Politics is a wretched thing. Even when observing it from afar, as I, and most Americans do, politics has an overpowering stench. One of the things that is so frustrating about politics is its constancy. The maneuvers, weak compromises, backstabbing and partisan bickering that we lament about Washington these days has been the modus operandi in the capital for generations. What fools we are to think that snake oil salesmen peddling change every other November will actually change a thing.
Another great frustration is the lack of power of the citizenry. Yes, it is our votes that put a person in power, that one five minute act on election day when months of pounding by press, pundits, and candidates supposedly comes to fruition in the actions of an informed and engaged public. But that is it. After voting, the public’s say is done. A real huckster can find themselves elected on charm and slick salesmanship and run amok for years before they’re held to account by the voters. There’s little else to say about a situation like this, other than that it sucks.
Even when the best possible candidate finds their way into office, entrenched rules of political conduct and general momentum killing roadblocks in the legislative process can turn a great leader into a caretaker with no realistic agenda overnight. And it’s not like our leaders are wasting all their time overindulging and over-bureaucratizing the minutiae of highway appropriations or agricultural safety requirements. No, they’re letting such things lapse based on the interest, or lack thereof, in the Oval Office in maintaining competent governance.
The scoundrels we put in Washington are debating the great questions of our time: healthcare, global warming, etc., and they are found to be wanting. No issue that ever, or has ever, come before national leadership is truly intractable. There is no problem created by man that does not have a human solution that can be debated and resolved effectively. What prevents our leaders and our nation from being effective stewards of the citizenry is nothing more than money.
Global warming: money.
Fixing these problems in a way that benefits American citizens, and in the case of global warming, the world, requires that profits in the industries that have created the problems in the first place go down.
Insurance companies that have fine tuned the healthcare industry into making sure they collect as much in premiums as possible without having to actually cover healthcare costs is taking a very real human toll in lives every year. The fact we have not been able to correct so obviously broken a system since Teddy Roosevelt envisioned government financed healthcare over a hundred years ago is more than an embarrassment, it is tragic; an indication of man’s inhumanity to man. It is the clearest illustration we have today of profit from another’s pain, and it is morally indefensible.
The world needs energy to sustain the lifestyles of humankind, and fossil fuels are the cheapest source. As long as they stay cheap, they will continue to be the main source. But continuing to burn fossil fuels is wreaking havoc on the environment. The solution is obvious. In order to foster development of alternative sources of energy, energy from fossil fuels must become prohibitively expensive. No one can make such a commitment, however, because it would take a drawing down in standard of living, reducing a person’s excess material wealth. This is painful for the individual in the short term, good for the environment and humankind in the long term, but death to profitability almost immediately. We are caught in a paradox, where the world economy cannot afford a slowdown, even in its rate of growth, but the environment cannot continue to absorb the effects of the energy age without massive blowback. We are incapable of sublimating profit for a sustainable environment, and the consequences could be dire, among the most calamitous in recorded history.
We look to our leaders to address these problems, to use words and deeds not just to pass legislation forcing us to follow their will, but to coalesce the citizenry into action. We cannot rely on them to do the work of fixing the environment for us — that will instead take a cooperative effort by every person on the planet — but our leaders are acting as a roadblock, either endlessly debating solutions or, good lord, debating if there is a problem at all, as if mountains of scientific evidence are not validated unless they have been voted on by a gaggle of ex-lawyers in Washington.
Healthcare and global warming are only two of the pressing problems that our leaders are addressing, or not addressing, as the case my be, and on the strength of their performances on these two alone, there is little reason to believe that our leaders are great, or even competent. The smallness of their vision is truly astounding. The candor with which they shamelessly pursue power and money on the backs of the voters is horrifying. How they inspire hope in anyone is a mystery.
Sideshows of partisan frivolousness make matters even worse, pitting different moral mandates against each other, leading to highly publicized votes on carrying concealed weapons across state lines. Or, as was the case in 2005, of whether or not a vegetative infirm could be allowed to simply slip away into death. These are distractions that have nothing to do with rights or values, and everything to do with partisan warfare. They are flank attacks designed to weaken the other side, and there is one party in this country that embraces these tactics wholly, is particularly cynical in its approach to politics, and particularly egregious in its lack of respect for the voting public. The other party may be in power now, but fails its constituents by refusing to muster the balls to put the fiends across the aisle in their place, even though they received a clear mandate from the voters to do so.
I would like to look towards those in charge and feel more than an emotional gamut that runs from unease to anger to disillusionment to fear. I would like to know that their purpose is using intellect and insight to ready the nation for the future, instead of managing to fuck up both the future and the present.