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Authoritarianism is our real foe, even more than Blue Dogs or Centrism

I was thinking the other day, while doing something offline, about both Torture and Health Care Reform, and how they both seem to be related by an overriding need for some authority to tell us what is right and wrong, rather than trusting– in both cases– for our own minds and bodies to tell us the truth.

Our punditry class would have us accept, without question, that our government, especially its judicial and militaristic segments, know what is best for us, have only our best interests at heart, and should be obeyed. Submissively.

And far too many of our fellow citizenry seem to accept this notion. Given that submission, how can we ever expect to do anything substantive about either Torture (i.e., prosecuting those responsible under Bush, and seeing it never happens again) or Health Care (i.e., promoting a sense of self-responsibility for one’s own health that does not transform doctors OR insurance providers into gods)?

Authority has run amok.

When local police feel perfectly free to taser someone who has merely talked back to them, or to taser school children and senior citizens, we need no other omens to tell us what is wrong. Eight years of "decidership" did not help; yet, it seems clear, in retrospect, that Authority was already running amok even before GWB’s tenure in the White House.

I remember taking civics in school. How many of today’s students will be able to say the same?

The blog, Sweetness & Light, had a post last year featuring an example from Neil Cavuto’s show of a severe deficit in learning about civics.(The YouTube is no longer available, but there is a short transcript.) Honestly, is it even possible to take Authority with a grain of salt if you haven’t had a proper ration of civics classes? I sincerely doubt it.

I’m pretty sure, though, that if we must have a long game, and it seems pretty clear these days that we must, then we must start lobbying for a return of Civics to school classrooms, not just in high school, but beginning in middle school, when the ground is fertile for instilling critical thinking skills. Waiting until high school may be too late.

A few years ago, while working at the polls and handing out sample ballots, I was talking to a young man working for the other side, who clearly was also lacking in basic civics instruction. I had to explain to him the 2- and 6-year cycles for electing representatives to the house and senate. And yet, he was working as a prosecutor in a local town or borough, had attended two good schools, undergrad and law. Why, I had to wonder, was he even working at the polls, if he did not even understand such basics? The only plausible answers seemed to be ideology and/or the cult of personality.

Here’s another example, also from YouTube (there were many!) in which one authority runs amok over another authority. Perhaps it’s a bit banal, but still very telling. Authority today feels itself wholly entitled beyond anything I ever learned in a civics class. Common sense is not even considered necessary in order to exercise such entitled authority.

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