America Can't Ignore Domestic Needs

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Estye Ross

I have nothing to write about. When I agreed to do bi-monthly political point-counterpoint column, it was on the assumption that Congress would provide my material. But of late, only one thing has been streaming through senators’ mouths, through press conferences, through CNN in Woodstove Lounge. Our country — not only our government but also our entire country — has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned its national agenda. (Excuse me; Bush continues to push for the instatement of faith-based initiatives. We, the socialist-atheist-Jewish community of second floor Milliken are not thrilled.) But I can be something other than self-centered for a minute. There are larger repercussions of our Congress’ and our country’s obsession with anthrax, plane crashes and unjust wars than my inability to write a coherent article (which I’m fairly adept at nonetheless). We are, as a result of this new singular focus in government and media, sinking further and further into a cultural and intellectual wasteland of ignorance and apathy and the all-American short attention span.

I could research this article and tell you all the things that were supposed to be brought to the floor between Sept. 11 and today. I could tell you who was lobbying for what, what might have passed and what would have passed if we’d actually held a fair and legal election the last time around, but that rant is more exhausted than anything we might see on the evening news this week. But I have not researched this article. Instead, I introduced chemical substances to my body and tried to escape our current plane of reality. I slept through my eight o’clock class and got angry with myself because not only was I ruining my grade, I was cheating myself out of an education. I cannot bring myself to do my work for class or even research an article that I feel passionately about. I cannot come to hold myself accountable for my personal actions when I feel that the society I live in isn’t being held accountable for anything.

So, I called my mother. My socialist-atheist-Jewish mother. I said, “Mom, how’s the climate in Washington?” She laughed. She said, “Honey, frankly, you’re the only one I know who doesn’t think this war is justified.” I said, “But Mom, what are they saying about the national agenda being completely ignored?” She started talking about kids dying on the streets of our cities and workers dying on the job, and I interjected that the Bush administration wouldn’t have addressed those issues anyway. She gently pulled me down off my rant and told me that at least there would be committee hearings. At least Congress would be working on health insurance for kids. I screamed that didn’t she think that Senator Joseph Lieberman’s hearings on whether or not the Postal Service appropriately handled the anthrax scare benefited us all? I ranted about conservative Democrats. She gave me an over-the-phone Jewish mother slap across the face and said, “Estye, of course those hearings are important, but they’re not the only ones we need.”

Examine the paradox. We’re “protecting” America’s children by completely failing to discuss education, health care, hate crimes, health and safety in their parents’ workplaces and poverty. And as a people, I fear, we’re closing our eyes to all but the flashy images on our television screens. We’ve placed such blind faith in our leaders that I fear we’ve lost sight of what needs to go on within our borders. We’ve somehow absolved ourselves of responsibility for our own lives. We’ve un-empowered ourselves at the most dangerous moment in this changing world. Yes, of course we need to discuss health care and environmental regulations, but the fact that we’re not discussing these issues is, I feel, indicative of a far scarier cultural phenomena. I am angry. Yet ultimately, I don’t want this article to serve as a venue for me to vent my anger. I am scared to death, but I don’t want this article to vent my fear. I’m just out here, groping in the dark for a solution, and all I come across are “legs and arms chopped off in battle” and seductive opportunities to flee this, our plane of reality. So, let this article be our society and culture uttering a desperate plea for help.