Where’s Dale Carnegie when we need him?

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By Wendy Binnie

President Obama inherited failures that were monumental. The blood of thousands of our men and women was shed for lies and geld. The President has some of the best minds at work to get us out of the trillions of dollars in debt that the seven-year war in Iraq has cost; a country invaded on a lie. Polite words for torture do not fool anyone. The lawyers, who gave their opinion on (rendition?) that ‘enhanced interrogation’ was legal, should be disbarred. Hopefully we have moved on from the fear-mongering ditto-heads of the past and are trying to mend the mistakes that were made. However, the American people are going to be paying for a long time; not for what President Obama is trying to fix, but for the previous blunders. President Obama has a vision for innovation; a huge problem is, will Congress follow him? They must think they got there by their own cleverness and intelligence.

There is a finite amount of oil, when it’s gone it’s gone. We have not seen the last of four dollar a gallon gas. Wind energy and solar power will free us from the stranglehold of Big Oil. Big business and low taxes for the most wealthy was the hallmark of the previous administration. If all pay their fair share, we can create new jobs in new industries right here in America instead of big business shipping them to a foreign country. Everyone has their own opinion and political affiliation, that’s our right, but when your president is vilified even before his first 100 days in office, that is more than just an opinion.

Something is amiss with the people these days. One can’t say a word to anyone without hearing an entrenched position. They don’t want to discuss issues; they predicate their arguments on subjective considerations and sound bites from ‘last night’s television show. It is intriguing to note that it doesn’t decrease their bellicosity by an octave; this wrangling and sometimes hatred between Americans is the worst it has ever been. Universal health care will finally be adopted by our country – difficult to say when, but common sense says it must and will be run by the unflappable civil servants who run Medicare and Social Security. And the money will be collected in the same way as those in F.I.C.A. Then we’ll need an appointee to make sure no administration can raid the people’s till.

In the past, we were argumentative and you’d better put up a pretty good defense of your arguments; but at least people would listen to what you had to say without turning all red and blustery or getting into a fighting posture. People understood then that there were facts. And they tried to understand them. Our arguments could get rough but never abusive. No cursing or threatening; that was considered a barbarian tactic and weren’t we heads and shoulders above that? We argued about everything, but then went out with each other for coffee. That is not the case today. People will fight over nothing and you’d better not critique their deeply held beliefs, even if they are based on illusion. In the past, we would have no trouble being able to critique such things; but, today? Perhaps too touchy. Even the writer of this innocuous op/ed piece gets excoriated, lambasted or accused of being a ‘commie’ or one of those ‘pinko’ liberal types. It seems, in fact, that we are reverting to primitive times when compassion and understanding and shared values did not matter or did not even exist.

You see it in everything. Subtlety is dead. Culture seems like it’s hanging on by a string. Branding is all that counts; if you wear the wrong thing, it is proof that you are a lout; someone not to be seen with. Good conversation is something from long ago past. Comedy is slapstick and obvious and repelling. Today, people who go to see comics expect to hear outlandish remarks and every other word a curse; they think that’s funny. We have been treading water in our society for a long time. And some social philosophers would try to have us believe that we are making headway! They say we are the ‘great melting pot,’ but it looks like we are a lot of different people living in isolated little enclaves, not making the effort to try to get to understand one another.

Part of this lack of kinship with our fellow Americans has to do with a failed educational system that impeded our ability to understand and analyze information. Part of it is in our slavish commitment to self-entertainment and the passiveness that accompanies it. We are more isolated now than we’ve ever been. Everyone has their own TVs and they run off to private areas to watch alone. What does this kind of behavior suggest? This doesn’t auger well for the future because as the French philosophers told us, if we can’t find arguments that rationally defend our government, it could be gradually swallowed by something else, corporatism, monarchism, or dictatorship. Right now, listening to the Parties hacking it out and some of the past rulers expounding on their lopsided view of the world, shall we ever retake the high ground?

Yes, it is more than economics, banking, housing, it’s how we think and deal with each other as a people. And it is not encouraging. All of this could change. We could find our better angels and turn things around; but the seraphim are faint, scarcely heard. Even our government seems content to let all of the violations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights go unquestioned. We are living in an era that we will have occasion to revisit from time to time because we have passed through what at one time were thought to be barriers for our society; that is, if we survive at all.

As I was saying . . . 

Wendy England Binnie a novelist and op/ed writer lives in Oak Trace Villas.