Saving America from itself

The first step in solving our problems is to declare a war on ignorance


Saving America from itself
by Ali A Parsa

America is at a crossroads; this could be one of the darkest periods in its history both domestically and globally. Denial and sweeping our problems under the rug have run their course. America is past due for a reality check followed by action to save it. There is an Ethiopian saying, “Those who hide their wounds will never find a cure.” All concerned American and global citizens should see in their mind’s eye that the founders of this nation would be turning in their graves if they could watch what has happened to the ‘government of the people, by the people for the people’ that they founded.

The undeniable fact is that America is on a downward, self-destructing course that can be explained with simple cause and effect. Only those who have caused this downfall want us to deny this and make the issue look too complicated in order to conceal the cause. They are afraid of change in the most dynamic country and want us to cling onto the status quo and to keep doing what they tell us - the way that benefits them the most.

The root cause of America’s downfall is its gradual shift from government of the people to government of the few and the false expectation that the government of the few or of almost one-man rule works in the infrastructure of a free society. In the Middle Eastern wisdom this is called planting a thorn bush and expecting to harvest dates! Alas, the same ones who are destroying America are also destroying the Middle East, the graveyard of empires from whose failures and successes we have much to learn. Our so called ‘modern’ education has gradually deprived us of not only substance, but of the wisdom that determines how well we have been able to relate our past to our present and plan for a better future.

One piece of wisdom that the public has been gradually conditioned to underestimate is “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” One should ask, wasn’t the fear of a concentration of power in the hands of a few or one-man rule the main reason why America’s founders deposed the biggest colonial power of their time? Another piece of wisdom the American public has underestimated is that the American Revolution was never meant to survive without the constant vigilance of its public. Survival of unguarded government without the watchful eyes of its citizens is as absurd as leaving a houseplant or a pet unattended and expecting it to survive. In other words, the root cause of our problem and the return of government of a few has been our apathy, complacency and indifference to what is happening to our most unique republic. Even at this crucial time voter turnout in the presidential primary was only about 45 %. The truth is that the relinquishment of responsibility in a free society is an oxymoron. The responsibility and a free society go together like horse and carriage or love and marriage!

With that brief discussion of the causes of America’s downfall let us consider the adverse effects of those causes on our present self-destructive trend. Let us start with the ‘bread and butter’ of a free society - public education. Thomas Jefferson fathered public education in order to keep the colonial mentality at bay forever. His reason was that unlike a free society, the colonial system depends on obedient subjects who do what they are told. That is why Thomas Jefferson said, "Enlighten the people…and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day.”

That simply means that the best way to destroy the government is to plunge its public into confusion and turn its public education system into public ignorance, pointing the finger at other countries for causing our problems because they hate our freedom! The truth is that we are the root of our own problems. When Thomas Jefferson said, “An empire collapses more from within than from without” he meant just that. Let us point our fingers at the real and major causes of our failures during this dark period:

During the past eight years our public education system has accelerated its downward trend in changing from the best to one of the worst in the world. Public education deterioration has left huge adverse effects on practically all aspects of our lives, including domestic, social, economic and global standing. The following are examples of those adverse effects, some of which I would call induced public ignorance.

It is unconscionable that during our Information Age, in America, the hub of science and technology, the public is numbed with so much disinformation and confusion about simple facts, perhaps more so than practically any place in the world. The truth is that all individuals are born with an instinct to learn, but whether they will or will not depends on nurturing that instinct. They can also be conditioned not to learn or substitute the passion for learning with the passion for excessive pleasure without using discretion that comes only with effective education that they do not have! I was taught that the most satisfying pleasure is when we reward ourselves for accomplishing something useful that leads to making our world a better place. Here are some examples of what public ignorance has done to us:

Ineffective public education has rendered the American public an easy prey for exploitation by unscrupulous sources in every endeavor, both in the domestic and global arena. For example with global warming as one of the major issues, there are so many Americans who do not distinguish carbon dioxide from Carbon monoxide. I have seen TV anchorpersons pronouncing carbonate as carbonite and countess other evidence that is indicative of the fact that basic sciences have been missing or not emphasized in our public schools despite their elaborate facilities. Contrast this with the passion for learning by the great founders of this nation who were mostly self-taught! Or, look at schools in developing countries in a far shabbier state than our inner city schools and yet they produce scientists who successfully fill the technical vacuum in America. We have failed to admit that throwing money at education will only make it worse than it is. The missing links are sparking the urge to learn., satisfying that hunger, and oversight by ethical and exemplary leaders.

It seems as if ignorance is considered bliss and the “no pain, no gain’’ principle no longer applies. Substituting the passion for learning with superficial passions such as ‘shop-till-you drop’, spend the money we do not have to buy what we do not need and throwing them away before their time, indifference to the most basic facts such as when, how much and what to eat, excessive eating that leads to excess weight and pleasure of spending millions of dollars to lose the excess weight. In fact, lack of discretion in eating and its adverse effects are almost cancelling the dividends of technology and the benefits of medical breakthroughs.

The latest government remedy for getting out of our failing economy has been nothing more than a band-aid treatment for a catastrophic illness. The government is going to hand out money so we can shop more! And, that money is added to our national debt that has reached $30,000 per capita and rising. This leaves the American public with the least savings and the highest debt in the world. Ironically those who benefit from this deficit spending call America the richest nationin the world. Another denial indeed!

In the domestic arena, the public that has been conditioned to relinquish its civic responsibility has not bothered to vote or know the issues and then blames the system for their problems. Had the public only bothered to read history texts they would learn that the abuse of public trust by colonial powers was the reason for the creation of government of the people, not apathetic, ignorant and indifferent, but informed public.

The widespread substance abuse and binge drinking and other excessive appetites for superficial pleasure are indications of the powerlessness of the public to effect positive change inside a huge, corrupt system. Not only in America today, but also in the history of the world, substance abuse has been a refuge from corrupt governments. The fact that America with only 5% of the world’s population uses more than 50% of its illicit drugs should tell us much about how the public has been made powerless.

Last, but certainly not least is our global standing. Many of our leaders have decided to adopt colonial policies that were abandoned by the founders of this nation. Ironically all other erstwhile colonial powers have long since abandoned their colonial policies or modified them to meet the challenges of the time. For the sake of simplicity, please imagine a classroom with America, the ‘policeman of the world’, as the teacher. Also imagine what chaos ensues in that class if the teacher lets his metaphorically fair-headed students get away with major misbehaviors and punishes the better-behaved students for minor misbehaviors. This partial policy energizes the misbehaving kids to make life miserable for the whole class. In the real world that policy invites more chaos that benefits those who gain by dividing rather than uniting, creating war and fear mongering at the cost of our peace and tranquility in our already troubled world.

Let us consider the “War on Terror” that defies the most fundamental values I first learned in America. By the way, I received all of my higher education in America. I recall reading Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The principle discussed is how we should bring out the good rather than the evil side of people. There was a passage attributed to Al Capone, the notorious American Criminal. One night as Capone sneaked behind a little old lady on the streets of Chicago to snatch her purse and perhaps mug her, the old lady, noticing Capone’s shadow turned back and innocently pleaded for help to find directions to where she was going. Sensing the old lady’s appeal to his good side, Capone changed his mind on mugging and robbing the old lady and showed her the way. That simple true story tells us a lot about and how we have made more enemies than friends around the world with ignorance and arrogance!

On the positive side, as a naturalized American citizen I am delighted to see so many of my fellow Americans rising to revive this great nation’s endangered ideals - the same ideals that attracted me and millions of people to join this Nation of Immigrants. I further believe that if not for the constant influx of new talent, energy and vitality America would not last as long as it has - a win-win situation indeed.

With friends like the extremists who advocate one race, one culture and one language, America needs no enemies. I also believe that there is a surge of contributions by the newcomers - a window of opportunity, if you will, between their arrival and when they succumb to the forces of comfort, complacency, indifference and apathy. There lies the major reason why America has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world even in presidential elections. It is a fact that the immigrants of yester year take less pride in voting than the newly arriving ones.

Another fact we are conditioned to forget is that the American revolutionaries were extremists who were called terrorists by the colonial power they deposed. The irony is that we are now victims of entirely opposite extremists who could be called the progeny of those who were opposed to the American Revolution to begin with. Yes, we are witnessing what I call the undoing of the American Revolution.

The challenge of our time is to come out of our indifference and apathy and stop allowing the extremists who are motivated by ignorance, arrogance and greed take our blessings away from us. History tells us that the evil side of extremism has wreaked all the havoc in our world. We must also understand that extremism has no specific name or geographic boundary. Thus, dictatorship of any kind, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, the Taliban, or ‘neoconservatives’ is all of the same substance.

In conclusion, the first step in solving our problems is to declare a War on Ignorance, first in America that has the least knowledge of other countries, their history, geography, and culture –the root cause for our losing their hearts and minds. Our arrogance has caused us to underestimate the intelligence of other people who no longer are interested in our present kind of ‘freedom and democracy’- a far cry from what it was during the heyday of the American Revolution. Our ignorance and our greed and our partial treatment of other countries have energized the dictatorships. We are making a mockery of American values and making ourselves the laughing stock of the world.

Let me also mention the treatment I have received for being a loyal American citizen and a global goodwill ambassador. For some thirty years I have been the subject of embarrassing, degrading and humiliating questions upon leaving and entering America without a shred of evidence for disloyalty and for no reason other than having been born in a part of the world that the American extremists decided to call the Axis of Evil! My understanding of the history of tyranny in the world tells me that there is only one universal Axis of Evil and that is a concoction of ignorance, arrogance and greed with no geographic boundaries! The loyalty oath I stick to has been to protect America from its enemies–at this time, itself. For if America lives up to its ideals it will have far more friends than enemies.

Above all, I thank our president and his cohorts for pushing the envelope of ignorance, arrogance and greed to such an extreme that it has energized unprecedented millions of decent Americans who feel the pinch, get involved and make America, America again. I, for one, have decided to become an activist and do all I can to save this country and the rest of the world that will still follow if America cleans up its act.

Finally, I should mention that those who consider the constructive criticism of my adopted home as pessimistic, I say that I would rather be viewed as a realist than optimist or pessimist. What appears as pessimistic in my writings I consider as qualifying statements for my optimism. In other words, if I were a pessimist about the future of America and its power and potential to achieve so many impossible things, I would not try to get involved.

And, to those who think America should not be criticized because of having the most scientists I would say that other countries are increasingly producing elites and catching up with America. Let there be no mistake that my whole argument has been for the mobilization of an informed and educated public, the intent of the founders of America. We need the kind of enlightened public without which America is a sleeping giant. In other words elites find their way to the top mostly by themselves even with less effective public education, but the public by default can only bloom with effective education and exemplary leaders. America is the only nation that initiated that seemingly impossible task in large scale. If successful it can make America and our world a far better place.

American Ideals are worthy to understand, appreciate and preserve. Once again America must be made a haven for real democracy, freedom of expression and the dignity of the individual. It is unbecoming of America to resort to depriving its public of the blessings of its revolution and resort to surveillance, torture and indignation of people for their beliefs and wishes in the pursuit of happiness.

I see in my mind’s eye, a day when American ingenuity will solve our energy problems so that we will not have to resort to embarrassing means like going after other people’s resources with the excuse of finding weapons of mass destruction or spreading ‘freedom and democracy.’ Using Judge Judy’s book title, “Don’t Pee On My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining!”

It is worth repeating that this is only possible if we declare War on Ignorance and educate America and the world. at a cost that will be a pittance as compared to what we spend for weapons of mass destruction cost of which is more destruction and the taking of more American and foreign lives and the bankrupting America. Let us not forget that emphasis only on technology devoid of ethics and wisdom can and will get us closer to annihilation. The greatest minds of our world have warned us of this. Here are, but two quotes:

“The end of human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but I do know that World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”-Albert Einstein

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I agree with this article. It's well written.