Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It Is That Day to Remember

             November 5th is perfect date for the political unrest now rearing in the United States. It is no coincidence to me that it’s Guy Fawkes Day in Great Britain. “Remember, remember, the 5th of November. The Gunpowder Treason and plot; I see of no reason why Gunpowder Treason Should ever be forgot”. As we all know from the movie V for Vendetta, (and maybe a history class or two) Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament and King James I but was stopped when he was arrested before he could carry out his deed. The motivations for this attempt were likely varied, but according to Guy’s confession, it was his hope to kill the King, install his daughter Elizabeth as Queen and return England to a Catholic country rather than Protestant.

            He’d managed, before being caught, to place 36 barrels of gunpowder under the Palace of Westminster. I’d say that’s one heck of a bold plan to restructure a government, but the point was certainly made. The people of England remembered the fifth of November and Guy Fawkes as a sort of symbol against the possibility of tyranny and it’s been celebrated ever since 1605.  Even if his efforts were slightly horrifying and misguided.

            I don’t mean to draw any direct parallels to Guy Fawkes or his attempt to blow up the government of England, but I can’t help but feel similarly let down by the Mid-Term election results from yesterday.  In what I would consider a very shocking turn, most Governor seats, U.S. Senate seats and House of Representatives seats went to the Republican Party, or as more commonly referred to as The G.O.P. (Grand Old Party if anyone was wondering). This was a shock to me because in the last 30 years I’ve seen the Republican Party go from the party of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower turn into a strange amalgam of special interest, financially motivated, old white men, with a strange belief that the United States can somehow stop the future and return this country to 1950.

            I don’t believe that going backwards a reasonable or rational way to plan for the future of this country. We cannot go forward as a society, as a people, by hanging on to the images, philosophies and vestiges of the past. I had hoped the Democrats would have been smart enough to present a clear idea of a future in which all Americans really do have access to the greatest healthcare in the world and at a reasonable cost. I would have hoped they could have presented their platforms of equal pay for women, prescriptions for birth control, minimum wage increases, assault weapon bans, job growth and economic stability more clearly to the American people. They didn’t and the Republicans took advantage of that with muddy messaging and fear mongering. No one is coming to take your guns away. No one is coming to restrict your right of free speech. No one is coming to take your right to worship away. These are completely imagined fears. No one is practicing Socialism. No one is attempting to impose Sharia law over us. Those thoughts, those beliefs, are misplaced.

            I’m scared that this Republican controlled government will pull back from the equal rights of homosexuals, minorities and women that were so hard fought over the last 20 years. I am a fan of family values; I think they are important in the raising of any child. However I don’t want my government telling me what family values I should have. Or even, what a family is.

            I don’t want my government overwrought with religious fundamentalists, be they Christian, Evangelical, Protestant, Muslim or Rastafarian. I agree with the Founding Father’s that Church and State should be separate. I don’t like it when either party representative, Republican or Democrat, says anything about God, or praying on what to do next, or trying to emphasize that America was founded by Jesus and science isn’t real but what’s in the Bible about creation is the only true version of history. That scares the crap out me. I don’t like the anti-intellectual movement within the Republican Party. I don’t like that they seem to have their own facts about everything without any of it being remotely true. There’s almost a culture of scientific denial within the Republican Party, from denying Evolution to Climate Change, regardless of what the thousands of respected scientists and doctors with immense amounts of data say.

            That sort of denial, based out of the fear of change, really scares me and it makes me feel slightly hopeless. It makes me worry for the future of our Country and the educational advancement of our children. If a Senator from Kentucky (I’m not specifically picking on Mitch here) says the Bible is the only true version of history, then I don’t need that engineering degree and can just put my faith in God that everything will totally work out. That’s just irresponsible leadership if you ask me. Any sort of closed-mindedness in leadership is a terrible idea; being closed to other ways of thinking leads to a stagnation of ideas, growth and progress.  It’s a rote acceptance of the status quo.

            I don’t really mind that you own a gun but I don’t think a civilized nation should really need to conceal and carry them. I don’t think a nation of civil people need high powered automatic weapons to settle their disagreements. I think there should be more legislation to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally incompetent or psychologically impaired through a nationwide system of background checks. I’m not saying you can’t have a gun, I’m saying you have to prove you’re sane enough to use it responsibly, if you can, great, have as many as you want. I don’t expect you, the sane gun owner, to go and shoot up a school or their place of work. In fact, the idea of using your gun for anything other than home defense makes you want to throw up. I fear however, that under Republican leadership, the gun restrictions that have been established, like the old Brady Bill, will be swept away through the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups.

            I still believe in the United States of America. I am a law abiding citizen. And yet, I’m afraid of the less moderate members of The Republican Party. I know not all Republicans are Bible beating, war mongering, greedy, anti-intellectuals. There are always exceptions to the generalities. It is however, those individuals as described above, that do scare me. They scare me enough to write this piece and liken this recent election to Guy Fawkes near attempt to destroy a government he felt had lost its way. It’s almost how I feel about this American experiment of Democracy within a Republic. We’ve been scared enough to think that going backwards, to old policies, to old ways of thinking is the safest way forward. Well, I don’t think it’s safe. I think it’s foolish.

It’s easy to stay safe and not try something new, the other guy’s idea. Being a Liberal takes some guts. It takes guts to want equal rights/equal pay for all Americans; it takes guts to stand up to the antiquated notions of the past and demand a cost-effective healthcare system in the most powerful nation on Earth. It takes guts to try something new, a new approach to things. It takes guts to step back and say, “Hey, maybe I should hear this guy out before yelling over him because I fundamentally don’t believe in what he believes. I’ll listen”.

And I guess that’s why I’m disappointed, much like Guy Fawkes, I’m sad that fear and money won this election over new ideas and hope. I can only hope, under the Republican controlled House and Senate, and even within a lot of State Legislations, we can keep an eye on the future of this country and not one looking backwards. I can hope that the diversity of American beliefs proves to be our greatest strength and the goals of this great nation, for the good of its people, can be accomplished.

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