This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been an actual religious emergency, the omnipotent creator of the universe would surely be sending plagues and pestilence, lightning bolts, or perhaps a herd of stampeding unicorns to trample all of the blasphemous infidels slandering his good name. But…. being as no such divine punishments have thus far materialized, I guess we’ll just have to settle for the inevitable intervention by a mob of his angry, self-proclaimed minions here on Earth. Or, failing that, I suppose any highly-opinionated Internet surfers will suffice.
A tribal shaman was once interviewed by a skeptical anthropologist and asked whether or not he actually believed in the truths behind the spiritual medicine he practiced. The shaman’s reply was surprisingly candid, for he admitted that his technique was completely fraudulent, and yet he still defended it for the simple reason that it often seemed to heal the patients. This brief exchange cuts to the core of the issue of why some people are religious and others are not. It all boils down to two simple questions – “Is it true?” and “Is it good?”
The events of September 11th, 2001 are arguably the worst thing that has ever happened to America – worse even than Pearl Harbor – but not for the reasons you might expect. What makes them worse is the grand irony that’s been piled on top of the insult and injury; ten years later, it’s now clear that the biggest blow we received that day was neither the loss of innocence nor the loss of life but rather the government’s hysterical reaction to it all, spearheaded by the Neocons and other fear-mongers of the Far Right. This has done far more to destroy our civil liberties and way of life than anything the terrorists ever accomplished on their own.
It is a well-known quirk of human nature that when things go well in life, people often try to find someone to whom they can express their thanks. When things go badly, they look equally for someone to blame. And if there is no one to thank, or no one to blame, then they make someone up. Plentiful harvest this year? – thank God. Healthy children? – God. Won the lottery? Survived a plane crash? Scored a touchdown…? – God.
When it comes to misfortune, however, people tend to get a bit cagey, as they’re not so eager to point the finger at the almighty creator and master of the universe. Hit by lightning? – “Unlucky, my friend.” Killed in a plane crash? – “It must have been his time to go.” Diagnosed with terminal cancer? – “God works in mysterious ways.”
It could reasonably be said that whenever three or more people are engaged in any kind of joint decision-making process, politics will be involved. They are an inevitable part of human interaction and a seemingly unavoidable element of the power structures that go hand in hand with governance. It could also be said, without irony, that the biggest problem in our current political landscape is in fact, politics.
The gridlock, inaction, and partisan bickering that characterize the state of our elected officials in Washington, DC are largely a result of the pressures they face in constantly worrying about their next reelection. In the 2008 presidential campaign, the ballots had scarcely been tallied before the political wrangling for the 2012 elections had already begun. When it comes to congressmen, who serve for only two years at a time, and who, over the last forty years, have had an average reelection rate of over ninety-percent, their time in office is one never-ending campaign. How can our politicians be expected to do their jobs and focus on governing when their primary focus is on their own political survival?
On a clear, sunny September morning in the first year of the new millennium, a small group of radical Islamic terrorists, armed with nothing more than box cutters and a suicidal longing for dark-eyed virgins, hijacked four jetliners and used them to murder over three thousand innocent people. In reaction, the United States government declared a “War on Terror,” embarking on a ten-year imperialist adventure that has so far cost the American taxpayers over one trillion dollars, in addition to causing the direct and indirect deaths of tens of thousands of men, women, and children in foreign lands (the vast majority of whom had nothing to do with the events of that September day). Adding further insult to injury, Congress saw fit to pass a series of highly repressive laws here at home, which have endangered, if not outright destroyed, many of the most cherished constitutional liberties of our own citizens.
America is a nation born of revolution. Most of the individual rights and protections laid out in the Constitution were put there, not as part of some abstract philosophy of just governance, but rather in direct reaction to the harsh treatment the American colonists had endured at the hands of the despotic British monarchy and the soldiers it sent from overseas to enforce its decrees. Articles such as Amendment IV, which states;
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…
were enacted expressly to prevent the kinds of arbitrary and malicious acts perpetrated by the “Redcoats” or “Lobsterbacks” (as British soldiers were mockingly called) against colonial citizens in the course of trying to stifle dissent against the King’s rule. The same goes for Amendment V;
No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,