James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Monday, January 22, 2007

Needed: A reality spa

As we hunker down to await our insane president's “state of the union” misinformation and lies – coming tomorrow as I write this – I keep thinking that at least three quarters of this country's population needs a month or more in a new kind of spa.

They should have to bathe in, eat and drink nothing but reality 24 hours a day until at least some basic truths seep through the walls of their carefully and willfully constructed ignorance.

No “American Idol,” no football, no “Sex and the City” reruns, no phony meetings in which people pretend that increasing the sales of video games or jeans is vital, that a new round of layoffs will benefit the economy or that paying $20 million in bonuses to a failing corporate chief executive is a good idea.

I have nothing against recreation, mind you. I frequently enjoy movie comedies, mystery novels, baseball games and, not frequently enough, a weekend of fishing. I don't think anyone should have to live always and wholly immersed in the over-abundant dark side of modern life.

But, damn it, if you are to have the rights of citizenship, you should have some knowledge of the real world. A whole lot of folks need a serious shock to the system to get their mental engines started.

It seems clear to me that a majority of Americans now live almost full time in Fantasyland.

Unfortunately, people who should be running branches of Reality Spa are instead encouraging the general ignorance; the corporate “news” media are engaged primarily in obfuscation, operation of sideshows and hiding truth under great piles of crap.

The right wing lords who control television, radio and most of the press benefit greatly from the general ignorance. In addition to “coloring” the news, they frequently flat-out censor it.

Example: Immediately after Mad King George's Jan. 10 speech telling us that he's going to send more young people to die or be maimed in the occupation of Iraq, the Democrats (who only very recently discovered the existence – or the possibility of the existence -- of their spines) offered a substantially different point of view. It was delivered by Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, who gave a very brief talk.

NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox Broadcasting refused to broadcast or even take notice of Durbin's short speech. CNN, MSNBC and, somewhat surprisingly, Fox News did broadcast the talk at some point, though of course the mad king's views got many times the coverage. That, I must acknowledge, is standard. Fox News gave greater priority to its favorite “military analyst,” retired Gen. Thomas McInerney than to Durbin.

Example: Common Cause, which has been fighting hard to prevent further consolidation of news media in the hands of a handful of super rich individuals and corporations, decided early this month to advertise its point of view on high-traffic Web sites. One of the biggest sites, MySpace, told Common Cause that “We won't allow that (ad) to be shown.” Right wing extremist Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which also owns Fox, bought MySpace in 2005.

But to get back to the general ignorance:

As recently as early November of 2004, polls showed that 76 percent of U.S. citizens believed Iraqis were better off at that point than they had been under Saddam Hussein; more than 60 percent believed that “history will give the U.S. credit for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq.” Sixty-three percent also believed that Iraq under Saddam was a serious threat to U.S. security and almost the same number believed Saddam had close ties to Al Qaeda. (Harris Poll.)

Just four months ago, as shown by a Zogby International poll, 36 percent of Americans and 58 percent of those identifying themselves as Republicans believed that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was worth the loss of American lives, and 46 percent of Americans, including 65 percent of Republicans, still believed that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Even worse, according to the same poll, 55 percent of Americans (66 percent of Republicans) believed that government agents should be allowed to search any of us and our belongings (purses, packages, backpacks, etc.) at any time and any place. About 48 percent (62 percent of Republicans) believed that roadblocks and random searches of personal vehicles are acceptable at any time and place, and 37 percent (56 percent of Republicans) believed the government should be free to monitor any or all telephone conversations at any time. Only slightly fewer approved of random snooping in personal mail.

In plain language: Very large portions of the American public are almost totally ignorant of the rights granted us under the U.S. Constitution. If they are aware of them, they don't understand why such rights were embedded in that document. Obviously, they are willing to give up their, and our, basic rights at any time. Let Mad King George or the even crazier Dick Cheney trump up some phony “emergency” and the numbers willing to forgo the rights of citizenship soars.

There are, of course, innumerable examples of general ignorance.

Ask folks you work with what country has the best health care in the world. Most, if not all, will say the United States.

Ask people around you at a church social what country has the most honest and efficient electoral system in the world. Most will say this country does.

Make up your own questions. What you'll find is an overwhelming belief that in almost every detail, this is “the greatest country in the world.” The people who will tell you that often won't be able to give you any evidence, nor will they know anything at all about any other country – possibly excluding great fishing spots in Canada or great beaches in Mexican resort areas.

Compared with the Americans of 2007, Candide ain't in it.

(Yeah, I know: Who?)
Some folks will be aware that I've been absent from this space for a while. It began with weeks of having house guests, and the usual holiday activities, immediately followed by a miserable and long-lasting bug, followed by the health crisis of another family member.

By then a layoff seemed like a good idea. I've been thinking, reading, doing a bit of research and, of late, writing real letters, not email, to politicians, party functionaries and others who can directly affect our lives. There are several topics I hope to take on soon, including three or four to which I've devoted considerable effort during my absence from this blog. With luck, they'll follow at reasonable intervals.