#atozchallenge: Vote of No Confidence

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When I go to the gym, I generally watch C-SPAN whilst I’m on the treadmill. (I know, I know, you don’t have to say anything–I’m a politics wonk). I am struck by a few things: first, that C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 are incredibly well-made television stations; second, holy crap senate and house meetings are boring; and finally, what, exactly, have we hired our representatives to do?

Important meetings are very sparsely attended. I realise that in an election season most representatives have shirked their duties to go and beg for resources back home, but the work of being a representative is not over, and should be just as diligently done at the beginning of the year as at the end.

And even in session, representatives should actually be working for their constituents, and not for whomever gave them the most money. I realise this is probably a pie-in-the sky dream, but as long as they are not working for us, we should stop voting them in. The issue is, of course, that not many people watch C-SPAN during their day. The fact that the sessions are boring and hard to follow is done purposefully. It is the same thing as teachers using specialised vocabulary to talk about their job. It makes one feel special; it’s using all your expertise and of course you want to show off. But it cuts off people that could probably help you or at least champion your cause.

Watch C-SPAN! Learn some stuff! Know what your representative is doing in your name. And if you don’t like what they’re doing, vote them out! – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts for this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by PDP

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#atozchallenge: USA, USA, USA!

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One of the first things most visitors to the United States mention is that American flags are everywhere: in front of homes; in restaurants; in classrooms. The last one, in classrooms, is always disconcerting. It is a stark reminder of the weird patriotic symbolism of the United States: we are united under one flag, when we cannot be united under any other thing.

Saying the pledge daily is a compulsory activity, but not saying it is protected speech. I stopped saying the pledge in high school, for a few reasons. I was against the war in Iraq and felt that the pledge was compulsory nationalism, something that as a German made me uncomfortable. I also did not feel that America was just, or free, for everyone.

Now, as a teacher, I stand but do not say the pledge. I have had students ask me why, and I generally tell them that I didn’t feel comfortable saying it as a dual citizen. Sometimes I tell them that historically, compulsory nationalism doesn’t always end well. I obviously do not force any student to say it if they do not want to; it’s not my business to know why they aren’t saying it.

Patriotism is a choice, and the compulsory nature of the pledge denies choice. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by unsplash

#atoz: Something Rotten in these United States

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Change and innovation are part of the historical meme. Better, newer, faster is the constant drumbeat of American society. I am addicted to technology; I enjoy using it, and I’m sure that it would be hard readjusting to not having it. But I also enjoy preserving the connexions to our past. Just as people in Europe live in flats built in the 17th and 18th century and walk streets set down even further in the past, I want to be able to say my flat was built in the antebellum period, or that our library was built in the 1920s. However, historical preservation is on a local level, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is just not a priority.

But it is not even the historical preservation. We are destroying community in the race for profit. Small businesses are being swallowed whole by mega-corporations, and minority communities suffer from a lack of resources for many reasons, some malicious and some just through “tradition”, which can be just as malicious. And our infrastructure is crumbling: highways, bridges and rail-lines have not been updated since the 1950s, and some even longer.

To be “American” is not defined by being beholden to a certain set of core values and beliefs. Perhaps we have become integrated, but unlike the ideal “melting pot” of immigrants living beside each other, we are a mixed salad of things that, when put together, sometimes does not pair well. We cannot bond over a common heritage and history, so we should preserve the things we can.

We should not erase heritage and history, and if we continue building new without fixing what works, our foundations shall crumble, in more ways than one. – SDM

 

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by arutina

#atozchallenge: Government is Not a Curse Word

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Trying to explain the US government system, even to American students, is sometimes a lesson in futility. I happen to think that government can be useful, as long as we understand its aims.

If you do not want to live in a normal, functioning society, then I think you should be allowed to leave it, and never be allowed to use any government services, because why should I pay for your selfishness and stupidity?

Oftentimes, people who believe that we should return to self-sufficiency tend to forget that humans have never been self-sufficient. True, there were rebels and revolutions and people who had the means and motivation to ‘forge it alone’, but everything in Western society (which I am critiquing) has been built on the backs of someone else. Sure, you may not think you are receiving a government handout, but you are not running public transport or handling (or mis-handling) public water systems or building anything except private enterprise.

And government, more than that private enterprise, has been more reliable about protecting our ‘inalienable rights’. In the United States, at least during some progressive reform movements, it was the federal government that protected and guaranteed civil rights, though it took a very long time. It is state governments now, in states like Georgia and North Carolina, that are trying to dismantle protections guaranteed LGBT+ folk. It will probably be the federal government that has to come in and secure these protections.

Government is a hammer for us to use to build a society we want to live in, not a cudgel to destroy the parts of our society with which we disagree. I may disagree mightily with many of the things that my state decides, but I have only one tool: my vote. And instead of being discouraged by the failures of our government, we should force them to recognise the needs of their citizens. And if they do not, it is time to vote them out, and forge a new path.

Until next time. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by dcandau

#atozchallenge: The American Dystopia

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When we think of a dystopian society, our mind goes to film and literature: The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, The Lord of the Flies, 1984.

Is America a dystopia? If you are sick, poor, non-white or any combination of them, life must look like one of these stories. When I think of America, I think of two things: the multitude of guns in our society and the lack of affordable, universal health-care. These are, for me, two sides of the same coin.

Guns are everywhere. Guns are also the only tool used for one purpose: to kill. Owning a gun makes a person statistically more likely to die by that gun. I have used guns and lived around guns my entire life, but if we woke up tomorrow without them I would not be upset. Nor, I suppose, would anyone else. There is no problem a gun has solved that has not escalated to a bigger, more indefensible problem. Good guys with guns may kill bad guys with guns, but the gun will still be there for the next bad guy.

It is cheaper for me to fly to the United Kingdom and receive routine care than it is for me to pay for health insurance monthly and receive the same level of care. This sentence should make no sense to anyone reading it. I am a person with no health issues, so I have basic health insurance one step above ‘catastrophic’, but even then my out of pocket expenses are unrealistic. So I am happy for my ability to use the NHS for my once yearly check-up and leave everything else well enough alone.

A country where it is easier to die than to be healed for me is the very definition of a dystopia, and America is that country. It is a developed nation where it is easier to get a gun than a doctor’s appointment, if you are not properly insured. And even if you are properly insured, as I am, finding a doctor that will accept said insurance is even more difficult.

It will take a long while for America to change its ways, and I do think it may do, but for now, unless we are careful, our society is at the breaking point, and may yet tilt into the abyss.

Until next time. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

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