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America, the gullible

June 11, 2008
We Americans have certainly proven just how gullible we can be. All it takes is an incompetent bully of a leader, buoyed by a bunch of slick, corrupt and greedy accomplices, and we can be led around by our noses like a bunch of kindergarten kids who needs someone to tell them which school bus to get on. And the sad part is, I'm not sure that we've learned anything from the blunders, mistakes, manipulations and downright lies that have been the mode of operation during the seven-plus years this administration has been in power.

But I'm almost past blaming those people who have done so much to ruin what this country has stood for since 1776 — pride, honesty, trust, security, hope, tolerance and compassion. Instead, I have to put the blame where it really belongs — with us, the people who have allowed it all to happen. And we're still allowing it to continue. When are we going to return to our roots of being good, solid Americans, with good, honest intentions who will stand up to those who attempt to lead us astray or down a road where America doesn't need, and should never go?

Yes, it's us, folks. It's us who refuse to be informed. And I really think that's the bottom line — the really important issue behind this whole escapade. Americans have always "done the right thing," and I seriously believe they still would, if they had knowledge that something wasn't right. But that knowledge is certainly hard to come by these days. And maybe that knowledge just isn't interesting enough to make people pay attention.

The majority of us get our news from the nightly news programs — which are a joke. There was a time, years ago, that we felt a certain trust in the information that came through our televisions each night. Walter Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley, Harry Reasoner and John Chancellor gave us the news, not just what corporate sponsors wanted to pass off as the news. But the programs are no longer owned by news-gathering organizations; they're owned by big corporations like General Electric, Disney and the extremely wealthy who have become intoxicated with an abundance of cash and power — and an agenda.

I read several newspapers almost every day, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times. And if I watch the nightly news, I'm always shocked at how different, and lacking, the TV media is. Every day, without exception, there are important news articles in all the major papers that are never mentioned on the nightly news. Just this morning, there were articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times about how the administration's political appointees at NASA worked to control and distort information about climate changes in the last few years. The probe, by the inspector general, came about after The Washington Post and others reported two years ago that the Bush Administration officials had monitored and impeded communications between NASA climate scientists and reporters. Am I the only one who finds that kind of manipulation of public information disturbing?

Again, we probably won't see anything about that story on the nightly news this evening. But there's a good chance we'll see the video about the two people who spent the night in the ocean off the coast of Australia again, and again, and again. Or we may find out the latest on Britney Spears. But mostly, we'll be inundated with commercial after commercial by the pharmaceutical companies telling us to "ask our doctor" about their newest miracle pill that only has 52 side-effects.

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's new book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," is a disturbing look at what has gone on behind the scenes in the White House. McClellan has already been blasted by many Republicans after the book was released, not because the book is untruthful, but because he wasn't loyal to Bush. And that has been the theme during this entire administration — loyalty to the president is more important than loyalty to the American people.

But let's face it, very few voters will read McClellan's book, or the other 15 or 20 books that have been published and have been critical of this administration. And very few of us, especially in this area, will ever read The New York Times or The Washington Post. We'll keep watching what is referred to as "the news" nightly, and think we know it all, or at least enough to make intelligent decisions at the polls.

So, somehow, this controlled and censored version of information that is passed off as "the news" has worked well for big corporations, the far right and the wealthy. And we keep believing that it will work well for the rest of us, but we need to wake up and smell the coffee. We are not going to be told what we need to know, just what they want us to know. If you don't believe that, then you are the very person that should read McClellan's book, or one of the others that have been published in the last few years that have tried to tell us the same things: that we can't trust this administration; that they have deceived us many, many times; that they have denied us the right to transparency in our government; that they have been totally incompetent; that they started an unnecessary war and lied to us about it; that they have us in debt so far that our great-great-grandchildren will still be paying the bill; and that we're so gullible that we'll let them get by with it.

Good newspapers and books are not the only way to become informed. Some people either don't like to read or won't take the time to do it. But there are other ways to get good information: documentary films. There are several good documentaries available now that are truly informative and eye opening. Again, many on the far right ridicule any information that brings into question anything that is less than positive about this administration. Remember, not so many years ago, when many conservatives did their level best to make Al Gore look like an idiot when he released his film "The Inconvenient Truth," a documentary about global warming? Gore went on to win an Academy Award and the film was the fourth highest grossing documentary in history. And just months later, Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for the film. Now, after more than seven years in office, Bush has finally admitted that global warming is a "major issue," but he has no plans to help deal with it.

Michael Moore is another filmmaker who many conservatives have hated for years, not because he said anything wrong but just because he said it. In his latest documentary, "Sicko," he examines the health care system in this country and points out many things that are wrong with it. He also makes comparisons to the health care systems in other countries. It is indeed an eye-opening film, one that points out how we consider our country number one in every way, when in reality we come in at number 38 in health care for our own citizens. I've recommended this film to several people, but no one has ever followed up and actually watched it. When I asked some of them why, they said, "Oh, I just haven't had time." And one person told me she couldn't watch it because Michael Moore was "anti-American," which is just what the Bush folks and the big insurance companies would want her to believe.

Another great documentary film is "Iraq For Sale," the story of what happens to everyday Americans when corporations go to war. The film takes you inside the lives of soldiers, truck drivers, widows and children who have been changed forever as a result of profiteering in Iraq. Every taxpayer and voter should watch this film. Yes, it will make you mad — and yes, it's time we all got mad. Again, I've recommended this film to several people, and even loaned it to a couple of friends of mine. But I've never heard a thing from any of them about it. I'm beginning to wonder if many of my fellow Americans even care.

"Bad Voodoo's War" is another documentary film that you think about for days after you see it. This is a truly unique film in that it is filmed by soldiers in Iraq. It is about the Bad Voodoo platoon of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment who handles security for convoys moving from Kuwait to Iraq. The film's focus is on the day-to-day lives of a handful of soldiers who are wondering every day if "today's the day." The mental anguish and stress that are a part of the daily lives of these men is something most of us never think about and certainly are never told about. We aren't even allowed to see the flag-draped coffins of our deceased heroes coming home from the war. This film, which was aired on PBS' "Frontline" recently, puts a name — and a face — to the suffering caused by a war that makes no sense, even to those who are doing their best to fight in it.

So, if we want to educate ourselves, if we really want to be informed, there are ways to do it. But to just accept what is offered up as "news" is just being lazy. Dig a little deeper, turn off "American Idol," and do yourself — and the voter in you — a big favor. Being informed means being a better American and a better voter. Not being informed proves just how gullible we have become.

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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