Grow the F**k Up in 2013

We need an attitude adjustment coming into the New Year. This is a rant saying as much, but a rant with a point, and some issues to touch. It's dirty and messy and lacking in style, but it's what's on my mind - so stay for a while.

Please. Because we're in a little bit of trouble as 2012 comes to a close. And we don't have to be.

We are smarter than this. We are more reasoned than this. We are not a nation of high school sophomores gorging on dreams of Utopia. In our storied history, we've been through debates about the worth of women, the worth of people of color, and the right of disenfranchised workers to organize. We came out the other end imbued with a sense of our decency, and with a sense that the inherent progressiveness that founded our nation pulls us through our flaws. I mean, we settled those issues... right?

We've had debates about womens' rights and combating institutional racism and all the rest, but we're having them all over again. It's the same script, bereft of irony. Has the world gone mad? In a way, it has. We're gripped by a fever... anti Government hysteria in the age of Terror. I've said it before: we're a nation coping with trauma. Some of us went through the stages of grief and came out the other end determined not to lose our values. Some of us,though, went all Dennis Miller, or as Dennis Miller would say, we were trembling worse than Tycho Brahe at his last party, if you know what I mean, folks? 

We'll never be the same after 9/11, but I refuse to believe that we've lost the capacity to be adults. We are adults. We know that putting our high beams on makes it harder to drive through fog. We know that straining before stretching is unhealthy. We are not battling a foreign power for our sovereignty any longer; we wage a more complex battle, one against ourselves, and more than half of us don't even know it.

Do we continue to slide into another year of stinking, stagnant chaos or can we construct a list of resolutions about the New Year? Are we ready to be adults?

Are we ready to grow the f**k up in 2013?

1. [Government] Say no to public officials' bad behavior:

* We need to start measuring the value of our elected representatives by how often they put aside the purity of their convictions for sake of fraternity with their colleagues and for sake of progress in their communities. If they fail to produce results because the 'best case scenario' didn't happen for them, they should be considered failures and treated as such instead of lauded as ideological champions.

* Congress, stop taking so many vacations. Stay in Washington until we're ready to send you back to your cozy lives. You are 'public servants.' So... why do we feel like your servants?

* Congress, stop spending taxpayer money on extravagant things. You go on and on about waste so long as it does not pertain to you.

* Congress, Stop believing that ideological purity will get you anywhere closer to a deal.

* Congressional Republicans, stop pretending that your tax pledge isn't to Grover Norquist;' that you're merely 'carrying out the will of the taxpayers.' Grover Norquist, stop calling your pledge 'the will of the people.' You're lying. Most people are not demanding what Americans for Prosperity demands, so stop pretending it's the same thing.

* Congressional Republicans, stop believing that austerity without revenue is a thing that you are allowed to demand, or that it is even a thing that works, because it is not, and it does not.

2. [Education] More actively participate in the development of our young people:

* If you are a teacher, chances are there is no suitable yardstick to measure your value. The existence of bad teachers - no doubt one issue that needs to be fixed - does not mean teachers are to blame for the decline in education.

* Investment in after school programs is not money wasted. it cultivates productivity, focus, safety, and the availability of role models.

* Investment in education means updated school materials, new facilities, and more focused teachers, and a better learning environment.

* Teachers need to be able to focus on the curriculum first, rather than being also responsible for building up the infrastructure of their classes.

* Teachers are not school administrators, nor are they police officers or assassins. Why, then, are we asking them to be?

*The money we put into the learning environment determines the quality of subsequent generations sent out into the work force and into the community. With this in mind, why is education funding often the first to go? And don't for a second think that a school can thrive without funding with enough prayer, or that all public schools should be replaced with voucher schools, because both of those solutions are radical and unworkable.

3. [Mental Illness] Have a conversation about mental health:

* If you're suffering from mental illness, there is no way to measure how much more you could contribute to your community if you got adequate care for your disease.

* Why have we de-prioritized mental health? Like education, mental health facilities are often the first on the chopping block. Resources for our shell shocked, schizophrenic, at-risk, troubled and suicidal folks are harder to come by than ever.

* How is it that preventative care for mental illness is so hard to fund, but treating the symptom is still the solution we lean on when things go to hell? The cost of dealing with the fallout from untreated mental illness is far greater than the cost of identifying and treating it.

* Nobody asks for cancer. It just shows up. Sometimes it takes a while to get noticed. Same with mental illness. Nobody asks to be suicidal. Nobody asks to be crippled by borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia  Why then, isn't mental illness treated like cancer? They end in suffering and death, too. They are diseases that cripple and endanger us, but our society still possesses an underlying - and false - notion that at the end of the day, the mentally ill are that way through fault of their own, and can change on their own if they 'just try hard enough.' To quote Joseph Biden: "Malarkey."

* Stressed and suffering? Have you tried talking to family and friends but still feel depressed, anxious, suicidal, or increasingly unstable? In that case, you should always have easy access to counseling from a mental health professional. You should not have to suffer in silence, yet that is what millions of our mentally ill are forced to do because of a broken health care system and an underlying social sigma about mental illness.

4. [The Second Amendment] Have a conversation about guns:

* People will always get their hands on guns if they want them badly enough, no matter how hard the law tries to prevent it. This is an undeniable fact, one brought up by gun advocates again and again.

* However, we should make it as difficult as possible for someone with a troubled background to obtain an assault rifle. In fact, we should be questioning the need for so many assault rifles on our streets. These are guns devised with a clear purpose: to take on armies, police forces, and/or kill as many people as possible and as conveniently as possible.

* Unless you seriously think that armed insurrection against our Government or local police is incoming, I can't for the life of me see why you would not be on board with limiting the sale and access of high powered, high capacity assault rifles. I have a number of friends - and former friends - are positively aroused by guns and ammo. You wanna know what gets me excited? A safe community. You wanna know what makes a community less safe? Adding guns. It's math. If we weren't busy failing our education system, perhaps more people would puzzle it out.

* If the first amendment protected free speech at any cost, anyone could go around threatening to kill the leader of our country without consequences. However, as you know, even the slightest hint of intent to do harm to a President can result in a friendly visit from the Secret Service. Is the Secret Service, then, trampling on your first amendment rights, or is this an acceptable compromise for you?

* The second amendment - which doesn't actually say 'no limits on gun ownership, ever, for any reason' like so many think it does - is the subject of furious debate for good reason. It's not a battle between people who want the right to own guns for self protection and people who want to rid the country of guns. What it should be is a measured, safety driven declaration of the right for organized militias - like local police and special operations - to defend our communities from defined threats. Which is exactly what the Second Amendment has allowed for hundreds of years, and will continue to allow. "War on the Constitution?" Stop your juvenile, hyperbolic whining. If you really see yourself living in a dangerous and authoritarian police state, move to  Syria. They could really use your high powered assault weapons there.

* Most Americans are really practical and sensible about gun control. What's happened, though, is that the resurgence of a highly vocal, unwilling-to-compromise-for-sake-of-ideological-purity minority has hijacked the discussion. The nuances and complications of gun ownership and gun culture have been drowned out by a simplistic and deafening battle cry about individualism, liberty, freedom, and civil rights, with almost no talk about the common good.

* I can't and won't measure my freedom by the number of guns I'm allowed to own. An increase in guns all across the board means an overall decrease in safety. I measure freedom by how many innocent lives are able to go on living each day because one less assault rifle found its way into the hands of a madman.

5. [Grow Up] Let's get our priorities straight:

* Say no to jerks, assholes, and meanies. Why do we continue to laud horrible behavior? Why are values that wouldn't be allowed in Church (or any upstanding community) held up as profiles in courage in the business community? Why can't the values that make us stronger, more mature, more interconnected, and less destitute in our communities not values pushed onto business leaders?

* Greed is not good. Corruption invariably leads to short term success obtained by exploitation  It's not naive to expect ethical propriety and accountability from businesses, yet we almost never get it. What we get instead are ads with lobotomized, focus grouped zombies telling us how good we're supposed to feel about these companies. I'm shocked there isn't more outrage in this country, but PTSD has a way of burying outrage.

* Lets demand sacrifice from those who feel above it. Why is sacrifice only honorable if it's a soldier dying overseas, or a poor person giving up food stamps and welfare, or a small town closing its library, a school doubling the capacity of its classes? Members of Congress, those pampered Corporate advocates on the Hill, don't feel they have to sacrifice their ideological purity in order to get a deal made. We should be outraged.

* What about Congressional sacrifice? What about the sacrifice of pride and purity for love of country and good old fashioned progress? Since when has progress been an old fashioned value? (Hint: since about 1994, after the Gingrich revolution changed the way Congress used arcane tools to bottle up the legislation process, but I digress.)

* Ideological purity is a myth. It has infested Congress, this ignorant, do-nothing body that has convinced itself that winning everything and toppling the other side in a fiercely divided country is somehow a win for everyone. What most in Congress do not understand is, a divided country demanding action resents any party that digs in its heels for too long. Soon, we all lose.

* No country strides toward betterment without first putting aside ideological fervor for sake of common ground. We do this for sake of what is decent and feasible, as opposed to what is ideologically pure.

*Get rid of HuffPo culture. Drudge, HuffPo, and CNN have to either do better or GTFO. Greed, bottom line grubbing, and SEO garbage have infested the way tough stories are covered on these very popular sites. Our new generations are growing up with this hyperbolic banshee orchestra and confusing it with journalism.

Who are we?

We are not a country of makers and takers. The sooner we get off this fallacious and misleading view, the better. It benefits no one. Let's cut through the bullshit. We are not a country of one thing or another. Income does not determine one's benefit to society. Let me say it again. Income does not determine one's benefit to society. If you make a lot of money, you might very likely be a parasite. If you live on Government Assistance, you might very likely be a profile in courage.

We're all valuable. In this country, you can come from anything and be anything. That means the things you do each day, things that trickle up through your community - or trickle down - cannot always be measured by the Fortune 500 Index or the performance of your stock portfolio. But they have worth - immeasurable worth. By growing up, we can stop thinking that only business leaders and those who drive profit can be heroes.

We're adults.

By growing up, the words 'no more' can mean something. We can stop blaming one President or one politician for all our woes and start taking responsibility for the shit that isn't getting done. We aren't kids waiting for presents on Christmas morning. We're adults, and we owe it to ourselves and to our kids to get over our histrionic, irrational fears of worse case scenarios that keep us frightened. Frightened of minorities, frightened of Government, frightened of losing all our possessions to a Socialist State. These are irrational fears.

We should be frightened of 'losing our freedom' by the horrible ways we've circumvented others' freedoms in order to preserve our sense of security. We should be frightened of our we've crippled ourselves as a nation through our overblown pride and unwillingness to compromise (or in some cases, even come to the table).

We need to drop our crippling attachment to our ideological purity, drop our pride and surrender to progress. Heaven's not on the other side of that. It means sacrifice. It means we lose a bunch of things we wanted really badly. That first lesson of growing up is brutal. You have to give up a lot to make the world turn the way it needs to. If you take progress seriously, and you are charged with representing whole swaths of people and trusted with advancing legislation, then you recognize you don't get to have everything you want, not when it comes to the issues above. That's not the same as abandoning your values.

Remember: if it looks, sounds, and talks like a country in the midst of a nervous breakdown, then it probably is. Tread carefully. And please, for the love of whoever you worship, grow the f**k up already.


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