The 4th of July is always a time for reflection, and this year it seems especially important. How often do you hear the question "Is America the greatest country in the world?" As arrogant as everyone else in the world may consider that question to be, it's a fair question, and nationalistic bias aside, you can usually make the argument that America is, in fact, the greatest country in the world. Sure, life here is far from perfect, but there are a lot of very good things about our country that we take for granted that you just don't see a lot of other places in the world. As I said, you can usually make a pretty good case for the assertion that America is the greatest country in the world, but this past 4th of July, I did a lot of reflection, and I'm not sure you can make a very strong case for that statement right now.
The fact is, there are a lot of things that are very wrong with this country right now, and we are fast approaching a crossroads, if we're not there already. Greed and the lust for power are wrecking us right now and we're in the worst socioeconomic conditions this country has seen since the Great Depression. The difference is, it's getting worse much faster than it did during the Great Depression and there's no end in sight. The even scarier thing is that the Great Depression isn't the only historic period with similarities to our current conditions. If you look at the current environment and how things have come about, there are a lot of elements that were seen in such fun times as the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the American Civil War, and even the fall of the Roman Empire. This is not to say that we are headed for anything of that tragic magnitude, and I don't believe we are, but the similarities are at best frightening.
First, the economy is as bad as it's ever been and everyone knows that. The experts said unemployment would plateau at about 8%, then 10%, and now finally they're admitting that they have no idea just how bad it's going to get, because we're stuck in a cycle, and unless that cycle is broken somehow it's only going to go downhill. A lower economy means lower jobs, which leads to less money for people to spend, which leads to even more businesses closing and even fewer jobs. It also means less taxes, which in turn leads to budget cuts and even more lost jobs.
A lot of the lost jobs across the country are sadly due to corporate greed and the lust for power. Auto plants, factories, banks, retail stores, and restaurants are closing left and right, resulting in millions of unemployed people. Are some of those the result of the bad economy? Absolutely. But a very high number of them are the result of corporate greed. Executives lay off or lower wages for thousands of employees who are living paycheck-to-paycheck, while they're getting seven-figure bonuses for running their businesses into the ground. Companies are receiving government bailout money and using it to finance executive vacations to Hawaii rather than using it to keep a plant open and not have to put a thousand workers out on the street. The people who are lucky enough to hold onto their jobs are almost all doing more work for less compensation. Even people who haven't had a "pay cut" per se have seen drastic reductions in benefits such as insurance. We're looking at a situation right now where it's conceivable that less than half the people in this country could be without health insurance. These cuts and benefit reductions are almost all being done in the name of shaving expenses to help the businesses, but the people most affected by this are always the people at the bottom who have nothing left to give. I am so fucking tired of hearing millionaires talk to me about making sacrifices. Not since the Industrial Revolution and the days of the John D. Rockefellers and the Andrew Carnegies have we seen such a growing disparity between the haves and the have-not's. People used to be able to work for thirty years for the same company and then retire with enough money to pay your bills and have money for Christmas presents. Now, the few companies left who provide those kind of benefits for their employees look for any flimsy excuse they can come up with to fire someone when they get close to retirement to get out of paying them. Corporations all talk about how "People are our greatest resource" but yet they treat their employees as expendable serfs to the executive lords. And the biggest travesty is that more often than not, the executives are the ones making the poor decisions that result in poor business performance.
And then we've got the loss of jobs resulting from power-hungry assholes in government departments (such as the health department) who just love flexing their badges and masturbating with self-satisfaction every time they shut somebody down. And let's make something clear, more often than not, when businesses fail health inspections or get shut down, it isn't necessarily because of anything they did that a sane person would think makes their products or services unsafe for human consumption. It's because pinky-dick health inspectors sit around in their meetings thinking up any possible thing they could find wrong with anybody anywhere, then get a pinky-dick erection when they run out to shut down a business for failure to immediately comply with their child-like demands. It doesn't matter that there may be little to no actual health concern or safety risk involved with any of these decisions. For example, we just had to spend several thousand dollars replacing all the lights in our kitchen at work because allegedly we were putting our cooks at risk of cutting their fingers off because it was too dark. Mind you, we've never had a single complaint from a cook or an accident because of the lighting in the kitchen. However, we have had a myriad of complaints from the cooks because of the headaches they get resulting from the brightness due to the new lighting we were forced to install to avoid being shut down. The lighting was not a health or safety issue. It was a pinky-dick with a boner for bossing people around issue. And these may seem like small things, but businesses right now are already contending with lower sales and higher costs, and then you throw in the extra costs of appeasing power-hungry government officials who abuse their positions because they got beat up in high school, and it can be too much for a lot of businesses.
Add to this the issue of decisions the pinky-dicks make that are literally impossible to comply with, so they shut you down. For example, there are virtually no meat-processing plants left in Ohio because of a decision the pinky-dicks made that says that kill-floors must be a certain number of square feet. They also made this retroactive, so all the plants whose kill-floor wasn't big enough got shut down. So because a few pinky-dicks got a boner over telling businesses owners that you need x amount of square feet to kill a pig, plants closed and jobs were lost. But wait, that's not all. Since all the processing plants closed, now meat has to go out of state to be processed, then come back into the state to be consumed, which jacks the price up for consumers.
Of course I also have very little sympathy for the food industry right now because a lot of food suppliers raised food prices in the last year by 25% or more, claiming it was due to the increased fuel costs. That sounds all well and good, but then when gas prices dropped the food supplies all started whistling and walking the other way to pretend they didn't notice it, and prices have continued going up.
You add onto that some of the conduct of our nation's most influential people and it's no wonder we're in the shitter right now. There's governors having out-of-the-country affairs and passing the tab onto taxpayers. The President himself pokes fun at the Special Olympics on the Tonight Show. And then there's the fact that the biggest Nine Inch Nails fans in the world are military officials who happen to enjoy using NIN music as part of their torture methods, which is something we are allegedly above using in this country.
Speaking of government misconduct, a lot of state and/or local governments are trying to sneak legislation through without a public vote on some extremely controversial issues such as the expansion of gambling or criminalizing the ownership of certain breeds of dogs. In my hometown right now the local government is spending taxpayer money to pay the fine folks at Animal Control to sneak around town watching for people who happen to be walking their pit bulls so they can take the dogs, put them down, and fine the owners or even send them to jail for violation of a law that was announced two days before it went into effect and was passed quietly in a city council meeting with no public vote or public awareness. Fortunately for most of the dog owners around here, this particular issue has already been taken to the Ohio Supreme Court and was determined to be unconstitutional, so the law will be short-lived. Of course, that's little comfort to people who have already had their dogs forcibly taken from them and killed by a local government who deliberately kept a controversial law quiet and out of the voting booths because they knew there would be no public support for it. Frankly in a situation like this, there should be legal ramifications for despicable actions such as these, especially when laws such as these have already been determined to be unconstitutional. Unfortunately, we citizens will have to settle for ousting these motherfuckers when the next election rolls around.
And then to top off all this gigantic clusterfuck we've gotten ourselves into, let's throw in an America-sized helping of public ignorance due to our reliance on unreliable sources to spoon-feed us everything we believe. The news networks and the Bill O'Reilly's of the world are largely the ones responsible for the shaping of public opinion, which is frightening because they all have their own personal agendas and they're almost all misleading people at best, and outright lying at worst. Some of the things that pass for "facts" on TV are astonishing, but what's more astonishing is everyone's eagerness to blindly accept it all without doing any fact-checking or getting any second opinions before making up their own minds. Bill O'Reilly could go on TV tomorrow and say "I'm Bill O'Reilly and I'm the Lord Jesus Christ and I'm here to tell you all that Miley Cyrus is the Antichrist, I command you to kill her before she brings about the apocalypse," and somebody would do it. And I don't mean for this to disintegrate into a Bill O'Reilly rant, but God, that man is such a fucking prick and anyone who takes what he says to be unbiased truth should be immediately committed. When someone calls their show the "No Spin Zone" that should immediately set off warning bells that everything you hear is going to be biased, agenda-pushing horse shit.
The sad truth is, when you look at all this shit going on right now, it's really difficult to make the argument that right now, America is the greatest country in the world...
Having said that, I can now get to the main point of what I'm writing about today. The real reason I'm writing this is because the cool thing to do right now is to just bitch about how everything sucks and not offer any possible solutions or have anything positive to say about anything. That's where this rant is different from every other seemingly anti-American rant you've heard or read recently.
The fact is, shit is fucked right now. There is no way to sugar-coat it. It's just fucked. But even as bleak as things look right now, I would still bet on America pulling through. I am not one of those "The end is near" doomsayers. And the reason for my belief isn't some flowery fucking bullshit ideals like hope and change. The reason we are going to pull through and things are going to get better is because there are two things the American people do better than anyone else in the world.
First, we bitch more than anyone else in the world. And I'm really not saying that in a derogatory way, because it's actually a good thing. When something pisses us off, we let the entire world know how pissed off we are. Along with this is the fact that we have the most freedom to bitch of any country in the world. This is a country where some random asshole with a tiny, crooked penis can openly write about how shit is fucked up without fear of repercussions. As a matter of fact, not only are you allowed to criticize the government and its' leaders, but it's the cool thing to do. Can you imagine how boring talk shows would be if they never made fun of the President? I recently saw a documentary about how 9-11 was staged by the U.S. government in order to pull off the biggest gold heist in world history. Ridiculous? Absolutely, but the fact that some crackpot paranoid conspiracy nut can publish a film accusing the government of mass murder is a beautiful thing, because when you aren't free to voice your opinion, bad things happen and they just get worse.
The second thing we're better than anyone else in the world at doing is acting when we're pissed off, not just bitching on our living room couches. We write letters to our representatives telling them we're pissed off and they need to fix shit or we're kicking their ass out of office. We protest, we picket, we make phone calls, we write articles on shitty web sites, we call in to radio talk shows. We go out in droves to vote against people who piss us off (or their respective political parties). We didn't like how Bill Clinton made an ass of us all by boinking fat chicks in the oral office, so we voted against his party in the next election. We didn't like how Bush was a moron so we did the same thing. And these are all relatively calm as protesting actions go. Look back a few years and you see all the Vietnam protests and how well some of those went. Go back a little further and you can see the sit-ins and other forms of civil disobedience where people willingly went to jail because they believed something was fucked up. Then you look back even farther than that and you have the issue of slavery, which pissed off so many people that it led to the bloodiest war in our nation's history.
As a matter of fact, the very fact that we're in this country shows that we have a genetic affinity for getting pissed off and doing something about it. The Pilgrims were pissed off because of religious intolerance, so they said "Fuck you guys, we're going to America." The early immigrants got tired of conditions in the Old World, so they said "Fuck you guys, we're going to America." Hell, even the Cubans who all came here to get away from Castro said "Fuck you guys, we're going to America." We're genetically predisposed to being unhappy with the status quo and doing something about it, and that's a very encouraging thought when you look at our current conditions. Shit may be fucked up right now, but there's a lot of pissed-off people right now, and shit's going to start hitting the fan soon.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that America may have our problems, and we may not be the greatest country in the world right now, but we do have some of the greatest people, so I wouldn't bet against us if I were you. We may be flawed, but we're also very proud. And we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.