Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Why am I here?

I turned 36 this morning at 7:58AM. I figured it is time to align myself with my contemporaries and begin to publish some of my thoughts.
I've been interested in doing this for some time now. My lovely wife ( has encouraged me for months now to funnel my political thoughts and ideas in places other than her ears. Nevertheless, as with most men it takes a lot of time for reasonable suggestions to sink in. I do believe though that some of my perspectives have rubbed off on her :)

I'm not exactly sure how or when I became so passionate about the current political situation here in the U.S. Prior to 9/11 I suppose I was like many of you; just trying to find my way and find my place in the world. I wouldn't say that I was terribly selfish or self-absorbed but I had a child-like faith that men and women in government generally had our best interests in mind, and more often than not, steered clear of deceit and corruption. I thought that if I worked hard and remained persistent that I could realize my dreams like anyone else. I wouldn't say that belief was or is naive whatsoever. After all, I grew up in the Midwest, played Wiffle Ball every day in the summer, followed the baseball box scores, collected sports cards and rode my Big Wheel around town like I owned the place.

Growing up I was presented the same sloppy version of U.S. history that every other white kid my age got: England was mean so we fought back and won, our forefathers all agreed on the constitution, we kindly asked our good friends, the "Indians", if they would let us have some more land, we helped out Europe,...errrr...won WWI and WWII and the Soviet Union wanted to blow up the planet as many times as possible. Generally speaking, white Americans kicked a lot of ass and never had to say they were sorry. Does it get better than that?

A higher education (those wily liberals!) is a wonderful thing, as it allows one to study things like The Federalist Papers, the systematic genocide of the Native American people, the Scottsboro Nine, Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, the atrocities of the conflict in Vietnam, Operation Northwoods and the U.S. support for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the 80's and 90's. I felt pretty foolish when asked what I knew about these things. History is, in fact, told by the least in Smalltown, USA.

I guess for my generation (30-40?) you could say that we classify our lives into two distinct categories: pre-9/11 and now. I was living in Tallahassee, Florida when 9/11 happened. I was a Master's degree student/teaching assistant at Florida State University. I reacted like many that day: shock, terror, sadness, doubt, fear, anger, and worry. For a while in the "now" period, I would say from September 12, 2001 until about May of 2003, I was a regular consumer of the Bush Administration's kool-aid. I have to admit: during those 20 months I was a bit apprehensive about even being in an elevator with anyone who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent. I wouldn't classify it as a resentment, most likely due to the fact that I worked in a very culturally diverse environment, but I can't deny that I had prejudice thoughts constantly swimming in my head.

Looking back on that I can see how the media, mainly Fox News, and the Bush rhetoric nearly converted me to this narrow-minded and intellectually surrendering type of thinking. "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" quit working for me.

Not until I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin in the summer of 2003 to begin doctoral work did I begin to feel some sense of freedom from this oppressive and suffocating neo-conservative propaganda. (Thank you Melody and Eugenia!) I tell people that I was face-to-face with the dark side, and somehow was fortunate enough to turn and head in the direction of truth and reason. I know that I have always been a truth-seeker. Since my adolescent years I have always sought to gather information that would lead me to the truth. Moreover, my years in graduate school afforded me serious intellectual and scholastic growth. An education of this sort, mostly in the area of humanities, furnished me with the tools and knowledge that I believe are fundamental in forming a logical and syllogistic argument. I discovered early on that in order to present a solid paper it was necessary to place intellect over emotion.

And I guess that is why I am here, sort of. I find that the current political situation has become so incredibly emotional that it is hard to sit down and have a discussion with someone about, for instance, the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

My goal is to launch some of my thoughts and ideas about the current political landscape and to solicit feedback and dialog, all in a non-threatening way and without the ad hominem attacks. I simply cannot be unique in my thoughts.

Does anyone question our government? Did you stop questioning after 9/11 because you feel in doing so you are a traitor? Do you ever feel that terrorists must not like us for reasons OTHER than, "they hate us for our freedom"? Did anyone else feel that even if Saddam had had weapons of mass destruction and had surrendered them to the Bush regime that we were going to invade Iraq anyway? Do you ever wonder why we aren't looking for Osama Bin Laden?

There must be many others out there who are as bewildered as I am, scratching their heads and asking, "how did we get here and why hasn't anyone gotten upset about it?"

(photo is of James Madison 1751-1809, the fourth U.S. president and co-author of "The Federalist Papers")


TMH256 said...

Great job, honey! Wow. You have a lot to say and I knew you would do it very eloquently. I'll pass this along to some other people who might be interested.

brandieib said...

Wow--I can SO completely relate to what you have written here! Thanks so much for sharing and I truly look forward to reading more of what you have to say. :)

Andrew Pentis said...

Sipping the "Bush Kool-aid" is something we're all guilty of. Post 9/11, we wanted to trust our government - something we haven't been able to do since the 50's. A lot of this American inactivity in rounding up the cattle that should be our representatives is due to the media and our role as the audience. I don't know if you caught it, Jeff, but former CNN anchor Aaron Brown had a great lecture at ASU, agruing some of this point. In so many words, he said: the media failed us during the tragedy of 9/11. It didn't "truth-seek," it only accepted what those Washington "leaders" fed them. When Bush said he wanted to go to Iraq, reporters wrote what he said - but they failed to write the opponent's side. [That's actually similar to the situation now: Reporters disagreeing with Bush then and Democrats disagreeing with war-hawk Republicans now is seens as anti-Americans or against our troops.]
From now on, we (as the media's audience) need to demand more of our media and our leaders. For, we've seen that our inactivity leads to their poor decisions.

Good luck with your blog, Jeff, you're doing what we all need to do: question and analyze the political landscape in America and how it's affecting the country and us (as individuals). This questioning is innately American, for without it, England would still be our mother country and slavery would be as strong as ever (no matter who teaches us "American History" in school).
Keep writing, Jeff, you provide a voice that many people need.
~Andrew Pentis

Andrew Pentis said...

i like your blog background, looks familiar:

Paul said...

Good God Jeff!
Had I realized what a smart, introspective guy lurked within you we could have spent less time worrying about good L' Ecole service and discussed worldly issues!!

Mr. J