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Rights, privileges and knowing the difference

By Paul Walfield
web posted April 7, 2003

Lots of folks, well some anyway, have a tendency to distrust their government. In democracies they elect people they like, or the "lesser of the evils," then spend the rest of the election term, being skeptical. People who are skeptical by nature, those who voted for the other candidate, speak the loudest, but even the ones who elected the government have a tendency to give credence to the idea that if they trust their government, they are somehow leaving a door open to disaster.

For about three decades now, the trend has been increasing. In the early to mid-1960's, about 75 per cent of the American public said they trusted our government. In the mid-1990's, that was reduced to about 15 per cent. Now, the latest polls show that nearly eight out of 10 Americans agree with the President's decision on Iraq. Though, the two out of 10 that don't agree, also don't agree that the polls show what they show. Apparently, being contrary is a way of life for some when a Republican is in office.

There have been books written about why Americans have developed skepticism into a way of life, even the "scholars" at Harvard have given it a crack finding that most of the mistrust is not generated by economic factors, either here or in the rest of the world, it doesn't even stem from despicable politicians, but, it might have something to do with our news broadcasts and media. This was demonstrated in 1997 by Nye, Zelikow, and King, when they edited a series of essays into the book Why People Don't Trust Government, which can be enlightening in many ways and not just to the cause of people's mistrust of government. But, that book is not the subject.

Other than Oliver Stone types, few of us looked at our news media the same way we looked at the propaganda mills of totalitarian regimes across the world.

After all, we are America, and the wisest of the wise in American history, our founding fathers, or as the news media and others have determined for the sake of political correctness, the "Framers," chose to give a right, a First Amendment Right, freedom of the press to America's "news hounds."

They got it, we trusted them, and they abused that trust, royally.

Of course it's not just the press. Anyone who has gone to the movies in the past three or four decades or so has been treated to subtle or not so subtle depictions of the evils that run America. If you don't believe it, pick virtually any movie that has any reference to the American government since the mid-1960's and pay attention to that aspect. The message will come through loud and clear. The American government is awful and there is always someone or a group in or out of government, opposed to something the evil American government has done, is doing or is planning on doing. The hero is always someone who bucks the system. We were told that was a good thing, it promotes independent thought or something. It did promote something, all right.

Whether it is the CIA, the police, secret governmental organizations, or whatever, they are out to get us, and they do it secretly, which in effect, means our government is deceiving all of us, all the time. Some no longer look to the government to do the right thing, rather the opposite. If the government is always deceiving us, as some believe, it is up to those out of government to decide what is right.

It has gotten to the point, that some people don't even view the written Constitution as the instrument that gives us rights as Americans; rather, rights are determined by who doesn't have something.

It stands to reason that if you are part of the now 20-30 per cent of the population that distrusts the American government to say or do anything without ulterior and nefarious motives, your view of what you are entitled to as a citizen must be derived from humanist dogma rather than American.

People nowadays believe they have all kinds of entitlements as a matter of right. It would be correct to say that casual Friday is not a constitutionally protected right nor is a two week vacation. Yet, lots of folks believe otherwise.

People are suing hamburger places because they ate there, liked it and came back often. It isn't clear what right hamburger eaters have that was breached and sued for, but it is clear that there will be more and more outrageous claims in the future. At least so long as those who have are perceived as easy pickings for those who don't. Or more to the point, so long as Americans are taught class warfare.

Somewhere along the line, love of country and personal responsibility became not only politically incorrect, but patently naïve notions. On the other hand, disdain for government, collective responsibility and class warfare are considered fashionable.

Lots of attention is given to those who attack the present Administration and America in general. A college professor at Columbia University named Nicholas De Genova, gave a speech and called for the defeat of the American military by Iraq, "If we really believe that this war is criminal ... then we have to believe in the victory of the Iraqi people and the defeat of the U.S. war machine."

The professor was condemned by most, and defended by some. Yet little was said about the three thousand Americans in the audience who applauded and cheered him when he made that call.

A University in California has forbidden the displaying of American flags because it will offend some people. Much attention was given to the people who made that decision, what about giving attention to the people who claimed to be offended by the sight of the flag?

An American "journalist" working for National Geographic and MSNBC in Iraq named Peter Arnett, broadcast an interview in which he praised Iraqi resistance and tactics while damning the American military. For some, his "dissent" was patriotic.

Some on the Left, dissenting in and of itself is "what America is all about," it is "what made America great." No it didn't. What you say is what matters; it lets others know who you are. What America has stood for is what allowed dissent, not the other way around.

The new dogma, the distrust for what America is, and the twisting of how it got there, the trashing of all governmental agencies that aren't directly involved in entitlements is ominous.

If the new dogma is allowed to continue to its logical conclusion, where does that leave America?

Paul Walfield is a freelance writer and member of the State Bar of California with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and post-graduate study in behavioral and analytical psychology. He resided for a number of years in the small town of Houlton, Maine and is now a California attorney. Paul can be contacted at paul.walfield@cox.net.

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