Conservatism in America
Before I begin, I'd like to make a disclaimer: I am a bit hesitant about getting into politics, because this is one of the things that gets people over-excited. Nothing gets folks fired up like politics and/or religion; people tend to have very strong, deep-rooted beliefs and typically don't want to change them. But, if we are in the thinking and learning mode . . .
What I actually got out of the film Bowling for Columbine was that we are a nation of fear. The problem is not guns, but fear. So gun control will not solve the problem. Our fear is what causes us to act violently. We see this theme played out over and over again in the US. We have to attack Iraq, because they will do something to us in the future. Bush used our fear and outrage after 911 in order to justify attacking Iraq. But what Iraq is really about is oil = money. It seems it is pretty easy to fool most of the people most of the time. The ones who were not fooled were labeled traitors. Maybe that is what Clinton should have done when the Republicans went after him. Anyone who disagrees with me is a traitor to this great nation.
A common example of our fear can be seen in the commercials for cell phones showing a young teen with a flat tire in the rain, and an ominous stranger approaching. The message is that if you love your child, you will buy this product. And we buy it. Most Americans have not been trained to think critically, but we have been taught to be good consumers.
With corporations and consumerism the bottom line is money. Corporations control the politicians who are running this country, so in reality, we are controlled by Corporate America. Corporations are driven by money, and of course, money rides the back of our consumerism.
The media is another major problem in the US. The media is one BIG distortion, which dwarfs anything Moore could distort. And in today's multimedia society, it's coming at us constantly from all directions. The major media is owned by the corporations, and the corporations have an agenda. You'll get a different perspective on the "news" if you take a look at independent media for information. But Americans generally don't believe anything unless we see it on CNN or Fox. Would we be more likely to believe the message in Bowling for Columbine if we saw it on Fox, rather than from our favorite American Mike Moore? Think, think, think.
I was surprised to find out that presidential press conferences are scripted. The questions and answers are all written out ahead of time; but they put on this big, seemingly ad-libbed performance. Even George W. can appear knowledgeable with a script! The president makes these jokes and the press laughs and he seems so witty--NOT! This is a conspiracy on at least one level (most Americans do not know this is scripted) and we should think hmmmm...are there other tricks used against us? The "journalists" (and I use this word loosely) play along with this. The whole point of the press conference was to enable reporters to ask tough questions of the president, which gives us, in essence, an access to power. The script and the complicit reporters have made it into one big farce that allows the powerful to ensure that the whole nation is "on message." The administration lied to get us into Vietnam and they lied to get us into Iraq. Hmmm, maybe a lesson here. But will we learn it?
1984 is eerily similar to 2004. Big Brother is a phony enemy who distracts the people from government-sponsored atrocities. It is frightening that the government can create an enemy, they just pick and choose who and we buy the party line hook line and sinker. We did not learn from Vietnam and we will not learn from Iraq. How could we learn when the media is owned by the corporations so all that we know is what they want to tell us? They have us fighting over the liberal and conservative sides of the media instead of looking into why all the media is "on message". They have us arguing that the media is too liberal so we never ask why all the media uses the same stock footage. The powers that be are very good at distracting us from the true problems with the country. It is like walking into a room and seeing two groups shooting babies. The onlookers are so busy arguing that one side is using 22's and another is using shotguns that they never question the act's immorality. This so-called liberal media is owned by the corporations, and politicians are corrupted by their masters. We need access to real information. How can we make any decisions based on the dribble that we are fed on a daily basis?
Some say Moore is speaking against the government when the administration is in its direst hour (i.e.. caught in a web of lies). This is exactly when we need to be the most critical of our government. Germany learned their lesson about blindly following leaders, but we seem to have missed that day in history class. For some sad reason we (Americans) don't learn from our mistakes (like Vietnam). We should always question authority. More people should have questioned the administration when they said that Iraq had WMD. But the press was "on message," and we are a nation of fear, so they played into our deepest fears; we do not think--cannot think. We cannot admit that the United States may not be a moral authority and that we are no better and no worse than any other people in the world. It is easier for us to believe that the 6 billion other people have been fooled than to consider that we may have been fooled. If any of us were born in Canada, Mexico, or Germany, we would argue that the United States is part of the problem and not the solution. So, what is the "truth"?
Being an American is much like being a religious fanatic. You have to believe in Bush or you are not "One of us." America, love it or leave it, meaning love everything we do and don't go against the crowd; nobody is going to argue us out of our religion. Those 6 billion people shake their heads, just as we do when the Jehovah witness's come to the door. But instead of screaming GOD EXISTS, We yell AMERICA IS RIGHT. And just as they are afraid to explore the possibility that there may not be a God and they may be wrong, we, as a country, are much too fearful to explore the possibility that Bush may be wrong. We want the government to be our mommy and daddy, to take care of us. And if they are wrong, then our whole world is turned upside down. No wonder we are so easily frightened.
Some more conservative members of our society claim that Moore's arguments are "flimsy," and they say that "the film has few legitimate details". They argue that Bowling for Columbine is an "unnecessary, obvious, and most critically, manipulative piece of garbage that scarily has a profound effect on lots of smart people," but I would guess that some of the powerful groups who stand to lose from Moore's statements would have sued him if he had actually lied in the documentary. Nobody has sued him thus far. I checked.
The problem is that most Americans are not open-minded. If you grow up in a conservative home, you will most likely be conservative (like George W.) If you grow up in a liberal home, you will most likely be liberal and more like Michael Moore. So, most people who watch these things already have their minds made up. It is difficult for us to overcome years of brainwashing, whether conservative or liberal. We need to somehow get past our preconceived notions and prejudices and do some real critical thinking. Which is tough, since most of us have never really been taught to think.
A more cynical view would say that if you give any poor disenfranchised person a few million stocks and a position of power then he/she will turn conservative overnight and be fearful that others will take the money away from him/her. The converse of that is that a rich conservative with a sudden onset of a disability or a disease would soon be screaming about the poor state of health care and that the government has to do something to protect/help people like them. I got a little chuckle when an elderly man I know recently started complaining that the government is not doing enough for seniors. All his life he thought we should have lower taxes and the poor just have to climb up by their bootstraps. Now he wants the government to "help" him. Meaning, of course, that he wants the taxpayers to help him. Why should an elderly person have good health care when an eight year-old child in Texas has none? In fact, we should put the money into the young right? They are the future. Actually, I think we should let everyone have proper health care (Hillary had the right idea here). But the point is that people change depending on their situation. I admit that I have become much more liberal now that I have children with disabilities. The only people you can really trust are the wealthy liberals. They have no reason to care what happens to the poor or disfranchised, but they do. Why? They have theirs, but they seem to want everybody to have a chance to have something.
I guess the general message is to really think critically
and to question everything. It's easy to go merrily along hanging out
with like-minded people and just assuming that you are right. It's a bit
more challenging to question your beliefs and really think them through.
Cindy Bissell is a mother and a wife, an RN and Disability
Advocate, a Web Developer and an Internet Addict, a Liberal Democrat and
Free Thinking Atheist. Look for her at: www.cindy.tc