Difficult Differences
By R. D. Flavin

     We acknowledge our differences in many ways.  The story of the old Quaker husband who turns to his wife and confesses, “Sometimes I think the whole world is queer except for me and thee; and sometimes I have my doubts about thee” is telling, as it points up our basic sentient loneliness and insecurity.  A related quip from Walter Barrett (writing as “R. Andom”), “All men are equal, but some are more so than others” extends the sad honesty concerning much of human nature.  Beyond an individual favoring him or her self, many choose family and a mate, their ethnic or cultural groupings (e.g. Irish-American or comic-book nerds), those who share their religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, favorite sports team, musical genre, fast-food habits, or other identifying positions and traits which extend the “Us versus Them” analogy.  While it is increasingly clear that our nascent humanity was significantly developed from our caring for the young, old, sick and wounded, the declaration “We take care of our own” should not automatically infer ...we destroy or kill those who aren't like us.  We've always had difficult differences, yet we should demand from ourselves an approach that such differences are not insurmountable.  Without understanding and consensual compromise, everyone loses.

     I've long held the (admittedly indefensible) position that there's only one true crime, that is anything which threatens the species (i.e. “us,” Homo sapiens sapiens or humankind).  Sure, murder and cannibalism are definitely not to be encouraged, but some argue that Triple Whopper® with Cheese hamburgers are equally wrong.  If it's true, that we really are Nature's way to experience itself and alone in the Multiverse of reality, anything that endangers or harms humanity should be unequivocally deemed double-plus ungood bad.  However, that's an extremist approach with suggestions of nuclear or germ warfare, purposeful global warming, or any scenario that involves robots or Artificial Intelligences subverting life on Mom Terra.  Sidestepping the catastrophic, there are many ways we chronically threaten ourselves and almost all of them begin with the exploitation of differences and greedy opportunism.  We acknowledge, for the most part, many laws and many, many crimes.

     The so-called “Culture Club Clause” which asks, “Do you really want to hurt me?,” deserves to be applied as often as needed.  A tad more specific than the generality of the Hillelian “Golden Rule” of hypothetical do’s and don’ts, an inquiry of imminent or planned harm seems reasonable.  Intent, direct and/or conditional, is relevant in jurisprudence, revelatory in personal relationships, representative of valor, and evidence of maliciousness.  Quantum physicists can predict (read: 'guess' with confidence) the behavior of certain quanta particles, unlike the science-fiction “precogs” of Philip K. Dick who identify criminals before they actually commit their crimes, and then there's politics...  Politicians promise much (often too much), are subsequently accused of lying or gross ineptitude, and yet it's their intent which garners the vote and lines their pockets with “donations.”  Invoking Boy Jorge is à propos, as a politician's declared intent to hurt or harm (regardless of future actualization) is sufficient to rally one side against a threatened other.  After Miranda (384 U.S. 436 – 1966), Americans have the 'right' to remain silent, but a societal and individual duty to ...sometimes not to.

     Democracy has come a long way since the 507 BCE Athenian “people's rule,” though the ballot continues to be open equally to both the best and the worst of elected officials and referendums.  The United States of America was primarily founded on the principle of self-determination and the guarantee of human rights based upon the ideals of natural law (i.e. from reason and apparency).  Clever and cute patriotism aside, our “Union” was flawed from the beginning...  We cheated with compromise and had to fight a civil war with ourselves to abolish slavery.  A woman's right to vote was “granted” a year after the Noble Experiment (var. “Prohibition”) was passed, eighteen-year-olds finally got their chance at the ballot box (though currently allowed to die for their country in combat, but unable to consume alcohol), and some progress has been made in recognition of sexual preference, but our trail of breadcrumbs has been disturbed and we're still lost in the woods...  And our other “Prohibition,” the recent “War on Drugs”?  Ouch...  I can't think of an easier way to ease court and prison overcrowding, reap the benefits of consumer taxation, and ...destroy criminal networks, than the moderate and responsible legalization of some “recreational” drugs.  Theoretically, it's unconstitutional to be “Constitutional,” as our Constitution of the United States of America is constantly changing, evolving, correcting itself, and seeking a surer means of expressing (and enforcing) life, liberty, and yadda-yadda.  It's a cruel irony that the last constitutional amendment was 1992's limit on Congressional pay raises.  More and more, “Them versus Us” appears to be Congress against the American people.

     Oh, and then there's capitalism...  A conversational familiarity with Adam Smith's 1776 work on a “system of natural liberty,” The Wealth of Nations, isn't as necessary as a reminder of such time-tested adages as “A fool and his money are soon parted,” “There's a sucker born every minute,” and “Jesus saves, but Moses invests...”  The current semi-soft protests by the various “Occupy Wall Street” movements are indicative of a widespread disconnect and unpreparedness many in America (and elsewhere) have with the capitalist system.  I'm under the impression that in the late '60s and early '70s, a large percentage of Vietnam War demonstrators were emphatically pro-American and pro-defense, however they couldn't wrap their heads (and hearts) around the financial and human costs of the whole anti-Communist thing...  And now Vietnam has a thriving tourist industry.   Spiking a similar vein, if truth be told, I'd wager a sizable chunk of the Occupiers are confirmed capitalists, don't have a problem concerning taxation with representation, it's just that much like a casino, the House always wins and the rich are getting richer at the expense of Americans who didn't really believe they were playing an economic game.   Sure, Wall Street is partially to blame, but so are the decades-old trends of downsizing and outsourcing, and the buy-and-break-up strategies of Romney's Bain Capital LLC group and the bored nastiness of Carl Icahn and those like him.  Even simple viruses seem to 'know' not to kill off all of their victims and to leave something for a future assault.  The “Movers and Shakers” have danced too much, too long, and the band hasn't been paid for a while.  Yeah, it's time for change we can spend...

     BTW, that last comment was not anti-Obama, as I fully appreciate the job he's doing and have no doubt he'll be re-elected next year.  That said, I believe the surest way to effect change in a democratic society is to vote the corrupt, the stupid, and the mean out of office.  If it's true that people only change when they have to (e.g. smoking, drinking, condiment abuse), electing competent representation is essential.  Our difficult differences concerning women's rights, sexuality, and science need to be addressed asap.  I'm reminded of Carl Sagan's observation that every newspaper has a daily pseudo-scientific astrology column, but nary a one has anything about the science of astronomy.  The corrupt, the stupid, and the mean have hurt America (and other countries) too much and for too long.  I sincerely hope we apply the “Culture Club Clause” before our next election.

Two hazy thinking about door Three and choosing One,
Rick


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