What kind of world are we leaving our kids?
Recently I had an argument with people that I know.
It got somewhat heated.
And everybody ended up leaving pissed off.
The point of contention being that they claimed President Obama “is the worst president ever” and a “lying fraud.”
The essence of my response was, “You’re just plain wrong, Goddamnit!”
Not the wittiest repartee, I suppose, but we’ve had this argument before and likely we’ll have it again, and frankly I’m just getting tired of going over the same ground. It’s an emotional argument, not a logical one. It’s an endless reoccurring theme in our relationship and likely will be until they die, or I die, or Barack Obama sprouts horns and destroys the world with his Smooth Negro Ray of Evil and we all die – whichever comes first.
I’m unlikely to change their minds, they will most certainly not change mine.
We simply view the world in fundamentally different ways.
It wasn’t always so, but we’ve changed, they and I.
I went out into the world and I saw things and it changed me – and I’ve written about it in an essay that’s one of the most widely read of anything I’ve ever written. Those things I saw, those experiences, changed my viewpoint, yet despite all – or maybe because of it – I’m still an optimist, I still believe.
They remained in the same place, but time changed them too. See, they have reached a point in their lives where they’ve become pessimists. They used to be pretty optimistic people, but not anymore, now it’s all doom and gloom and the end of the world as we know it – and will be until a Republican sits in the White House once again or Obama destroys the world, whichever comes first.
They long for the good old days, back when America was apparently awesome and everybody was happy and safe and satisfied and knew their place – everybody who matters anyway.
Specifically when that glorious past was, what time between the Great Depression and World War II and Korea and Vietnam and the decades of terrorism and the last ten years of war, I’m not quite sure. I’ve lived through fifty-one of those years myself and I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. But they’re back there somewhere, those good old days, and they were awesome.
Nothing I can say will convince them that the good old days were certainly good for a few folks, but emphatically not for many, many others – especially those who were told to stay in their place on the other side of the tracks or in the ghettos or in the segregated South. Nor can I convince them that despite the continuous sleet of dire pessimism and doom that falls like a cold wet smothering blanket from the bleating hysterical media they watch day in and day out, America isn’t nearly as bad off as it has been at various points throughout its history – and it’s a damned sight better off today for more people than nearly any other place on the planet. Considering that they’ve spent most of my life telling me how goddamned shitty they had it back in the day and how much better kids nowadays have than they ever did, you wouldn’t think this would be a point of argument – but, of course, it is.
I shouldn’t have let it get out of hand. I should have just shut up and let it go. But I was irritated, I’d spent the morning reading hate mail from people who think I should just please be quiet and go sit in the corner and it irked me that they were using essentially the same argument, I was irked at myself because I’d been drawn in yet again, irked at them because I knew how the argument was going to go, and irked at the world because I had to sit and listen to people I care about repeating sound bites and paranoid bullshit that they should never have given credence to – and wouldn’t have before the election of Barack Obama, back when they were optimists.
And I was most especially irked because despite the fact that I happen to be a certified expert in a number of the topics we were arguing about (such as guns) and they goddamned well know it, they repeatedly and predictably dismissed my expertise and quoted the hysterical ill-informed talking heads at me instead (this isn’t anything new, they dismiss my two decades of military experience out of hand and defer to a five time draft-dodger like Dick Cheney, so I shouldn’t be surprised. And I’m not, but it still pisses me off).
I wasn’t truly angry until they resorted to the Appeal To Consequences fallacy, i.e. well, whatever, fine, we will be long gone and won’t have to deal with your mistakes, but future generations, man, what kind of nation is Obama leaving them? Then it’ll be too late! Mark my words, you’ll see, some day, the sky will fall and then you’ll be sorry, don’t say I didn’t warn you, worst president ever!
Logical fallacies irritate me under the best of circumstances, but I purely hate the Appeal to Consequences fallacy.
It has gone on long enough, this argument, that I ought to know better than get sucked into it in the first place. But for various reasons, which I’m not willing to go in to, I always do – get sucked into the argument. And it always ends the same way, with me grinding my teeth to the accompaniment of a pounding headache, and them even more convinced that I’ve been brainwashed into the cult of islamocommunazism by faggy vegetarian environmentalists bent on the destruction of America.
The conversation, and hence the argument, ended abruptly.
As it always does.
I went out to the woodshop and managed to completely destroy two days worth of work because I was still pissed off. I took a walk, talked to my cat, played with the dog, and eventually cooled off enough to return to the shop. I spent some time picking up the splinters (I’d cranked a clamp down way too hard and shattered the chair back I was working on, the resulting implosion sent flinters of wood all over the shop). And then I calmly started the project over.
After a while I returned to the house much relaxed … and discovered that next installment of the ongoing argument had been delivered via email, along with a note saying, see? I’m not the only one:
Again, the appeal to consequences – and by implication, what kind of world are we leaving to our children?
There it is, the bogeyman hiding in the closet, the monster under the bed, the gibbering panic and endless litany of pessimistic woe that drives modern conservatives, all summed up in a few neat paragraphs.
And I found myself clenching my jaw and reaching for the keyboard, and as my head began to throb again I realized I was about to make a grievous mistake.
So I went back out to the woodshop instead.
It’s two days later, I’ve had some time to think about it. Rather than continue the argument, I’ll address my answer directly to the above letter to the editor. When I say “you,” I’m talking to the generic Ken Hubers of the world.
If we lie to congress it’s a felony, but if congress lies to us it’s politics.
How’s that again? Look here, if you lie to congress under oath, it’s a felony. If congress lies to you under oath, it’s also illegal, and plenty of them have been punished for it (not all, but there are numerous examples. Five minutes with Google is all it takes). Otherwise, it’s free speech, politics if you like. Congress lies to us. People lie to congressmen – all without legal consequence. You don’t like liars in congress? Then stop rewarding politicians and political parties for lying to you, you can start with Michele Bachmann. Also, stop punishing them when they do tell the truth – even if you don’t want to hear it.
If we dislike a black person, we're racist and if a black dislikes whites, it's their 1st Amendment right.
Right, given how oppressed white people are in America and all. Listen, when you can’t discuss the president for more than a paragraph without resorting to the word “nigger” and you’re not a rap artist, you’re a racist even if you don’t think you are. When you act like a racist, well, Sir, then you’re a racist – whatever your skin color. However, that said, the First Amendment grants you the right to be a racist – whatever your skin color, white or black or anything in between. Don’t like racism? Then stop ignoring it or pretending that it doesn’t exist just because you don’t like the other side of the political aisle or don’t want to admit to the history of this country. Don’t like racism? Then don’t stand for it, don’t perpetuate it, don’t ignore it – whatever your skin color.
The government spends millions to rehabilitate criminals and they do almost nothing for the victims.
The government? Which one? State or federal? Which state? Arizona? Texas? Maine? Hawaii? One size doesn’t fit all, you know. What victims? The innocent ones who spend decades behind bars because of their skin color? Which criminals? The ones that should have gone to jail, but didn’t because they had the means and connections to avoid it? Typically our various governments spend millions to incarcerate criminals, more than any other country in the world, but we don’t actually spend much on “rehabilitation” because, like war, we voters don’t have the wherewithal or the commitment to address the actual underlying causes of crime and conflict such as poverty, education, opportunity, and community. Typically our prisons are warehouses that just make better criminals because we don’t give enough of a shit to do anything about it. As to victim compensation, well, sure, all we have to do is vote to give them something for their trouble. You go first.
In public schools you can teach that homosexuality is OK, but you better not use the word God in the process.
Oh for crying out loud. For a bunch of people armed to the teeth, you sure are scared of a few “homosexuals” (I know, I know, speaking of words you can’t say, you can’t say “gay” because you might become gay or something). Did it ever occur to you that you’re the ones who keep bringing up homosexuality? There are more than seven billion people on the planet, chances are more than a couple of them are doing all kinds of things you don’t like, why do you keep singling out homosexuality? If you don’t like it, then stop obsessing over it. Listen, here’s what you can teach: in America we are free to decide both our sexuality and our religion, and whether you like it or not we are also free from having either forced upon us. In America, we don’t have to fear either gay people or God. If you chose to be afraid then that’s on you, you deal with it.
Edit: A number of you wrote asking for clarification about the line “…we are free to decide both our sexuality and our religion.” You asked if I was implying that sexuality is a choice. The answer is no, or yes, or whatever. The point is that you are free to decide who you want to be, sexually, politically, religiously. If you’re talking about liberty, about freedom, the “choice” argument is idiotic. Whether we come by our identity naturally or by choice or a combination of both makes no damned difference. You get to decide who you are. You, and you alone. The single most fundamental civil right, the only right that I believe is truly inalienable, the only “natural” right that nobody can take away from you, is the right to define yourself.
You can kill an unborn child, but it’s wrong to execute a mass murderer;
In what state? What country are you talking about? We have the highest execution rate in the First World. We execute murderers all of the time, one as recently as last week. And just so I’m clear here: you don’t want the government to use a drone against a known terrorist, but you’re ok with that same government strapping a man to a gurney and pumping poison into his veins? What, pray tell, is the difference from a “pro-life” standpoint? What? One was a self-declared enemy of the United States and the other was a minority convicted on flimsy evidence without a supporting DNA match? And seriously here, pro-death penalty and pro-life? Please. Give me a break on the hypocrisy already. Over the last ten years, conservative anti-abortionist Right To Lifers have cheered the deaths of tens of thousands of unborn children … and actual living born children, and their parents, and their cousins and aunts and uncles and every damned body they know right on down to their pets. We bombed them and shot them and burned down their houses and left them to starve to death or die of disease or at the mercy of their environment – and don’t try to tell me that we didn’t, because I was there. Don’t give me your sanctimonious horseshit on abortion, you can’t be pro-war and pro-life, the concepts are mutually exclusive. And as long as we’re on the subject of unborn kids, aren’t you the same goddamned people who keep whining about your tax dollars going to feed and care for those self same children? Until you’re ready to demonstrate an actual concern for human life, all of it and not just the unborn fetus in a liberal woman’s belly, you can just sit down and shut the fuck up about abortion because I’m sick and tired of hearing about it. You hate us so damned much, what the hell do you care whether we kill our kids or not?
We don't burn books in America, we now rewrite them;
Swear to God, I just snorted chocolate milk through my nose. We don’t burn books in America, we rewrite them? Ahahahahahaha! Hysterical. I don’t think you really want to go down this road – not with the conservative complaint about a lack of God in the schools and conservatives’ continuing effort to rewrite history and science to force their religion upon the rest of us. And it’s conservatives who have been burning books for the last two hundred years, from Origin of the Species to Catcher in the Rye. So what are you complaining about? That you can’t anymore? Conservatives are the very last people who should be complaining about books. You’ve got a beef about books, do you? How about you tell your local government that you want your tax money used to fully fund and support your local town and school libraries, including paying librarians a living wage, instead of, oh, say high school football? No? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Books. Jesus Christ, that’s priceless.
We got rid of the communist and socialist threat by renaming the progressives;
We renamed the fascists too, so it all evens out. The important thing is that you still have a vaguely defined derogatory epitaph that you can use to label people you don’t like as enemies of America – and remember, if you’re ever confused by the name changes you can always use the all-purpose go-to label: Nazi!
we are unable to close our border with Mexico, but have no problem with protecting the 38th parallel in Korea;
No problem? No problem? The hell? I call Shenanigans. Seriously. I don’t think you’ve been paying attention – for about the last 60 years. No problem? The “38th Parallel,” i.e the Korean Demilitarized Zone, is only 151 miles long – compared to the two thousand miles of US/Mexico border. The DMZ is manned by more than a million troops on the allied side, and another million on the North Korean side, and it’s the most heavily fortified border in the world complete with watchtowers, mountains of concertina wire, walls, tank traps, mines, and heavy weaponry – and it still can’t stop people who really want to get across (and neither could the Berlin Wall). Do you have any idea of the staggering amount of money it takes to secure that lousy one hundred and fifty miles? And you want to do that across our southern border times twenty? You people won’t even pay to feed those babies you claim to love so damned much, or fund criminal rehabilitation, or libraries, and you’re going to pony up how many more billions per year to create a DMZ of your very own? And for what? So you can shoot more kids? More pregnant women? So you can make us all live inside an armed camp? It’s about time you people faced reality, the only way to “close” that border is to transform the United States into the very country that you all claim to hate, the one surrounded by walls and barbwire and machine guns and under military security where you have to show your papers upon demand by authority. A much better, and ultimately less expensive and more profitable, idea would be to address the actual causes of illegal immigration in the first place. But I digress.
if you protest against President Obama's policies you're a terrorist, but if you burned an American flag or George Bush in effigy it was your 1st Amendment right.
I assume you’re talking about those terrorists with the Occupy Movement who were railing against Obama’s Wall Street policies? Or the limp wristed liberals protesting Obama’s drone policy? So you’re sympathizing with their position, is that what you’re saying? Wouldn’t that make you a … progressive? Or were you talking about those enemies of America who stood on the street corners during the Bush administration protesting the wars? Listen, there have been plenty of folks burning President Obama in effigy – including, you know, actual terrorists in Third World countries. Look around, see who you’re standing next to? Think about it. If you protest Obama’s policies, that’s your First Amendment right, just as it’s your right to call him a traitor and a Kenyan and a socialist and the worst president ever. And it’s also my right to say you’re acting like an asshole. That’s how freedom of speech works.
You can have pornography on the TV or the Internet, but you better not put a nativity scene in a public park during Christmas;
What is it with you people? You can have a nativity scene in a public park if you like, but you also have to allow other people with other beliefs to display scenes from their religion too. But you don’t want to do that, do you? You seem to think that the month of December belongs exclusively to you and your God. That’s why you can’t have your nativity scene, because if you won’t share then nobody gets to play. Public property is exactly that, public, it belongs to all of us and it’s not for the exclusive use of your religion. You brought this on yourself, so stop complaining about it. And as long as we’re on this subject, here’s what else you can’t display in a public park, pornography. However, you can have pornography in the privacy of your own home. You can also have a nativity scene on your private property, if you like – unless you belong to a Home Owner’s Association, but then again that’s a form of absolutism you all seem to embrace willingly. If a nativity scene is such a big damned deal with you people, then put it in the front yard of your church and invite all of your friends. Problem solved.
we have eliminated all criminals in America, they are now called sick people;
This old canard. Some of the people who commit crimes in the United States are sick, and even conservatives think so – as they keep noting during the gun debate. But the vast, vast majority of criminals are labeled as criminals and are treated as such. The prisons and jails and courts are full of them and this idiotic statement is simply a made-up complaint and nothing more – and if you want to clear the docket, maybe you should tell your representatives to stop acting like petulant spoiled children and start doing the job we pay them for by confirming the huge backlog of judges they’ve been obstructing for the last five years.
we can use a human fetus for medical research, but it's wrong to use an animal.
Oh for crying out loud. In the United States, nearly all fetal research is banned, unless it directly supports the correction of fetal defects (such as advances in inter-uterine/neo-natal surgery) or the curing of fetal/maternal diseases or the improvement of human fertility. Fetal research is strictly controlled and under tight ethical review and is almost exclusively limited to the preservation, health, and wellbeing of both embryos and their mothers. In other words, just about all fetal research is used to save fetuses. On the other hand, we do use animals for research and though we’re getting better at it, some of that research can be pretty horrific. In some cases maybe, maybe, this is necessary (depending on how you define “necessity”), but in others it is most certainly not, it’s just convenient and less expensive. And if there are alternatives to animal testing, then please, by all means, explain to me why it’s ethical under the highly touted superior morality of your religion to continue using animals. I’m all ears.
We take money from those who work hard for it and give it to those who don't want to work;
Right. Like wealthy politicians who pretend to be farmers, or Fortune 500 executives who offshore their companies and pay no taxes at all, or millionaire venture capitalists whose wives raise horses as a hobby, or a sports team who want a new stadium, or corporate jet owners who get to write off their weekend jaunt to Bermuda as a “security” expense, or any of the other thousand bullshit giveaways that go to the rich and powerful. When you’re ready to close those tax loopholes, you can get back to me on welfare reform.
we all support the Constitution, but only when it supports our political ideology;
I’ll give you this one.
we still have freedom of speech, but only if we are being politically correct;
You know, in my experience the vast majority of those who complain about political correctness are just sore that they got called out for behaving like crass assholes. Conservatives hate political correctness … right up until a liberal calls Palin’s kid a retard. Freedom of speech in America is in no danger, from political correctness or anything else. You can publicly hate homosexuals right alongside of Westboro Baptist Church, the Mormons, and the Pope, if you like. You can call the First Lady uppity and a gorilla on a national radio program or advocate armed insurrection and revolution on public TV – and you don’t have to be politically correct in any fashion. But here’s the thing, if you engage in hate speech, and that’s exactly what it is, don’t come whining to the rest of us because you got called out on it. If you’re going to be a fucking asshole, then at least have the balls to own your bigotry and bile and stupidity and ignorance (apologies if that was a little blunt, I suppose I could have been a bit more tactful but I know how you hate political correctness and how much you enjoy it when I exercise my First Amendment rights).
parenting has been replaced with Ritalin and video games;
Yeah, yeah. And in the previous generation was raised on TV and Rock&Roll Music. And the generation before that was raised on the telephone and drive-in movie theaters. And the generation before that was raised on child labor and radio. And the generation before that was raised on the bible and beatings. So what? You know what’s wrong with the current generation? Nothing. Not a goddamned thing. You took their country to war and for the last ten years they’ve been stepping up. America had to draft your silly ass, but this generation, the one that you sneer at, these kids have been out there on the front lines of their own accord for more than a decade now. If we’re such shitty parents, where’d they get this sense of country and duty from? The only thing wrong with them is the fact that they let The Greatest Generation call them worthless and lazy without protest. You’re complaining about parenting? Ask yourself something, who raised the parents? That’s right, if you don’t like how we parent our kids, if you don’t like how we turned out, then you should have raised us better.
the land of the opportunity is now the land of hand outs;
Oh come on. Go see some of the rest of the world. Go see some of the Third World. Good grief, quit blubbering. As an American, you have more opportunity now than any other human being at any other time in history. You have no idea just how lucky you are, just how much opportunity you have. You can do anything, be anything, go anywhere, and sleep at night with a full belly. The most downtrodden American is still safer and better off than most of the rest of the planet. No opportunity? Hell, I just watched a private American spacecraft successfully return from two weeks at the International Space Station and splash down in the Pacific Ocean. No opportunity? You’re kidding me. Maybe if you didn’t spend all of your time composing an endless list of woe and misery, you’d see the opportunity that surrounds you. They make medicine for depression you know, they even tested it on animals.
the similarity between Hurricane Katrina and the gulf oil spill is that neither president did anything to help.
Hang on now, both events involved water, that’s a similarity. Lets see, they both happened on planet Earth. They were both televised. What? What’s that? I’m being stupid? Well what did you expect? You started it, I thought that’s what we were doing. Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon disaster is a ridiculous comparison, not to mention a stellar example of the fallacy of false equivalency. You want to make a valid comparison? Then compare Hurricane Katrina under the Bush administration to Hurricane Sandy under the Obama administration – and even those two events are comparable only in broad strokes. There is an enormous difference between federal help to a flooded city caused by a natural disaster and plugging a hole caused by human negligence at the bottom of the ocean. If you can’t see that for yourself there’s probably nothing I can say to help you get your head out of your ass.
And how do we handle a major crisis today? The government appoints a committee to determine who's at fault, then threatens them, passes a law, raises taxes, tells us the problem is solved so they can get back to their reelection campaign.
In other words, exactly the same way the US Government has worked (or not) since George Washington.
Of course the country isn’t like it was when you were growing up.
It’s not like it was when I was growing up either.
And it won’t be like it is now when my son is old.
That’s the nature of the thing.
If you want to live in a country that doesn’t grow or change or evolve, well, you could always pack up and move to North Korea, or Afghanistan, or Texas (Oh what? Like you didn’t see the punch line coming).
We won’t be here so we don’t care, but what about the kids? What kind of world will they inherit?
That’s right, you won’t be here. You won’t have to live with the consequences.
What kind of country will our kids inherit?
The one that you leave them, of course.
Likely they’ll inherit a country where people are still discriminated against due to their race, because when you had a chance to stamp out bigotry, you didn’t.
They’ll probably inherit a country where people are still discriminated against due to their sexual orientation, because you couldn’t overcome your fear and hatred and Bronze Age religion.
They’ll get a country where hunger and poverty and illness are still rampant (and thus war and crime), because when you had a chance to do something about it, you said it wasn’t your problem.
They’ll get a country where the climate grows ever hotter and the seas rise ever higher, because when you had a chance to stop it you denied that the problem even existed.
They’ll get a country where the schools and the libraries are still underfunded, because you couldn’t bear the thought of a defense budget less than the military expenditures of the next fourteen countries combined.
They’ll get a country where people still can’t afford access to healthcare, because you were afraid of death panels and other make-believe nonsense spouted by hysterical selfish fools.
They’ll get a country where the land is poisoned and the water undrinkable, because you didn’t want to put undue burdens on business.
They’ll get a country where energy is scarce and expensive, because you believed diversification and development of sustainable energy sources was a satanic plot.
They’ll get a country where the government careens from one manufactured crises to the next, still mired in debt, because you kept electing the same intransigent obstructionists, small-minded extremists, and dimwitted religious nutters who think they can create an actual budget based on a shitty science fiction novel written by a pill-popping paranoid fraud.
They’ll get a country where children are still slaughtered by armed madmen in their schools and in their theaters and in their homes, because instead of devising rational solutions you flooded the streets with more ammo and weapons at the insane insistence of yet more armed madmen.
They’ll get a country where people think that liberty is building a wall around the country and huddling in a hole clutching their goddamned guns, because instead of helping the rest of us hold it all together you spent your time dreaming of The Rapture and arming for civil war.
They’ll get a country where people still sit wallowing in pessimism pining for the good old days that never were.
Or not. We can change it, you know.
I keep getting sucked into this argument because it matters, because we can do better, because pessimism isn’t the legacy we should be leaving our kids, but we probably will anyway.
What has America become?
Whatever we want it to be. The American dream is different for everybody.
What has happened to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?
Exactly as the Founders expected it to do.
Exactly as the Framers designed it to do.
What kind of country will our kids inherit?
The one we leave them.
And I suspect they’ll be just fine.