They call themselves the Tea Party, but they've always been around. The intolerant, ultra-religious, racist, mouth-breathing fools may always be with us.
We fail to impart the mistakes we've made to our children, so the cycle repeats. Or, worse, we feed them the poison that was fed to us, and the ignorance continues.
Yesterday, I said goodbye to an old friend. I've been living in a college town, and working close to the university, for 5 years now. Long enough to see some of the kids go through their entire college experience. Almost without exception, they have all been intelligent, kind, exceptional young people. Even the "Daddy's girls," with their Paris Hilton sunglasses, short shorts, and sense of entitlement hold a certain charm for me.
OK, fine. It could just be the shorts.
Anyway, there have been a few among them that stood out. A young woman with a social conscience and a fierce intellect who is now doing postgraduate work in the Midwest, and who I am certain will be a great writer someday. There is the young man who still comes in occasionally, and reads me stories from the Wall Street Journal and reminds me of my mortality. And, of course, the young man who graduated last week. He came in to say goodbye, and to thank me for my words of wisdom (Apparently, I'm wise. Who knew?).
It wasn't easy for any of them. While at an age when making mistakes comes with the territory, they ran the gauntlet of high school. This was even more difficult, considering we now live in an age when there is a zero-tolerance policy attached to almost every human endeavor. This gauntlet run just to get to the beginning of college.
Once they've gotten there, they're faced with a whole new set of obstacles. My friend was unlucky enough to start college during one of the worst economic and political periods in American history. An economic collapse, brought about by the greed of those at the top of the banking industry, supported by the radical right who, in my state especially, have a long history of being openly hostile to education, and educators.
The great irony is that the greatest resource America has, is having such a hard time of it. I realize that some stress is necessary, even good for you. Without exercise, muscles atrophy. The same concept can be applied to just about all human endeavor. But this isn't just stress. It's America's obsession with turning itself into a second-rate country.
Make no mistake. The man had to die, and he had to die by our hand. But the death of any man, no matter how necessary or justified, is no cause for celebration. We didn't win a football game. We took a human life. There's a difference.
For those who live in New York, or DC, I can understand their expression of relief. Jon Stewart said, "I'm way too close to the situation to be rational." That is eminently forgivable. Especially when one goes back and watches the first episode of the Daily Show after 9/11. While his words were eloquent, his eyes spoke most of the pain we all felt.
In some ways Bin Laden has held us all hostage for the last decade, and the damage he did to this country will take generations to undo. Some of may even be permanent.
But at some point, grief and rage must give way to reason and humanity. A lot of blood has been shed to get us to this point, and this time should be used to remember those who fought for us, and along side us.
An inherent risk when fighting evil, is that of becoming your enemy. My love for my country, and my faith in my fellow man, says that we are better than this.
I admit, my heart is often broken. But as Bob Marley said, "Everyone hurts you. You just need to find the ones worth suffering for."
I think we're all worth it.
When I was young (17 - 18 Years Old) I was a staunch conservative. My world view was very narrow, and the only things that really meant anything to my (besides girls, of course) were musclecars and guns. All I knew about liberals were that they were against those things (but I found out that they liked girls too). I also was ignorant about how the tax structure worked and I naively believed that trickle down economics was the real deal. I also thought unions were for protecting lazy employees. Worse yet as a Senior in High School I read "The way things ought to be" by none other than Rush Limbaugh. But time marches on, and my perceptions changed. I became more liberal. What happened you ask?
Life happened. I found out that free market capitalism only works at the local to regional level, and that it becomes a major problem once you add multinational corporations and international banks to the mix.
I discovered that musclecars were not ideal daily transportation, and that with few exceptions, liberals didn't really care if I wanted one or not, and that many of them were actually car guys too.
I learned that major corporations use predatory business practices to destroy small companies and eliminate competition, to lower workers standards of living, and extract more work for less pay. I also learned that they buy politicians (on both sides of the aisle) to gain favorable legislation and tax laws that the average person or small business owner can't take advantage of. I realized that corporations and the extremely wealthy (those with multiple billions) paid less tax percentage wise than I did while earning my $4.15 minimum wage.
I had a non-union job from which I was fired for being unwilling to do unethical work. I then realized that maybe unions were for more than protecting idiots.
I realized that "trickle down economics" did work... it allowed American jobs to trickle down to the coast, where they trickled down into the ocean and floated to China.
I saw bad things happen to good people, and I realized that yes, we did need a social safety net. I saw people die because the insurance company they had denied lifesaving procedures even though they were in fact covered because they were banking on the customer dying before the arbitration process would clear them for the procedure.
I saw unions crushed and disbanded, followed by the vaporization of pensions, healthcare, vacation time. sick pay, overtime pay, etc.
In summary, as I gained more wisdom and perspective in this world, I became a moderate. I am much more liberal than I used to be. I am often lumped in with "liberals" because you are not allowed to question anything in the conservative camp or you are a bleeding heart liberal. The irony is that most liberals would describe me as a reasonable conservative. Regardless, I thank God we have both sides, even when one side does something really stupid (I.E. Wisconsin's move to crush unions, or Obama's "Cash for Clunkers"). I would hate to live in a country that was hard right or hard left, because both sides have good things to offer. It's all about separating the wheat from the chaff.
Mr. Borrelli is politically a bit to the right of me, but he was earnest and, I believe, honest when writing this. And that alone demands respect.
UPDATE: While writing this, I got the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. The man had to die, and we had to be the ones to do it. But the cheering makes me uncomfortable. The greatest danger when fighting evil, is becoming your enemy. This is the time when we show the world who we are.