Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'm Fed Up

Written by a fellow Marine Vietnam vet and friend. ~Bob


This is a series of observations of things that have come to the point of really giving me concern about our society today. But before you dismiss me as just another angry old guy doing a lot of general complaining about the modern world that has passed me by, you might want to consider that a great many good things were done for this country through the hard work and sacrifice of many millions of people who are now old and more than a little discontent. At least some of us had intelligence, common sense, and a long series of educational experiences, so it’s quite possible that some of what I have say could have value.

Yes, I'm officially semi-ancient at 67, started my working career at age 8 helping my older brother with his paper route (225 daily, 600 Sunday, this was serious, getting up at 4AM on Sunday in order to be done in time for the last Mass). Worked through high school, and in college, and every summer vacation, as quite a few did in those days. We didn't know we needed that summertime jaunt to Europe to round out our character, or that we should take a year off after college to travel the world before joining the workforce. We already knew a lot about who we were, and what we wanted to do.

I was and remain passionate about racial and gender equality and loved JFK and his inaugural address. Even though my various history courses had made clear mention of the many imperfections in US actions and policies since 1776, I still believed we were a great nation, truly exceptional in at least a few ways.

After all, my grandparents had come here, through the system of the time, filling out the paperwork, sweltering in steerage, standing in line at Ellis Island and answering all the questions. They didn't speak much English at first, and were certainly subject to the prejudices and discrimination that most new groups of immigrants faced; yet they had worked hard and prospered, and got their children and grandchildren a much better life, many more opportunities, than we'd have had in the old country.

But now I'm really getting fed up.

I'm fed up with people who are walking hair triggers, waiting eagerly for someone to say something that they can choose to interpret as a slight against their particular in-group, whether denoted by race, gender, religion, or any other characteristic. Our national motto is "E Pluribus Unum", Out of Many, One. This is how our Founders finally got 13 different and often fractious colonies to come together, in the idea that it is smarter and more effective to concentrate on those things which bind us together rather than those which separate us. And that the critical lubricants for human interaction are courtesy and tolerance, so that it is in all our interest to practice those traits willingly and consciously. When that doesn't happen and people insist on concentrating on differences and resentments, well, that's how Yugoslavia descended into hell after Tito died, that's how Rwanda slid into genocide, that's how a number of countries are plagued with seemingly eternal unrest and violence.

In like manner, I'm fed up with the subgroup of immigrants who come to this country, but not to really become Americans and assimilate to some reasonable extent to the society as it existed here before they came. Instead, some insist on not only maintaining every bit of the culture and customs of their birth land, but also that this society must tolerate, support, and honor those customs no matter how foreign they are to us. In effect, they demand the right to transport their way of life here, and their true loyalties are to that way of life, that homeland, while they live a better life here than they ever could there, by taking full advantage of every facet of our society. All who came here in the past found it possible to maintain their cultures within the framework of our laws and social contract; you can find Italian, Greek, Polish, German, Cuban, Vietnamese, etc, neighborhoods scattered throughout our cities. In these places the people celebrate their native holidays, food, and social customs, without any conflict with the rest of society, and without any demands for special treatment. Anyone who has a heart they keep closed against America should go and live where their heart really belongs.

I'm fed up with high IQ people from big name schools sliding into class arrogance, in which they are sure they are smarter than everyone else, and in fact better than others, like the nobility of the Middle Ages. I'm fed up with how they act when they get into power of any sort, but most especially political power, where they make casual decisions about what is good for all the rest of us, regardless of either what we the people say or what can be shown to make good sense.

I'm fed up with that fraction of professors who have their own form of elitism, and who believe it's their right to condition their students into particular points of view, rather than educate them objectively and give them the tools to find and analyze data to come up with their own point of view. I'm fed up with the arrogant righteousness of such egoists, so cocksure that they are like little messiahs delivering a new gospel to the young minds who come into their classrooms.

I'm fed up with all the people who believe that somehow they truly deserve to make money in obscene amounts, through ridiculous compensation plans, insane bonus arrangements, and incredible perks. Especially when they become the fox in charge of the henhouse, so to speak, as upper level managers who can contribute greatly themselves to their capacity to legally loot the institution.

I'm fed up with politicians who believe their first and major mission in office is to do whatever it takes to get elected again and again, who play every game with trading votes, getting or going along with perks, pork, earmarks, set asides. Or the tactic of burying in one kind of legislative bill subtopics that have nothing to do with the focus of the bill, and which would never survive being debated on the floor when the public heard what they were. I'm particularly fed up with the hypocrisy of their self-serving statements about subjects like retirement and health care when they have the most generous retirement plan in the nation and have already exempted themselves and their staffs from the new Health Care system so they can stay on that plan anywhere while working and when they retire.

I'm fed up with the major teachers' union, which is far more about political activism and protecting mediocrity than anything to do with helping teachers do their jobs better; and with other major unions, whose unabashed greed to get their membership extremely generous compensation to the detriment of both industry and the public continues to make things more expensive for all the rest of us and also make us less competitive internationally.

I'm fed up with the ACLU, which used to do a great deal of good work for people and causes that needed help, but now seems to be highly focused on promoting secularism to a ridiculous degree, based on the false assumption that separation of church and state implies an adversarial relationship.

I'm fed up with the bankruptcy of most of our major media, who have given in almost totally to sensationalism (if it bleed, it leads), advocacy journalism (an oxymoron), shallowness in coverage, and the terribly frequent insertion of slant and bias into how events are reported. I'm fed up with double standards, where how much coverage of a crime or controversial event changes radically depends on whether it's one group (race, religion, etc) who is the apparent victim as opposed to a contrasting group of the same genus. What's sauce for the goose should be precisely the same sauce for the gander.

I'm fed up with how some teach US History as a litany of every bad or questionable practice ever known in our society, from the unfair treatment of the native Americans through slavery, limited voting rights, institutionalized chauvinism, exploitation of immigrants, racism, homophobia, extinction of species, and ignorance/arrogance in regard to other cultures. That it's inappropriate to make moral judgments freely on people of very different times, or that all such practices were not invented here and in fact were the general rule in the rest of the world (and still are in many places) never gets taught in the texts or by many educators. The simple truths that we were the first nation founded on the principle that all humans are created equal and with God-given rights, and that our society's real story is one of continuous progress towards humanitarian ideals, do not get taught anywhere near enough. Here is still where overall, people have the most freedom and best opportunities in life, as the unceasing flow of immigrants demonstrates. But when citizens do not appreciate their own society, the fabric of that society weakens and unravels in time, to the long term detriment of all.

I'm fed up with the near universal use of ad hominem attacks on people that others don't like and/or have disagreement with. The near-instant resort to charges or even just suggestions of racism/sexism/religious extremism/homophobia/Nazism/primitivism that has become the everyday practice of many activist groups is a cheap shot and a disservice to everyone. And it dilutes the effectiveness of any such charges when the situation actually justifies them.

I'm fed up with umbrella parenting, where little Johnny or Janie are protected and privileged by Mom & Dad as little princes and princesses, taken everywhere, given everything, always praised, seldom if ever disciplined, and endlessly told how special they are. So when the kid finally has to deal with a real world situation, most often a class in school where they don't perform well and get that C or worse, the parents descend on the teacher and administrators like wounded banshees protecting their infant, and threaten the principal or Board of Education with a lawsuit. This is a perfect formula for producing permanent adolescents, who "know" the world revolves around them and have a built-in sense of entitlement. They will go through life with no sense of responsibility to anyone or anything else, focused heavily on their own pleasures and privileges.

Of course, the other side of this is how fed up I am with the school administrators and teachers who fold on some things, like grade inflation so that an A now covers every level of achievement from medium to outstanding, and a B means the student really didn't do very much. And yet they remain utterly rigid on other things, like "zero tolerance" policies that end up sending small boys home for bringing a 2-inch high plastic soldier with a half-inch rifle to school, or for scribbles made on notepaper while riding on the school bus that include the rough outline of a pistol. There is the banning of games where there is competition and scoring, so there's no more kickball at recess, as if the children will never, ever have to face the reality of a world where there is competition and winners and losers.

And I'm certainly fed up with the promotion of litigiousness in our society, with the constant ads on TV and in magazines from lawyers telling people that they are owed money for whatever they think happened to them, and that they need to come get legal help to get that money. People have been paid serious money for spilling coffee on themselves, misusing power tools stupidly, for injuries they really caused themselves, for dissatisfaction with how some medical procedure came out even though the medical professionals involved really did nothing wrong, for alleged connections between some experience and a health problem that in fact is common among the population. No other society in the world has anything like the level of tort lawsuits that we have, and while certainly some are justified, very many are not and really only serve to cost all of us in both money and loss of services, while making a small class of attorneys extremely wealthy.

I'm fed up above all with the creation and growth of the all powerful, faceless, arbitrary bureaucracy. We can all agree that making the 5 year old kick off her little rubber flip-flops and walk barefoot to get through airport security is utterly senseless and nonproductive, but there is no way to protest TSA policies or influence some sort of revision. Everyone has a story or two of utter frustration trying to deal with some federal, state, or local bureau, and how eventually they had to accept their own powerlessness and just endure the situation.

Perhaps I should say lastly that I'm fed up with the kind of thinking that will have some people read this, and immediately conclude that really I am simply too negative, too judgmental, and probably have Nazi tendencies myself. Actually, I am grateful for every day I've spent as an American, I believe totally in freedom and tolerance for all. I love this nation and its founding principles more than life. I want all who follow me to revel in the same freedom and opportunities I have had. I wish everyone in this land could wake up in the morning first and foremost as an American, with respect and deep consideration for all other Americans, and full appreciation of all the wondrous benefits we have inherited from those who came before and struggled, suffered, and sometimes died to achieve and protect them. What I protest and intend to work against any way I can are the various tendencies now evident in our society which undercut the freedoms and practices which have brought so many, so far, throughout our history to the present. God Bless America.

PS- if any reader disagrees in part or large part or totally with my views, hey, that's OK. It's a free country and I would defend to the death your right to your own views. But if you really think this country is a bad one and its history shameful, the question becomes, why are you still here? Unlike in some other countries, here you may at any time pack your bags and depart to wherever you believe there is more virtue. Bon voyage.



  1. Outstanding! We can all hate the beancounters with a clear conscience.

    Ron Pittenger

  2. Wow, you said it all! And i agree on each subject! Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. I think I'm the only Generation Y person out there that fully agrees with this. What happened to our values America?

  4. How could anybody disagree with a single word?! Perfect!

  5. Unfortunately you have a sad opinion about educators and there professional organizations. I would like to sit down with you so that you could discover that these organizations spend 95% of there efforts to improve instruction to the many different children that we are sent. The other % ends up defending personal attacks and greedy school boards.

    I am personally fed up with those that complain but fail to work to improve (not destroy) our Great County, the U.S.A.

  6. To Anonymous about educators-
    Let's see, my father was a teacher, my brother is a teacher, my wife was a teacher, we have several old friends who were or are teachers, and I do guest lectures at high schools and colleges.
    Actually I value good teachers very highly, they help create a better future for the society. But look at the agenda of the yearly AFT meetings, and all you see are political subjects, nothing about teaching. Most of the teachers and professors I know are frustrated with the restrictions they have, the bureaucracy of the system, the massive overhead of administrators and aides that costs so much, the politics that go on. Some of our better teachers retire as early as they can, others just burn out and find other kinds of work.
    So real educators are one thing, professional organizations can be and sometimes are something else.