A Broken and Bewildered Country

Ed Raymond

Why Is Our Life Expectancy Dropping?

We don’t grow bananas in this country but we are rapidly becoming one. Because of prescription and illegal drug deaths, a firearms death rate 25 times any other developed country, a high suicide rate, a health care system for the privileged that ignores half of our population, our life expectancy rate is dropping for the second year in a row. We led the world in life expectancy in the 1960’s but now are about 15th. 

Our military forces find it increasingly difficult to find enough physically fit young people to maintain the quality of our armed forces. Our Southern states have rising obesity rates among eligible recruits. Eleven states, all Southern and Republican, have adult obesity rates 35% higher than the rest of the country, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. The Pentagon is starting to worry about replacements for the armed forces because most of our recruits come from the South. That’s because wages in the right-to-work and non-union states are much lower, so young people volunteer for the armed forces for a job to escape poverty. Researchers at The Citadel, a military college at Charleston, South Carolina, reported this conclusion: “This has a real impact on national security.”

Former Dept. of Labor Chief Robert Reich: “Can We Restore The Common Good?”

In an article “American Society Is Fundamentally Broken,” Reich outlines a number of surveys to indicate how far we have fallen:

(1) In 1970 over 70% of Americans trusted government to do the right thing; now it’s 16%,

(2) In the late 1970’s, 32% trusted big business; now it’s 18%,

(3) Trust in banks has dropped from 60% to 27%, and

(4) Trust in newspapers and the media has dropped from 51% to 20%.

Here are his three major reasons for such distrust:

(1) “As economic inequality has widened, the moneyed interests have spent more and more of their ever-expanding wealth to alter the rules of the game for their own advantage”,

(2) “Too many leaders in business and politics have been willing to do anything to make more money or to gain more power—regardless of the consequences for our society”,

(3) “We see this everywhere—in the new tax giveaway to big corporations, in gun manufacturer’s use of the NRA to block gun controls, in the Koch Brother’s push to roll back environmental regulations”,

(4) “Donald Trump’s profiting off his presidency”, and

(5) “The public no longer believes that America’s major institutions are working for the many. Increasingly, they have become vessels for the few.”

My relatives in France send their children to schools that provide well-planned healthy lunches provided by the government regardless of income. French children have the lowest obesity rates in the developed world. Yes, taxes are higher in France, but in the end better health pays off in the end for everybody—including the rich.

In The Richest Country In The World We Allow Poor Children To Go Hungry

In contrast, the United States has 30.4 children out of the 50 million enrolled in schools on free or reduced lunch programs. Sounds good, but our poverty-level laws are set so low, many parents above the poverty line cannot afford to pay for their children’s meals. Just look at the local mess in school lunch programs in the metro area. Fundraisers are being held to pay off student lunch debts. Alternative lunches in two districts featuring cold sandwiches are offered to some that can’t pay. This is called “shaming.” Should a first grader be involved with shaming? We claim we are the richest country in the world. Actually we are empathetically and emphatically morally bankrupt to let children go hungry. Three out of five teachers of grades three through eight in the U.S. say they regularly see students come to school hungry. In some districts cafeteria workers are ordered to throw away a student’s hot meal if they can’t pay for it. Other districts stamp hands if they can’t pay. The Washoe County School District of 64,000 students in Nevada is considering sending debt collectors after parents because the district has $90,000 in unpaid meal debt. Over 40% of the students qualify for free lunch if the families are making less than $45,510. 

The district claims the debt comes from people who can afford to pay. Some parents are afraid to fill out applications for free lunch because they are illegals and do not want to be deported. The debt is about $1.40 a student for the year. Boy, would that ever raise taxes! The following cities have decided to go the French way by providing free lunches to all students regardless of income: New York, Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Dallas, and Baltimore. In 2015 the Obama administration expanded a program that provides free breakfast and lunch to all students in schools serving high-poverty populations--even if the parents failed to fill out an application. Congressional Republicans fought the program, calling it “fraud, waste, and abuse!”

We Are Broken And Bewildered By Guns, Gays, Religion, And Race

In February the Kansas Republican Party adopted a resolution against the LBGTQ community by opposing “all efforts to validate transgender identity.” What does that mean? There’s no such thing as gays? When a two-year-old girl born of woman says she wants to play with trucks and tractors because she is actually a boy, what do you do? Send her to pre-school conversion school? Give her estrogen pills? Call a priest and force her to go through exorcism because demons have possessed her? According to the Bible, God had checked her out in the womb. She had passed His inspection. Wasn’t that good enough for evangelical  Kansans? Do you believe the American Psychiatric Association on genders or the rantings of Leviticus and Mark? 

Are Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, and Caitlyn Jenner second-class citizens possessed by Lucifer? It’s time to face genetic science and reality. Humans have many gender identities: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, cisgenders, and dozens of others. So the Republicans are trying to name transgenders and homosexuals criminals in the Sunflower State. Ryan Anderson, a Republican fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has written a book claiming transgenders are crazy and should be scorned, belittled, and held in contempt. In reality, transgenders have become professors of astrophysics, firehouse captains, jet pilots, Navy Seals, and ministers of the cloth. They deserve the dignity and respect of all human beings.

A Mixture Of Christian Fundamentalists, Right-Wing Wackos, And Fascists

While Kansas Republicans were condemning the LBGTQ community, a Christian sect of the Religious Right called Dominionists were meeting at Donald Trump’s International Hotel in Trumpistan at a reduced rate granted by Donald. Dominionists voted for him “because God had selected him to lead the country.” Former representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota and Texas Senator Ted Cruz are perhaps the two best-known Dominionists. This is a short list of what they are opposed to in their “religious” platform: women’s liberation, LGBTQ rights, secular public schools, religious pluralism, democracy, modern science, higher education, biblical criticism, liberal Christianity, integration of the races, and almost anything else connected with modern life.

They want a theocratic government reconstructed along biblical lines led by a fundamentalist Christian emperor. They have already selected Senator Cruz to be the king of Texas. They voted for and supported Trump even if they knew he was a dangerous  psychopath. He has lied over 3,000 times to the American people in his first year as president. They made a political deal with an amoral, un-Christlike, reckless paranoid because they knew he could be bought easily with votes. Actually, in choosing him they have effectively destroyed themselves while helping to “break and bewilder” our diverse democracy. This is the American Taliban at work.

Michael Gerson, a religious conservative, has summed up why white evangelical Christians and Dominionists support Trump in his article “The Last Temptation.” They dismiss moral scruples about his behavior which has featured assaulting women by grabbing their pussies, admitting many sexual infidelities (even making sexual comments about his own daughter when he said she would make a “great piece of ass”), boasting about the size of his penis, and attempting to cover up his numerous escapades with porn stars. Even Jerry Falwell, Jr. said evangelicals have “found their dream president!”

If The Vatican Won’t Join The 21st Century...

A national survey called “Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics” commissioned by St. Mary’s Press of Winona concentrated on young Catholics aged 15-25. With a million Catholics in Minnesota, it is an important study for the future of the church. Leaving the church crosses all age groups, but the fastest growing demographic is 18 to 29. The second largest religious group in the country is ex-Catholics. About one-third of Catholics who leave the church go to other Christian churches. This survey may foretell that ex-Catholics might become the largest religious group in the country. Why? The issues. Survey responders list the following reasons: homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, birth control, marriage by priests, other social issues concerning gender equality, and banning women from major roles in the church and pulpit. 

Three out of four responders said they stopped being Catholic between ages 10 and 20. Nearly half were searching for a spiritual practice in tune with their beliefs. Catholic   teachers in Catholic schools were not at all surprised by the results. They said they have seen this breakdown coming for years. This breakdown of a major religion within the state doesn’t help a broken and bewildered society.

At a women’s meeting in Rome called Voices of Faith, former Irish president Mary McAleese, who has a gay son and is a supporter of gay rights, said the following: “We, the unheard voices, are trying to speak in a system that does not give us conduits for speaking. The Catholic Church is at a very important crossroads where it can become either a large, and largely irrelevant sect bound to be a relic in the past, or to flood the world with the capacity for healing.” She is considered to be one of the Vatican’s experts in Catholic canon law.

The Influence of Ayn Rand

The U.S. is now being run by many Republicans who believe in the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of“Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.” She believed that selfishness is the greatest virtue--and empathy is an evil that destroys nations. Everything has a price. Politicians spend most of their time raising money while ignoring the plight of people in the bottom 75% of the population. Rand is the godmother of Republican conservatism. We are living in a culture where rich lions on Wall Street eat the young of lowly zebras and gazelles in the old game of survival of the fittest--and richest. The idea of the common good is no longer a driving force. We are polarized, broken, and bewildered.