Monday, December 31, 2012

Closing Out 2012...Issues (Still) In The News!

In less than 24 hours, we will welcome in the New Year 2013. As we prepare to say goodbye to 2012, it’s time to look back at the events that shaped the year in both politics and pop culture, as well as the underlying issues they illustrated.

The Fiscal Cliff:
Here we are, nearing the 11th hour of the impasse between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democrat President, negotiating to create a mutually satisfactory legislative compromise to avoid the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that are set to kick in if no deal is struck. Diehard Republicans in Congress are sticking to their political mantra of no tax increases as being a component of any remedy to cut government spending, while Democrats seem to be resisting Social Security and Medicaid restructuring as part of any negotiated settlement to slow their (or lower) their contribution to runaway government spending. Needless to say, these two opposing parties don’t seem to be nearing anything in the way of an agreement.
This ongoing political drama has real-life implications for everyday Americans that neither party is willing to acknowledge—outside of bumper-sticker statements made in front of the television cameras as they jockey to paint the other party as the villain. The politicians involved are only part of the problem…we the people are just as polarized as our political leaders, and they know this. No one is willing to be the bigger person and set aside their ideological beliefs for the greater good. And as long as this remains a reality, nothing is ever going to get done to any benefit. This is one of those instances where those involved need to forsake their outside-the-Beltway political pledges, ignore what they perceive to be the often-as-wrong opinions of their political constituencies, ignore their narrow dogmatic “principles,” and put the good of the country ahead of their political parties, and do the right thing. But then, that would involve people actually agreeing…and we know that’s not going to happen before the end of the year (See also: "Why I'm Not A Republican...Or A Democrat.")

Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo: 

The “reality” television craze, spotlighting the misadventures of pint-sized Southern corn-pone child beauty pageant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson and her family, is one of those phenomenons that make one question the sanity of Americans. Stereotypes. Child exploitation. The anything-for-fame ethos. Irresponsible parenting. Unhealthy dieting. Questionable programming by money-grubbing corporate interests. This was one of those multi-faceted experiences that reflected everything wrong with our collective mindsets. It shows how—for a few bucks and airtime—we are willing to surrender our both our dignity and good sense to become “famous;” that we are willing to do anything to get a piece of the limelight. We are willing to exploit our children as well as ourselves, jeopardize their/our health, and reinforce negative cultural beliefs on the mistaken belief that just because half the nation is willing to pollute it minds by being fixated on such insanity validate that this is “what the people want.” In fact, such pop culture dysfunction is not “what people want;” it’s what television executives force us to watch because they are too cheap to invest money necessary to produce the quality and artistically redeeming programming most of older types grew up with. The more obsessed we are with wanting to become individually famous for no reason that its own sake, the more we reveal how famously self-absorbed and mis-prioritizing we are (See also: "The Great Balloon Hoax And Our Obsession With Fame," and "Adults...Children's Worst Enemy! Conclusion").

Aurora, Oak Creek, Sandy Hook, et al.:
The sad thing is despite the numerous incidents of mass shootings this year, there are people on both sides of the argument who continue to ignore common sense in favor of assuming their customary retreating positions when the issue of gun control comes up. Those on the political left ignore the danger of the new “normal” that some individuals will seek notoriety (there’s that “fame-seeking” angle again) or even infamy as a way deal with whatever demons haunt their souls. Something radical has to be done to protect the law-abiding and innocent among us as Americans, particularly males, embrace the distorted notion that spreading their pain to others in some way creates a sense of balance within their narrow universes. Maybe there needs to be armed officers in the public schools, seeing as how most of these mass shooters are not choosing targets where armed protectors are on duty (police stations, military bases--not counting Fort Hood--, National Rifle Association meetings, etc.). They are ignoring the new reality of a society which has adopted way of dealing with personal problems. Those on the political right want to maintain the near-open availability of semi-automatic weapons which are better served on the battle field than in the homes where citizens already own multiple weapons. Many among them defend their intransigence with regards to the Second Amendment right to bear arms as a way of being able to “defend themselves against a government tyranny.” Needless to say, this is pathetically weak excuse in the face of a government which is not really obligated to allow them any gun possession at all…if in fact such a government were truly out to “get their guns.” Finally, there are those who are not able to factor in that the siphoning away of money and community resources formerly used to confront and treat mental illness as an ingredient in such tragedies. For whatever reason, we don’t want to admit that guns in and of themselves—which have always been available to some degree are not as much of the problem as our shifting values.
President Obama shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings

We don’t want to admit that we use unreasonable excuses based on paranoid fears to maintain a obviously crippled status quo with regard to virtual open access to weapons…even weapons that have no place in a civilized society where we have reasonably armed police officers as a first-line of defense. We also don’t want to admit that there is a stigma attached to mental illness which prevents those suffering in silence from seeking redress…and those in the seats of power from providing funding to ensure that those who suffer can get assistance. When paranoia can be justified and weakly explained away by those who are not willing to set aside their petty desires and/or dogmas for the greater good; when we count pennies and cut budgets to fund a growing problem of mental illness; and when we favor rhetoric over actions, we should prepare to gear ourselves up for even more of these sad tragedies (See also: "Sandy Hook, Guns, And Questions," "Gun Control...No! Responsible Gun Control...Yes?" and "How To Stop School Shootings").

Gungnam Style:
South Korean rapper was Psy sure made the ‘rounds on the internet and television circuits…but not for his catchy You Tube breakout video dance craze “Gangnam Style.” At the height of his probable flash-in-the-pan notoriety, it came to light that Psy made some rather off-putting anti-American remarks which he rapped during the height of the Bush Administration’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq. That 2004 performance was widely circulated online once it came to the attention of Westerners, who were still dancing to the You Tube sensation’s video hit.
That performance included lyrics calling for the death of American troops serving in Iraq after two incidents involving South Korean citizens and the American military. Psy’s statements reflected the general anti-American sentiment expressed by many South Koreans at the time, relating to the brutal killing of a South Korean hostage by Iraqi insurgents, and the killing of two Korean schoolgirls who were struck and killed by a U.S. military vehicle.
The lyrics in question went as follows:

“Kill those f--ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives and those who ordered them to torture," and going on to say, "Kill them all slowly and painfully," as well as "daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers."

Naturally, the lyrics were inflammatory to those with a sensitive soft spot for love of America. However, we forget in this country that those who our policies adversely affect have hearts and soft spots too. It’s not for us as a country to judge the anger of another people, especially our allies. Other people, groups, and countries, and hurt too, and their anger is just as much justified as our own when our citizens are hurt or killed by others.
South Korean rapper, Psy

So Psy spoke out of anger...who hasn't...or doesn't? We're supposed to be a nation that favors and promotes freedom of both speech and expression. We can also be a nation of extreme hypocrisy.  As long as Psy was entertaining us with his feel-good lyrics and dancing, we had no problem with him.  The minute he says something which steps on the toes of overly sensitive people, he becomes the Anti-Christ! Let him have his minute in the sun...without the narrow judgments of his opinions.
We in this country are quick to make a big deal out of our right to freedom of expression, but don't seem willing or capable of tolerating it in others.  As I look in retrospect at this issue, I can't help but wonder--especially as a blogger--that is speaking one's opinions, thoughts, and observations all it takes to be hated in America (See also: "Here We Go Again - Ozzie Guillen, Free Speech, And American Foreign Policy," "A Nation of Whiners - Part 2," and "A Nation of Whiners - Conclusion")?


  1. I dont get Honey Boo Boo either. and Im from Georgia!