Worldview: The least significant digit of democracy

Come November 8th, if all you’ve done is vote, you’ve done the least significant thing in democracy.

It turns out that democracy is a contact sport. Voting for someone to represent you, especially in the American system of voting, constitutes little more than an affirmation of choices a long list of other people made for you.

Let’s start with the process of voting itself. It is governed by a whole host of laws and regulations you likely had nothing to do with. Someone else determined where you vote, how you vote, and if your vote counts.

And then there’s the matter of what you’re voting for. By the time you punch that chad or push that touch screen, someone else determined who would run, whose runs would get funded, who became the front-runners, and if you didn’t vote in the primary, who is on the ballot.

So, then, how much does your vote count in the face of all that?

I am not saying voting does not matter at all, because it certainly does. Voting is a basic process of democracy. But just as watering a plant is not the only thing that keeps it alive–it needs good soil, enough sunlight, the right kind of nutrients, and a host of other things–so too voting is not the only thing that makes for a successful democracy.

I grant you that one person, by themselves, will have a hard time influencing the process, but that fact makes participation more important, not less. By participating, you can band together with like-minded people, and as your group grows, your influence grows.

And with that influence, voting day becomes far more significant, because you were part of the system that determines the outcome of all the things I have mentioned and so much more.

If, therefore, you want your vote to count the most, make November 8th a beginning rather than an end. Get out there and participate in the whole process instead of just the least significant part.

DLH

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Worldview: When you look at your country, who do you see?

To me, last night’s State of the Union Address represented the same kind of drivel that I’ve come to expect from all of our politicians for years. Obama went right to the boasting and political pandering that has defined national politics since I first started paying attention to it decades ago.

The centerpiece of Obama’s pandering is the idea that Americans need the government to take care of them. To the people in Washington, it’s no longer a government of, by, and for the people but a government above, around, and in front of the people.

That thought leads me to the thing that has been bothering me about this election cycle since it began way back after Obama was elected in 2008: why do we spend so much time worrying about presidents and Congresses and national politics at all? Shouldn’t those things pale in comparison to what each of us are doing as individuals wherever we are?

Last night, Obama said, ”I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” The problem is that what he believes the people cannot do better themselves and what I think have nothing to do with each other at all.

If Obama believed those words the way I do, he would do exactly two things: first, he would demand that Congress include the Constitutional justification for every law it passes. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t go into law. Second, he would demand that Congress begin systematically dismantling the federal government until it returns to the size and scope of powers enumerated in the Constitution and its amendments.

But, Obama doesn’t believe in that at all. No, instead he believes in a government of the government, by the government, and for the government. In his view, the people need to be taken care of. They need to be ruled.

And the reason he can get away with that idea is because of you. It’s because you’re so worried about electing a president who can fix your problems instead of you fixing them yourself. It’s because you’re so worried about what’s going on in Washington that you’re not worried about what’s going on down the street. It’s because you’ve decided that the idea of being taken care of sounds kind of nice, and if you’re honest with yourself, that’s what you’re paying attention to and voting for.

So, look around you. Who do you see? Do you see a nation full of exceptional individuals who should all be given the maximum opportunity to succeed by the merits of their own work? Do you see opportunities to help others and, by doing so, help yourself? Do you see a future that lies in your hands and a destiny you determine?

Or do you see a bunch of things you want someone else to do because you don’t feel like doing it?

The sad part is that, as our government systematically dismantles our liberty in order to make us all safe and comfortable, it guarantees our demise. The history of great nations tells us that is true. And, the ones who will survive and flourish in whatever comes after that demise are the ones who take matters into their own hands.

Now, look in the mirror. Who do you see? Do you see a person ready for whatever comes next?

If not, do something about it.

DLH

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Worldview: Stop SOPA/PIPA

Tomorrow, Worldview and the rest of my active websites will be blacked out from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act/Protect Intellectual Property Act wending their way through Congress right now. These are bad bills conceived for bad reasons intended for bad purposes and they should not have ever been put forward let alone have the chance to go into law.

These pieces of legislation also represent part of ongoing actions on the part of our government, bot the executive and Congress, to encroach on the liberties of individual citizens for reasons that have nothing to do with making those citizen’s lives better. Examples include the latest iterations of the Patriot Act, the social media surveillance of social media by the Department of Homeland Security, a provision in the Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorism links, and the individual mandate provisions of the health care law.

Unless we the people–which people the government is supposed to be of, by, and for–stand up against such abuses, we have no hope of securing our liberty for ourselves or for future generations. We must act now or lose more. You can start by speaking out against SOPA/PIPA by contacting your representatives using the form from the menu on the right. Then you can go further by carefully considering how you vote in 2012. Finally, you can realize that the next election begins the moment the last one ends and become involved in the entire political process.

Act now or lose more.

DLH

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Worldview: Occupy Yourself, or a better way for the Occupy Wall Street protesters to succeed

One of the ironies of the Occupy Wall Street protests is how many of the protesters refuse to acknowledge the contradiction of their outrage against the rich and corporations even as they demand taxes, jobs, and benefits from the rich and corporations. They seek to overthrow the very institutions they also want to depend on for their livelihoods and well-being, and they seem to have no plan for the chaos they could unleash if they succeed.

From my point of view, the protesters need to stop depending on Wall Street taxes, jobs, and benefits if they want to end Wall Street corruption. What they need to realize is that they can’t have it all and that they are the ones who are going to have to make something else happen if anything is going to happen at all.

I think the protests have a place in the grand scheme of making things happen because they draw attention to problems that do exist, but the protesters need to define what they’re for as much as what they’re against. And, no, they are not creating this definition by demanding more taxes on certain income earners or better benefits.

Instead, the protesters need to put their money where their mouths are, sometimes quite literally, and stop supporting the very corporate enterprises they are protesting against with their consumer habits. The sea-change these protesters could awaken in the United States, if they chose to do so, is a return to local economies for the benefit of local people, the very thing they claim, after a fashion, that they want.

And they could do so as part of their protests by seizing the opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship the protests themselves provide. Why does the City of New York have to provide sanitation for the park where the protest is being held, for instance? Why hasn’t someone in the protest community figured out how to make this happen?

Establishing self-sufficient sanitation is one among the thousands of things the protesters and their supporters could be doing to change the way Americans think about how they do just about everything. There are opportunities in food, clothing, shelter, logistics, and even medical care that present themselves if they would take the risk to make them happen.

But they need to show the creativity and initiative to do these things first. The world is watching and waiting.

DLH

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Worldview: 9-12

So, now what are you going to do?

For most people, it’s just another Monday. We remembered yesterday, reminisced, maybe read some stories from that day, watched a profile or a service on TV, maybe even shed a few tears. For most people, it’s time to get back to normal life, to put that bad stuff behind us. Ten years is enough remembering right?

But for a few of you, doubt remains. Is this all there is? Is this normalcy what I’m supposed to be doing?

If you will allow me, I am talking to you, the latter who have doubts.

Everything did change ten years ago yesterday. Our enemies revealed the flaws in the great city shining on the hill that is the United States. We made those flaws cracks by our own incessant disunity. Now everything is crumbling.

Yet, this is not the end.

The history of the human race is one of ebbs and flows. Great nations rise, only to crumble and collapse, then to be replaced by others. Throughout it all, people endure as they always have.

The great revelation the United States brought to the world is the notion of the equal liberty of all individuals, regardless of race, creed, color, sex, or religion. No, this has not been an easy or consistent revelation, but the cause of individual liberty is not one that will die even if the United States does.

And in that cause, I find a new beginning. It is almost inevitable that the United States will be replaced by something else, whether that happens now or at some time in the future. For those of us who have the benefit of history, intellect, and foresight, the thing that must now confront us is the realization that we must prepare now for whatever might come next.

What do these preparations look like? Well, if the foundation of this next era is the cause of individual liberty, then such preparations must conform to that foundation.

What we know about liberty is that it is not a license but a responsibility. Liberty has a cost that has to be paid, and the cost of liberty, in the end, is every individual’s responsibility.

What that means, to me, is that we must prepare for whatever comes next by focusing on the nature of the cost of liberty. To me, the nature of that cost is every individual succeeding on the merits of his or her own effort.

Now, this kind of success is not some sort of idealistic individualism. It is not possible for most people to survive without the benefit of others. However, every person must dedicate himself to the fulfillment of the tasks he undertakes, figuring out how to minimize his burden to others while creating the maximum benefit.

In fact, that state of affairs—everyone working together to their maximum potential—represents the way that some of the most fantastic advancements in human history have occurred: the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution.

So what remains is for each person to figure out how to best be a part of that state of affairs in the face of whatever might come next. This realization happens as each person discovers the best way to apply his effort within communities that will best benefit from that effort.

I grant that this is not an easy task, but if you believe that there has to be something more, then it is a necessary task.

It is my hope and my prayer that you will realize these things for yourself and will join me in accepting this challenge in the time to come.

DLH

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Worldview: 9-11

I solemnly swear that I will always remember what happened on September 11, 2001.

I will not forget.

I will not forget that nearly 3,000 of my fellow Americans were murdered in the name of an ideology of hate.

I will not forget that my inalienable right is liberty.

I will not forget that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

I will not forget that the price of liberty is mine to pay.

I will not forget my brothers and sisters who give freely of themselves to ensure the liberty of others.

I will not stand by and watch my liberty or anyone else’s be taken away.

And I affirm that I will do everything within my power to uphold and advance the cause of liberty.

I will succeed on the merits of my own work.

I will, as I am able, encourage and help others to do the same.

I will not forget charity.

I will stand for liberty for as long as I have breath.

And when my time comes, I will do my best to ensure what I have done lays the foundation for those who follow after.

To this I pledge myself, my honor, and my life. May the God of my fathers grant me success.

Dennis L Hitzeman

September 11, 2011

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Worldview: 9-10

Sometimes, it seems like it was just yesterday. I remember sitting at my desk at work when the news the first plane hit broke. We were all clustered around the television when the second one did. A dozen military men, we all knew, even at that moment: we were at war.

In the next few days, the speculation in the circles I traveled in at the time was rampant, but many of us had a feeling: al Qaeda. The memory of the attack on the USS Cole was fresh enough that they were the first and most likely suspect. Who else would hijack planes as weapons? Yet we knew, whoever it was that did this to us, we were at war.

In the next weeks and months, our government confirmed that the attack was, indeed, carried out by al Qaeda, and our commander-in-chief dedicated us to rooting them out of Afghanistan and delivered a stern warning to the world: stand with us or stand against us. There was no middle ground. We were at war.

Except we weren’t.

A lot of people said in the days after 9-11 that everything changed, and in a way they were right. In the days since that horrible event, and unbelievable number of Americans have convinced themselves that everything but the truth is true.

Ivory tower academics and self-deluded pundits declare that America was to blame for what happened on 9-11. The news and the internet are full of journalists and talking heads insisting that our response to those events were overwrought, unjustified, even criminal. An entire segment of American society chose to respond to the recent death of Osama bin Laden by chiding Americans for celebrating the death of a bloodthirsty enemy.

In the ten years since 9-11, something has changed, something deep, sinister, and self-destructive. We now live in an era when a rapper can declare “Fuck the army troops” and claim gangsters are harder than combat veterans and people just shrug. We live in a society when reporters can write and say that the war in Afghanistan was an unjustified exercise in nation building, and most people believe that is true.

Instead of being at war with our enemy, we are at war with ourselves, and we seem very close to victory.

The sad fact of 9-11 ten years on is that, I believe, we have doomed ourselves to repeat history like we have so many times before. We have not learned anything. Instead, we have deceived ourselves into believing in a reality that never has been true, and it is almost inevitable that we will pay the price for that deception again.

For me, what remains ten years since 9-11 is the lingering thought that those of us who understood what changed that day must prepare ourselves and anyone who might listen for the eventuality of what may come next. We have to face the fact that things have changed and that someone has to be ready, even if everyone else believes it can’t possibly happen.

For those of us who get it, who understand what changed ten years ago, we cannot forget, we cannot tire, we cannot fail. Let’s roll.

DLH

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Worldview: Thoughts on a Ron Paul candidacy

There’s been a little play in the media recently (thank you, Jon Stewart) about how the rest of the media has been ignoring the strength of a Ron Paul candidacy. This can’t help but boost his legitimacy and make him a serious contender in 2012.

Be careful what you wish for.

I identify with his libertarian leanings on domestic issues and his conservative positions on things like financial and social policy, but I think his positions on things like defense and international relations make him a bad fit as our chief ambassador and commander-in-chief.

I think Ron Paul would make a great president for all the wrong reasons because he would paralyze Congress for four years at least. Either Congress would get its act together during that time or the voters would oust both Paul and many incumbents in 2016.

I think many operatives in the Democratic party hope for a Ron Paul candidacy in the same way they were ecstatic about Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate: it is never about whether they are good candidates and always about how well their attacks will play in the media.

I don’t think Paul will get the nomination any more than I think Herman Cain will. In fact, I’d bet on a Perry-Bachmann/Bachmann-Perry ticket right now, but a lot can change in 12 months. What I do think could happen is that Paul could run as a third party candidate, and he may well be the one would could win.

I wonder if that’s really a good thing?

DLH

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Worldview: Underhanded

In American politics, at least, underhanded tactics are a time tested way to bully one’s political adversaries into doing what one wants them to do. Barack Obama seems particularly versed in underhandedness, as he once again demonstrated yesterday.

The problem, as is usually true with underhanded political tactics, is that it does nothing to solve the problem and will likely make the problem worse. Obama has used fear to motivate millions of Americans to badger their representatives into doing something that could very easily prove destructing for the country, and he did so to achieve political goals that could very easily prove destructive to the country.

Let’s face reality: Social Security is part of the reason our federal government is so far in debt to begin with, and without substantial reform–yes, even cuts–to the program, our federal government cannot remain solvent. The specter of checks not going out in August is just the tip of a very deep iceberg for a government that borrows almost half of every dollar it spends.

If the president wants to be a real leader, he should present a plan that might actually save the government from default, both now and in the future. Instead, he makes the same old tired arguments he always has: tax the rich, spend like a drunk sailor on shore leave.

In the meantime, he fiddles while Washington burns, and now his song has been tuned to make people dance in fear.

DLH

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Worldview: Stop trying to preserve government programs and do it yourself

As the budget and deficit talks between Congress and the White House drag on, I have been reading a lot of articles, especially from progressive sources, about how people need to act to preserve this or that spending program because of how beneficial it is. Almost every one of those programs shares very specific characteristics: they are almost always focused at a local problem and are almost always focused at helping individuals do something.

Here’s my idea: why not abandon the federal programs and try making these things happen ourselves if they’re really worth doing.

“But,” you might say, “where is the money going to come from?”

Isn’t that kind of the whole point? Because the federal government is taking so much money out of the the economy in taxes, there is no money for local people to do local things. If that reality is the case, then it makes sense to let the federal programs expire, let the money reenter the economy, and let local people take over doing local things.

Of course, the problem is a lot more complicated than that. For instance, even if the federal government makes these cuts, it won’t add up to the $1 trillion in deficit spending projected for next year, nor will it really dent the $14 trillion in debt the federal government has already accrued.

No, even if these locally focused federal programs expire, there still may not be money, and that reality must force local people focused on local things to consider an even more aggressive approach. In my view, it’s time for us to rebuild our localities so that they can withstand the disaster our federal–and state, really–governments have inflicted upon us.

This aggressive approach means abandoning the government solution in favor of hard work and sacrifice at the local level. It means accepting that the government, and the people who continue to benefit from government spending, is going to continue to rip us off. It means deciding to work together to find local solutions to local problems even when there is no money. It means caring enough about what happens to us and our neighbors that we’re willing to do what it takes to make things work for us.

These things can happen, but people have to do them. I will give you an example:

This year, the village of Covington, Ohio and several enterprising individuals started a farmer’s market (Facebook) on Friday nights in the parking lot of the government building there. It’s a small market, one I participate in, but it has the distinction of having no government involvement except at the local level.

Now, this market will live and die on two things: will people from the area who are doing things participate, and will people who live in the area frequent it? Frankly, this is a test of whether people believe a local thing can work, and it’s up to the local people to make it work.

Some might say that it’s just a farmer’s market, but I say it’s more than that: it’s local; it’s independent; it’s focused on the community; it’s the way jobs and the future will be created. But, these things will only be true if people actually participate.

So, here’s the test: will people participate locally, or will they keep expecting someone else to solve the problem for them? It’s up to you to decide.

DLH

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