Sunday, March 16, 2008

Turn Off, Set Down, Log on, Engage.

This article was originally published in on March 9th, 2008

Turn off the TV. Set down the newspaper. Log on to the Internet. Engage yourself with others, find alternative viewpoints, and interact with reality.

Americans have a recent history of passivity. In the past we have been involved with each other. We would talk with each other on our front porches about the news of the day. We would gather together in our little groups and discuss things of interest amongst ourselves. We would listen to those we respected and use common sense and logic to form our opinions. We were interactive. Now, thanks mostly to technology, we have become passive animals willing to allow our opinions to be molded by strangers we hardly know who appear on corporate owned media networks or write for those same networks. These are hardly trustworthy people, but people who have an agenda, who long for power over you, and who are willing to bend reality and even lie in order to ensure that your opinion matches theirs. These are people who count mostly on visceral emotion to formulate opinion. There is a trend, however, toward interaction once again. This is thanks to the advanced technology known as the Internet. Passivity on the Internet takes a back seat due to the interactivity of email, blogs and instant messengers. America has begun to once again talk to each other on the virtual front porch that is the Internet.

Yet this still isn´t enough. For whatever reason, the politics of our nation continue to intrude on our lives. Police actions are escalating. Why do we as a society allow such atrocious behavior from our uniformed civil servants? Have we become so emotionally blackmailed by fear? Is security so important that we would ignore such abuses of power and allow our families, friends and neighbors to be humiliated and enslaved to the whimsical dictates of someone who may have let a small taste of power go to his head? Are the freedoms that are supposed to be the foundation of this nation of free men so unimportant that we will let them evaporate without so much as a whimper in protest?

Perhaps there is more to it than that. Perhaps this trend has been creeping into our beings for decades. Perhaps the violence of the late sixties still weighs heavily on our collective psyche. Perhaps the excesses of the nineties softened us up. Perhaps the horror of 2001 led us to the conclusion that resistance is futile and the only way to be safe is to surrender to big government and allow them to violate our God given rights with impunity in the vain hope that another terrorist attack could be avoided. I can´t say for certain when the majority of the people of this nation decided it was okay to give up on freedom, but I can opine that it is long past time to reverse this trend.

Looking back on my life, it seems to me as if the television was always there. It was a constant friend and companion. Back in the day, it not only relieved my boredom with it´s entertaining productions, it showed me images of a vicious jungle war and brought me news of our brave soldiers struggling to keep a check on the evil of communism. It allowed me to watch men walking on the moon. It helped to bring about the resignation of a president. It brought into my living room the fear of hostages and the anger of a nation that refused to accept our hegemony. It sold me an actor president who gave up his quest for small, constitutional government after an assassination attempt. It inundated me with school shootings, Ruby Ridge, Waco, flight 800 and finally the non-stop coverage of planes flying into two buildings and their subsequent collapse on September 11th, 2001. These things television showed me. Newspapers echoed television´s coverage. For the most part, I believed what I saw, trusting that the news media was there merely to inform me. But there was always something slightly off about them, always something I felt I wasn´t being told. And so I started to dig deeper.

I found out that I wasn´t getting the full story. There were things that happened that weren´t widely reported, and yet these things were recorded for posterity. Until recently, I had never known about the USS Liberty. I had never heard through the mass media that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie used to justify a war that should not have been fought, much like the Bush administration used WMDs to justify the Iraq war. It was never adequately explained or emphasized enough that our CIA had helped to overthrow a democratically elected government in Iran to install the shah. There was always an agenda to push. There was always some sort of law needing to be passed to control some aspect of society. There was always someone benefiting, either gaining more money or more power or both. And the common man hardly said a word, and in fact agreed to let his rights be violated with hardly a whisper of protest, sometimes even supporting such moves. And still the television played on, filling minds with the vast nothingness of its inconsequential programming. Still the newspapers refused to report stories that mattered, relegating them to the back pages to be read by only the most voracious of newshounds and those least likely to do or say anything about it.

I finally turned off the television. It is useless to me. Oh, its allure still calls to me and I´ll watch a football game once a week during the season (da Bears) and I´ll watch the playoffs (because I like football) and every once in a while I´ll watch an interesting show or pop in a DVD, but I seriously watch less than an hour a week. There is simply more interesting things to do in life. I hardly ever read a paper and when I do I certainly don´t automatically believe what I´m reading. I can take the paper at its word, but I´d prefer to have a way to double check the facts. In any case, I have noticed that those who get their information from television or the paper have a tendency to believe that either Democrats are better than Republicans, or Republicans are better than Democrats. They don´t see that the vast majority of them are wolves in sheep´s clothing. They seem to have a hard time understanding that most politicians are corrupt to the core regardless of party affiliation, that they want nothing less than total control over your life. They seem more team oriented, "If he´s on my team, he can´t be bad." These people seem to close themselves up when one tries to explain that Democrat or Republican doesn´t matter, it´s the principle of the person, his honesty and integrity that should matter. It´s the issues that should matter, whether something is constitutional or not, not the personality.

For some reason, we have been conditioned not to talk about politics or religion. Yet these things are very important in most people´s lives. These topics should be talked about, and they should be talked about in public. It is time we started to engage each other in these topics. Ron Paul´s candidacy has opened many eyes to the freedom message. Liberty has become born again in America. Many have joined Ron Paul meet up groups. It is up to those of us who believe in the principles of liberty, freedom, small constitutional government, honest money and other issues to continue to spread the word. Certainly the mass media isn´t going to do it for us. We can start by scheduling meetings, perhaps once a week. Why not get together with others who feel as you do once a week? Doesn´t it always feel good to be able to discuss these things with people who agree with you? And why not schedule such events in a local pub or coffee house? After all, there are thousands of people who agree with the freedom message, but they still feel isolated. If these people start hearing the message expressed in a public forum, if they see a group of people who think in a similar fashion, they will be drawn to such a group. This is how to build a community that will be strong, one where everyone knows their compatriot face to face rather than just over a cold electronic medium. This is how the movement will grow, through the reality of the flesh rather than the fantasy of the tube or the printed word.

Returning this country to its former grandeur as the beacon of freedom to the rest of the world is likely to be a long, arduous process. We are not likely to be able to do it by electing one principled individual to the highest office in the land. We are most likely going to have to take small steps, taking back our government at the local levels first. As free humans it is up to us to band together and demand respect for our lives and liberties. It is up to us to once again find our interconnections with each other and make the world take notice.

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