We have been back in the United States about two weeks now but I immediately realized why I had "opted out" of this system.
I had not fully unpacked from our trip to Vietnam when my e-mail was flooded with messages from my conservative friends reminding me that the president was "black", not really from here, a Muslim, a Communist, a Socialist, anti-American, anti-military basically everything but a space alien.
This brought back memories from my tour of combat years ago and wanting to contribute to positive change. Few would believe that I actually held public office in California as a Republican. I would later become a police officer, prison guard, high school teacher, college professor, public utility worker, and veterans rights advocate. I had such high ideals before becoming completely disillusioned to the point of disassociation.
Today Romney said on Public Radio, "...America is globally viewed as being weak and in decline..." I agree with the decline part, but that has nothing to do with the president and everything to do with Republican policies.
Who Died and Made Iowa "God"?
Actually, the people in Iowa have proven they are smarter than the rest of the United States. In the 1970s, when I was politically active, I first began to question why Iowa was allowed to exert so much political muscle upon the rest of the nation.
Although no one had a reasonable answer, they remained content with the political primary system as it was. Iowa dictates not only who becomes president but the platforms of the two major political parties in spite of the fact they are not representative of the broader America. Iowa is about 96% white; 52% Protestant and 23% Catholic.
Those religious fundamentalist promote the theory that some higher power desires all fetuses come to term, even those created by rape or incest, and set the tone for the primaries that follow. Iowa is home to multinational insurance companies and financial institutions who have a vested interest in who is allowed to continue on to New Hampshire. Corn and farm subsidy issues are key to candidates survival to compete another round. In this arena, it is not 'one for all' but rather 'all for one'.
In Brazil, for example, ethanol is made from inexpensive sugar cane. American car manufacturers know this as they produce cars in that region. Yet that form of alternative fuel source is not promoted in the United States. When corn ethanol was proven to be too expensive and drove up the price of beef, milk, and all associated products; the conservative talking heads were overjoyed at the fact that "environmentalist crackpots were wrong" and utilized this failure as a reason to kill other programs that were being developed.
Special interest groups have hoodwinked the gullible American voting public into believing they need continued tax breaks for research and development, when all we need to do is point out to them the programs that are currently working in other parts of the world. There is no need to reinvent the wheel unless, of course, your particular company financially benefits from it through our tax dollars.
Fundamentalist traditionally have issues with women and minority groups. This is a historical fact from the time of the Mayflower Compact when only affluent white men were allowed to enter into a contract with "God". Some of the framers of our Constitution owned slaves as they were considered to be property and carried the alleged "Mark of Cain" (dark skin that reflected "God's" displeasure.)
These are the cornerstones of the Republican Party that as a matter of principle discriminates against women, poor people, organized workers, and the disabled; however, they have successfully managed to frame these political planks in religion and patriotism allowing the willfully ignorant to believe that criticism of these issues is a complaint against "God" Himself. Regarding taxation, the old-time Calvinist approach has been adopted. As God favors the rich (otherwise why would they be wealthy?), the burden upon them should be light to non-existent. They create our jobs; they look after our well being.
However, just the opposite is true. Under Republican policies, outsourcing has destroyed American jobs and manufacturing. Outsourcing has created a new overseas economic slave class with no savings being passed onto the consumer. The Republicans have become the new century slave masters and defacto hate group; yet, we are too blind to see this.
They oppose socialized medicine, although they have it in Congress, because it would force them to pay their fair share in taxes; but, then again, that tax money would be used to benefit woman, poor people, and individuals of color -- not in line with their fundamentalist thinking. They bash other nations that have socialized medicine and point out the failures of such systems and we buy into this without any investigation.
The Republicans tell us 'all' things socialist are bad, which is another reason they are so keen in destroying our social security system and why the Veterans Administration hospitals have budget problems fiscal year after fiscal year.
When were were in uniform we received much lip service as to how respected and valued we are; but, once we became injured veterans, we became the dregs of society begging for crumbs off the master's table.
If I were a gambling man, I'd bet few readers know that the injured American combat veteran has fewer rights than convicted felons, illegal aliens, and child molesters. Those later groups all have the right to judicial review and to have their cases heard in an Article III federal court; veterans, who fought and suffered for the Constitution, do not have this right thanks to the 1933 Economy Act, ruled unconstitutional in 1935 but reinstated in the 1940 Veterans Benefit Act! Where was "war hero" John McCain on this issue?
My final thought in this area is to remember that from 1814-1832 all Indians were removed from Iowa by the 'illegal aliens' from Europe and America. Now these same folks want to remove other people they deem to be "illegal". Somewhat of a sad comic irony. I would suggest that the nation's first political primary be in California. It certainly would be more interesting, representative, and entertaining!
When I was a child I remember America was a great manufacturing nation where businesses would work with consumers. There was a sense of ethics that somehow vanished over the past few decades.
In Vietnam, I was stationed near grunt Larry Stigall who was assigned to Camp Enari near Dragon Mountain across from Pleiku air field. After his second tour, Larry returned from the war mentally and physically broken. Since I reestablished contact with Larry in the 1980s, he has been struggling to sort things out. He still cannot. He is not mentally incompetent but he has great difficulty in making rational decisions.
During the Bush Administration, Larry received what he took as a personal letter from a mortgage lender informing him 'in honor for his service to the nation' he could skip his next two mortgage payments and this particular company would assume his loan at a lower monthly rate.
To Larry the letter looked official and he thought someone at the government level was finally acknowledging his military service. He skipped his next two mortgage payments thinking that was somehow a "veteran's bonus" only to later find out his 15-year loan had been converted into a 30-year loan - and that was the primary reason his monthly payments were lower, because he had an additional 180 months to pay!
Larry has been attempting to straighten this out over the past five years, but no help. The laws were not set up to protect or assist disabled war veterans. As more families spiral downward, some protection for those in Larry's position may materialize. In the meantime veterans will continue to receive weak lip service from Washington.
Legalized Loan Sharking
If I, as an individual, were to charge another person 20% per month on money I loaned them, that would be criminal; however, if I were a 'payday loan company' this same action would be considered smart business practices.
This is the difference between having and not having a paid lobbying firm at your disposal. This highlights, at its worst, the predatory business system that has evolved in the United States over the past few decades exploiting the poor, weak, and disadvantaged.
Additionally, I never thought I would see the day when banks would charge a 'convenience' fee for making more than four deposits a month or paying on a loan more than three times a month. What has one's credit score got to do with job qualifications? If you are late on a payment, regardless or not whether you are at fault, the credit card companies have the right to convert your low interest balance to one that is immediately payable in full with additional interest and penalties.
At every opportunity, businesses are eager to "GOTCHA" because in their mind, the customer is always wrong and must be exploited for their financial gain.
I realize I cannot change this, so I option not to be part of it. Once my business is completed here, we will be returning to Hanoi where this type of insanity does not exist. Yes, times have changed and I really hope my fellow Americans realize it before it is too late...