Posted by: Inside-Out Peace | August 14, 2009

What “America” Are You Talking About?

Recently on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I saw a video clip of a woman who was literally sobbing as she spoke at a health care reform town hall, saying, “I have never seen my America turned into what it has turned into, and I. Want. My. America. Back!”, to loud applause and cheers from the rest of the audience.  I wish I could find her and talk to her.  I would ask her, “what exactly do you mean by ‘my America’?” 

America has changed continuously, ever since it was founded.  Which point in time does this woman define as being “her” America?   People have also been shouting out at these town halls that they are afraid of Obama.  I don’t really understand what they are so afraid of, but I’m genuinely sorry that they are, because living in fear is awful.  I wish I could meet that sobbing woman and learn what her actual concerns about health care reform are.  Saying “I want my America back”, or ranting about “my rights” as some others have done, tells me nothing about the actual issue being discussed. 

We are all “real Americans”, to borrow Sarah Palin’s term.  It’s hard to say that without sounding trite but it needs to be said.  I feel like there are people out there who are looking at other Americans and seeing an enemy, rather than a fellow citizen with different opinions about some things.  We need to stop making politics so personal and talk – really talk – about what our problems are and how we can solve them.  Discussions are only productive when they are based in reality.  People are ranting hysterically in opposition to things that no one is even proposing

The problem is, reality-based, rational discussions are apparently too bland for cable news networks.  They earn money based solely on how many people watch their channel, so they broadcast whatever attracts the most attention, and nothing attracts attention as much as an angry, shouting mob.  Anyone who’s angry enough gets to be on TV and have their viewpoint disseminated, which means that the only viewpoints everyone sees are those of really angry people — the extremes of any issue.  But the “news” networks are in a bind because if they get fewer viewers in one quarter than in the previous quarter, their stock price goes down.

The reason we need health care reform is that insurance companies earn money based solely on finding new and ever more creative ways to deny coverage to sick people.  If they happen to pay more in benefits in a quarter than the previous quarter, their stock price goes down.

Our politicians depend on money to get elected.  Whoever raises the most money, has a pretty good chance of winning – and is then somewhat under obligation to those who funded the campaign.  Also, after the elections, whoever has the most money and funds the most lobbyists gets the most influence over the legislation that then determines much of the quality of life for the masses of regular people whom Congress is purported to represent. 

Summing that up in the other direction, our government officials depend on corporations and extremely wealthy individuals to finance their campaigns, and make their decisions based on what will have favorable results for those benefactors.  The corporations and extremely wealthy individuals make their decisions based on what will have favorable results in the stock market.  In other words, our country is being run by the stock market – the most unpredictable, insatiable, uncontrollable construct humans have ever created. 

Come to think of it, I guess I want my America back, too:  back from the tyranny of money.

Updated August 24, 2009:

I was apparently channeling Upton Sinclair when I wrote this post, as I learned from Paul Krugman today:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something,” said Upton Sinclair, “when his salary” — or, I would add, his campaign contributions — “depend upon his not understanding it.”



  1. Her view of America is probably heavily influenced by what right-wing fear mongers tell her so that they can keep their ratings up. So the money also ends up being used to subvert the people’s ability to make rational fact-based judgments on where they stand. But you knew that already. See you Saturday.

    • I just read this article, that reports on scientific evidence for how and why the chronic experience of fear causes people to lose the ability to think critically. Very clear connection to Faux News and their viewers, I think. The reassuring part is that the effect is reversible, if the source of chronic fear is removed. Looking forward to Saturday!

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