At the start of every ballgame or other function, people stand and sing the national anthem. They proudly sing those words written during the War of 1812. The song ends with “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” With the ending everyone cheers and settles in to watch whatever event they are at.
Since 2011, veterans all around have been told “thank you” for your service. There are so many “thank you” events that it is beginning to turn my stomach. Maybe one of the reasons for my acid reaction to those “thank you” is because they have come so absent-mindedly and automatically. No thought is given to those words before they are uttered.
I grew up in the 50s and 60s. I lived through the civil rights fights. I saw how terrible discrimination was to my fellow citizens. During the 60s the Vietnam war became a hot button. Youth around the country rebelled against society. The Hippie movement started and the saying was “turn on and drop out.” Bust most of us didn’t drop out. We fought against the war and against discrimination.
In 1970 I entered the service. I served my country from 1970 to 1990. I served under 5 presidents and saw the changing of the country. In 1980, Ronald Reagan became president. He talked about that “shining city on a hill” that the rest of the world wanted to be like. But, it was also Reagan who stood by and watched as hundreds if not thousands of our fellow citizens died from AIDS. Reagan didn’t want to do anything because at first it mostly affected gays. It wasn’t until more straight people became sick and died from AIDS before he started to actually talk about it. He never really did anything about it.
Reagan started the “divide and conquer” mentality of the Republican Party. He was very anti-union and broke the Air Traffic Controllers Union because they had the audacity to strike over better pay and working conditions. Rather than deal with the problem, he simply fired them all. That was the first shot fired across the bow of “liberty”.
Since 9/11 we have been at war. First it was Afghanistan, then it was Iraq. We were finally able to draw out of Iraq, but we are still fighting in Afghanistan. In Iraq, the government there at the time did not want us to keep forces in the country. So, we completely left. Then, in recent years, ISIS started gaining ground. The new government requested our help and we are now bombing the country again. So far, the only “boots on the ground” are advisors and trainers.
In Afghanistan, their government wants us to keep a force there after we draw down. So the war in Afghanistan will continue for an unforeseeable future. We have lost thousands of our men and women in these wars. Our wounded are in the thousands as well. Yet, the Republicans in congress has continually cut the budget for the Veterans Administration. Meaning thousands of our veterans are not getting the help they need.
But, I guess we are supposed to accept “thank you” as our payment for the hardships we face. It has always been very easy for the country to send our troops to war. It has always been almost impossible for our country to offer the help and medical treatment we need once we come home. It is almost like veterans are supposed to just fade away when the country is finished with them. Isn’t a thank you enough?
Back home things really started getting nasty in 2000. We all remember the presidential election that year. The one with the hanging chads. That was when the Republicans decided that everyone should not be allowed to vote. They started introducing legislation at the state level called Voter ID laws. Their main argument was to stop in person voting fraud. Let it be known that in Texas, one of the states with the most restrictive Voter ID Laws, that between 2000 and 2012 over 20 million votes were cast. In that time, there were a 2 cases of in person voter fraud. But, that didn’t stop them from yelling about voter fraud.
Of course the real intention of these Voter ID laws is to keep minorities, young people, and senior citizens from voting. That is because these groups tend not to vote Republican and many don’t have a “state approved” ID card. I find it amusing that in these Voter ID law states, a gun registration card is a valid ID, but a student ID card from the State’s University is not.
Then states started banning same-sex marriage. They had to have only “one man and one woman” marriages. See, if you allowed same-sex couples to marry, straight marriages will begin to fall apart. The very thought of giving same-sex couples the same civil rights as everyone else is simply too abhorrent to even think about. If you don’t look at homosexuals as “real people” it is easy to discriminate against them.
Banning same-sex marriages wasn’t good enough for these right-wing crusaders. They started to introduce “freedom of religion” laws. Sounded catchy. But, these laws only had one objective. Allow private business to discriminate against anyone who did not have the same belief system as the owner of the company. Though it mostly went after gays, it was intended to be broad enough that any group that was looked down upon to be legally discriminated against. You know people like interracial marriages or Muslims and Jews.
Abortion was another civil right that has been attacked. According to the right-wing, women simply don’t have the mental capacity to make their own decisions about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to full term. The state had to step in and make sure they made the choice for them. All of this in the name of “getting the government out of our lives” which is an infamous battle cry of the far right. That wasn’t enough either. Now they are going after birth control as well.
Right-wing activists started fighting against the minimum wage. While people were beginning to fight for a minimum wage increase, the right-wing started waging a war to end the minimum wage altogether. This plan was backed by corporations who thought they could increase their profits simply by paying their workers less. On top of that, women are being paid at least 70 cents on the dollar less than men doing the same work. But, since they are women, they should just shut up and not complain about it. After all, men are nice enough to even allow them into the workforce.
The reality is that the people we used to call WASPs are becoming terrified that they are losing their grip on power. It is becoming clearer to them that their days are numbered. In order to sustain their power, they need to rig the system so the rest of our citizens are marginalized and denied basic civil liberties. In the name of Christianity, things like welfare, food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security have been attacked and cut. Seems the Conservative Christian Cult doesn’t believe that helping the needy is really part of Christianity.
We have turned into a country where women are continuously objectified by the morons. Abuse and rape are being blamed on the victim not the abuser or rapist. Women are not only treated as second-class citizens, but they are considered “bubble-heads” who cannot think for themselves. Homosexuals are demonized simply for being themselves.
Rights are being based on the religious beliefs of a very few and not on the constitution. Unarmed people are being shot to death by an ever-increasing militarized police without the shooter being prosecuted. After all, they must have had it coming. Immigrants are being criminalized with no immigration reform on the horizon.
We have become a country where your civil rights are being decided by billionaires and bigoted nut cases in a dark room somewhere and not by the constitution. If this continues, how much longer will it be before all of our rights are denied. The real battle against civil rights is being fought at the state level more than the Federal Government. State Legislatures controlled by Republicans are terrified they will lose their grip on power. That is something they are determined not to have happen. They gerrymander voting districts and pass laws that are intended to disenfranchise voters they don’t like.
When you go to the voting booth this mid-term, ask yourself one question. Are we really the “land of the free and the home of the brave” anymore? If you are a right-wing conservative, you will probably say yes because your rights are not being denied. If you are anyone else, you may have your doubts. Maybe those doubts will be enough for you to cast your vote for equality and freedom and against the right-wing nuts.