So who’s frustrated?
America is suffering right now in more ways than anyone cares to admit. Unemployment is rampant, the housing market hasn’t rebounded in a meaningful way, it has been reported that nearly two thirds of mortgages are upside down, our national debt is skyrocketing out of control, entitlement programs are verging on bankruptcy, mass murders and hostage crises dominate our news every other day, we still live in a country where every citizen does not share the same rights as their fellow Americans, our young brothers and sisters are forced to continue to fight wars (by their hawkish politicians who somehow are not mandated to sacrifice their own progeny in these never-ending, meaningless and frustratingly ill-conceived bloodbaths) in remote corners of the globe with disturbing accounts of lost American lives seemingly every day, and perhaps most telling, some pudgy redneck child named Honey Boo Boo and her troglodyte mother have a frighteningly large following (and the phenomenon that is her rise to “fame” has surprisingly made its way to people like me, and I can tell you I am shaking my head this very second as I type this).
You would think that the fact this is an election year would be good news for millions of frustrated and struggling Americans. At last, the greatest benefit of living in a democratic society is within reach, appearing almost from nowhere, like a posh oasis in the middle of the scariest desert imaginable. Yay. We can vote out the scourge that got us into this mess, OR…Alright! We can keep this regime, which has nobly tried to help a horrible situation in the face of an unimaginably horrific starting point and starkly uncooperative opposition across the aisle. Either way, unfortunately, our recourse at the polls in five weeks will inevitably reveal that oasis to be a mirage.
Why? Because the ridiculous emergence of a dominant farcical two-party system relegates every American to literally elect the worst party-influenced caricature imaginable into office every two, four and six years. I am not sure why we only ever have two realistic choices in any political race, and also why those two candidates have to represent both the best AND worst of their respective parties (I would rather cast my vote for an actual elephant or donkey than the human candidates). It ensures every voter has to make some awful choices come election time, basically subrogating rationality in order to choose what they hope will be “the lesser of two evils.” At least that’s how I envision educated people pulling their respective levers. And don’t get me started on the millions of…let’s just say educationally challenged…people.
Why can’t I walk into a voting booth and attempt to elect a candidate who is liberal socially but somewhat conservative fiscally? Why can’t I manage to find a candidate that has a non-hawkish outlook on foreign policy, and who guarantees good relations with Israel, America’s only true ally in the Middle East? Why can’t I ever find a candidate who swears to end America’s dependence on oil and fossil fuels…and MEANS IT?
The real issue boils down to money, as usual. And that is the essence of what really grinds my gears. Our political system has been hijacked by the highest bidders, and what’s worse, those bidders aren’t even allowed to vote. Why not? Because they are corporations, not people. And all of us (or at least the overwhelming majority), the voting public, suffer as a result. Perhaps worst of all is the brash manner in which billions of dollars are flushed down the toilet, mocking all of us – particularly those in need – as ridiculous party venom is spewed all over our homes and neighborhoods through every media outlet imaginable.
The democratic system, designed to help the common man shape (or at least have a say in) the world around him or her, has become a game dominated by mercenaries, where policy and policy makers are sold to the highest bidder(s), leaving all of us worse off.
We have no recourse as voters. And the politicians and the two parties know this. So they play the game that has emerged, benefitting from it however they can no matter what the consequences are for their constituents, as only opportunist politicians can. They all have us by the short hairs. But like lemmings, we all continue the charade that we actually have power, that we still live in a democratic society and that we can affect change through the polls. The thing is, until campaign finance reform is amended and until the two nausea-inducing parties are eliminated from a position of influence, we will all suffer increased polarization of our populace and leaders as well as the whims and fiscal agendas of the most powerful companies in the world.
Despite a crippled economy and growing political unrest, however, if you ask most men (and to be fair, some women too) in America right now what their biggest gripe is, and their answer might just surprise you – though after last night’s debacle, all bets are off. Unfortunately, I am referring to the current NFL lockout of its referees. The mega-billion dollar monopolistic behemoth that is the National Football League, or “the shield” as it is referred to by its most loving fans, is playing hard ball right now with its crew of 120 well-trained officials over pension funds, back-up officials and a few other negotiable points, and insodoing, is jeopardizing the health and safety of its players as well as the integrity of the game that has become the de facto American pastime, with all due respect to baseball.
As frustrating as this is for fans, both die-hard and casual, to stomach, there is virtually nothing any of us can do about it. And the owners and commissioner of the league know this. They have us by the proverbial short hairs: television ratings are as strong as ever as is attendance at most stadia. And that despite the folly that unfolds on most fields with what amounts to replacement officials seemingly qualified for nothing more than middle school or peewee league football. Some of these replacements have been caught with Facebook pictures openly showcasing their NFL team allegiance, and at least one scab official was reported by an NFL player to have approached said player pleading for a good performance to “aid his fantasy team.” I couldn’t make this stuff up. Nobody could. Well maybe Orwell, but nobody else.
Our only recourse is to not watch and not go to games. But we love our football so much that this really isn’t an option, right? NFL brass knows this. And we all suffer. Hmmm. Sound familiar? Well it should. This exact scenario is playing out concurrently in our nation’s toxic political atmosphere.
Oh well. At least we live in America, right? Greatest nation on the planet…in many ways, I suppose. I am too young to be so frustrated. So I won’t be.
Plus, I (and most of you…actually, all of you. Who am I kidding?) don’t live in Green Bay. You know what goes really well with that sour taste you have in your mouth? Cheese. So at least you have that going for you.
Happy New Year everyone.