Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Not Buying It

I won’t go so far as to suggest the political division in this country is purely a media fabrication because it’s not, but I do think its severity is greatly exaggerated. We have our differences and will—in fact, should—continue to, but it’s not as bad as some of us think. And the number of people who really are as bad as some of us think is pretty small.

Make no mistake, the United States of America does have extremists; from Communists (real ones, not faux ones labeled as such by talking heads) to Klansmen, anarchists and separatists, religious zealots of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and many other varieties, rabid environmentalists, rabid anti-environmentalists, gun nuts, gun-control nuts, and single issue-obsessed fire breathers on either side of hot button issues like abortion and immigration. And that’s all right. These people have their place, if for no other reason than to serve as a cautionary example for the rest of us.

But most individuals simply don’t fall comfortably into a category. California, perceived as one of the most “liberal”—whatever that means—states in the country, has a Republican governor, albeit a very moderate one. Oklahoma, considered a “conservative”—whatever that means—state, has a Democratic governor, but voted overwhelmingly for John McCain in 2008. Indiana, a state carried by every GOP presidential candidate since 1968, voted for Barack Obama in 2008 even as incumbent Republican governor Mitch Daniels prevailed handily. And dare I mention that the largest city in Texas recently elected a lesbian Democrat as mayor?

What does it mean? It means we don’t know what it means. It means people don’t have to make sense, according to rather artificial standards of “making sense.” It means you can be anti-abortion and pro-immigration or pro-health care reform and pro-Second Amendment. More than that, it means there’s nothing wrong with you if those are your positions.

“The Media” is, of course, a favorite punching bag, but criticism of “the Media” often originates from, curiously enough, “the Media”. There is no Media, not in capital letters, not as a unified conglomerate of radio, television, internet, newspapers and magazines. While it may be true that particular large organizations—Fox, TimeWarner, Gannett, Clear Channel—control a large number of media outlets, this does not ensure unity of thought and purpose even within those organizations. Indeed, The Simpsons, a program carried by Fox, relentlessly parodies Fox News. If anything, we are “the Media” because consumers drive the markets.

On a day to day basis, Americans do pretty well. There are lots of reasons for this, but perhaps I can best sum it up this way: we want to be here. Most people living in the United States today are there because either they themselves or someone in a previous generation chose to be. And even the largest group of people who didn’t travel to the USA by choice—African Americans—is now heavily invested in its past, present, and future. Not only were they slaves in this country for over two hundred years, they subsequently helped build it, fought for it, died for it, the same as all other Americans whether their ancestral heritage lies in Europe, Asia, South and Central America, or elsewhere.

I don’t want to take the “we are all one” rhetoric too far. The tragic legacy of Native Americans is enough to blunt anyone’s enthusiasm for this talk of unity and harmony. But even in that sad example, their blood runs through our veins. How many among us can identify no Native American connections whatsoever? Very few, and those who do, such as, perhaps, recent arrivals from Burma, have a different, but no less valid, claim on the nebulous, elusive, but far from imaginary American Dream.

So what if we don’t always get along? Sure, there’s too much violence. There are too many drugs, too many people out of work, and way, way too many procedural police shows. And sure, a crazy person gets more attention than any ten sane folks. But before you go assuming things are worse now than they’ve ever been, think about the things you hardly have to worry about anymore that previous generations obsessed over: polio, chicken pox, mumps, measles, small pox, Hitler, Stalin, the Soviet Union, Yellow Fever, malaria (severe outbreaks of the last two were recorded in the United States as late as the early 20th Century), whooping cough, infant mortality, maternal mortality. No, not every item on this list is extinct, but in the United States and most of the developed world they no longer pose significant threats.

Even some of the nation’s, and the world’s, darkest forces that aren’t completely dead sure ain’t what they used to be: breast cancer, the Ku Klux Klan, the Irish Republican Army, leukemia, AIDS, the threat of all out nuclear war (replaced, regrettably, by the threat of rogue nuclear attacks).

I’m not saying stop complaining. By all means, keep complaining. Keep drawing attention to anything you perceive as unjust, unfair, unethical. But all this melodramatic chatter about division and tension is almost certainly overblown. I’m just not buying it. Before you get carried away with the idea that humanity is currently caught in an irreversible downward spiral, come on and checkity check yourself before you wreckity wreck yourself. It’s probably not as bad as you think.

Thanks for reading.

Ice Cube and Das Efx


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