Every once in a while something comes along to remind me how far we’ve sunk as a country.
Then everything else comes back.
So I’m peacefully watching the British show Top Gear and it turns out to be the episode where they drive through the south of the US with junk cars.
Now in case you haven’t heard of that particular episode as one of the challenges during the trip at one point was to paint slogans on each others’ cars that would “get them shot or arrested”. (It’s available on YouTube if you search for it.)
Now I will say that, yes, it was stupid to “bait the bear” so to speak but that still doesn’t excuse the bear for eating someone when it knows better.
So anyway they start driving across the south and get bad looks, honks, people yelling at them form other cars, all the standard things you’d expect by having a nasty bumper sticker.
But then they stop for gas.
A woman comes out of the gas station and asks if they’re “fags” looking to see how fast they can get beat up in a small town. Her last comment is that she’s going to “call the boys” and walks back into the gas station.
So while they are getting gas a couple of pickup trucks pull up and start insulting them and then...they start throwing rocks.
Yes. These people started trying to “stone” people they didn’t know because of the words they had on their vehicles.
So, after having to jump start the one car while being peppered with insults and rocks, they got back on the road as fast as they can. They were so in a hurry to get away that the cameras were turned off.
The trucks chased them.
Finally they pulled off to the side and managed to clean the words off the sides of their vehicles and then sped as fast as they could for the border.
So to recap...they were almost beat up and stoned...because...of the words...on their vehicles.
Someone want to tell me how this is right? Someone want to tell me what gives someone else the right to damage someone’s person or property because of the words they present? (And if you’re sitting there thinking “Well that’s not in _MY_ town!” you need to think a little more. I’m sure right off the top of the bat you can come up with “undesirables” you wouldn’t want in your town or slogans you wouldn’t want seen on local signs.)
So after watching that part of the show they move into the second part and drive into Louisiana...and into the Katrina damage areas.
They are aghast at the damage, and rightly so. They just can’t believe their eyes.
That episode was from February 2007.
Suddenly it hits me. Most of the damage they’re viewing should have been cleaned up by that time.
That means that even as a of about a year ago the damage wasn’t cleaned up.
It still wasn’t cleaned up by May 2007 when this article was written:
Even now the damage claims are not paid for:
That means a lot of people have no money to do repairs.
That means no repairs.
That means that as of today...likely right now...there are a bunch of people that were victims of something that they had no defense from and were not expecting are homeless or living in those ruins.
I listened to some good friends that went down there and helped make and deliver meals to the victims not too long after it happened. I couldn’t afford to physically get there to help - and to this day I still feel a little guilty about that - but I paid a little to help out for gas.
I listened to their stories and looked at the pictures they took while they were down there. (I don’t see much difference between the ones they brought back and the ones I just saw on TV.)
People went down there and helped out. Then they came back home.
I’m not knocking the people that went down there because they did great things and are bright spots in a darkening world.
But...it seems...everyone has forgotten. The government money has likely dried up by this time along with many private donations.
Where’s the money going?
And I suddenly remember the war...
A war currently being fought, in my opinion, for no other reason, again in my opinion, than the size of our collective penis lengths and barrels of oil.
Afghanistan was legitimate. We had a reason there - to find Osama and bring the Taliban to justice. We had no reason to be in Iraq. And even if we did have a good reason - unseating Saddam - we should have left as soon as that was done.
So while we muck about in another country in our own we have things like...
People living in poverty because of a natural distaster.
People losing their jobs because our economy is having problems.
People losing jobs to overseas.
People losing their savings because of drug prices.
Elections being messed up.
An educational system producing some of the worst students this world has ever seen.
Science, pure science, is on the downswing and is being tossed out in favor of religion.
Dwindling petroleum reserves and further dependence on foreign resources.
People losing their houses because of crooked loans.
I’ll stop there because I could just do random Google searches and come up with a much larger list.
We have quite a few things going on at home so why are we fucking around with things outside?
Frankly I’m ashamed at the things that go on in this country.
We need to look to our own.
We need, once again, to stand on our own two feet.
Because if we don’t then we will sink into oblivion without even a pause. We’re already sinking fast.
The lifeblood of our country is draining out in the form of a war in another country, a failed economy, lost freedoms, and worst of all lost dreams.
Without those freedoms...without those dreams...without that firm ground...we will never be what we once were.
Look to our own people. Look at the person next to you. Don’t look at their skin. Don’t look at their station. Don’t look at their religion. Don’t look to judge them.
Ask yourself one question - “How can I help that person?”
If you want a challenge start with someone who’s had to tighten their belt recently. Don’t start with the poor and downtrodden but start with the average guy next door.
Why him? Because when he’s helped out he’ll be able to pass that help on to someone else. Eventually that help will reach everybody.
And the more average people that are able to help and willing to help then the more people there are to help the poor and downtrodden.
You can’t help those at the bottom without helping those that are falling in that direction. The load quickly becomes too large to handle for anything but...well...everyone at once. Everyone helping at once isn’t reasonable so thus...you start with a few and they help a few more and thus it grows.
So what the hell can you do as a single individual person?
Well for starters you can help by hanging out with people that care. I hang, both online and in meatspace, with people that give a damn. There is not a single one of them that I know and truly call friend that wouldn’t run toward someone screaming in pain or dive to push someone out the the way of harm or, as they have on occasion, volunteer time and money and equipment to help others.
As a rule of thumb when they move to help someone you should do so also.
What should people be helping other people with?
I once read a book on japanese swordsmanship and in it one of the masters referred to the katana as “The sword that gives life.” meaning the sword was only to be used in a situation that helps preserve life not take it.
If someone is only helping “spread the word” but not “spread the food” or “educate the mind” then they aren’t really helping. Faith is needed yes, of that I will not argue, but is comes secondary to being able to live in my book or being able to learn. Let their stomachs and minds be full _then_ fill their hearts.
To do otherwise is in my opinion harming people in the name of your faith and I don’t think that’s a good plan in anybody’s eyes.
What else? Tons of things!
Conserve, re-use, recycle, don’t buy new without good reason, repair, save your money, buy some land, learn, dream, hope, help, and most of all - THINK.
Thinking is crucial to life so why do so many people fail to do this critical act? You’re all bright people out there in one way or another so why is it so hard to even conceive of helping someone else? You can figure out how to pimp out your ride but you can’t figure out how to fix that guy’s car that he needs to go to work in to feed his family? There are a million ways to help and provided they help feed or educate people then they are good in my book.
Think people. Think. Be creative. I know you can do it!
Stop AND think. The two are not mutually exclusive nor is it good to do one OR the other. Both are vital in all but the most extreme situations.
And maybe...just maybe...if we think and if we help...then we can be proud as Americans again.
For now though I’ll have to settle for being proud of my friends and proud of those people that _do_ help and _do_ think. We seem to be damn few these days but I hope that we can help people to be thinkers and helpers.
Any less goal would be fruitless, self-defeating, and in the end a path that leads only to destruction. I’m sure nobody wants that...