent to ascribe the following to any individual, or group of individuals. I do not say you, the reader, are like this. That is a judgement for you to make, and having done so decide for yourself whether or not these attitudes are ones you consider appropriate, and can live with. If the conclusion is that it is this author who is the outlier, then so be it, clearly we will disagree.

My view of America used to be that it was a conglomerate of around 300 million people who had somehow managed to create a society, and a contiguous nation out of many different populations. That the people here lived free, and valued the freedoms they had created for themselves. Indeed, Americans regularly boast about their "freedoms", and demonstrate their vocal support at every opportunity.

I've been here ten years now, and I can tell you that the reality is a million miles from the poster. As a society you have fewer freedoms than many of you think you have, fewer actually than most Europeans have, and what makes it worse is that this country is giving up the few freedoms that did exist just a short while ago.

It really is no good whatsoever to talk about freedom, and about the Bill of Rights, without examining what happens when you delve even a short way below the headlines.

Freedom of speech is completely valueless if you cannot make yourself heard. Waste of time. The power-brokers will happily let you pontificate to your heart's content provided your words are ineffective. Take two small examples .... Intimidation of citizens outside Health Clinics is not only tolerated but actively supported by the highest court in the land. Occupy Wall Street on the other hand, ruthlessly suppressed in a manner that would have warmed the heart of Joseph Stalin. In the unlikely event that you do manage to gain a small audience for your expression of your first amendment rights, then that's okay, the establishment has determined that unlimited finance can be brought to bear to ensure that your pitiful cries are simply pissing in the face of the gale-force wind coming the other way.

Your opponents bought the newspapers, the tv stations, the cable companies, and, in case all of that was not enough, they bought the politicians too. Good luck!

The "Castle Doctrine", loosely based on the old English notion that "An Englishman's home is his castle" sponsored the fourth amendment. That you will be secure in your possessions except upon reasonable suspicion of probable cause. What happened to that? They made a new border zone that extends 100 miles from any potential point of entry to the United States. They haven't put rings around airports yet, but already the so-called "Constitution Free Zone covers approximately 200 million people, most of whom seem to be blissfully unaware that they live near the border, yet whose protections have been severely curtailed.

We have an CIA and NSA that is out of control. Rogue agencies that despite being caught not only spying on Americans, but lying to Congress about it too ... indeed spying on Congress to the extent of threatening Congressmen with jail, and Brennan STILL has the full support of a Democratic President. Seriously? We can't expect Republicans to protect and preserve our civil rights, but when did it become acceptable, even fashionable to permit Democrats to behave this way?

Equal protections .... When you are fourteen times more likely to be jailed in Oklahoma if you are black, when the rolling back of voting rights disproportionately hurts people of color, and poor people, when that is happening in the very states the Voting Rights Act was passed to protect, and when the Supreme Court guts that Act, then where is the equality?

These are basic freedoms. Absolute cornerstones of the Constitution, the building blocks upon which Americans built their free country, and enshrined those freedoms they constantly tell the rest of the world are best available in this exceptional nation.

To look for a moment at the practical effect this all has on the lives of people. It's all well and good to talk of freedom, but that is a feature that surely brings to the American people some remarkable benefits, right?

Let me ask you .... How much annual leave are you legally entitled to? How many paid sick days do you get? Maternity leave? Paternity Leave? Workplace creches?

How much protection do you have from unfair dismissal? Any dismissal? Will your unemployment benefits be paid for as long as you need a helping hand? How about healthcare. There have been changes, have they meant that you can now access all the healthcare you need regardless of cost? Can your kids fully enjoy Public Schools with no out-of pocket expenses?

These are freedoms that matter. Not the right to express yourself on a Blog, or carry your AR15 into Target, or patrol the border to threaten children. They are not freedom, living decently, working hard for a fair reward and retiring with grace and dignity ... that is freedom!

I have never encountered a population so beholden to petty officialdom. If it is a rule then it must be obeyed, and the person that calls the rule, or the law, an ass are so upsetting to the general populace that they must be condemned as criminal. It doesn't matter that they law is iniquitous, it's not relevant that someone being put to death dies in agony ... they got what was coming, they deserved it. The very citizens who value the constitution and the freedoms, and due process it is supposed to convey, simply do not understand either what it says, or what it means.

It is NOT okay that the prisoner dies in extreme agony, because the constitution says so. You cannot pick and choose which amendments you think appropriate any more than you can be selective about the Bible that you believe to be the literal word of God. It doesn't work that way, and the fact that so many allow it to is the basic reason why social justice is a very long way off.

I have come to believe that a large block of society actually needs the comfort blanket of an authoritarian state. They will accept any excuse for the rolling back of civil rights if someone, anyone who appears knowledgeable deems it necessary to protect their freedoms. The irony, that we must sacrifice our freedom that we may live free, is completely lost on them.

There were two generations that were very different. Those who fought the second world war, and those who came immediately after. They built this country into what it was, a place where men were free, where hard work was rewarded and where the American Dream was a reality. They created the middle-class that is now under threat, and the ones who are still alive must be bewildered at how we are squandering their legacy.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There's a reason it's called the "American Dream" (9+ / 0-)

    "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:40:51 PM PDT

  •  And in addition to all the social/cultural things (13+ / 0-)

    you point out, the U.S. News & World Report paints another disturbing picture:

    It reports that to be able to afford the basic things that defined the "average" American middle class lifestyle, household income needs to be $130k/year. Of course, the problem is that the median American household income is only $58k/year -- less than 1/2 what's required to live the "American Dream."

    Also, the average American household has less than $6k in savings, retirement or otherwise, heralding a future of mass poverty for much of the country in the senior years.

    The dream is a lie. Welcome to the American Nightmare.

    Everything good a man can be, a dog already is. - pajoly

    by pajoly on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:42:40 PM PDT

    •  Yeah ... I just hit the high points (6+ / 0-)

      I guess I could write a book, but it's depressing.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      Who is twigg?

      by twigg on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:45:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes twigg, it is (8+ / 0-)

        I've lived both as an adult. In my 20s and 30s I was riding high. High income, little stress, good healthcare access, etc.

        It all came crashing down in 2007 mostly. Since then there has been a divorce with 1 forced foreclosure and 1 forced short sale, 1 BK, 4 job losses, a cancer scare, total loss of 401k, stock options crash, etc.

        I've watched our culture get ugly, crash, course and hateful. I've watched family members basically become Christian cultists.

        It has taken this long to start to come out of it, but we've still a long way to go and I'll no way get back to where I was at 40 by the time I retire, which really means permanently forced out of the labor market save for low wage work.

        Everything good a man can be, a dog already is. - pajoly

        by pajoly on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:53:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Great point. Yet, even some Dems are.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg

      ...arguing on behalf of energy taxes, which will ensure that household income would need to exceed 130K per year in order to afford basic tings.

      Say No to REGRESSIVE, income-exacerbating energy taxes, whether they be in the form of...

      Carbon Tax
      Cap and Trade
      Higher Gasoline Taxes

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:16:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We need to move away from fossil fuels (5+ / 0-)

        Or we won't have to worry about affording stuff or having a middle class. Oil and gas has way too many negative externalities. And the markets and our political system have experienced gross systemic failure in working towards alternatives.  A tax or cap and dividend system can help push markets in the right direction by making fossil fuels more expensive but cushioning the regressive effects through taxable refund or rebates.  These rebates would likely negate the effects of carbon taxes or caps for the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution.

        Here is some information on cap and dividend.

    •  58k is not median household income JC on a stick (0+ / 0-)

      if you use 1980 dollars, one cant get to to 58k, which is probably average household income.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      Note: the wiki chart uses inflation adjusted dollars, and it shows a drop of 5k due to the crash of 2008. Unadjusted dollars would probably show a drop from 50k to 45k.

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 04:06:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wonder when we stopped being a nation of (9+ / 0-)

    thinkers and became enamored of bumper sticker slogans. Was it when Adlai Stevenson was labeled as too intellectual for the White House? Was it when television invaded our living rooms?

    I don't know. Was there ever a time when nuance was not a dirty word? I'd like to be able to point a finger at FOX, but we were living on abbreviated reality long before Rupert Murdoch set foot on American soil.

    I think it more likely that most Americans are busy working at jobs that they hate, but hope they can keep, so that they can feed and clothe their kids. Leaving them little energy to worry about things like the NSA encroachment on their privacy. Privacy? Hell, they probably have to take random drug tests on orders of their employers.

    Inequality is sustained by the ability of employment to numb people to injustice and to their own loss of freedom. If our economy was healthy enough for workers to move up the ladder, they might have more time to worry about the inhumanity of capital punishment or why the public education system is failing. As it is, perhaps they just don't have the time or energy, and so settle for the more easily grasped bumper sticker definition of freedom as the right to shop with a sidearm.

    •  The rolling back of a (9+ / 0-)

      quality education in Public Schools has been going on for a long, long time.

      If we don't teach our children how to conduct research, think critically and question authority then the result is a society that need "government", or others, to think for them.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      Who is twigg?

      by twigg on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 07:16:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  States used to compete in quality of education, (7+ / 0-)

        now they compete with corporate tax breaks.

        In my lifetime, California has moved having the best education system in the world to this dysfunctional turf war that doesn't even try to teach.

        But hey, their property taxes aren't too high...

        "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

        by Greyhound on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:39:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Things started coming apart in 1973. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg, Roger Fox, Chi

        The Arab oil embargo hit in the  winter of that year. Suddenly, prices of everything went up, while incomes did not. It didn't hit the older generation as hard, because if you already had an established household and owned your home, it was mostly food and fuel prices that affected you. But if you were just starting out, affordable housing was suddenly impossible to find. (I was living in California at the time.)

        It's my belief that the oil embargo sent a shock wave through U.S. society. Fringe economic ideas were allowed to become mainstream because people were scared, and everyone was focused on clinging desperately to whatever they had. And pushing other people out to "get yours" seemed like a good idea because suddenly there was not enough to go around. The whole attitude of the country changed--and we ended up with Reagan as President. A charming actor who said his lines well and whose economic philosophy fitted the times.

  •  We can no longer distinguish between a dream (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, Mopshell, tardis10, blueoasis

    and delusion. All you write of and the additions in the replies point toward one, inevitable destination, yet we refuse to even consider any real change.

    The Dream (if it did exist), was aspiration, inspiration to improve, to achieve, to do better. Each successive generation doing better than the last was the minimum.

    That ideal is long gone. Expectations and standards are so low today as to be nearly non-existent. Criminality at the very highest levels of society goes unpunished, when it isn't completely ignored.

    We have absolutely no thought whatsoever for those that succumbed to the last wave, or the ones before that. Those people just don't exist in our world anymore. The victims of this wave seem to believe that this is both the first, and that we're doing better now, despite the tonnage of evidence to the contrary.

    The United States of America was founded on dreams. Delusion and the art of making it are it's foundation today.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 07:26:07 PM PDT

  •  No Our Opponents Did Not Buy the Media. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, jacey, Mopshell, CyberLady1

    And no the media are not corrupt, they're not doing anything wrong, they're not neglecting any duties or obligations.

    They're functioning precisely as our system is designed for them to work. Specifically our 2 most precious fundamental rights are sweeping freedoms to assert, even to the point of lying about the most basic and most important aspects of events, history, science, and figures and matters of our governance.

    These freedoms cede the mainstream experience that we share in common to be the rightful property of the most powerful global corporate forces that can rise to dominance.

    Everyone blames education, because how could anyone possibly blame it enough, but you know education lasts only a dozen years for most people and under 20 for virtually everybody. But we spend 5-6 hours a day in the public square every day of our 70-odd years on average.



    Please do not join the rightwing in crediting those who grew up when things happened with having made them happen. It's like crediting us boomers with the launching of the modern civil rights movement, when in fact we were children when it got underway after the war, and only adolescent joiners in its later stages. We made some contributions but not when we were school kids.

    This country was given the only prime existence its people ever had by those who grew up in the beginning of the 20th century and a bit earlier, not by the world warriors, and they lie in their graves unrecognized and unthanked for it as the credit is continually awarded to their initial beneficiaries because of their admittedly heroic war service.

    It was their parents who built our Social Security, they stabilized our banks for the sole half century without bank panics in our history, they built us into a superpower, they ran our part in the world war, they gave labor its rights to organize and bargain, they made our media temporarily democratic, they made our economy temporarily democratic, they ran the aid programs that helped our wounded allies and enemies rebuild after world war, they ran the GI Bill program that prevented collapse back into Depression by providing higher education, cheap housing and job opportunities for returning warriors.

    Some of those who came after, who indeed sacrificed so much in fighting the world war as troops, took up the mantle to see civil rights and the Great Society and War on Poverty accomplish the last rise the American people would ever had.

    But as a whole generation, remember just a few years before the late 60's high water mark of the American masses, it was a youthful world warrior who upon attaining the White House spoke of the passing of the torch to his "new generation" when the establishment of the great AMerican Middle Class was almost finished.

    Once they matured and took command, they ran the disastrous Vietnam war and then launched and led the Republican Revolution to begin dismantling everything their parents had built first and foremost for them.

    They're my late parents generation. They gave us some of our Greatest, but they weren't greatest as a generation.

    No, the true Greatest Generation was not the warrior generation, it was their parents The Dream Maker Geneartion, who brought middle class opportunity and security to our masses for the only brief period in our two centuries it was ever known here.

    The dream ended tolerably close to the day our most legendary and prophetic teller of dreams was murdered while helping poor laborers establish to America that they were Somebody and they were worth a day's pay. It was 2 years yet before the Beatles would finally sing of the end, but the American people had already ended their climb into opportunity.

    Nobody who's too young to have gray hair is old enough to have lived as a thinking adolescent or adult in a democratic United States where the American Dream of upward mobility was more easily found inside America than outside.

    And nobody has a credible clue how to turn this around. We're awash in ideas for things a country this huge and an economy so rich could accomplish if it could be led by we the people, or by rational men and women of enlightenment.

    But we don't know how put our country into such hands.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:37:43 PM PDT

    •  I may be among the minority in this (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      winkk, Mopshell, blueoasis, willrob

      but I absolutely DO blame the media.

      No other industry or profession was singled out by the Founders and given a solemn responsibility.

      They have been bought, paid for and abdicated their duty to the truth, and to the American people.

      I guess we disagree on that point :)

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      Who is twigg?

      by twigg on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:45:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I blame the media. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mopshell, worldlotus, twigg

        It was listening to, watching and reading what has become our Lame Stream Media that got me waiting with bated breath for DK4 to launch so I could appeal to the community here - via the new DK4 Groups - in hopes of finding geeks like me interested in doing radio.  Found some.  KagroX one.
        I blame the media, becuz if they came close to doing their job I could retire to the barcolounger.  But we got Chuck Todd who poses as a reporter ~err, "Journalist."
        Maybe it was back when reporters morphed into "Journalists" that started the downward spiral.  We got David Gregory.  And, true, we got Rachel Maddow, but those are few and far between.  Mostly we got Chuck Todd and David Gregory.
        And worse.  I blame the media.  There is no excuse for the claptrap Todd and Gregory foist on viewers.  None.  They make the same effort Fox "News" does to be "fair and balanced."  Did they learn that at "J School??"  People still watch Gregory on Sunday mornings?  Amazing.  Why watch the same yahoo bashing the same Dems week after week?  I couldn't do it.  I said to myself, "I know there are Kossacks smarter than that asshat."  Found some.  And, thank the gods KagroX was among them!  We that call ourselves Progressives need our own media.  We need ten more David Waldmans and we could kick David Gregory's ass.  We could kick Rupert's lame ass.  Not everyone needs to be behind a microphone.  Dead trees still works.  TV works.  Daily Kos TV works for me.  I blame the media.  If we still had a real media, circa Walter Cronkite's day, I could retire to my barcolounger.  Instead?  Instead I'm up at 2am trying to help develop more Orange Media to counter the one that no longer exists.

        Follow Connect! Unite! Act! MeetUp events! For live podcasting of your Event contact winkk to schedule.

        by winkk on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 11:19:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I too blame the media. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg

        Specifically, Fox News. Their broadcast model has expertly substituted fact based journalism with opinion based emotionalism. Without that constant reinforcement, much of the extremism that passes for debate would whither and die. Unfortunately, those purveyors of slant will be with us for awhile, but still, they are mortal. Just as succeeding generations have not replicated the opinions and methods of their forebears, enlightenment is possible. As with many imbalances and injustices, I am impatient for sweeping course corrections, but am somewhat resigned to the timeframe of a generational shift.

    •  Eloquently said, Gooserock. (nt) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg
  •  You know Twigg, it is embarrasing (7+ / 0-)

    to know other countries can see so clearly what most Americans cannot.
    This country started unraveling when the money machine and the flourising of prosperity turned to greed and corruption it breeds.
    People settle.. plain and simple...  They hate confrontation and think magically some knight on a white and be sure it has to be white.. horse will save the day and answer all the problems.   We the people...WE THE PEOPLE are the government..Those people making laws and enforcing them work for WE THE PEOPLE and WE THE PEOPLE need to make those accountability for how they do not represent us and accomplish nothing.   How people confuse the government and the public is beyond me.  The public is the government they have.   Corporations ARE not people and power people who say they are need to be impeached.   When a corporations gives birth or executed then I will change my mind but they can't because they are NOT People my friend.

    When I hear people say, Too much government in our lives, I think, Fool You are the Government.. The legislators are representatives of We the people.   Are you saying you have to much we in our lives.   That is crazy.
    Yout hit the nail on the head and it appears I am sure from other countries the american people have become unable to govern themselves.   It sure is beginning to look that way when they hand over their freedoms to the people with the money either out of fear or ignorance.

    The right is about as wrong as it gets and please help veterans ...Thanks ! United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:54:26 PM PDT

  •  You, like many, assume 1776 and subsequent events (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    were made of whole cloth. There are some (like me) who look at it as the second Anglosphere Civil War. The 1st was the Glorious Revolution of 1648 in England. History weaves a long thread, and to study the past with one eye on the present distorts both.

    It is fashionable to believe that each generational cohort has a unique, and somehow more nuanced and enlightened take on how we, as Americans (in the U.S. sense) got here. Or on how we've squandered our patrimony.

    I'm like the tortoise -- slow and steady wins the race.  

  •  I feel your pain (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    as someone who emigrated the other way, having seen the degradation of actual freedom in America as people started trumpeting about "freedoms". Freedom as a concept excludes the possibility of picking them out one by one to personal advantage, so I moved to England (and by extension Europe), where the concept seemed robust, rather than its dodgy contemporary interpretation.
    You feel you've been burned by moving someplace where the narrative doesn't match the reality on the ground. From what I have read, those who have moved to either Canada or Australia seem likewise burned, I know I have. If it makes you feel better, I know some people who moved from France for exactly the same reason. I guess the upshot is that there ain't no paradise. You find what is good about where you are and work with it. We all have to fight the overlords and their tendentious narratives the best way we can, no matter where we are.

    "Isn't humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?" The Pope

    by northsylvania on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 12:42:53 PM PDT

  •  I think this might be the money quote (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    at least for me.

    I have come to believe that a large block of society actually needs the comfort blanket of an authoritarian state.
    TnR, Thanks Twigg.

    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 03:29:51 PM PDT

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