American Regret

By R. D. Flavin

1-25-2013

     Though he was officially sworn in the day before, our forty-fourth president celebrated his inauguration for a second four-year term this past Monday, which coincidentally was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day (though several states still play the name game with the floating federal holiday).  Pres. Obama gave a rousing inaugural address, he's a great public speaker, and he specifically mentioned more work to be done.  I was optimistically moved by his challenge: “With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”  Well, contrary to Paul Anka's lyrics to “My Way,” America has also had regrets, and more than “too few to mention.”

     New World anthropology still can't definitively answer when (and where) the first North and Central Asian populations reached these shores.  Overland, coastal, both?  Some transoceanic “migration” occurred with various plant species, monkeys on vegetation rafts from Africa to South America (those lil' critters must have been scared), and polar bears crossing on ice floes in the North Atlantic.  While most so-called hyper-diffusionist theories involving pre-Columbian Old and New World contacts have dissipated from a lack of proof, there's still the Norse at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada (c. 1000 CE).  While there's no direct evidence of contact between the Norse at L'Anse aux Meadows and others, written records from the thirteenth century mention “Skræling” as a term for the native or indigenous populations that the Norse encountered.   It's thought that many of those pre-Plymouth Rock encounters didn't end with a Thanksgiving dinner...  The North and Central Asian populations were in the New World when explorers from Europe first arrived here.  And, they'd been here for a thousand years (in the case of the Inuit) and for many thousands of years for the rest of the New World continents.  I've never liked how we treated and continue to regard the so-called Native Americans.  I have regrets...

     That the American economy was founded on the practice of indentured servitude and only became (African) slave-based when the slave-traders got better at their craft is also a tough bit of history to reckon with.  With our American War of Independence (1775-1783), we pulled down statues of King George III and melted them into weapons (bullets, actually), as the ancient Chinese did two thousand years previously, and as Saddam Hussein did in reverse with Iranian guns to build his The Swords of Qādisīyah arch in Baghdad.  Our Revolutionary War was a “call to history,” we said some unkind things about the British, that was then ...and this now.  There are still many freedoms to fight for.

     We continue to debate when and where the Age of Enlightenment began, but most agree that it ended in France.  As reason argued against intolerance, it soon turned into a classic case of “I've got mine, now you get yours.”  It's common to distinguish the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Then, there's the 1920 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, though the subsequent 1923 Equal Rights Amendment (despite passing both houses of Congress in 1972) was ultimately defeated by the1982 lobbying efforts of the anti-feminist and conservative, Phyllis Schlafly.  And, three decades later, with regrets, we still have ...bitterness and tragedy.

     The recent attacks on women's rights have been worse than anything offered by reality television.  Opposition to even moderate gun control is increasing almost exponentially.  Many states have passed laws supporting same-sex unions, but a balanced discussion at a federal level seems unlikely anytime soon.  Our war on drugs has turned America into a near-police state with over 264 private prisons currently housing non-violent inmates serving drug-related sentences.  Really?  Prohibition all over again...

     When dealing with basic human rights we're required to define human-ness, which in the case of abortion laws confront estimates of fetal viability outside of a womb.  Twenty-eight weeks was/is a standard, though science and state restrictions can affect that “standard.”  Okay, so we're “human” after we successfully leave the womb and that's when most of our rights kick in.  However, in America one has to wait until one turns eighteen to vote and twenty-one to imbibe alcohol.  Personally, being able to vote and go to war seems awfully important and I'd be for lowering the drinking age to eighteen and radically increasing criminal penalties.  Oh, and then there's this whole age requirement to...

     Age of consent reform is long overdue.  Sure, the pedo-creeps were pushing for it, but they've all been marginalized.  What we find today is a whole bunch of 15-17 year old young adults sex-ting, having relationships, and getting into serious legal trouble because they're doing the nature-thing that parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and generations of long-dead lovers have done.  The so-called “Romeo and Juliet laws” seem a practical starting place, though ...conservatives are against such reform.   It's the “I've got mine, now you get yours” approach again.

     Freedoms are certainly worth the struggles, but America is also in need of repair.  For many years we've been warned about our deteriorating infrastructure, yet haven't significantly addressed the problem.  Our roads and bridges have served us well and now require our assistance.  Many dams and other public works are in ruins and should be rebuilt or strengthened.  Estimates are consistently in the billions, which usually means ...it could and will cost even more.  With our struggling economy it seems almost too much to hope for, yet without hope we admit that our experiment has failed.

     Once upon a time, not actually all that long ago (as some are still alive that remember), the United States undertook a bold answer to unemployment and created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federal agency which put millions of Americans to work between 1935 and 1943.  Much good was done during those years.  We need a sequel...

     During Pres. Obama's first term, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its associated Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (aka Obamacare) was a grand contribution to reason and responsibility.  The late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) would have been proud.  Hoping for another WPA seems like wishing we could go to the Moon.  Wait for it...

Things I truly feel,

Rick

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