You’re Not Always the Decider

The Timothy McVeigh trial was difficult for me.

I won’t go into all the things I thought and felt. They are too private. But I will say that it engaged me and put me through a considerable emotional torque. Ditto for his execution.

One thought allowed me to maintain an even strain through that experience: I didn’t sit on that that jury, could in no way ever be asked to sit on that jury, and that meant I didn’t have to decide. 

Maybe it’s because I spent so many years in a job where I had no choice about deciding — and taking the consequences of those decisions. I know first hand that having to decide is not all that great. In fact, it can be one of the most miserable things that ever happens to you.

Perhaps that’s why I find such peace in looking at each new faux outrage that is being hyped on our news-free news stations with the simple knowledge that I don’t have to decide. Should his wife leave him because of his infidelities? That’s her call. I don’t have to decide. What did he know and when did he know it? I’m not on that jury. I don’t have to decide. Is this person more evil than that person? Was the jury right?

I don’t have to decide.

People who are so eager to decide often don’t realize that deciding is not all that easy when you actually have to do it. It’s ez-pz to declaim while sitting on your sofa that I woulda/they shoulda/how come they didn’t? But in real life, the whole thing is more nuanced and difficult by powers of ten.

In the first place, what passes for news these days is not news. It’s just sensation-creating entertainment and public-opinion-shaping propaganda. What that means, in layman’s terms, is that you can’t believe it. The one thing you know when you are watching agenda-driven/side-taking/propaganda-ridden “news” is that you are not getting anything like a fair presentation of the facts.

These news people have taken a side, and they are presenting the facts (such as they are) which will support that side. They are not informing you at all. They are convincing you. They want you to decide, and they want your decision to be the one that will benefit the “side” that they have taken on the story.

To make things worse, they are operating from a long-term agenda. This shaping of the way they cover events isn’t based on a one-off I-like-this-person, or I-feel-sympathetic-to-that-viewpoint kind of approach. It is part of a long-term arc of bias that consistently shapes every story and decides which stories are to be covered based on how they support the agenda that the news network is putting forth.

Hence, you have “liberal” news outlets, and “conservative” news outlets. Everyone knows it and even the news outlets themselves acknowledge it.

Think about that. They tell you right up front that the “news” they are serving up is biased toward one viewpoint or the other. You know going in that you are not going to hear the truth or all the facts or even all the stories that comprise legitimate news. You know when you flip to a certain channel that you will get a predigested dose of propaganda that is designed to serve one set of political puppeteers or the other.

So why, my friends, do you allow them to get you upset? Why are you all in a lather about the “facts” they’ve given you, when you know — and I mean absolutely know — that these facts have been edited, massaged and carefully chosen to shape your thinking rather than inform it?

The only saving grace in this is that you don’t have to decide. You can, and for your sanity you should, sit back and let them rant without allowing yourself to be hooked into ranting yourself. Because it’s not your call. You can’t decide.

And that, if you will accept it, is a sanity-saving blessing.

There are plenty of things that each one of us has to decide in this life. If you are really feeling the desire to make decisions for many other people and you think you have a calling to it, I suggest you run for office. I am saying that sincerely. We need, desperately, to have honest people who can’t be bought or controlled in public office. I do not care if you are an R, a D, or an Independent. If you’ve got the spine it takes — and you would be shocked what a strong spine is required — to go into that arena and stand firm, then by all means, do it.

But be forewarned. It’s not all pretty inside those halls of power. If you truly go in there and do what you think is right, you’re going to take a beating.

As for those of us who sit on the sidelines and watch, our job is to help the honest ones survive that beating.

And to not allow ourselves to be blown around like chaff in the wind by the propagandists who are callously trying to use what they call news to persuade us to support them in their own ends. Just sit back and watch. And remember two things: They are trying to persuade you, not inform you. And you don’t have to decide.

Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 7. Democracy = We Are Responsible

Democracy is not a lazy person’s form of government.

If your idea of good citizenship is watching the dissolution of our society from the sidelines like an insomniac staring at a late-night movie, you need to move to a dictatorship. Democracy is too much work for you.

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Contrary to popular attribution, neither Thomas Jefferson nor Patrick Henry said this first. The truth appears to be less glamorous.

John Philpot Curran first said, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and punishment of his guilt.”

Personally, I like Curran’s original wording better. It’s not as pithy as the more popular version. It won’t fit as well in a speech or the lead of a news story, but it says what needs saying.

Liberty is our natural state under God. If you doubt this, all you have to do is consider the extreme and absolute freedom He bestows on each of us. God does not force us to follow Him. In His own words, He sets before us life and death; right and wrong. But he lets us chose. He allows us to live our lives exactly as we decide to live them, even if that means committing grievous sin and turning our backs on Him.

Liberty is our natural state under God. But we live in a devil-besotted world that is stained and weakened by original sin. Thus, liberty, which comes from God, comes also with the requirement that we must guard it well or we will lose it.

No one wants to be a slave, but it seems that there are a lot of people who want to own slaves. Curran rightly says that if we stop tending our liberties, we will lose them and we will end in servitude.

In our generation we acknowledge that members of our military pay with their life’s blood for our freedom. What we don’t acknowledge is that the real threat to our freedom is not military invasion. No foreign power I know of is hankering to land on our shores with troops and armaments, and as Lincoln said, “by force take a drink from the Ohio River.”

This generation’s challenges to liberty come from our two political parties, our own government, our corporations and from our lazy refusal to fight for the democracy which is our inheritance. It feels good to blame the propagandists on our televisions, the amoral political parties and the equally amoral corporations who own them. Disrespecting politicians is an American birthright, a natural outgrowth of freedom of religion and speech. If we ever see the day when we can not make fun of our elected officials, we are doomed. But, worthless as they are, puppet people politicians are not ultimately to blame for this mess.

We may have, as Will Rogers said, the best government that money can buy, but the ones wearing the biggest price tag on them are not the politicians. The many millions that are lavished on political campaigns in this country are spent for one purpose: To buy us. By the time the campaigning starts, the puppet people politicians are already bought. They’ve been recruited, programmed and polished to a marketable level. Now they’re set before us for our inspection like new cars on a lot.

As I said earlier, the object of all this sloganeering, hate-campaigning, and propaganda is the manipulation of us, of we the people. Or, to put it more bluntly, the object of all this expenditure of capital and slime is our vote.

The one thing that those who want to control our government for their own ends fear is an informed and aroused citizenry. That’s why they spend huge amounts of money to feed us a steady diet of propaganda and lies. We have brains. We’ve got to think something with them. So, they spend enormous sums to fill our otherwise very good minds with half-truths and lies.

We are the products of an educational system that no longer teaches young people our American story. We’ve been taught to take multiple choice tests and not a lot else. Our educational system produces wave after wave of people who’ve never read an original source. We have large numbers of people with higher-level degrees whose entire education is the product of the digested and massaged bits and scraps of thought found in incredibly over-priced textbooks.

We have actually been taught to take other people’s pre-digested opinions about great thinkers as the works of the thinkers themselves. And we don’t have to understand these thoughts. All we have to do is exercise the totally-useless-in-life skill of getting a high score on a multiple choice test.

This is our educational system from early childhood through university level. It is nothing more than a trade school, or what we used to call vocational-technical education, on steroids.

That makes us prey for the propagandists and manipulators who want to confuse us into believing whatever sheep dip they’re dumping on us. Coming as we do from churches who preach politics rather than Christ, who sometimes preach politics as Christ, we are shorn of the moral underpinnings that would keep us from jumping headlong into abusive language, vicious slander and hate-voting.

We are, in short, easy pickings.

We can blame the manipulators, both secular and clerical, for misusing their enormous talents to do such harm. They are certainly responsible for what they do.

But ultimately, no matter how much money is spent manipulating us, it’s up to us whether or not we will allow ourselves to be manipulated.

We are Americans. We are a free people. That makes us responsible. We are responsible for what we chose to believe, how we chose to behave and whether or not we value our liberty enough to do the work and exercise the vigilance to keep it.

Liberty is our God-given right. The God of all the universe, the creator of creation from bottom to top, set us free from our beginning. He gave us such absolute freedom that we can accept or reject Him. We can do anything we want. We can create or destroy, think or blindly follow, live free or become slaves.

The equation is, again, a simple one:

Democracy = We Are Responsible


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