Monday, February 27

Letter sent 2.27

Dear Mr. President,
Lately I have been finishing off Stephen Erikson’s Malazan series of books. I prefer to read while taking the bus to work, since books still seem to be one of the best ways to really engage in a story and it allows me to tune out the daily commute. I have no idea when someone in your position might get reading like that done; one of the biggest drawbacks to being in charge has got to be having to rely on other people giving you information when you used to get your own. The Malazan books are a high fantasy series (sword and sorcery) that, as it approaches its conclusion, has an undercurrent theme of the decline of an empire.

For example:
“The more civilized a nation, the more conformed its population, until that civilization's last age arrives, when the multiplicity wages war with conformity. The former grows ever wilder, ever more dysfunctional in its extremities; whilst the latter seeks to increase its measure of control, until such efforts acquire diabolical tyranny.”-Duiker, Toll the Hounds

It is difficult, as an American, to not read passages like this as though they are a commentary on my own country. I never thought we, of all countries, would have an empire but the signs are too great to ignore. Which is mostly an aside, really: the situation is what it is.

It does seem, however, that the battle is between the have and the have nots. I seem to read daily about how corporations are getting their way because they have the money to walk the halls of power, while individuals find themselves increasingly marginalized and, as a result, behaving in less and less appropriate manners. An easy example of this would be the recent SOPA and PIPA acts; things that were so blatant in their attempts to suppress “piracy” that they actively overstepped the rule of law, yet were being seriously considered, seriously enough, anyway, for massive protests to be required in order to put a stop to them. Of course that isn’t the end of it, so what it demonstrates to me is how much effort is spent to increase or insist upon control.

A very similar argument could be waged against the drug war: we have lost it under any rational metric. However, instead of changing the policies of failure, a change that has shown demonstrable improvement in Portugal, we continue to fund increased surveillance and bigger prisons.

Why else would we do that, except to ensure control against a society that is increasingly insisting upon their rights?

And who benefits from having all these people jailed? Who benefits from ensuring that the authorities know what kinds of thoughts we are interested in?

This is the question I find myself asking over and over: Who benefits from this? Who benefits from curbing our rights so, to extending copyright beyond what it should be, to concentrating money at the top, starving schools for funding and imprisoning our citizens?

The answers seem to keep coming back to large corporations.

If, as you said in the last State of the Union, you believe that government should only do for people what they cannot do for themselves and no more, then why should our government assist any corporation that is successful? Corporate subsidies, laws dangerously slanted to their advantage, no-bid contracts: how is this not stepping into do something for these entities that they should be able to handle on their own?

They are dangerously close to creating a tyranny of the minority and what I need from my government is to protect me from that. Or at least level the playing field so that, as a nation of laws, I can expect those laws to apply in a just manner.

I think you also missed a golden opportunity in the State of the Union, sir. You said that you would sign a bill banning insider trading tomorrow, if it was sent to you. Which is great! However, there was an opportunity for you to tell the people of the country to motivate our representatives and it went by, lost. There was a chance to talk to us and I’m thinking you need to take it, sometime. The State of the Union was critical for Congress when television didn’t exist but now it’s a moment when everyone is watching and I believe you have a chance to challenge Americans to continue to do something great.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got for now. Other big ideas will come next time, I’m sure. My beer recommendation is Deschutes’ Red Chair NWPA (northwest pale ale—just a fancy name for a solid IPA) and I’ve just started reading Jacob Needleman’s American Soul. I’m about ten pages in and I’m thinking everyone should read it.

As always, I hope we get to have a discussion of some kind, someday but if not, that’s alright. Best to you and yours.


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