Saturday, August 19, 2006

I want to trust you but you've lied to me before...

I once had an about-to-be-boyfriend mislead me about his political affiliation. That was back when my politics were a bit irrationally black and white. So, I really couldn't begrudge him thinking he was improving his odds with that slight misdirection.

I'm generally not that forgiving about dishonesty. Usually, one lie is enough to queer the deal; enough to destroy the trust so sufficiently as to undermine the whole relationship.

I've been feeling that way lately about our federal government. This morning I read an Associated Press article about a claim by President Chavez that four American spies were found operating in Venezuela and that the CIA is actively working to destabilize his government. US government officials denied these claims and I wish I could say that I believed them. But, history encourages my disbelief. Government officials have made these same denials in Iran, Chile and Cuba only to later have the statements exposed as lies, wrapped in claims of national security and tied with a communist threat bow. George Washington foretold this future in his farewell address when he cautioned Americans to "avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which under any form are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty."

I'm not one of those people who pounds their chest and claims deceit when government doesn't advertise the minutia of its decision-making. I happen to agree with our Founding Fathers about the value of a representative democracy and I don't think that sunshine laws should apply to everything, all the time. But, it seems to me, that our System of Checks and Balances is grossly off-kilter.

The administration withholds information from the legislators because the legislators will call a press conference and release confidential information to the media to build the name recognition they need to get reelected. The publicly-traded media outlets will in turn sensationalize the stories to increase ratings and attract advertising dollars resulting in a populous whipped into an underinformed frenzy. The populous will then vote good elected officials out and bad proposals in, depending on the spin of the story. When a bad proposal becomes a law, some attorney will challenge its constitutionality before a Supreme Court where the judges were once nominees who were subjected to endless investigations and inappropriate questions about their personal beliefs and private family decisions, instead of simply having their past rulings scrutinized for evidence that personal beliefs, not letter of the law, had influenced case outcomes.

Things have blatantly gone astray. James Madison was clearly right to be concerned about the future of the republic. I really don't think term limits help. They insult the few voters that actually bother to educate themselves, plus they perpetuate a system wherein a candidate must always be campaigning and therefore always pandering to the media, special interest groups and big checkbooks. I don't know how to fix things and I don't think that there are any quick fixes. Higher offices can no easier be achieved by the unconnected, unobligated or unwealthy than an industrial art student with a good design can roll thousands of new cars off an assembly line and into showrooms across America.

Even more important than policy changes, is a society change. Our society is showing all the signs of a decay. We believe we are entitled to everything and responsible for nothing. So, let's begin by taking more responsibility in the voting booth. Voting is a privilege; educate yourselves so you are worthy of it.



Anonymous Mommy of 12 said...

Pardon me but I think your politics may still be a tad irrationally black and white. If you don't like it here, why don't you move to Cuba, then tell me how open the government is.

9:58 PM  
Blogger MKM said...

Dear Mommy of 12,

1) I don't disagree that there are countries that have governments far less open than the US.

2) Re-read the post. I only advocate for checks and balances between the various branches of government and that people recognize that voting is a privilege and that Americans should treat it as such. Those are not terribly polarizing or anti-American topics.

3) Tell me, did you by chance use the rhythm method?

12:19 AM  

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