As of the moment this is being written, one confirmed case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States. In a country of over 300 million, that’s a percentage of the population so small, my feeble mathematical mind can’t really process it. But if you take your cues from the media, I am sure you are freaking-the-fuck-out over Ebola, right? I mean, sure, the odds of you contracting it are still crazily remote, but if the man on the box says to panic, you panic damn it!
For me though, I’m having a hard time losing the requisite amount of sleep over the impending Ebola epidemic that the media is convinced we’re headed for — or at least they’re convinced it’ll get ratings and clicks on their websites. Choose any one of these next five items, and you’ll find yourself with something I am far, far more fearful of than dying from Ebola complications.
#5. A Republican President in 2016
The Supreme Court’s ideological makeup is probably the number one reason why I fear a Republican in the White House. Currently there are four staunchly conservative and one moderate conservative on the bench as a result of the presidencies of Ronaldus Q. Reagan and the Presidents Bush. Thanks to those three presidencies and the slight majority they represent on the nine-person high court, we’ve gotten repugnant decisions in cases like Citizens United, McCutcheon vs. FEC, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was gutted last summer so that red states could continue to draft their disenfranchisement laws, known more commonly as voter ID laws.
All it would take is one conservative justice — I’d take any of them, but especially Scalia — to retire or expire and suddenly we could have an opening on the court. A Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justice all but ensures that Citizens and McCutcheon would be expanded, and if you think the religious bullshit in the Hobby Lobby case was bad with a slight conservative majority, what do you think a court with a 6-3 or 7-2 makeup of conservatives to liberals would do with oh, I don’t know, Roe vs. Wade?
#4. Republicans Re-taking the Senate (Temporarily)
Honestly, there’s a part of me that genuinely doesn’t care if the GOP takes the Senate in this fall’s mid-terms. I’m not sure they will, because as of right now Kansas looks to be moving out of the red column and into the purple one, and a new poll just released shows Alison Lundergan Grimes is actually overtaking Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. So I think there’s still more than enough room for Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That being said, it’s still a scary thought, giving them control over the full body of Congress.
Yes, with Obama in the White House and without a two-thirds majority in the Senate to impeach and remove him, it’ll basically create a two-year lame duck session where nothing gets done, and on paper that seems like an okay thing, since we also know that Obama will never sign anything into law that the kooky folks on the right side of the aisle cook up. But call me crazy if you wish, I just think that’s the exact opposite of what this country needs. We need our politicians to hate each other’s ideas and policies, but to be able to work together to actually accomplish things. We have a crumbling infrastructure in this country and the lynch pin in the whole shebang is our faltering education system. The reason there was so much innovation and invention in the post-World War II America was we put a primary emphasis on making all our kids smart enough to be innovative and inventive.
Now we’re fighting about whether to also teach kids that the planet is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs played fetch with cavemen. A year-long lame duck session may be okay from the standpoint that nothing overly harmful should get through, but it’s another 12 month cycle of wasted salaries on people who aren’t working even half as many days as we are. It’s still going to delay our coming out of this fog we’ve been in since seemingly forever by another year, and with the GOP controlling Congress fully, I shudder to think about the programs that will die for lack of funding. The mid-terms matter more than the Boogey Man of Ebola, but just how many people agree with me on that is left to be seen.
#3. We Don’t End the Drug War
The prohibition of alcohol lasted just over a decade, and in that time the black market for booze got so bad and so many people were ignoring the laws against drinking alcohol anyway that the amendment banning it was repealed and collectively we all gave the movement — in all fairness one that should be attributed to the Progressives of the time — the finger. We all feel like we learned our lesson about prohibition of substance ingestion with that failed experiment in forced morality, and yet…
Here we are more than 40 years into the War on Drugs — which I attribute to starting when Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency — and the black market for them is far more bloody and violent than the black market booze runners could have ever imagined. The drug cartels have billions of dollars at their disposal and we are imprisoning an absolutely embarrassing number of our citizens — mostly black males, by the way — for non-violent drug offenses. Oh, and then you have stories like the toddler whose face was mangled by a cop firing a flash-bang grenade into a house that they were mistakenly raiding for drugs and weapons. No charges are being filed against the cop, because you know, Justice.
This idiotic policy has to end. It is untenable, immoral and baffling in its willful-ignorance of the lessons we learned from Al Capone and his ilk decades ago.
#2. We Don’t Demilitarize and Rein In Our Cops
Speaking of cops doing terrible things and not getting in trouble for them…We have to get a hold on our police forces, and soon. The events this summer in Ferguson, Missouri should remind everyone how important it is for our police officers to not only have the equipment they need to fight and solve crimes, but to be given a thorough and testable knowledge of basic criminal justice principles. No cop should feel like they are above the law, and no cop should be ignorant of a citizens basic rights to peacefully assemble, even if — especially if — the protests center on police behavior.
But every time you turn on the TV now there’s another story of a cop brutalizing an unarmed suspect by pistol whipping them, or shooting them at point blank range without any provocation. Not all cops are bad cops, but clearly we are not doing a good enough job in teaching our cops to protect and serve, not to patrol and control. They need to be stripped of their armaments and vehicles that turn them into tactical assault teams, and leave that type of activity for the already amply-funded armed forces. Let our cops cop and our soldiers soldier. The two should never have mixed like they did, and you have our country’s post-9/11 hysteria to blame for it.
We pay their salaries. Who cares if they don’t like hearing it? The truth doesn’t get any less true just because it makes you have sad feelings inside.
#1. We Don’t End the War on Terror
I wasn’t quite 21-years-old yet when the September 11th, 2001 attacks by Al Qaeda operatives took down the World Trade Center, blew a massive hole in the Pentagon and forced another plane down in Pennsylvania while on its way to another D.C. target. I was caught up in all the emotion of the moment, I won’t lie. And when the Bush administration said we were going to go into Afghanistan it made sense to me. That’s where we presumed Bin Laden to be, and since he was the criminal behind the attacks, it made sense to go after him.
But what started as a somewhat reasonable response to a direct attack — quickly became yet another American endless war. The idea that we can be at war with an ideology is absolutely absurd. I’m not one who thinks the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was right, and I find it sadly ironic that we’re the one country to commit that atrocity and we’ve spent the last seventy or so years in the posture of trying to keep everyone else from doing the same thing, but the fact is that at least Japan was a country we were officially at war with, and that attacked us directly, and an against whom we had an actual end point in mind — their unconditional surrender.
Now, we have this nebulous war on what is essentially unevolved, repressive thinking. It’s noble to want to stamp that kind of shit out, because it is a cancer to human survival, but as always we’re going about it wrong, and I truly fear that if we don’t stop this craziness now, it could claim my sons or their friends. I am deathly scared of the War on Terror lumbering on for another ten or so years and it ensnaring my children in its slick advertising campaign, and so more than anything, the War on Terror simply has to end, and the sooner the absolute better. It’s already been raging for over a decade, and we’re still living in a world with fundamentalist terrorists, so it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board.