The American Dream

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The American Dream has many interpretations. The view that many of us in Canada get is that ‘anybody’ can make it big time with hard work and determination. And maybe a few guns. And maybe not a little arrogance.

There is abundant literature, certainly in the medical area, to show that the prevelance of guns in the USA is killing their people. Gun violence is far more common to the south of us than in Canada, with rates per 100,000 of 2.2 in Canada and 10.6 in the USA. The creep and flow of weapons across our border is increasing the gun violence here, too. We had an event in Windsor, essentially a border town, not too long ago which was notable because it is so rare in Canada: a drive-by shooting!

But at least in Canada, handguns for the most part are outright illegal, and as a consequence, death by any gun is far lower, homocide, suicide or accidental. We have them occasionally, but when we do, it is extraordinary, not commonplace, like the Parliament Building episode last year, and Ecole Polytechnique many years ago. But when it happens in Canada, it takes everyone by surprise.

Michael Zihab-Bibeau, an Islamist convert, was quite probably mentally ill, and was planning on soon traveling to the middle east. Before we go blaming Islam, it should be noted he used to be Catholic. His attack was with a long gun, perhaps reflecting the relative difficulties Canadians have in acquiring weapons that are illegal in Canada (handguns, for the most part).

Marc Lepine, another notable Canadian murderer who used firearms is a common Canadian example, unfortunately synonymous with violence against women, because for his victims he chose fourteen women. We forget that he, himself, is reputed to have been abused to the point of mental illness, dying indirectly at the hands of that abuse, the same night as the fourteen women he, and indirectly his abuser, killed. Long guns, however, are the Canadian wacko’s weapon of choice, hard to wield, hard to hide, at worst usually only semi-automatic. Our mass murderers have to work a little harder to do their killing, it seems; hence their lower rates of success.

But there is another kind of violence we do not share…well, not as much, but it is creeping in here too, from the south. It is the violence that continues to support the ‘gap’, the huge disparity of incomes between the haves and the have-nots, supported and fed by the American Dream, that anyone can make it big time if they  only work hard. You see, the have-nots just didn’t work hard.

Somehow it seems to go hand in hand with the idea that if you only get government out of the way, hard working Americans will make it, big time.

Well, it’s not true, is it? Lots of very hard working Americans, and Canadians, don’t make a lot of money, while lots of people with major big time incomes, paying little tax, don’t work very hard. Health and heritage seem more important than hard work, and nowhere does it seem truer than in the USA.

Health care in Canada is mostly free. Health care in the USA is mostly a bankrupting affair, unless you are above the gap. Quality of health care and end results? Mostly totally equivalent (although a lot cheaper up here).

It’s not so much the American Dream as the American Lottery. Stay healthy, (don’t get shot either) and get born to the right parents, and you can ‘make it’. Governance of the poor, by the clever, for the rich, and with guns to keep it that way.

And the promise that you can make it if you work hard will keep them voting for small government and big guns, every time.

Here, Canada grades a bit better than the USA, too.

Indexes of Income Inequality (Gini, for example: see Wikipedia, Economic inequality) place USA 6th from the worst (or maybe best if you’re on Wall Street) while Canada is 57th, out of 170+ countries. Income disparity and inequality can lead to health, educational and social suffering, which disadvantages many people for no justifiable reason. It is a form of violence, and perpetuates its degradation as poverty begets poverty in a cycle everyone understands but the super-rich, the right wing, the Amercian Dreamers, seem to ignore.

I cannot and should not beat up on people because I am bigger and stronger, nor should I be able to because I am smarter. Now that is most assuredly not the American Dream!

Of course, one of the most visible patterns of violence is that against the weak and vulnerable minorities; here, the Americans excel, having based their country on slavery until only 150 years ago, though many would argue the issue continues into the far more recent past. Weak and vulnerable can include slaves, obviously, but descendants of slaves still suffer, and their favorite targets of discrimination fit this bill, clearly very often. That descendants are losing their weakness and vulnerability is dawning on our neighbors to the south and forcing the bigots of the past to finally tow the lie.

Basically, it is intolerance of ‘groups’, in many different manifestations. Blacks, undeniably. Improving, but still undeniable and still a long way to go. Religious groups, clearly. Born seeking religious tolerance, the USA pays lip-service to religious freedom into which it can couch all manner of intolerance: the freedom to discriminate against others who do not share your religious beliefs seems to be foremost. I will believe in the beginnings of American religious freedom when I see an atheist there gain high office. Good luck with that one. The freedom to be religious, NOT the freedom to be irreligious.

It can be mind boggling.

A marriage is only between a man and a woman. Why? Because God said so. And who is this God? How dare you ask!?!

Somehow the belief in some God gives them the right to force their beliefs on others, and not simply be content with abiding by them themselves. No, to satisfy their belief in their God, all others must comply.

This is freedom of religion in the USA. It is the freedom to discriminate against those who don’t believe what you believe. Homosexual? Can’t serve you. Gay? Can’t get a marriage certificate. Pregnant? Can’t get an abortion. Extra-marital sex? Can’t get birth control.

Oh, some of this has improved, and perhaps continues to improve in the last fifty years, begrudgingly, with some segments of the populace kicking and screaming all the way. But it is SO SLOW.

For whatever reason, the religious seem to think they have the right to weigh in on sex. Even to the extent of breaching national laws, arguing that some God they believe in has a higher power than the secular rules that surround them, and of course, that God is not open to question and answer…not for over two thousand years anyway.

I have to give my head a shake! If you don’t like homosexuality, don’t be one. If you don’t like broccoli, don’t eat it. It’s really just about the same question.

So often, the religious brainwashing that groups try to promote tends toward misogynistic, something deep in the roots of so many of the religious.

Violence against women takes many forms, and has many causes, and because of physical and economic dominance, cultural brainwashing and history, even has women within its army’s ranks.

Canadian women did not become persons until 1922. Planned Parenthood was started by two women who did not have suffrage in the USA (1916, by the way). A leading Republican candidate whose dominance falls in many patterns briefly referred to above called Carly Fiorina somehow too unattractive to be President. Oh, how I wished she had told that man that on HER first day in office she would have a plain face (which I don’t even think is true, in fact), whereas HIS first day in office he would still be an … boor (yeah, I think that one is true). [You can read in your own word. I wasn’t really thinking of boor, but it will have to do. Hint: the article ‘an’ is correct.]

But then she turned around to attack Planned Parenthood over the ethics of charging research the costs of obtaining fetal material, referring to this as ‘selling baby parts’, somehow on the premise that burying fetal bodies to rot in the ground is morally more acceptable than using those dead tissues to help reduce other human suffering through the advancement of Medical Science. Rotting, or advancing Medical Science. Burning, or relieving human distress.

Where is the moral equivalence here?

Ahhh, religion. Beliefs. Still, it’s like the broccoli, though. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. But where do you get the right to force it on others?

If you don’t want an abortion, then don’t charge the research company, that wants your fetus, for the costs of the specialized collection required that you accrue (because research requires special treatment of these tissues) during the abortion you don’t have. It’s convoluted but it’s there. Planned Parenthood isn’t selling body parts, and the people accusing them of that know it. It is passing along the costs of collecting those tissues in the method required for them to be useful. Accusing Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts is hate-mongering to stop abortion you don’t believe other people have the right to have, even when it’s legal. And it probably stems from a deep-seated interest in believing in a God rather than letting women control their own bodies. God, after all, is not female.

The problem here is that the Pro-Life spies who were trying to destroy Planned Parenthood cannot succeed in stopping abortion directly. They have tried that in the past, and lost to the general public’s wishes. They were not doing it because they thought Planned Parenthood was egregiously breaking some law; they were making accusations because they don’t like abortion, because they have a belief that abortion is bad, and because they don’t really care about women’s right to control their own bodies. They only care about their own beliefs, and this selfishness knows no bounds. And they don’t understand that it is just a belief.

Face it. Any sentient, sensitive person knows that lives can be destroyed by unwanted pregnancies, and the children themselves can be destroyed by this as well. Some people at some ages simply should not have children. If they recognize that nasty fact, more power to them.

But the Pro-Lifers think that their beliefs supersede everyone else’s, in an amazingly anti-democratic style. They don’t just avoid abortion themselves (in fact, in some cases the reverse may well be true…some of it is, after all, reaction formation). They insist upon stopping this legal procedure for others by any means possible, and they are proud of that.

All of which seems to make this misleading of the public fair game. Spy on the negotiating processes of Planned Parenthood, not to catch some illegal act, really, but to do an end-run around the wishes of the democratic general public by hate-mongering: the ends justify the means after all when it comes to religious beliefs that need to be foisted on others.

So what if women suffer, the Pro-Lifer God needs to be assuaged. So what if women suffer, they only became people a hundred years ago. So what if women suffer, they are only protected by secular laws. So what if women suffer, they are not men, or religions controlled by men, or political groups controlled by men, or women brainwashed by religions controlled by men.

Violence against women, violence against minorities, violence against gender preferences not their own, violence against beliefs not their own, violence against the poor.

The T-shirt of my nephew’s above is only partly right. We in Canada share a bit too much of the American Dream, and we are beset by its violence.

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