This book began as a series, with segments included in each issue of my monthly blog, Bainstorming. The Bainstorming blog ran each month for about six years. It appeared on my web site , one segment in each issue. Unfortunately, my years have caught up with me and it got to the point where I could either continue the Bainstorming blog or continue to write fiction but not both--so I compromised by cutting down on the fiction somewhat and writing another issue of Bainstorming every six months or so, rather than every month.
Just as a note, Congress could use that little example of what they should be doing: Compromising and getting something useful accomplished. And as another note, every issue of Bainstorming is archived on my web site, , complete with a search engine. If you use the search engine to see if I've written about topics that might interest you, try searching for Love vs. Lust, which just happens to be my favorite piece of all the subjects I wrote about during those six years of monthly issues (and the one I had the most comments on). Or if you're a lazy cuss like me, just go to the November 2005 issue and again to the January 2008 issue.
This book is not organized or written as a professional pundit would do it. It's just observations by a citizen, me, and what I've learned over the years from a voracious reading habit and from paying attention to what is going on in our nation and the world.
So, where did the title, How It Ought To Be, Damn It! come from? It should be self-explanatory, but just to be certain readers understand what this book is about right from the beginning, it is simply how I believe things in these great, big, huge, wonderful United States of America ought to be--but aren't. I won't mince words, I won't try to be politically correct and I'll do my best to tell it in a way I think a great many of our citizens would like to hear someone say it.
Some of the subjects I've written about in my blog, in no particular order, are education, medical care, taxes, my favorite books, antics of the four-footed furry members of the family, environment, dishonesty, books I've written, slowing down, aging, corruption in government, drugs, history, energy, silly laws, the difference between love and lust, my wonderful wife, Betty and a whole haystack of other stuff that caught my interest while indulging in my second most favorite activity, reading, and I do mean voracious reading in a multitude of subjects.
I guess most of what I've written about, and will be writing about in this book, are the things you see yourself in everyday life while watching television, hanging out on social media groups, reading newspapers, talking with friends (and enemies) and so forth. If you're interested, the personal items I included in Bainstorming, plus my own life history can be found in my autobiography, It's Never Too Late. This book you're presently reading is mostly about the state of the United States and solutions I believe would help.
Will I get everything right? Almost certainly not. I'm no more perfect than you are. Will I get the majority of it right? I believe so, and I believe most people will agree with most of the content in this book. Will I repeat myself? Most likely. Some of the observations in this book are worth repeating.
Since I mostly write fiction and have never attempted a non-fiction work like this one, please don't expect it to be perfectly organized or absolutely correct or to cover every subject under the sun. I gave a lot of thought on how to present my opinions and finally arrived at what I believe to be the best approach.
How It Ought To Be, Damn it! will consist of three parts. The first part will cover all the things I believe are wrong with our country, then the second part will present my proposed solutions to the problems, and the last part will be some miscellaneous observations and probably some hindsight, telling what should have been done. Everyone is good at that, huh? Really, I will be as serious in the miscellaneous section as in the other two parts of the book, so don't skip it. Maybe that's not how a professional political pundit would do it but to heck with them. This is my book and I'll write it like I want to.
First and foremost, let me state that life isn't fair. Some of us get the breaks and some just get broken. Don't believe me? Look around, beginning with your neighborhood, your town or city and your state. Take a good look at the nation and then the world. Look at the individuals and where they live and how much they earn and who their parents are. How much fairness do you see?
Some of us are born with a silver spoon in our mouths, to wealthy parents who can provide us with all of life's necessities and many of its luxuries. Others are born into poverty, where our parents, if we know who both of them are, have to struggle just to put food on the table and clothes on our backs and don't always succeed at that. The person with an IQ of 100 has to study like hell just to get a passing grade in school while the person in the next seat may have an IQ of 140 and breeze through school without breaking a sweat. There are guys who grow up to be handsome and muscular while others turn out puny and plain. And some women are pretty and curvy while others have faces that would stop a clock and are flat as a board. Life isn't fair. Hell, the universe isn't fair. It's just completely and implacably impartial, with some of us hitting the jackpot, others forever doomed to penury and the rest of us a vast panoply of in-betweens. That's the way it is and always has been, and pleas to the various and sundry Gods we subscribe to aren't going to change a thing.
Some nations, like the United States, have a lot going for them. A bountiful land, mineral wealth, a democratic government (of sorts), very little real poverty despite what we're told and best of all, a land of opportunity where citizens can better ourselves if they don't mind working. Other countries, such as Bangladesh, for instance, are almost crowed shoulder to shoulder. Its industries are sweatshops paying workers barely enough to keep skin and bones together for twelve hour work days. Most of the population are peasants, depending on monsoon rains for their succor, and very little of it even when the rains come on time and don't flood half the country.
How about race? If you're born a black person in the United States (and some other places), you automatically start off with a strike against you. It doesn't matter that some of the pundits claim that good, hard work and education will put you right up there with the white person driving a Cadillac. Bullshit! It doesn't work like that and if you're even halfway honest you know it doesn't. Good, hard work and an education will help, but if you're born black you have to work harder than a Caucasian to accomplish the same end, and all the nonsense spouted by pundits won't change that fact.
Should I go on, or have I made my point? Want to carry it a little further? Some people live to be a hundred and never have a sick day until they die. Others get leukemia and die before they're grown. Some persons never suffer even a broken bone. Others get run over by a drunken driver and are paralyzed for life.
See? Life isn't fair and it never has been and never will be.
So what do we do about it? Well, we can work to try to even things out as much as possible, and by this I don't mean redistribution of wealth or giving some groups breaks and not others, or socialism or communism or a hundred other wacky ideas to make us all equal that never worked and never will work. What I mean is that we as a nation should try to provide the conditions that will give us all a chance to make our lives better and also to care for those who can't care for themselves for one reason or the other. After that it's up to the individual, not the government. And to provide those conditions, I'm going to explain how I believe things ought to be, but aren't, in no particular order. That's Part One. In Part Two, I'll give you my ideas on what we should do to make our country how it ought to be.
You're probably now at the stage of asking Who is this guy? What the hell does he know about all this stuff? Where does he get off telling us how things ought to be and to top it off, how they should be corrected to make them come out as they ought to be?
Okay, I'll answer your questions. I'm just an average guy, getting on toward becoming an old man now, so I do have a lot of life experience. Living a long time doesn't necessarily induce wisdom in a person, but if you've lived a while and bother to use your head for something besides a place to wear a baseball cap backward, you've probably learned enough to have changed your opinion on a number of subjects. I know I have. Also, I believe most Americans probably fit into the same mold I do, within the first standard deviation of the bell shaped curve. No, forget the jargon. Let me put it this way. Eliminate the very rich, the very poor, the crooks, the illegal immigrants, and above all the politicians and lawyers, and what's left is where you'll find the majority of citizens of these United States of America. We may differ on some things but we pretty much agree on most of how the country ought to function. We want to be able to go to work, pay a fair share of taxes, be protected from crooks and thieves by honest policemen, support a military sufficient to protect the country, go to a church of our choice or not go, just as it pleases us and on the whole, not be bothered by a bunch of idiots in Washington who think they know more about what's good for us than we do.
Now if that doesn't answer your questions go read another book by a far right kook or a bleeding heart far left radical and let them tell you how to run your lives. I don't intend to. I'm just going to tell you how I think things ought to be but aren't and you can take it from there and do whatever you want to about it. You can agree or not agree with my solutions and if you don't like what I've written, throw the book in the trash and go write your own.
Oh yeah. Here's a very important imperative. Don't expect me to try being politically correct in this book. I hate political correctness. If I want to talk about short people I'll call them short, not vertically challenged. Illegal aliens are not undocumented residents. When I say a person hasn't got much worldly wealth or possessions I won't say he or she is economically marginalized. I'll say they're poor. And I'll call a person in a wheelchair handicapped, not physically challenged and if I'm pissed off I'll say so, not that I'm satisfaction deprived. Political correctness can go jump in a lake so far as I'm concerned. If you don't like it go read another book.
Now then. Do I know it all? No. Will I get everything right in this book? Very effing doubtful. No one gets everything right. However, I do believe that the vast middle class of the United States and a good portion of the poor and rich at either end will agree with a lot of what I have to say. Why? Because I honestly believe I make sense for the most part, while our Congress and bureaucrats and governors and mayors and other officials have somehow lost the ability to do the same thing, for the most part.
Think of America as a small city. From a distance, say flying in an airplane or driving on an elevated highway, it looks bright and peaceful and pretty and prosperous. Land your plane or get out of your car and look closer though and you'll find that what you were seeing was only a facade, a front. Inside, the infrastructure is crumbling, the help do their jobs in a half-assed manner while grumbling and the management is corrupt or inept or both. The city council and mayor use their positions to give contracts to their friends. Some of them simply take bribes and let it go at that. The honest ones are powerless to change anything. The budget looks fine until you examine the city debt. It is far beyond the means of its citizens to pay. Instead, they add to the deficit and forget that their kids and grandkids will be obligated for it. The police force tries but again there are some who aren't honest. If they are honest they may be brutal. It isn't their fault. If they try to make an arrest they're likely to get mobbed. If anything goes wrong, especially if the arrestee belongs to a minority, you can be sure protests will follow and riots are likely to follow that, resulting in burned out shops and businesses, frequently belonging to the minority who thought one of their members was wronged. You can be absolutely sure that the media will play up the brutality of the poor policeman who was simply trying to arrest a wrongdoer, and never mention those burned businesses whose owners will now be without the means to support themselves, and the neighborhood will be without a place to shop. If the owners rebuild they'll find a more receptive part of the city to do it in.
Look further into the workings of that little city. The municipal employees and firemen and policemen are unionized and have used that clout to get politicians to provide pay and retirement benefits that will eventually bankrupt the city. We're seeing it more and more frequently these days. And more about the employees: while most are reasonably honest, I doubt you'd find a one who hasn't taken something belonging to the city home for his or her own use. For example, I once worked at a hospital where the employees were stealing so many of the ball point pens that the administration was forced to remove the caps from every one that was requisitioned. I've read that one of the biggest costs of businesses is pilfering by employees, and the second biggest is from shoplifters.
Go into the schools and examine the lists of equipment they are supposed to have on hand. You'll find missing laptops, missing tools, missing goods and supplies, all taken by fine, upstanding citizens you'll meet in church if you happen to attend. Teachers who dearly love their students and want to teach them will instead be forced to teach the kids how to pass standardized tests. When they're not doing that they are forced by rules and laws to give an inordinate amount of their attention to the kids with ADHD, autism, sub-par intelligence, or just the misbehaving kids who were never taught right from wrong by their two parents--if they have two. All too frequently they don't. It's sad.
Take a walk and talk to the citizens of that little city. Many of them won't talk to you. Why? They're in the country illegally. They are illegal aliens but the city is forced by laws to support them by giving them schooling and free medical care. All they have to do is show up at a hospital. They drive around without insurance despite the fact that the city is forced to give them driver's licenses.
That's enough. I could go on and on. Perhaps I'm painting a picture that's a bit more bleak than deserved but by damn, not by much! You know I'm right, too, don't you? Damn straight you do.
A final note: I'm not unconcerned or unwilling to pay taxes to help those who truly need help, like the disabled or victims of circumstances beyond their control, such as floods or hurricanes, or the elderly who are no longer able to work but unable to pay the horrendous costs of modern health care. Those children who aren't able to pass the curriculum in school (dumbed down though it is), shouldn't be in classes with regular students the teacher is trying to take care of despite all the handicaps forced on them. I'll concede they need education to the best of their ability but they shouldn't get it in regular classes unless they can function, behave tehmselves and pass the course material there.
I don't believe in the government trying to be all things to all people, when it doesn't have the means to pay for it, and congress refuses to raise taxes or better still, revise the tax code to accomplish those ends. Anyway, our government simply cannot be all things to all people without disabling and ruining the brightest economy, the freest nation and the most innovative people the world has ever known. Get that fact through your head and you'll see where this book begins to make sense, because even though our government can't be all things to all people, the politicians in Washington are damn well trying to be and it is ruining the country.
My wife, Betty, has an uncanny ability to see past what most of us think is obvious and to pick out the real sense of a person's attitude, actions, and expressions in their speech. She constantly surprises me by coming up with an opinion that I would never have thought of and probably most others wouldn't have either. I'll cite one example. Back when Bush was preparing our military to invade Iraq for the purpose of preventing their government from using "Weapons of Mass Destruction", most of us accepted his explanation but not Betty. She said, "He just wants to show his Daddy he can do a better job of waging war than he did." Now how many others came up with that explanation? I sure as hell didn't, but as events transpired, I found myself believing she had unveiled a lot of truth behind the reasons for that war, the one that has cost us a couple of trillion dollars so far (and still counting), and only made things worse in the Middle East. Much worse!
That war kicked off a tidal wave of upset in the middle east that we probably won't see the end of in our lifetimes and by God, we're still fighting over there and still making things worse and worse. As Betty says, why in hell don't we pull all our troops back home and let them fight it out among themselves until they're either all dead or the countries are realigned among reasonable boundaries instead of the arbitrary lines created by the colonial powers? Just remember, that's only one example and she does the same thing on a personal level of explaining the motives of people we know or have heard of or read about. Some of her observations are included in this book even though she isn't always cited as the person who made them. She has also reviewed the complete book and told me where she believes I'm wrong. Most of the time I'll defer to her opinions because I know that she's a better judge of the motives and actions of people than I am.
I realize that I'm getting old and that this book might very well be improved with the addition of a young person contributing to it. While elders have a lot of life experience, they frequently think that means they know it all. That is certainly not true, and I believe I'm smart enough to realize this. Unfortunately, my usual young go-to person is ill so it may not be possible to get her opinion, but if I can, I'll ask her to take a look at it and tell me what she thinks. In other words, I'm trying my level best to present an honest picture of how things ought to be in our country and how to make it that way.
Now, having explained what you're getting into, read on, if you like, or toss this book into the trash and go on about your business. I don't care. If you do read the rest of this book, thank you for your attention. If you don't, sorry, but no refunds.
One more note before we begin: I thought a lot about how to organize the information in this book and finally decided the best way was to first, define the problems in various aspects of our government and society and then go back and provide suggested solutions. In many cases I will outline several solutions, any of which might work (or might not) for that particular problem of our government and society. So now we can get started. First the problems, then the solutions.
First though, one more little observation:
All of our problems as a nation can be summarized by the undeniable fact that we're becoming a Balkanized country. What does that mean? The term derives from the Balkan peninsula of Europe, where a number of political units broke up into separate countries. We are presently well on our way to breaking up into different political units, different cultures, religions, races and so on, each of them unified by an "us against them" philosophy. We have neighborhoods, ghettos, cities, and other areas of the country where like ethnic and/or cultural groups congregate. They interact with each other much more than they do with the city, state or country as a whole. It's not all their fault, though. Pressure groups and the money men go after them for their votes, swaying them this way and that, promising the moon and delivering little or nothing once the election is over.
Politicians are the biggest perpetuators of the Balkanization process. They will do or say damn near anything to get the votes of various groups while at the same time turning one against the others. Blacks vs. everyone else. Pro and anti abortionists. Pro and anti environmentalists. Pro and anti-tax reformists. You name a group and you can bet politicians will be all over them, depending on how many votes they think they can grab in order to keep themselves in office--and by golly they couldn't care less whether catering to those groups will hurt or help the country. With few exceptions, they're simply interested in staying in office and they will say or do just about anything to do so. Sometimes I believe that in order to become a career politician it is necessary to be an out and out liar. You think not? How many campaign promises do you see being fulfilled? Damn few. It seems that once in office they automatically forget 95% of what they've said. And sadly, we the people keep on electing those jerks. I'd like to use a stronger term but I won't, so just fill it in for yourself.
The balkanized groups help the process along, too. The more they surround themselves with others like them, the more screaming and hollering they can do to make themselves heard by the politicians, be they city, state or national. I doubt that I'll see it in my lifetime but somewhere down the line I can visualize our nation breaking up into a number of smaller countries. Perhaps they'll stay together in a kind of confederation for awhile but those never work well and have no real lasting power. It's coming, folks, unless we get off our lazy butts and become involved in the electoral process and actually study the issues and follow up those voted into office to see how well they perform--then if they don't do what they said they would, throw the rascals out at the first opportunity, i.e., the next election.
Okay, enough about this. Talking about Balkanization was just to give you an inkling of what the nation is coming to.
So here we have it, a nation divided into pressure groups, each of them out for what they want and to hell with everyone else. Compromise has become almost a forgotten word, hardly worth looking in the dictionary to see what it means.
Now it's time to define our national problems in more detail and after that, the last part of the book will consist of How It Ought To Be, Damn it!