It takes a little while to read and digest all the numbers in this year's version of the annual Social Progress Index, but it's not difficult to see some things need fixing here in good ol' Murica. But a valid question is whether we can or even want to, given our historically large division in Congress and in the electorate as a whole.
Anymore, we can't agree our ass is on fire even if someone held up a full-length mirror. Part of the reason is we're constantly being given false choices by our major political parties. Like teenagers of years gone by, we're being pushed to buy the whole album just to get one song. If we decide we're, say, pro-choice then we're also told we have to be anti-gun. If we're pro-business, we need to be waving a Bible. About all we can agree on anymore is supporting the troops and that something needs to be done about immigration. One day. Really. We'll get to it. After the election.
All this has led to the rise of the independent voter and increased support for third parties. But, really, this only makes things worse as no one gets any real traction. Third parties can certainly affect election outcomes, but quickly run out of gas in the actual lawmaking process. Ultimately, independent, third-party and single-issue voting remove the heavy lifting from the major political parties because they no longer feel pressured to make compromises.
What's gotten us where we are is the rise of dumbassery. Basically, as voters, we've given our elected leaders pretty much an open road to Idiotville. Not that this hasn't always been an issue, since our nation has a long and proud history of putting various dimwits in elected office (and, yes, including the White House). Matter of fact, our own Founding Fathers realized this and were concerned about the kind of jacklegs that might be elected in the several states. This was one of the reasons given for passage of the 17th Amendment.
But we seemed to have reached a new apogee (or perigee) in our national tolerance for the boneheaded, as if Ernest P. Worrell was suddenly plopped into power. Some enactments are outwardly offensive but, overall, relatively harmless, such as the ongoing effort to make the Bible the official state book of Louisiana. But others, such as the severe abortion clinic rules in Texas have huge and regressive effects on the general health of an entire state, flying in the face of well-established law, history, statistics and social success.
Oh, and our public schools are tanking too (despite the valiant efforts of so many). Creationism is crap. Stop using public money to teach our kids the world is only a few thousand years old. If you want your kid to be stupid, do it in your own church school on your own dime. We won't interfere. Promise.
I'm not sure which is more troublesome -- the idea that some legislators actually think it's a good idea to take us back to 1950 or there is enough electoral clout by a collection of dim-bulb voters to put them in office to do so. Each time I see something about another blatant voter-suppression effort, my jaw clanks to the floor and my eyes bug out like I'm in a Tex Avery cartoon. It's not that I object so much to someone having to show a photo ID before voting (though I do, if they've voted before) -- it's that I have serious issues with curtailment of early voting, poll hours and even allegedly but laughably serious excuses to just blocking the otherwise qualified from casting a ballot.
Similarly, I've learned to avoid anything or anyone referred to (usually by themselves) as a "patriot." This simple word has somehow morphed into a euphemism for "someone who has no clue how poorly the Articles of Confederation worked on a national basis, so we had to come up with a Constitution to keep from flying apart like loose bolts in a blender." The confrontation in Nevada this past week is a good example. Seriously? This isn't 1888, cowpoke. We're a nation with rules and laws and fees and, yes, sometimes they do tread on you. Yes, I own a firearm and, yes, I've raised cattle on family land so don't give me this "heritage" horse hockey. Only the good sense of government agents, faced with a lot of guns Obama didn't take away, prevented things from getting out of hand. Who's the thug now?
We are, these days, being jerked this way and that by a noisy minority that is, thankfully, fading from our national control room. It is not going quietly, nor should we expect so. But I think the more we, as voters, can ignore the noise and demand the same from our elected leaders, the faster the exit process will be. It's the job of our representatives to make tough choices and explain it the best they can. Otherwise, our national decline will continue.
....but it's going to be a rough ride.