Keep America Safe




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Obama: We Will Do Everything Possible to Keep America Safe

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Do you know one?  Perchance your mother, father, brother, or sister is a person you would characterize as lovingly protective.  He or she maybe an individual who works to shield loved ones from harm.  This fine fellow or femme plots and plans in an attempt to prevent any crisis.  People come to depend on caring souls such as he or she.  Indeed, you may be the cautious crier who actively expresses concern for the health and welfare of those you treasure.  It is a tough task, but you, or someone in your life may have assumed responsibility for the well-being of another.  Surely, someone must keep us safe and sane.  One never knows who might lurk or linger in the halls, bathroom stalls, on a plane, boat or train.  Credentials must be checked.  If family and friends cannot safeguard us from the crazies and fanatics certainly, our sweet Uncle Sam will.  

Article II of the Constitution and the American people provide the Commander-In-Chief the authority to protect and defend at all costs, or currently, it would seem so.  Checks and balance be damned, when the consensus within the country is, “We are at war!”

In a time such as this, few reflect upon the parallels in their everyday lives.  Quietly, each of us recalls when we, personally, were at war.  The conflict was covert.  Rarely were we even conscious of what occurred.  Thus, just as we are as children, in adulthood, we oblige.  When asked to remove our shoes in an airport, American citizens, and visitors to this country, do so.  “Put your sweater in the tray.”  Happy, with the prospect that we might avoid a full body search, we smile, and act in accordance with the command.

This is after we handed the Transportation Security Administrators our boarding pass and photograph identification card.  Indeed, as we shuffle off to Buffalo, New York, Billings, Montana, or Bakersfield, California, we succumb to the many demands put before us. The public is now, for the most part, willing to submit to a body scan. Seventy-eight percent of the Americans polled support the use of technology that in the past, would have been considered a physical invasion of privacy.

Although fifty-one percent of the American people who were asked favor racial and ethnic profiling, this action, in truth, is thought politically incorrect.  Nonetheless, archetypal classifications are “acceptable” to more than half the populace.  People prefer to feel protected.  Most trust they will never be subject to unwarranted seizure.  Nor will the use of these X-rays affect their health.  Certainly, Uncle Sam is scrupulous and will not use the images in an unethical manner.  Others are the adversaries.  Authority figures are as Mom and Dad.  They do as they do in our best interest.  

As humans, we long for love, and interpret protective practice as an expression of this caring, or do we?  Might we muse Americans have become inured to the fragility factor. Constantly, especially in this decade, citizens have been told there is reason to fear.  Hence, Americans have become extremely apprehensive.  Paradoxically, the Office of Homeland Security concludes that much of our trepidation is of our own making.

It begins in childhood.  In the last score or so, fearful parents proclaimed, “Do not talk to strangers.”  The neighborhood is on watch.  Playtime must be supervised.  “The world,” Moms and Dads declare, “is not a safe place.”  Indeed, it is impossible to escape the hazards.  Scary people are everywhere.  Nonetheless, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and of course Uncle Sam will help. Rest assured; “we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure.”

Children were, perchance, comforted.  Today, mothers and fathers ponder their growing pains.  Many reason it is better to cloister a little one.  Thus, parents plan every activity.  From birth forward, it is more than 18 Years in the Making. Cash is stashed for college.  Schools and careers are chosen and charted before a child takes his or her first steps.  Tikes are trained and tested to ensure that they will achieve. Once the standards are set, early in life, our government takes over.  Officials watch our every move and we are comfortable with this.

Americans, compassionately teach their children to be on guard However, as an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, Doctor Elizabeth Alderman observes, overprotective parents have left their children with few real-world coping competencies. ”If you don’t have these skills, then it’s very normal to become anxious.”

Diane knows this well. She learned her lessons long before the current trend in parenting.  Darling Diane was but a lass when she discovered that she was not safe.  Decades ago, years before people hid behind locked doors and windows, Diane realized that everywhere she went there was danger.  

In the 1950s the little tike understood, when she walked to school, she did not travel alone.  Her mother marched with her.  Mrs McMahon did not stroll at the young girl’s side.  Nor did the elder woman sweetly saunter just out of sight.  Madame McMahon hung over Diane’s head.  She haunted her darling daughter, and was always in the youngster’s thoughts.

For Diane, it was as it is today for a young patient of Doctor David Anderegg, a Child Psychologist in Lenox, Massachusetts.  As the adolescent spoke with the Professor of Psychology at Bennington College, she said “I wish my parents had some hobby other than me.” Experts appear to agree; being the subject of intense scrutiny can cause a child, of any age, to be anxious.

Diane McMahon concurs.  Whatever she did, Diane could not shake the angst.  Her protective parent influenced her every action; however, not in ways that would benefit the girl or her relationship with her Mom.  

If Diane thought to be with peers, Mom was always in the background of her mind.  When her friends stole makeup from Walgreen’s Pharmacy, Diane did too.  The “culprit” knew she could not keep the cosmetics, at least not at home.  She arranged for a friend of hers, whose Mom and Dad did not go through her drawers, to take the foundation, powder, eye shadow, and mascara.  Each evening these, along with the lipstick and perfume would go home with an acquaintance.  In the morning, on the way to school, all would be returned to Diane.

When classmates said smoking is cool, Diane tried it.  Warnings from her mother, while heard, and alive, loudly in Diane’s head, did not persuade the teen to do what Mom wanted her to do.

She never openly crossed her mother; nor did the girl question Mrs McMahon’s wisdom.  Diane merely hid her heart, the stolen makeup, the cigarettes, and her life.  The mother lived blissfully, ignorant of who her daughter was, and what she did daily.  The two had a good relationship, and seemingly, to this day they do.  However, the hurts, just as the haunts, remain unseen.  

In Diane’s family secrets prevail.  Just as a rebellious child, a sibling, a spouse, or a terrorist, people do what they desire to do.  No one, not even a firm Mrs McMahon, Mister Obama, Mister Bush, you, or I can control what will come.  Indeed, we create it.

When people are presumed to be in need of protection, ultimately, they guard themselves from the protector.  Those alleged guilty persons, often prove not to be as they appear to be. Diane enjoyed her hours at home with her parents.  She cherished the time they spent together away as well.  Yet, there was always unexpressed tension.

Hothouse parenting undermines children in other ways, too, says Anderegg. Being examined all the time makes children extremely self-conscious. As a result they get less communicative; scrutiny teaches them to bury their real feelings deeply. And most of all, self-consciousness removes the safety to be experimental and playful. “If every drawing is going to end up on your parents’ refrigerator, you’re not free to fool around, to goof up or make mistakes,” says Anderegg.

Parental hovering is why so many teenagers are so ironic, he notes. It’s a kind of detachment, “a way of hiding in plain sight. They just don’t want to be exposed to any more scrutiny.”

Infinite inspections, eternal examinations, possible detection did not necessarily stop Diane from engaging in the behaviors her mother feared.  Nor would a prohibition or possible penalty inhibit the lass .  Threats have no power.  As a toddler Dine realized the notion Scott Stewart, Vice President of Tactical Intelligence at the global foundation, Stratfor acknowledges.  The security expert advises; regardless of what type of technology is used at airports, or which techniques are employed by “protective parents, creative terrorists, just as tots, teens, and those at any age, will always find ways to get around it.

When asked if airport body scanners can stop terrorist attacks, he said, “Look at prison systems, where searches are far more invasive – they still can’t stop contraband from being smuggled into the system,”  Mister Stewart continues and cautions. Americans tend to rely on technology, “instead of human intelligence,”  

We might extrapolate.  Protective parents depend upon their ability to provide safety and security.  Rather than teach self-reliance, nervous caregivers coddle, cosset, and lavish “love” on their little ones.  Mothers and fathers create a culture cocooned from harm and believe this is good parenting.

John Portmann, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia has observed, many students, such as Diane,  “There is a ritual every university administrator has come to fear.” He explains.  “Every fall, parents drop off their well-groomed freshmen and within two or three days many have consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and placed themselves in harm’s way. These kids have been controlled for so long, they just go crazy.”

Professor Portmann feels the effects of overprotection are even more pernicious.  He suggests the whole fabric of society is feeble and fallible when we place our faith in our mother, father, or the Federal government. Portmann is very familiar with what he sees each semester.  Young people and their parents become weaker, “more responsive to the herd, too eager to fit in-less assertive  . . , unwilling to disagree with their peers, afraid to question authority, more willing to conform to the expectations of those on the next rung of power above them.”  

That is, perhaps, the greater threat to the persons who reside on this planet.  Most forfeit their personal power.  People presuppose someone will know what is best.  We trust the crowd or the Commander-In-chief.  Most think as the group does.  “Evil is everywhere.”  “There are enemies all about.”  “Terrorists want to kill us.”  These are considered conventional wisdoms or accepted assumptions.  However, the paradox is, presumptions become projections.  Self-fulfilling prophecies survive.  Frequently, these conjectures thrive, while, just as in all other wars, citizens die.

In counterterrorism circles, the standard response to questions about the possibility of future attacks is the terse one-liner: “Not if, but when.” This mantra supposedly conveys a realistic approach to the problem, but, as Joseba Zulaika argues in Terrorism, it functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. By distorting reality to fit their own worldview, the architects of the War on Terror prompt the behavior they seek to prevent-a twisted logic that has already played out horrifically in Iraq. In short, Zulaika contends, counterterrorism has become pivotal in promoting terrorism.

Diane, her deeds, Mrs McMahon sense of doom, and the destructive practice of a protective philosophy affirm what scores of Americans dismiss in the abstract.  What we fear most has power.  As is oft-stated, what we conceive, and truly believe, will be achieved.  Ample research asserts, whether what we imagine is for good or the source of our grief, our conviction can be a cause and an effect.  Often we are too close to a situation to see what others easily discern.

To the countless who contemplate traumas such as terrorism and ask, “What next?” There are many possible prospects.  We can choose to cultivate a culture that cares rather than works to control or we can continue to rely on a reality that has never been.  Americans can have faith that the Commander-In-Chief  “Will Do Everything” or we can accept that, alas, the demon is our own dependency.

References for the reality of resentment, revolt, or insurgent rebels . . .

Somewhere in America



Senate delay on stimulus ‘irresponsible’: Obama

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Somewhere in America, a man loses the job he has held for more than thirty years.  Somewhere in America, a woman cleans out the office she had occupied for close to a decade.  Elsewhere in the United States, a teen unsuccessfully tries to find work.  He knows he needs to help his Mom and Dad; each toiled in the factory that closed just down the street.  A young woman searches for a professional position, just as she has for the two years since she graduated form the University.  Each of these individuals is not startled by the headline, Economy Shed 598,000 Jobs in January.    All ask, where have the “experts,” Economists, and elected officials been?  

There is a stark reality barely revealed in this report. For the many who live somewhere in America, the statistic is not news.  It is the culmination of life or strife as it has been in the United States for a long time.  Countless experience the misery of an economic crisis that consumes them.  There is no joy in jobs lost or the threat of more layoffs to come.

What occurs most every moment, somewhere in America is the reason President Obama stated in his recent address, this country needs a stimulus package now, not tomorrow, not in a week, or in a month.  At least, “3.6 million Americans  . . . wake up every day wondering how they are going to pay their bills, stay in their homes, and provide for their children.  That’s 3.6 million Americans who need our help.”

What the President does not say is that these numbers represent only the persons we know of.

Somewhere in America, in a rural residence, children cry.  There is no food in the cupboard.  Mom, who is the sole supporter in this family, has been out of work for months.  Dad, too depressed, left his loved ones long ago.  He labored part-time for years.  When the economic downturn began, in 2007, he realized he could not even count on temporary employment.  Nor can the young one who hopes to enter college; she understands “career path” may be a euphemism from the past.  Today in America, the streets are not golden.

As Senators and Congresspersons, all of whom are gainfully employed, bicker, and build an Economic Stimulus Bill filled with pork, and, or tax cuts that benefit only the rich, somewhere in America, a mother cannot buy food for her son.  A single father, without a High School diploma, wonders how he might hold on to his factory job and still adequately prepare his daughter for school.  Somewhere in this great country, educational institutions go without textbooks.  Perhaps, it matters not, the students cannot read.

Somewhere in America, a cancer patient is refused treatment, for, although he has insurance, the policy will not cover the costs.  

A firefighter is given a furlough.  In California, State workers are forced to take  an unpaid leave.  Somewhere in America, a  plan to bring recovery to America cannot wait.

Elsewhere in this country, citizens, the few secure in their circumstances, argue over the proposed stimulus package. Certain that all is well, at least for them, these affluent Americans say the situation is not dire.  They encourage their Representatives not to sign on to a incentive measure that might spend money on other than they, personally, think right.  Meanwhile, somewhere in the United States, a family in the frozen Midwest is thrown out on the cold streets.  The mortgaged house, the five had lived in for near a score, went into foreclosure.  

In a country, where the words “economic crisis” is not hyperbole, few wish to help move the nation forward.  People rather quarrel.  Free speech is fun for those who still feel safe.  Today, the public does not ponder the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota two summers ago.  August 2007, was eons ago.  The public does not hear the stressful sounds of a viaduct ready to crumble.  The roar of engines is too loud, or perhaps, when the conversation turns to fiscal responsibility the screams from silly squabbles drown out the noise steel makes when it bends and breaks.

People plump with power, profits, or an ideology can safely ignore federal government studies that show “Nearly a quarter of the nation’s roughly 600,000 major bridges carry more traffic than they were designed to bear,”  When an American lives elsewhere in America, it may matter not that  the “Federal Highway Administration data from 2006 shows that 24.5 percent of the nation’s bridges longer than 20 feet were categorized as “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” (data from Utah and New Mexico was from 2005).”

Rarely do individuals reflect on what does not affect them directly.  Many are happy to refuse to see what is invisible to their eyes let alone the reality numbers might represent.  Empathy, elsewhere in America can be elusive.

People who have a roof over their heads rather rant.  Those who toddle off to the office much prefer to rage.  It is “pork” they say.  The Obama stimulus plan is nothing but needless government-funded expenditures.  “Taxes must be cut;” screech the tycoons and venture Capitalists.  These influential persons of means make telephone calls.  The rich reach out and touch Republican and Democratic Legislators alike.  Why?  Because they can.  Powerful persons have access, the privilege of the affluent.  The plight that occurs somewhere in America is alien to them.

Insulated and isolated, the wealthy worry not.  Elsewhere, many in the Middle Class cannot imagine what it must be like to live somewhere in America.  Most do not believe an economic catastrophe will become a personal truth.

Those whose children are enrolled in private schools, or in public school out in the suburbs subsidize their progeny’s education.  They wonder why others cannot.  Perchance these individuals have not traveled to somewhere in America.  Persons whose families are well-funded, who hear, and see no evil on the streets of this nation, do not imagine that somewhere in America might ever be where they live.  

These citizens, comfy, cozy, and content with what is, have no need for the Head Start programs now cut from the stimulus package.  Education for the Disadvantaged, another program now eliminated from the Bill, will not have an effect on friends or family of the economically-established.  Persons who have the ability to care for their own do not understand the plight of those they have never encountered.

Thus, they exclaim, the “fat” must be removed from the stimulus package, and so it is.  

School improvement stipends were removed from the proposed fiscal plan.  These critical contributions, in a  country, which ranks low, or last, in many categories of learning seems unnecessary.  Child Nutrition grants are lavish in the minds of the physically and financially satiated.  Surely, the well-off say, there is no need for such remunerations.  

Individuals who are safe and sane do not wish to sponsor programs such as Funds for Violence Against Women.  These planned provisions were erased from the proposition.  Persons not in harm’s way questioned why would society wish to assist those ladies who did not chose their companion wisely.  

Food Stamps surely are wasteful spending, say the scornful and satiated.

These same persons are happy to see an end to what they think exploitive expenditures.  Dollars expected to be doled out to The National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA, National Science Foundation NSF, and the Western Area Power Administration were also expunged from the package.

Firefighters are now forsaken. Cash for the Coast Guard was deemed redundant.  Payments for better prisons, are said to be decidedly pointless.  Community Oriented Policing Services COPS Hiring programs, are among the allowances that have been cut.  Apparently, community safety is not critical, at least not for those who think private industry better cares for any communal needs.  

That may be why these same individuals decided dollars devoted to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC were also wanton.  Certainly, these would not stimulate the economy.

Perchance, the persons who live elsewhere in the United States, do not realize that cash spent on services contributes to jobs somewhere in America.

Possibly, the prosperous do not recall that poverty produces greater poverty.  Persons who love to engage in arguments, think it fun to find fault with each and every point,   These individuals, whose intention is to wrangle, do not wish to acknowledge, as Nobel Prize winner and Princeton Professor of Economics and National Affairs does in his most recent NewYork Times column.  “As the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out almost 80 years ago, deflation, once started, tends to feed on itself.”

As dollar incomes fall in the face of a depressed economy, the burden of debt becomes harder to bear, while the expectation of further price declines discourages investment spending.  These effects of deflation depress the economy further, which leads to more deflation, and so on.”

Hence, as a country we stand still.  Democrats and Republicans are divided.  Congress cannot or will not decide to support an authentic stimulus package.  Policymakers will do as they have always done, dicker, and deliver little.  What may ultimately pass will likely be more irresponsible than it might have been.  

When somewhere in America is not where you are; nor is it a place you chose to imagine as real, then you do not reflect upon the parent who has not had a paycheck for years, or the child who cries out for a but a mere morsel of food.  Sadly, somewhere in America, for members of Congress, and for citizens comfortable in their circumstances, is a place far, far, far, away.  

In truth, were the quarrelsome to look out their window, they might see, somewhere in America is right next door.

Sources for Somewhere in America . . .