The State of the Union
When considering the state of our union, politics is ultimately not the answer. But I’ll show where I think politics fits in. Using the four basic “annual checkup” issues any individual might use to evaluate his or her personal life, here’s my take on them vis-à-vis society in the United States as a whole. I’ve added a fifth category, “politically.”
Big Ag and Big Food dominate our food supply. They are pushing processed foods grown on dirt bleached of most nutrients, into which they pump water and chemicals that cause plants to grow that are depleted of most vitamins, minerals, and other healthy nutrients. This food is processed for us--basically pre-masticated--then pumped with salt, sugar, and preservatives and pedaled on unsuspecting, trusting people in our society who assume this is the best food for them. It is subsidized by Congress, allotted through the Farm Bill. The result? We would have to eat eight oranges to gain the nutrients our grandparents received eating one. (This comes from a podcast called “The Doctors Farmacy” episode 602 “Why Most Of Us Are Nutrient Deficient And What To Do About It” You may listen, or go to Dr. Hyman’s website and read the transcript of that podcast.)
Career politicians in Congress subsidize this unhealthy dynamic because they receive campaign donations from the companies who receive Farm Bill handouts. Meanwhile, our food chain is causing loyal citizens to become obese, low on energy & joy, and to die early from diabeties, heart disease and perhaps cancer.
How much does politics play into this? It is hard for me to know but once in Congress I could say better. The biggest shift needs to be made by an informed society: just as we have eschewed nicotine, we can eschew high fructose corn syrup, soft drinks, and big Ag can recognize the harm they are doing and choose to “turn the aircraft carrier” towards a healthy trajectory. The least Congress could do is take sodas off of the SNAP-approved list, and hold hearings about the health-repercussions of the upcoming Farm Bill.
Our society is sedated through electronic entertainment. Our children hardly read books anymore. Their minds are not developing to become independent thinkers. In my home school district only 62% of whites are proficient in reading at grade level; only 63% are proficient in math. Yet no one makes a whimper of complaint. Only 11% of Black students are reading at grade level, and 10% are proficient in math. (Brown students score slightly higher than blacks.)To their credit, parents of both black and brown students are speaking up, organizing, starting charter schools, etc. But they face uphill battles, and will continue to until the white power brokers in our society stop making excuses for a system that is clearly not effective for any but the children of the power brokers. (And I assure you, as a former high school teacher, the problem is not the teachers. Aside from a few “bad apples” they are hard-working, concerned, loving, capable teachers who want their students to experience success. Many quit or retire early out of disappointment & frustration with the system.)
How much does politics play into this? Congress has been delegate no authority over education; that is “reserved to the states” (10th amendment.) However they have snuck their head under the tent by throwing money at it, then, once school districts have become dependent upon that money, they threatened to withdraw it unless they go along with…(insert crazy fad or trend) the Dept. of Education chooses to push upon them. There is a certain sameness about the poor quality of education in all fifty states. Why is that? If they all had complete independence on how they structured their approach to K-12 education, would we not have many “experiments” going on in fifty laboratories, all learning what works and what does not work? To whatever extent the Dept. of Education is calling the shots through “ No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002” or “Engage Every Student Initiative,” the results seem to be to make each of the states approach K-12 in similar ways…with similarly poor results. Innovation and creativity would be enhanced if this top-down approach were removed.
Pornography: since we’re talking about how to change society for the better, I know readers aren’t expecting this, but I can’t think of a more urgent issue than the unhealthiness of our sexual lives. Sex is a wonderful gift of God--or, if you are an atheist--a gift of nature. People who are in a loving, respectful sexual relationship go out into the world in emotional strength and joy, and they return to a safe harbor of comfort and acceptance. Yet despite our over-sexed public life, polls indicate few enjoy healthy sexual relationships. Now, as a Christian I have a well-defined sexual ethic, but I don’t believe I should force that upon others: in the Bible God never prevented the Israelites from sinning, and Jesus encouraged people not to sin, but never tried to stop them; he showed compassion when they did. Thus, I follow a “live and let live” philosophy as a politician. Yet pornography is a social scourge that is wreaking emotional havoc in the USA; no self-respecting society should put up with it. (I believe many of my readers agree but feel helpless as to how to combat it. Please read on.) First, one example. In various stages of my life I’ve been responsible for minors and have searched their cell phones to help them make wise decisions. I once came upon some porn, one of which showed a woman sitting or kneeling, with what were ~10 men standing around her, with their erect penises all pointing at her head like spokes on a wheel. All that was visible was the woman’s head and face (she may have been fully dressed for all I know), and the engorged genitals of the men. I only saw it for a second and can’t remember what the woman looked like, but the impression I remember was of a bland, hazy look on her face. I am sure she was drugged up. Now folks, that is sick.
I can’t begin to unpack the unhealthy emotional messages that photo contains. If the purpose of pornography is to sexually excite the viewer, that would not even classify as pornography to me. It was disturbing and disgusting. Although not knowing the details, I am certain that woman was not in a good place. Is it any wonder that many sincere Muslims (not sure about Hindu’s) consider the USA ``The Great Satan?” There is a lot more to be said but I’m going to jump to this: don’t get swayed by stories about women who win porn video awards, etc. That’s not the norm. The norm is similar to human trafficking: drug dependency, physical and sexual abuse, caught and not sure how to escape it. No self-respecting society should accept this ongoing degradation of women; if we do we’ll pay an ongoing price that is devastating. We need to wake up and take control back of our society. And don’t tell me it's too difficult! It's only too difficult b/c we have career politicians in Congress who don’t care to take any risks lest they not get re-elected. If we get citizen legislators in Congress (read on to learn how) the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee could reach out to the Supreme Court. They could request a working session to discuss what wording would work, and not work, for legislation that would enable us to outlaw and prosecute pornography created or disseminated in the USA. They would then hold public hearings--boy, would they trend high--and ultimately craft the language. With SCOTUS input, perhaps they would choose to propose an amendment to the Constitution. My point: we, “the people” can take back the reins of our federal government. We can do whatever we want if we’re aligned.
Whether a believer in a major religion, “spiritual but not religious,” atheist or agnostic, everyone has a worldview that gives them direction in life regarding the key questions that science cannot prove: a) How did I get here? b) What is the purpose of my life?--if there is one? c) How should I relate to other people? One thing I can tell you: there will always be people who do not share your worldview. The trouble in the USA today is that many people are overtly hostile to those who don’t share their own worldview, and do not tolerate free speech and follow a “live and let live” approach to social life. Some quick comments to such people: a) Don’t be tribal; don’t hate those who adopt different worldviews. b) If you refuse to accept that you cannot win everyone over to your beliefs, you’ll be kicking against the goads, and will cause unnecessary pain to yourself. c) How you treat others will determine the trajectory of your own life between peace & joy, or frustration & conflict. d) Call people to THEIR higher good whether they share your worldview or not. e) People make mistakes; people change. YOU will make mistakes; YOU will change. f) Choose to be humble. Humility is your friend. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
We have career politicians in Congress rather than citizen legislators. Notice the former moniker does not contain the word legislator: they don’t get anything significant done. Often their focus is on issues over which they have no authority to legislate. They posture, they don’t legislate. They are more interested in getting re-elected and staying in power than they are in taking risks, compromising, and doing the difficult work of building consensus. They have stacked the electoral deck in favor of incumbents. Thus, even though the favorable rating of Congress is at an all time low, incumbents get reelected at a 93% rate. People are disgusted with Congress…but they like their representative! The solution is imposing term limits on Congress. We imposed it on the Executive branch in 1951; it is high time to impose it on the Legislative Branch as well. With term limits in place a totally different citizen would run for Congress with intentions to contribute their wisdom and expertise, then return to their career. With term limits, The seniority system would become obsolete. Party affiliation would take a back seat to getting things done. Lobbyist influence would be diffused since money for re-election would be irrelevant to most members, and less important to others. (Please see the Zoom skit on my website that gives a vision of how healthy Congressional collaboration could be once term limits are in place.)