Monday, November 23, 2015

Week of 11/23/2015

Real Greatness
There’s a scene in the HBO series “Newsroom” in which a news anchor played by Jeff Daniels was asked to sit in on a college panel talking about politics.  One of the students asked a rather softball question about what makes America so great, and while the other two guests gave staged answers, it was Jeff’s character that blurted out “America’s not great!”
Now in the real world, that would be enough to start a mass walk-out, not to mention a thorough social media lynching that would result in the character’s immediate suspension and/or termination.  But, because this is TV-land, we get to see his character explain in rousing and frank detail why America isn’t great.  It used to be, but it isn’t today.
And the thing is... he’s right.  But we don’t want to come out and say it.  We’ve been brainwashed on an Orwellian level into thinking that somehow if we’re not praising America with every syllable that we’re somehow not Americans.  They get upset when someone doesn’t proclaim they support some bogus claim of “exceptionalism”, as if mindless cultish adherence to circle logic was a requirement for existing in the United States.
Yet our political hacks and grifters and shysters, our newspaper editorials, our talk radio personalities, and especially our White House wannabes all make it clear – without outright stating it – that “somehow” America is no longer great.  They don’t say how it happened, and their egos bar them from actually admitting that we’re not, but they imply that somehow this period of “greatness” ended the moment a certain dark-skinned Hawaiian-born Senator from Illinois was elected President in 2008.  And then before that when a certain governor from Arkansas was elected President in 1992 and then re-elected in 1996.  And before that it was when a certain governor from Georgia was elected in 1976.  And before that, when a certain Vice-President was sworn in as President in 1963.
And their solution is always clear, isn’t it?  All that needs to be done is to elect the “right” people.  And, of course, by “right” they mean by party affiliation and political leaning.  It’s all over their political signs and slogans.  They claim to want a “revival”, a “rebirth”, a “renewal”, and they promise to “make America great again!”
What a load of bull they shove down our throats!
First of all, let me reiterate the obvious.  No, America is not “great”.  The only things we are “great” in is how many people we throw in prison, how many different wars we fight, and how much of a pompous ass we can collectively be.
Yes, we were great once upon a time.  We did great things.  We went to great heights.  We put a man on the moon!  We harnessed the power of the atom.  We cured diseases.  We invented things... and I don’t just mean mindless apps on your cellphone.
And let’s get brutally honest here... really, really brutally honest... anyone who tries to convince you that all we need to do to collectively be “great” again is simply to elect a certain person or elect a certain party or elect a certain political leaning is not only lying, but they’re con artists, and they damn well know it too.  I don’t care if you’re a billionaire egomaniac in New York who thinks they can bully their way into the White House, or some pickup-driving goober from Villa Rica listening to nothing but talk radio.  Greatness is not about who you elect or which party they align with, and no one single person or party or political leaning will bring greatness in and of themselves.  That’s just ego-maniacal delusion.
Greatness is a matter of being.  It’s about what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.
The doctor that created a polio vaccine, Dr. Jonas Salk, who then made it available for everyone, was great.
The so-called hedge fund manager that bought the sole producer of a life-saving drug and then jacked up the price five thousand percent because he can, is far from great.  He’s simply an unrepentant money-grubbing douchebag.  And the same goes for all of the other corporate douchebags that are the sole producers of life-saving medications who also jacked up their prices to astronomical levels simply for the money.
The guy that builds homes for the homeless is great.  The corporation that finagles local governments to give them land that would otherwise be used for low-income houses so they can turn around and make high-priced condos for the elite few... far from great.
The corporate leader that freely decided that everyone in the company should be paid the same high-five-figure wage, no matter the position, that’s great.  The corporate executives that threw temper tantrums over that same corporate leader’s decision... not to mention the talk radio hacks that later screamed “socialism” over this decision... are about as far from great as you can get.  Again, they’re unrepentant douchebags.
The New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl in 2002 was great.  Winning the Super Bowl in 2015... not so much.
The young woman that stood up to religious extremists even after they tried to kill her so she can help other young women learn was great.  The young woman who gets all of the media attention simply because she’s related to Kim Kardashian, who’s famous for reasons we have yet to really understand, is far from great.
A group of young people standing up in protest against what they see is a pervasive problem is great.  A group of people waiting in lines for hours just so they can buy the latest cellphone just because it is the latest cellphone even though they already had the most recent version, that’s not even close to being great.  That’s just being stupid.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Real greatness is not a brand.  It’s not a catchphrase.  It’s not a buzzword.  It is a matter of being and doing.  It’s what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.
And for a whole nation to be recognized for being “great”, we need to be encouraged to do great things.  You’re not going to get that by electing one candidate, or one party, or one political faction, especially when that faction is better known for fear and intimidation.
Real greatness comes from us.  It doesn’t come from fear-mongers and thugs seeking public office.  We have to be great and do great things for us to once again say that the United States is the greatest in anything other than delusions and prison.  And then maybe we can look back at that HBO series and ask what the hell that fictional anchor was talking about.

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