Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Universal Health Care: Weapon of the Ruling Class (Part 1)

Universal Healthcare: Weapon of the Ruling Class

Many of my fellow leftists are excited by the rhetoric that emanated from the Obama administration about their commitment to providing universal health care. As much as this might sound like a victory for the left, we cannot be fooled. In truth, universal health care is not a solution to the gross inequity in medical care between the lower and ruling class, and the proposed reforms serve only to prop up a bloated, inefficient, and inherently inequitable health care system.

Truly equitable medical care cannot be provided with universal health care, for it continues to prop up the system of private insurance rather then asserting the fundamental truth that government must assume responsibility for providing health care for the people. We cannot be fooled by Washington’s reactionary stalling tactics. We must continue to fight harder then ever to win real substantive victories towards the establishment of socialized medicine in the United States.

The problem with universal health care, in the form currently being pushed in Washington, is that it does not institute substantive change in our medical system. Obama’s plan specifically focuses, he claims, on reducing the cost of private insurance so that more Americans can be insured. By reducing the cost of insurance Obama’s plan does not reform the fundamental problem with our system, and the plan merely makes the atrocities committed by the insurance industry more palatable to the working class by giving the equal access to the chaotic, bureaucratic, and ineffective system that the middle class has suffered under for decades.

By increasing the scope of access rather then improving the quality of care, universal health care defuses public furor over the system’s flaws by giving it a fa├žade of equity. In truth, the system continues unchanged.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kindergarten Politics

Eric Shmidt was doing this sort of interview-debate the other day along with the governor of Minnesota. He was talking about the bailout/stimulus package - what else? - and he made an incredibly insightful comment. He said something along the lines of "Washington is sometimes pretty politicized."

Bipartisanship is all the rage these days. We need to come together to find solutions to our nation's crisis, and to do this we need to rise above the partisan divisions which created the failed policies of the past eight years. Each side should forget their ideological predilections in order to work together in a spirit of bipartisan statesmanship. Right.

Guess what people...the democrats won the election. Some say "by a narrow margin." Bullshit. Obama's lead over McCain seriously trumps Bush's margin of victory, which by the way was a negative number in the 2000 election. By the standards of recent electoral politics in America, this was a powerful mandate for the Democratic party's goals.

Republicans in (and out of) Congress have been bitching and moaning about how the Dems have been totally ignoring their advice and riding roughshod over their party. They are using the crisis to advance a dangerously socialistic Big Government Agenda which will never get rolled back and will be the launching pad for some kind of quasi-leftist regime- which will start by socializing healthcare and raising taxes, and end by handing America over to The Terrorists.

As Tim Pawlenty was railing against the size of the stimulus bill, he mentioned the fact that only $100 million was being devoted to infrastructure spending. The figure was $100 billion. I half expected the guy to start ranting about how many millions of silver dollars we were going to lose to reckless spending. The truth is, these people are stuck somewhere around the late nineteenth century. Money tends to be more fluid these days, especially after the Republicans squandered hundreds of billions on a useless war and then some more on tax cuts for our upper-income brackets. The truth is, when it comes to fiscal rectitude these people should shut their mouths.

And guess what? Those Democratic members of Congress who are supposedly ignoring the budgetary wishes of the American people? They were elected! That is how representative democracy works. When one party fucks up, they lose their influence and have to stay out in the cold for a while. This is perfectly fair and happened to the Dems for six years, because earlier on in the decade they ran some pretty weak candidates and thus failed the American people as an opposition. This is not some game where everyone is a winner and nobody's feelings get hurt. Politics is played for keeps. Given the mutilation of our system of checks and balances by the Bush administration, these people should know this by now.

Let's stop the self-congratulatory bullshit about the bipartisanship and compromises and get on to do what needs to be done. Seriously, we cannot allow a "crisis" or "recession" or "credit crunch" or whatever you want to call it prevent us from rationalizing our economy and society. Government does have a big role to play and both sides know that. The only difference is what its priorities are: supporting the oil industry and the investor class or guaranteeing a decent standard of living for our most productive citizens- who are not, by the way, the captains of industry or the dukes of Wall Street.

Statistically, the rapid productivity gains of our past decade have come from the rank and file, not the prodigal entrepreneurs, of the modern corporation. If anything, the growth in the management bureacucracy has sapped its strength and slowed it down.

To that end, we ought to get to work on tax reform: we need a simple, progressive tax policy that redistributes wealth from the greedheads to those people on whose shoulders our entire way of life stands. We also clearly need to reform our healthcare system since we spend the most and get the least out of this sector compared to any other country. A totally public-sector solution would be best (yes, this means socialized medicine) but failing that pretty much any other arrangement would be an improvement. Also we need to significantly reduce our carbon emissions starting NOW, and this would entail pretty drastic action from our government. But to do any of this, we will need to get over the idea of bipartisanship and ignore the whinings of an irrelevant, anachoronistic party.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eugenics Would Rock (If We Did it Right)

I really think that this is the best option for humanity to consciously improve itself. As one of the main characters in "Inherit the Wind," Henry Drummond, pointed out, our best and most distinguishing feature is our intelligence. I have seen the remarkable effects of having the right combination of genes, and of having the wrong set. Some people seem to just get it, while others struggle and fall behind, or can’t remember or connect a large number of facts if their lives depended on it. I think that most of the problems of the world can be narrowed down to two simple-sounding, but admittedly complex, flaws in our nature: many people are mean and stupid. If we, as a society, could think through our problems, then we’d be home free.

Of course, the problem, which I alluded to, is that of complexity. For instance, we used to think that the rational mind and the emotional mind were two distinct parts of our personality and that one could be strengthened at the expense of the other in order to make our lives easier. This is what the Stoics seemed to have believed. But the truth is, we think with our emotions and emote with our thoughts; the data shows that people who are incapable of emotion cannot make any decisions and waste tremendous amounts of time trying to decide what to do. The reason is they can’t stop thinking through the facts and go with their “gut,” because they lack a decisive preference for any given scenario. At the same time, there are clear-cut differences in intelligence between individuals which make themselves obvious at the behavioral level.

Increased intelligence could help us face all kinds of different challenges, but here’s another area where eugenics would help: healthcare. People who live over one hundred years do not suffer from age-related diseases nearly as often as those who do only make to seventy or eighty- that is how they got so far in the first place. Thus they are some of the cheapest people, in terms of the cost of care, on this planet. And it’s all because they have the right genes; this is made abundantly clear when you consider the fact that many centenarians still smoke, drink alcohol, and commit various other sins against their health. If we could engineer that into the wider population, we could reduce our long-term healthcare expenditures dramatically, especially as the population ages. That would also give us the added benefit of living longer and more pleasant lives.

But I’ve got to address a crucial question, which is: “what gives you the right to say what characteristics are better or worse, and what value a life has?” Well, my answer would be, I couldn’t care less about these ethical questions because they are in fact nonexistent. We can all agree that such characteristics as intelligence and a strong immune system, for instance, are good to have.

As for the value of a life, nobody really thinks that all lives are created equal. They may think that they believe this, but on a fundamental level they really don’t. If that were the case, the history books would devote equal space to every single individual person and we would not acknowledge the existence of great men. There can be no great men if there are no lesser men. We all make such value judgments when we look up to men like Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln and ignore just about everyone else who lived at around the same time period. And here’s something else- what if ethical intelligence has a genetic component? I know there are people with no moral compass whatsoever who were raised by good parents, so I am inclined to suspect there is a strong genetic component. Combined with the right environment you could produce a generation of great moralists as well as thinkers, and think of how many problems that would solve.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Lysdexic Student

Recently, I overheard a conversation that encapsulates many of the problems faced by the “learning disabled” student. The conversation started with a young woman stating nonchalantly that, “I think I might be dyslexic” to which a young man replied “Why would you think that?” In response she explained, “well I reverse a lot of” she paused and punctuated the pause with “like” before continuing “words and stuff”. The young man was unimpressed and said, “You’re in honors bio. How could you be in honors bio and be dyslexic? You can read. You can’t be dyslexic.”

It takes incidents like this one to remind me how ignorant so many people are to the nature of dyslexia. Few people truly understand what it is and what it means to be dyslexic. When people find out I’m dyslexic, they are often extremely confused; because, I’ve always done well in school, and dyslexia, as a “learning disability” in many people’s minds, precludes any expectation of dyslexics achieving notable academic success. Although it is the official way to describe dyslexia, learning disability is a misnomer and is a severe impediment to the general public’s understanding the true nature of dyslexia. In fact, the term learning disabled and the associated jargon, specifically special education, are insulting to otherwise good students.

Dyslexia along with numerous other conditions labeled, “learning-disabilities” a linkage of terms which serves to undermine the confidence of the dyslexic student and the confidence of the general public in that student’s intelligence. It goes without saying that our culture equates learning and the speed at which one learns with intellect. One’s ability to learn determines his ability to perform other skills well, and if one is learning disabled then it follows that they will be hindered in performing countless other tasks. However, there is no aspect of dyslexia that in and of itself hinders one’s ability to learn. Dyslexia, in most cases, manifests as a difficulty mastering spelling and phonetics, and consequently being unable to read.

Clearly, dyslexia hinder one’s ability to read effectively; however, there are countless other ways to learn besides the printed word, so to refer to dyslexia as a learning disability is misleading. My own life is a prime example. As a first, second, third, and fourth grader I often had trouble reading the books I was interested in; because, I couldn’t read phonetically. This prevented me from understanding words I’d never seen before despite knowing many of them from speaking. My spoken vocabulary was far more advanced then my reading would indicate, and this inhibited my reading many of the books I would have liked.

Fortunately for me, my parents were very proactive in providing me with books on tape which allowed me to have all the benefits of reading without turning a page or trying to sound out a single word. Using this medium I was able to learn as well as any other student despite being labeled “learning disabled”. Clearly, Dyslexics like any other person is fully capable of learning any other skill as long as the information they are to acquire is presented in the proper way. Unfortunately for the dyslexic student, the educational establishment evolved in a way that reading was the fundamental medium which teachers would use to impart knowledge. As a result of their failings in this area, society labels the dyslexic student “learning-disabled” since they don’t respond as well to this medium as most other students.

In order to overcome their problems learning to read and spell, the dyslexic student is generally placed in programs outside the realm of traditional, main stream, education. These programs and amendments to classroom procedure fall under the larger mantle of special education. Despite the best intentions of the term’s progenitors it cannot be denied that in the United States special has become a synonym for stupid, specifically as a result of people mocking the special education system. In large part this mockery of special education is due to special education’s most noteworthy beneficiaries: students with autism and mental retardation. Grouping dyslexic students in a category that also contains students with such limited capacity for academic achievement is nothing short of insulting to dyslexics, who span the full range of IQ from severely handicapped to genius range.

For my own part, I often struggle to understand how a term that encompasses students of such limited intellectual capacity can also describe my educational needs. By any assessment, I perform well academically at a very challenging school. How then is it fair to describe my need for a laptop when writing an in-class essay with the same term that refers to the classes that teach basic life skills to students with severe developmental disabilities?

Even if educators themselves did not intend the egregious insult to the “learning-disabled” student, it is nonetheless a relevant fact that the peers of dyslexic students will, and in practice often do, lump all special education students together as being of low intellectual capacity. Surely, this stigma has plagued countless dyslexics as their peers exploit this weakness in their emotional armor. Granted many students escape this torment; nonetheless, many others are not so lucky and will be verbally harassed because the educational establishment has not seen fit to distinguish the dyslexic population from retarded and autistic students.

Furthermore, one cannot deny the effect of these misnomers and the subsequent cruel behavior of their peers on the emotional wellbeing of the dyslexic student. It is a proven fact that diagnosed “learning-disabled” students are at significantly higher risk for depression than the general population, and at much greater risk of developing depression at very young age.

However, there exists no proven link between dyslexia or other conditions that fall into the learning-disabled category and inherently lower levels of the chemicals in the brain that determine mood. Dyslexia does not physically precondition one to become depressed, so the most likely explanation for the sadness that plagues so many “learning-disabled” students is that it must come from an experience common to all of them. In my own experience, I can testify that few things hurt as much as getting back the latest failed spelling quiz in a long line of spelling quizzes were I performed just as poorly. I came out of the misery of elementary school relatively unscathed; because, I had the luxury of parents who understood my dyslexia, and I benefited from being gifted in other subjects. However, many children with learning disabilities are not so lucky.

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how the frustration of academic roadblocks could severely damage the self-esteem of a young mind. Compound academic failure with classmates who torment the dyslexic student for their inability to spell, read out loud, or whatever their particular problem, and it is easy to imagine one’s world seeming quite dark.

Possibly as a result of their higher rate of depression, “learning-disabled” students are at significantly higher risk of becoming regular drug users. Although the educational system’s treatment of “learning-disabled” students cannot be blamed directly for these unfortunate statistics, it cannot be denied that the toll the present system takes on the emotional wellbeing of dyslexics is far too high.

Although it was born out of an effort to reform education for students who have for centuries been left out of the benefits of education, the jargon of the special education industry with regards to dyslexics is nothing short of anachronistic. The idea that these conditions are learning-disabilities was born in the minds of psychologists working decades ago when dyslexia and similar conditions were poorly understood. Today the education industry understands dyslexia far better then it did even a decade ago, but society’s understanding of the term is still outdated.

If society is to update its thinking with regards to dyslexia, the educational establishment must consciously recognize that a dyslexic’s disability is not with learning, and that this term, and the special education population that dyslexics have been grouped with, prejudice society, teachers, and their peers to think of dyslexics as less likely to achieve than other students. The first step in undoing this prejudice and the horrible emotional cost it takes on dyslexic students is to change the way we as society discuss these problems.

Feminist Economics (Belated)

There can be no denying that women play a crucial role in the functioning of the American economy. In her editorial in the New York Times “Where Are the New Jobs for Women” Linda Hirshman made the case that any forthcoming economic stimulus must recognize the crucial role women play in the nations economy, and she argues the present proposed stimulus fails to do so. However, Ms. Hirshman’s argument is inherently flawed as it is built on, at best, a juvenile understanding of macro-economics that leads her to form absurd concussions as she strives to politically-correct the future stimulus package.

Hirshman’s principal argument is that the proposed stimulus package ignores women; because, it focuses spending on areas of the economy that are comprised largely of men, namely construction and engineering. In her own word she says, “The bulk of the stimulus program will provide jobs for men, because building projects generate jobs in construction, where women make up only 9 percent of the work force.” Hirshman asserts that this focus on this sector leaves women out of the stimulus; however, she fails to understand that a sufficiently large stimulus package role is not merely to stimulate any one sector of the economy but to invigorate the economy as a whole. The principal is simple, if the federal government builds infrastructure this facilitates commerce in other sectors as it is now easier for buyers and sellers of goods and services to interact. For example, if one builds a new road that better connects two towns it is easier for businesses in these towns have just expanded their market of potential customers. This is of course a very basic example, but that principal holds true on all levels of infrastructure development, which is why all but the most fringe economists want the US to invest infrastructure. Although money directly flows to jobs that are overwhelming held by men (construction workers), they spend money on goods and services, which defuses money throughout the economy affecting all sectors, even ones dominated by women.

To say that this type of stimulus leaves women out is absurd. If a construction worker he is employed, and he then has the money to afford day-care for his pre-school aged children, which as Hirshman herself claims, “94 percent of child care workers” are female. Continuing with that hypothetical scenario, employing that construction worker potentially allows his wife to get a job given that this hypothetical family can afford day-care, and the wife doesn’t have to watch the kids. In theory, the stimulus can directly encourage more women to enter the workplace. As for engineering, it is a simple fact that stimulating this sector has the same effect as infrastructure development. How Hirshman fails to see this is beyond comprehension.

Moreover, Ms. Hirshman claims that the federal government, in addition to the aforementioned stimulus, should, for the sake of gender-equity, invest considerable sums of money in the social work and education sectors being that they are largely female sectors. There is no good reason to not spend money on these sectors. In the long run, investment in social services and education creates better adjusted more productive members of society, so there is certainly no reason not to invest in these areas. However, Hirshman’s argument treats these sectors as though they are of equal immediate value, in relieving the economy, as investment in infrastructure and engineering, which is most certainly not the case. Unlike investment in infrastructure or green technology, investment in social services and education provide no immediate boon to the economy aside from the marginal amounts of capital that is defused to the economy via teacher’s income. When one builds a road, not only does one stimulate the economy by paying construction workers and facilitating commerce once its completed, but one must buy all manor of equipment and materials from all manor of companies. By contrast, hiring more teachers does not have the same effect. On the small scale, it does stimulate the economy, but the purchase of additional textbooks does not even compare with the boost to the economy generated by the purchase of bulldozers.

Moreover, demand for social services and education is static, so once a certain number of teachers and social workers are employed there is no more demand for further employees in that sector. No doubt the country needs far more teachers and social workers then it presently has; nonetheless, the potential limit on growth in that sector means that investment there cannot produce the same effects as investment in sectors, like green technology, where demand is not so static.

Without solid economics to back up her thesis, what possible motives can Ms. Hirshman have for taking her position? It would seem her position is motivated less by concrete realities about how a given stimulus package will help the American people regardless of gender or any other factor and more by a perverse need to advance political-correctness at the expense of empirical data.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Legalize it!

Right now, we are spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars locking up our fellow citizens for possesing or using stuff which does no harm to anyone, except perhaps themselves. This is a rather ridiculous waste of resources which we could potentially be spending on valuable investments in education, mass transit, and health. These investments would not just boost the quality of life in our society, but in doing so would increase the productivity of the average American worker and could help sustain growth for decades to come. When you lock people up, there isn't much of a return on the money you spend keeping them in confinement- if anything, there is a negative return due to high recidivism.

The United States has one of the largest prison populations (as a percentage of its overall adult population) in the world, and this is an enormous drain on local government's budget. Perversely, certain regions, particularly parts of New York, have become so economically dependent on the prison industry that they need the influx of inmates just to make a living. This should tell us there is a bit of a problem.

Given all the massive problems we face, we really should not be so concerned if a few individuals choose to light a joint or shoot up. If anything, we could be using these industries to fund our national budget by bringing them into the formal economy and imposing steep taxes to discourage their use- but without locking people up. The revenues could be used on any number of programs, perhaps rehabilitation for those that have an addiction and actually need our help.

And plus, why does it matter so much if people do use the stuff if it helps them through their lives, or if they just feel it does? As long as the activities of users does not impinge on the legal rights of other citizens, what they choose to do with their free time is really none of our business. Our current approach towards anti-drug enforcement betrays a fundamentally nineteenth-century attitude towards social reform, which made it the duty of the engaged, god-fearing citizen to combat sin in any way possible, including through the use of the coercive power of the state. This kind of social policy-as-proselytization has no place in a modern, industrialized society.

But this is a mostly abstract argument about individual freedom and the role of society in dealing with the delinquent. What is more important is the fact that stricter anti-drug laws disproportionately affect the most economically vulnerable members of our society in a highly negative way. A ridicuolously large percentage of our minority population is festering under horrid conditions because of this weird, puritanical approach. When institutions lag behind the times, the results are often quite repugnant no matter the best intentions of those who manage these institutions.

I'd like to say we are moving towards a more progressive policy but that wouldn't be true. In more and more states obscure ethnobotanicals, especially Salvia Divinorum (which only rarely shows any negative psychological side-effects), are being added to the black list, ostensibly out of concern for the youth of these communities. The real reason is sensationalistic and irresponsible journalism on the part of Fox News, which frequently equivilates the effect of the plant to having an acid trip. The reality is way different- for starters, Salvia's effect lasts no more than 30 minutes, while an acid trip usually goes on for about 12 hours. A majority of users during test studies reported a sense of heightened well-being and connectedness to nature; hardly the results of a psychopathic frenzy. We could at least be focusing on the dangerous, unhealthy shit like methamphetamine which presents a real social problem in the central US, the "Red States," as they are known.

We should start improving this aspect of American life by legalizing weed and rolling back these new laws against ethnobotanicals, which have thus far caused no discernible social harm. As for weed, it is a pretty commonly used herb that has very mild health drawbacks if any. The worst risks are generally reported to be temporary memory loss and lung problems from the smoke itself. We should approach it almost the same way as we approach tobacco: make it socially unacceptable to use indoors with large groups of people, and tax it as much as needed, but at the same time don't try to ban it outright. I foresee it improving the psychological well-being of people once we've removed the stigma and the fear of being busted. Eventually, we should only ban the worst shit from general consumption- this would include meth, heroin, and PCP. That would inject a small dose of sanity into our law enforcement system.

Post-Partisan Depression: Are We Stimulated Yet?

Sources with access to nytimes.com report that two senators, described in the venerable paper as “centrists,” have begun an effort to trim the spending of the Obama administration’s stimulus package.

Senators Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, are attempting to curb the cost of the stimulus package by removing superfluous provisions. Namely, their proposal would eliminate, “$50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $14 million for cyber security research by the Homeland Security Department, $1 billion for the National Science Foundation, $400 million for research and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, $850 million for Amtrak and $400 million for climate change research.” The wisdom in making the proposed cuts is no doubt self-evident.

Of course, in their efforts to keep Washington fiscally responsible, senators Nelson and Collins had to make tough decisions. For example, these Senators chose to eliminate $400 million from the stimulus package for the research of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). It took Senator Nelson and Senator Collins tremendous courage to cut spending in this area given that their state’s are so afflicted by these terrible diseases. Take as an example, Maine, represented by Senator Collins, ranks 12th lowest in the nation for HIV positive residents per 100,000, 2nd lowest in the nation for Chlamydia positive residents per 100,000, and 4th lowest in the nation for residents infected with Gonorrhea per 100,000. Despite her home state being afflicted by these terrible diseases, Senator Collins, for the good of the country and in the name of fiscal responsibility, agreed to reduce funds given to research medicines that could cure or alleviate the symptoms of these awful diseases. Her courage is truly inspiring.

The examples of Senator Nelson and Senator Collins willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of fiscal responsibility are endless. Take Senator Nelson’s courageous decision to eliminate the $50 allocated for the National Endowment of the Arts. Despite being home to none of the nations most highly acclaimed museums, orchestras, and or theater companies Senator Nelson was willing to take the bold step, no doubt setting him at odds with Nebraska’s infamous artist and thespian lobby, to eliminate the extra funding to the National Endowment for the Arts. It is a refreshing site to behold Senators acting counter to their home state’s petty interests, instead doing what is good for the whole nation.

Of course, it is no surprise that Senator Nelson and Senator Collins brought to the nations attention the gross overspending in the Obama administration’s stimulus package. Both their home states, Nebraska and Maine, are ranked by The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., as beneficiary states. A beneficiary state is one that receives more in federal aid then they produce in tax revenue. In the case of Nebraska, the tax institute reports, “Per dollar of Federal tax collected in 2004, Nebraska citizens received approximately $1.10 in the way of federal spending.” As for Maine, Tax Institute analysts report, “Per dollar of federal tax collected in 2005, Maine citizens received approximately $1.41 in the way of federal spending.” Given the immense burden placed on the residents of Nebraska and Maine in terms of taxation, it is no surprise that senators Nelson and Collins had to way in on the Obama administration’s overspending. Given both state’s immense contribution to federal revenue, it was important that both senators take a stand against this injustice. Why should Nebraska and Maine have to suffer for provisions in the stimulus package that might benefit revenue producing states like California, New Jersey, and New York?

It is good to see that in the wake of the Obama election, Senator’s of both parties have been willing to come together, set aside aside their petty differences, and do what is best for all Americans not just their constituents.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Patriotism of Dissent

I don’t own an American flag. When I say the pledge of allegiance I omit the phrase “under God.” There was a time in my life when I questioned the morality of capitalism, and I frequently criticize the U.S. government for the immorality of many of its actions. From the bombing of Cambodia to the mismanagement of the foster care system there are countless things my nation has done of which I am not proud, and my vocal criticism of some aspects of our nation’s policy has from time to time led some to question my patriotism. Among certain circles, it would seem that dissent is evidence of disloyalty. For my own part, I think there’s a difference between pride in one’s nation, its ideals, and having pride in every act of its government. All too often our society confuses blind-nationalism with patriotism, when in fact the two terms are far from synonymous.

Few who enjoy the label “patriot” would deny that fighting for one’s country is among the highest forms of service. Today, as has always been, society generally thinks of “fighting” for one’s nation as meaning military service. Although there can be no doubt that military service represents one key way in which to fight on behalf of your nation, it seems an absurd notion that this is the only way to do so. Throughout the history of the United States there are countless examples of men and women who bravely “fought” for their nation without ever raising arms against foreign adversaries. Examples of such individuals include the likes of Martin Luther King Jr, Betty Friedan, Eugene V. Debs, and Henry David Thoreau. The battles these heroes fought for their country are of a different kind then soldiers have fought on the nation’s behalf, but the victories which men like Martin Luther King won for the country are just as important as any of the victories secured on a battlefield. These men and women, who were dissidents in their respective ages, have, through their actions and their sacrifices, expanded the rights and liberties of all Americans. Fighting for one’s country does not just mean defending it against threats from outside our borders, but also includes protecting its values from erosion from within.

It is the duty of every American to hold our government accountable to the ideals upon which this country was founded. For my own part, I try to do this in the limited way I can. From attending anti-war rallies to trying to convince a classmate of the immorality of “water-boarding” I strive to reverse the failings of my country. It is for love of the American experiment that I voice my views, for it pains me to see the values of my country compromised. I will continue as I have in the past to oppose any American policy that seems to contradict my understanding of what America is supposed to be, and I encourage others to do the same. Their views needn’t be the same as mine, but I hope that many Americans will dissent. Ultimately, it is only when the people break with the injustice of the status quo that the march of liberty is propelled forward. It is possible that I am misguided in my beliefs. I may very well be wrong about what is best for my country, but I know that it is dissent that has moved us forward. I hope that I am right and that I can help my country to be a more free and just nation, but I also know that even if I am wrong, being wrong is not as un-American as being silent.