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Zer Netmouse
September 22nd, 2012
12:16 am


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Saving America
Brian turned in early and Captain America was available for free through Amazon prime's streaming video library so I just watched it. It's great living in the future, some of the time.

But having finished it, I am reminded why there is so much nostalgia (among those who did not live through it) for the period of the second world war, and why there is so much attraction to stories like this. There is a clear bad guy, a band of unquestionable heroes, and a surety of purpose that is mostly lacking in our country right now.

We have thousands of Watt-hours of Americans being mostly idle, while others walk ramshod over our rights and our democracy, and then other thousands of Watt-hours being spent just to survive and raise families in a country that no longer seems to value that process as it once did.

Our kids are being sold Angry Birds clothing and toys. Is flinging birds with a slingshot in order to kill a bunch of pigs really the clearest, most compelling narrative we can offer our kids right now?

I know, I know, there's also Dora (explore!) and Elmo (Love!) and Barbie (Buy!) and the Disney Princesses (Not even going there) and Spongebob (don't even know enough to guess), but I think the lack of national cohesion is visible in more than just our presidential politics.

Watching the film, one of the moments that most caught in my throat was the scene with kids running through the streets, following a leader with a Captain America shield. We don't have narratives like that about many current figures, real or fictional, that our kids can pick up and run with, at least not any that are modern.

A friend loaned me some DVDs of the Wonder Woman television shows. And again, oh lookie. She fought the Nazis. Though I guess in the cartoons I watched as a kid she must have done something else...?

When I was a kid we watched M*A*S*H, which had more complexity but still had heroes. And of course there were the fantasies. Peter Pan, Snow White, Star Trek, etc. But in the meantime, complexity was undermining (sometimes in good ways) the stories that had created the roleplaying games of years past. Cowboys and Indians? Not so clear-cut, once examined, who is the bad guy. Cops and Robbers? We had Chips, but also The Dukes of Hazard. Our generation especially admired the clever loners. MacGyver and the A-Team. As we entered the Me Decade and watched the communities and families around us struggle and falter.

But the problem is not just our kids and their stories, its ourselves. Who do we hope to emulate? Who do we look up to? Who do we trust, who has power? Clearly, if you look at the polls, there's Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, and, for me, Melinda Gates. Oh, and Elmo of course. As well as many hundreds of doctors, teachers, and emergency personnel out fighting the good fight, but often fighting the tides of administrative obstructionism.

Maybe this is why I keep a copy of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Maybe I should watch it. But I'm afraid it will just get me down, too.

I would love to see 10 or 20 million of us march on Washington and our own State Capitols, demanding an end to corporate financing of elections and candidates, and a decent system of public financing and media access to replace it. And legislators brave enough to put forth the bills to make it happen. And posters and film strips supporting the idea: Have a cup of Freedom!

But I don't believe in it. That it could happen right now, I mean.

In Captain America (the movie), the biggest job of the female foil is to have faith in him, to remind him of his purpose. I feel like my country is hanging around waiting for someone to do that for us. It's not a happy feeling.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 23rd, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
The problem here is that there are two sides to the question. I'm very opposed to public financing of elections and media access provisions -- I've seen it at work first hand when I lived overseas, and the results are about what you might expect.

Frankly, the entire dance of "reform" of public financing of elections produces results that are unacceptable. I prefer removing all restrictions, including required disclosure, and allowing complete freedom of expression.

I realize you don't agree. The lack of agreement means that you won't get what you want and I won't get what I want. I want legislators who are "brave enough" to remove all restrictions, which I view as a requirement for freedom of speech. You want legislators who are "brave enough" to impose the rules you list to, as you believe, make elections fair. But this isn't an issue of bravery, it's an issue of conflicting viewpoints.

Finally, I fear a man on a white horse coming to rescue us.
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)
With the current political process, the only rescuers we're likely to get are "White Horse" Democrat millionaires.

The advantage of publicly financed elections is that they can level the playing field so that people with the know how and desire to be good public servants can run for office without having to outspend rival candidates.
The current process, in which PACs are legal, reduces elections to games of fund raising, for the most part.

You might argue that teachers and school systems can ultimately stem the tide of ignorance and lies by raising a smarter and more discerning generation of voters, but where are the schools going to be able to do this in an environment where the only goal many students see is simply personal survival or personal success through the corporate system.

The system of government looking after public interest is one that served the U.S. well in the 20th Century, and it continues to do so, to some extent in the 21st Century. I believe we should continue to provide an incentive for citizens whose primary desire is to serve the public interest to run for public office. With corporations able to control government by being the principle campaign donors for elected officials, I believe we distance ourselves from the chance of electing a good government.

Are you saying that the accumulation of corporate wealth is a process that outranks providing a high quality of life for all citizens of a country? Historically, this is a philosophy that causes nations to fail.
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2012 02:58 am (UTC)
I regret to say that I disagree with your statements in whole and in part — the assumptions, the fundamental ideas, the outcomes, and your interpretation of history. However, I sincerely appreciate the respectful tone in which you offer your opinion; I'm afraid civility is in short supply these days, and I'm delighted to find that you have reservoirs handy.

Let's pick a different venue if you'd like to discuss this; I hate to hijack other peoples' blogs for these sorts of debates.
[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2012 04:04 am (UTC)
I'm perfectly happy to have this space host this sort of discussion, though the two of you have such different perspectives of reality, I'm not sure I can see where it could go. :)

Perhaps if you gave specific examples as to what history illustrates your models of success or failure of societies and governments?

[User Picture]
Date:September 25th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
I want legislators who are brave enough to listen to the citizens in the region they are supposed to represent, and vote (regularly) and submit legislation that is in their constituents' best interests, as best they understand them.

I understand that some peoples' interpretation of the best interests of the citizens will be different than mine, and I accept that. It's when the system of contributions from corporations that do not reside (or in some cases, even operate) within their home state influences legislators more than other considerations that worries me.

You can't completely get away from that, but I believe it ought to be possible to at least lessen the tremendous independent or party funding requirement that currently seems to be necessary for a candidate to have a decent chance of being successfully elected or re-elected.

There are exceptions of course. I'm greatly enjoying the stories about progressive grassroots politics in How to get Stupid White Men Out of Office, for instance. But they require years of groundwork and spectacular and dedicated candidates.
Date:September 25th, 2012 10:47 am (UTC)
Barbie is very consumer-y, but the good thing about the Barbie movies is that they are all about being friends and doing the right thing. Of course, you also wear pretty clothes and have nice hair while doing these wonderful things....
[User Picture]
Date:September 26th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC)
This is a poignant post. I also just recently saw Captain America (as you're likely discovering, being a parent puts one quite behind the queue on the movie wishlist -- K and i average maybe 1-1.5 movies in a theatre per year).

I don't know exactly what to say to your post besides, "yeah! that!".

I think the key point that this all boils down to has to do with the societal propagation of values. I think of things like Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, and that book by that guy ("Understanding Media", perhaps?) where he compares the television to the campfires of ancient tribal societies and discusses how our mechanisms of the transmission of values have eroded.

I could pontificate endlessly on my theories of systemic evolution and how the current socio-econo-political structure perpetuates the divisive, polarized, non-sensible debates and pointless mainstream-media distraction that allows it to persist. I could go on about the values i think we need to be espousing and propagating against the torrential onslaught of socially condoned materialistic selfishness and brain-numbing swaths of psychedelically mesmerizing pseudo-informative bandwidth.

In the end, tho, i've reached the point where i really don't feel like i can point to the way out. I'm simply not sure where it all goes from here. I don't see a Government that can save us, nor anything in science or industry, nor any movement -- religious or political or otherwise -- that seems to shine the right color or light. My last bastion of hope is in our communities -- in the social microcosmos -- and in the idea that just maybe things will start to get so bad that people actually turn off the damn television and start to look to their neighbors and loved ones again, and perhaps rebuild this nation from the neighborhood up.

Other than that, my only idea for an institutional solution involves a quote from a classic Jim Cameron film: "Take off, nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

Ah, well. Hope you're holding up well in the madness. Kiss the kid and pass the beer nuts. :)
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2012 04:21 pm (UTC)
Don't get me started on Barbies. I currently have three nieces, all of whom have way too many dolls already, and relatives just keep piling them on. I suspect these relatives have never been in the girls' rooms.

It's also funny that my oldest niece's favorite gift from me was a home-made purse. I like purses, still girly, but practical as well.

I'm ready to take back Washington, but the reality is us liberals are a minority, and the propaganda machine of the fat-cats is stupifying.
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