Americans love to bitch and moan about the government——not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with that, Lord knows there’s plenty to bitch about. The soundness of people’s grievance, however, varies considerably. Typically this is justified annoyance with the tax code and frustration with the Internal Revenue Service. But often this begrudgement is bred of a deeply embedded paranoia and fear of the government. There are Americans who talk so gravely of our state, they don’t even seem to appreciate the fact that it’s one of the great freedoms of that institution that allows them to openly denounce it.

Limbaugh’s sentiments make still less sense. I.E., he got good and angry when, at a political debate between Ted Kennedy and Mit Romney, constituents asked what the candidates were going to do about crime. It pissed Limbaugh off that all they wanted to talk about was issues rather than character, or as he put it: ‘‘What are you gonna give me, what are you gonna do for me?’’ He said these people need to stop whining, get off their butts, and do something about these problems themselves. Yeah, how right foolish of them: expecting the government, that shapes and enforces the law, to handle crime? What could have they have been thinking?! This, Rush said, was just another example of how all Democrats want is for the government to completely take care of everybody.

It’s not easy explaining such irrational antigovernment sentiments, by Limbaugh or others. Perhaps it’s strong religious attachments that causes certain people to so fear this other predominant institution; perhaps afraid of their religion being overshadowed or prohibited, somewhat understandable considering all the governments around the world which do infringe on their citizen’s religious freedoms. But of course most people only have a problem with this if it’s not their faith that’s ruling. And so really it shouldn’t be in the least surprising that there are Americans who have a problem with a government that neither condemns nor embraces any particular religion.

·    ·    ·

Human civilization can be foremost characterized as of a people interacting with one another in the contexts of self-imposed laws and commonly held standards. The most critical of such social structures have been religious and government institutions.

And though these are far from enlightening of themselves, they do help us to evolve in thought, providing us with a surface foundation from which to begin the learning process. In the chaotic abyss that is human consciousness, these structures supply an elemental sense of order and security from which people may go about the process of realizing guidance within.

Unfortunately, the majority of these social institutions have been less than accommodating towards individuality, based largely on conformist dogma. And unfortunately most of humanity has used these institutions as the basis for all their concepts of truth and identity altogether, in substitution of their own personal understanding.

But over time an increasing effort has been made to make the government more objective and religiously neutral (much to many believers great dismay). Even with the 1st Amendment a well established criterion, Americans continue to have a real trying time grasping what ‘‘separation of church and state’’ means, or how such concepts are kept separate.

Aside from the religious epithets still employed by our government, a good example of this is the continuing illegality of prostitution and, in certain states, sodomy. The laws illegalizing these are based on nothing more than certain people’s religious beliefs. There is absolutely no sound basis for why such passive acts should be illegal. If a person chooses to sell their body for sex, or if a couple decides to engage in a little backdoor boogie, that should be no one’s affair but their own. The only threat posed to anyone’s freedom, in any sense, are those puritan-based laws that prohibit consenting adults from engaging in these sexual acts. This may not seem like a serious oppression to some, but it stands as a clear indicator of how we’ve yet to fully separate religion from state.

The government isn’t meant to give guidance, to give people a sense of moral direction, nor should it be. Its underlying purpose is to protect people’s freedoms, which includes their physical and spiritual freedoms from oppression by others (the government itself most certainly included). Our government must work simply in terms of perceiving people’s freedoms and then shaping the law so as to best protect these. It’s freedom, not morality, that is the purpose of the government——the freedom by which people may realize their own sense of moral guidance.

Certainly this is the reason so many people are fearful of a godless government, because it allows more mental freedom than they’re comfortable with. While a church-state encourages belief in that faith, and a Communist state encourages faith in the state, a government such as ours which has religious freedom seems to be saying that the truth doesn’t lie in any of these faiths, but in all of them and none of them. Whatever works for each individual. Its neutrality seems like encouragement for everyone to search for their own beliefs. And what could be more frightening to a religious people who believe all truth lies in a single book?

·    ·    ·

What’s ironic in describing our government’s separation from religion is that, at the same time, it’s developed its own rigid form of traditionalism. Of all the institutions that cling to the past, the government trails only slightly behind religion. But being that it’s supposed to work for its citizens, the government isn’t an institution quite like any other. It’s much more like a business dealing in the assurance of freedom. And the only way for the vast majority of businesses to stay afloat nowadays is by trying their damnedest to stay one step behind, one step ahead, or in step with all the technological and cultural changes that have taken place.

And then politicians are perplexed as to why citizens are so displeased with the government? It’s because they’ve failed, or rather resisted, to redesign their operations to accommodate the times; because they’re practicing this prehistoric form of government in this rapidly changing new world. The government’s gotta come into the 21st century along with the rest of the country. Which means opening lines of communication and information; which means actually getting the job done as opposed to just taking comfort within the tradition of pomp and circumstance.

·    ·    ·

Another of the government’s weaknesses is its deliberate over-complexity, otherwise known as bureaucracy. It was most likely a fear of using their great power in a negative manner that led our preceding politicians to create much of the bureaucracy that currently engulfs the government. Why? Trust, I’d assume, or a lack thereof——a lack of trust in their fellow man and possibly even in themselves, for, while their intent may have been genuine, perhaps they feared nonetheless using the enormous power of the government to great ill.

Today things are different, though. Oh sure, there are still religious fanatics who think America should be a church-state, there are still racists and sexists and all kinds of prejudiced people in this country, and the threat of the government to unfairly restrict the freedoms of its citizens always has been and always will be a matter of the utmost concern. But those safeguards no longer need be in the form of suffocating bureaucracy, as has been the case for far too long.

Limbaugh-like conservatives, on the other hand, seem to believe that the key to improving the government is in blindly reducing its size and spending. And it’s in this insane vein that many politicians are campaigning to sap the government flaccid, never mind actually improve how it works. It’s the political equivalent of a bleeding, and should be about as effective as that practice was medically. (Don’t you just love medieval medicine analogies?)

The issue isn’t how big the government is or how much it spends——it’s about what our government does and for what it spends our taxpayer money. Quality, not quantity, is what counts here. Clearly the quality of our government leaves much to be desired, but the solution isn’t simply in declaring that it doesn’t work because it’s too big and spends too much money. Those are products of its inefficiency, not the cause of it.

·    ·    ·

The greatest and most obvious flaw of our government is the manner by which politicians are elected to office. Getting elected isn’t cheap. It takes publicity, which doesn’t come free. One must spend massive amounts of money to secure such positions. Which means raising the funds necessary to run for high political office opens the doorway to much corruption.

Money representing the special interest of certain organizations (like the NRA) or businesses (like the tobacco industry) in the form of campaign donations, gifts, or lobbyist junkets undoubtedly come with many strings attached, essentially making our highest elected officials prime targets for this bribery-like puppetry.

It’s most vital that reform be made to the way campaign donations are given to political candidates. More than anything, it is this influence which taints the decisions made by certain representatives. It’s really unbelievable how long such special-interest and corporate lobbying/campaign donations have gone unchallenged. Whose opinion do you suppose politicians value more——that of the people who vote them into office or of those wealthy entities who presently finance their campaigns? Were the hands of these special-interest lobbyists taken out of the asses of our politicians, then surely they’d care more for the opinion of their voters.

Besides the possibility of finding ways to publicly finance the campaigns of legitimate political candidates, the solution to this problem seems simple enough (at least from my uneducated standpoint). And that is to make it so that all donations are made anonymously and that there be a thousand dollar maximum. Anyone and their grandmother could make a donation, and the politicians won’t have a clue who it’s from. And even if they did, a grand hardly buys much favor these days. Furthermore, politicians should no longer be allowed to accept lobbyist-funded junkets.

Not that this’ll stop bribery altogether, mind you, but at the least it’d put an end to the legal bribery of such special-interest lobbying/campaign donations. Any money (or ‘‘gifts’’) knowingly given to a politician should be considered a flat-out bribe, whether used for their campaign or on themselves personally.

·    ·    ·

’Tis difficult to imagine any significant changes happening in our society until the way the government itself works is fixed, improved, reformed.

You can’t get far in a broken car. Neither in a dysfunctional government. Our government seems to cause as many problems as it helps solve. If our society is like a giant heart, then our government is that heart’s main and most clogged artery. It isn’t reasonable to continue putting all our interest in what that artery can do us the entire heart until the blockage is cleared, lest we should only succeed at making the entire heart weaker and weaker.

Therefore the task our government should most intensely be concerning itself with right now is overhauling and improving its own state; how can the government improve the state of the country if its own state is less than functional?

I’m not suggesting the answer to all our problems lies within the government. To be sure, any real improvement made to the state of our nation will require the assistance of people on many different personal and social levels. But there’s no denying our government is one of the greatest influences shaping our society; nor is there any denying the need to reverse the negative impact our government is currently having on much of our society.

But those on Capitol Hill won’t make any such changes a reality without the massive support of their constituents. And so raises the question of what approach best influences the decisions of our political representatives.

It has been said that if you don’t vote then you don’t have the right to complain. I couldn’t disagree more. Generally speaking, I’d assume that those who don’t vote have even more of a reason to complain, since often the reason they didn’t vote was because they felt there was no one worth voting for (which is usually true), and they’d rather choose no one than the less of two heels. ’Cause if our officials are reflective of those who elect them, then often the smartest thing one can do is not vote (sad as that may sound). This isn’t to encourage people not to vote, but to demand more of our representatives.

Intelligence is something one must judge on a case by case, individual basis——mostly it takes a moderate amount of intelligence on the part of the judge to recognize this in others.

For some, though, it’s easier just to look for this notion of what’s ‘‘righteous,’’ and anyone who mumbles this rhetoric like a broken record must make for a good politician, right? No. Wrong. A politician needs more than this glossy PR image of having ‘‘a strong moral base’’ to be effective in our government; it also takes a moderate amount of common sense, appreciation of logic, or just a basic grasp on reality, something too many politicians (especially those in the House and Senate) seem to be seriously lacking.

Why? Because voters judge candidates based on some shallow assessment of ‘‘character’’; because voters, by and large, still like to be coddled by politicians like so many insecure babes. It’s already a well established caricature that politicians are all truth-benders who’ll tell the voting public whatever they must in order to get elected——yet that’s still how voters continue to be wooed to one candidate over another, impressed by some vague rambling of how grand they’ll make everything (somehow), never mind addressing the specific ills which plague our nation.

Only when voters begin to judge and scrutinize candidates on their actual knowledge and ideas will the quality of our politicians improve. We all must take the blame for the ineptitude of our own elected officials, and only we will be able to improve this.

Hopefully, with the spread of the personal computer and access to the Internet, the public will find more effective ways to take direct control over the government; to brush up on what’s happening within the government and give our representatives a sincere piece of mind concerning it.

The real power of a republic such as ours isn’t just in the right to vote. Voting by itself is such a little voice of what the people would like to see happen. No, the real power lies in the promise of a vote. We’ve all been told how constituency means we can influence the decisions of those we vote into office by sharing our opinions with them. So long as lobbyists and corporations control the campaign process for political candidates, then constituency won’t mean jack.

But seeing as how the prospect of campaign reform has recently come to light, with a little (or a lot) more prodding, the House and Senate might indeed overhaul the manner in which their campaigns are financed. Once that happens the public is gonna have to be prepared to be the voice that most influences the decisions made by our representatives. We’re gonna have to make sure the voice that shapes those decisions is an informed one, and that it’s a voice that can instigate positive change.


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