Are we amusing ourselves to death?

The good old USA is still “the leader of the free world.” Still an exceptional country, in the eyes of most everyday citizens. And yet, we seem to be not quite at the top of our game. Some strange things are happening more frequently in our country, things that are embarrassing to some of us, embarrassment which can cross party lines. Are you embarrassed yet?

For one, there no longer seems to be anyone in power in favor of fiscal responsibility. Balancing the budget, reducing the deficit, and all that mundane stuff. Did we just give up on this, once we started counting by trillions rather than billions? Can we ever get to a balanced budget when neither side advocates for it? Is it old-fashioned to want the country to run like a successful household, within its means? Does anyone care? Maybe it’s only embarrassing to those who can remember when it was possible.

Do you know about the plight of former Afghan interpreters who served the U.S. military faithfully for upwards of 20 years? Their days are numbered as our troops pull out of Afghanistan and the Taliban takes up the slack. These allies are asking for - legal - refuge in the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave. We can’t seem to make that happen, while thousands illegally stream across our southern border. That’s embarrassing, but it will soon be tragic.

Our northern border remains closed. That’s the one with Canada. Nobody’s rushing the border there, but It’s closed to legal immigrants too. The economic impact is definitely measurable. Why is the northern border closed when the porous southern border is the real problem? Is it Trump’s fault? Who can explain that for us?

The vice president is researching root causes of mass migration from Central America to the US. That could take a while. Meanwhile, Texas must revert to Republic status and place soldiers and DPS troopers on the southern border as property-owning citizens are literally overrun and their safety threatened. Human trafficking and drug smuggling run rampant. This should be embarrassing to the Biden administration but is not.

The Republican-led Texas legislature invites embarrassment, in that it has thus far failed to comprehensively fix the power grid failure brought on by the big freeze. After plenty of time and discussion, little to nothing was done to prevent a repeat disaster. This should be embarrassing to legislators but apparently not enough to get us a remedy.

Another point of embarrassment in our legislature is the passage of the “I can do whatever I want with my gun” bill. No permit, training, or perhaps even a background check will be needed to carry a firearm very soon. Our elected officials fixed what wasn’t broken. Now it is, and a slap in the face to law enforcement too.

Legislatures, including ours, are now in the business of setting curriculum boundaries. Critical race theory may make people angry, propagate anti-white racism, and be totally objectionable, but why do legislators get to dictate local school curricula? Are school boards so untrustworthy, or just unnecessary? Does every problem necessitate an across-the-board legislative remedy? Then why not just have a national school curriculum? Oh, someone has thought of that.

Speaking of racism Mayor Lightfoot of Chicago (where the city controls the schools) announced she will give interviews on her two-year anniversary only to persons of color. “I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trail back in 2018 by the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps, and yes, the City Hall press corps specifically,” Lightfoot wrote.

The mayor’s remedy is at best perhaps a case of fighting fire with fire. At worst, it’s a naïve and counterproductive tactic for a big city mayor to propose, and not something Dr. King would have approved of.

Is anyone bothered by the lack of self-restraint exercised daily by some of our citizens? Things like assaulting a flight attendant when asked to lower a tray table. NBA fans throwing water bottles at players. Baseball fans fighting other fans while their two-year-old sits alone crying. Road rage ending in shootings. Is it more frequent or just better publicized? Either way, we should be embarrassed by it.

In spite of the widespread availability of vaccines, only half of our population is vaccinated. Some have studied the issue carefully and have made a conscientious decision to forego the vaccine. However, others of us are just lazy. They can only be enticed to vaccinate by a big lottery with prizes, $50K scholarships, sports tickets, and other crass incentives. What happened to public spirit, sacrifice for others, good citizenship, and all the other reasons why this would not have been necessary in the time of the greatest generation?

How about movie star and pro wrestler John Cena’s apology to Red China for inadvertently referring to Taiwan as a “country,” something the US government used to do regularly decades ago before it too recanted? Some found it embarrassing, kind of like the NBA’s constant fawning over China (and its vast market). Some will say and do anything if money is at stake.

Last, and still important, Congress in 1971 made Memorial Day a federal holiday falling on Monday, i.e., a long weekend, as our vice president pointed out in her criticized tweet last week. Making a sacred day dedicated to our war dead into just another a three-day weekend for some Americans only cheapened its observance. It implies that our Memorial Day priority is amusement and recreation. Must everything be a holiday?

The fact is, we are no longer embarrassed by very much.

Gene G. Blair has been a resident of Huntsville for 41 years. He is retired from the Criminal Justice Center at SHSU, and is also retired from the U.S. Army. He is a director on the executive board of CASA of Walker, San Jacinto, and Trinity counties.

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