Inspired by Bil's recent post, Michael Moore's movie Sicko, and the fact that tomorrow is Independence Day, I thought I'd say a few words about the state of our 231-year-old democracy.
On our 231st birthday
Bil's post focused on freedoms denied to LGBT Americans, and though I'm denied those same freedoms, I think it's only one symptom. I saw Sicko over the weekend, and--as heartwrenching as the stories in that movie are--as huge as the health care dilemma is, it too is only one part of what we need to fix. Michael Moore does hint at the larger problem though, when he interviews a former British member of parliament, who explains that the British National Health Service was created just after World War II, not just to take care of people, but to stimulate the economy.
Moore shows footage of mass devastation that was the Blitz and narrates something to the effect: "what we went through for two hours on the morning of 9/11, they lived through every day for eight months. And when it was over, even though they were bankrupt, they decided to create this national health care system, to make sure that everyone was taken care of."
In contrast, what did we do after 9/11? What stirring advice did we get from our leaders? If you recall, President Bush told us to go shopping. I suppose that's only the natural progression--while Britain was building the NHS, we were building suburbia. We were building a mall culture. We were building consumerism as identity.
Don't believe me? How do we celebrate every national holiday these days? With huge blowout get 'em while they're red-white-and-blue hot deals SALES SALES SALES! If you've ever worked retail, you especially recognize this to be true. If you work retail, you don't celebrate the 4th--or Memorial Day, Labor Day, President's Day, or any of the others--you work. Because everyone who doesn't work retail spends at least part of their time off shopping.
Freedom should mean more than the freedom to shop, even if you're shopping for miniature flags or "support our troops" magnets.
Freedom, democracy, liberty, all mean asking questions. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, they mean eternal vigilance. They mean paying attention. They mean we can't just blindly accept what our government is trying to spoon feed us. They mean working to change things. Sure, it's a lot easier to kick back and watch the fireworks (on TV), but if we're not willing to act to preserve our freedoms, then we deserve no better than the fuzzy fascist state we're slipping into.
Which is why I'm glad Bil and Michael Moore, and you, dear reader, are around. Keep questioning. Keep acting. And if you absolutely must shop, I can recommend a relevant book by a good friend of mine: Complete the American Revolution, by Albert Piacente, who does a lot of questioning.