Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Problem With Feeling Sorry For People - And Ourselves!

Getting all weepy about other people's situations isn't helping anything, and in some cases, people are just manipulating you into feeling sorry for them because they want something.  Of course, saying this out loud will get you into trouble!

In a previous posting, I was musing about how many people, when caught doing bad things, will allege that they themselves were victims in the past, and thus try to excuse their own behavior.   There are a number of problems with this narrative, as we shall see.

But I think one reason why liberalism is so under attack today in America is that maybe this narrative has been taken a bit too far.   People are tired of living in the "Untied States of Feeling Sorry For Ourselves" where everyone on Death Row is the real victim, and all criminals are innocent and the Police are evil.   People are tired, I think, of this narrative of victimhood and being told we need to feel sorry for people who are often victims of their own folly.

And I think people are tired of being told you can't even discuss this, period, as it is not up for debate, and oh-by-the-way how dare you, you heartless bastard.

This is how we ended up with President Trump, and how we will end up with eight years of President Trump because, as I predicted earlier, the far-left is not challenging Republicans in the polls, but instead trying to throw out incumbent Democrats, much as the Tea Party did to incumbent Republicans.   This will drive more middle-of-the-road Democrats into the arms of the Republican Party.   Far-Left politics is what has lost elections - and why the Democrats are in the minority in at the State and Federal levels.  America is not ready for Socialism or Communism, sorry!

But getting back to topic, should we feel sorry for people because of their background experiences?  Back in the day - 40-50 years ago or so, when a criminal committed a heinous act, we didn't really delve into his childhood upbringing or war experience as being relevant to the crime he committed.   Today, this is the norm for any smart defense attorney, and usually at the sentencing phase, they will bring up his mental state, his abusive parents, or his shattering war experience as mitigating circumstances after he killed his wife and children.

Clarence Darrow arguably started this trend with the Leopold and Loeb trial, but it took many years before this became a mainstream thing.   Today we have "affluenza" as a result.

And more and more today, these issues are being brought up at the trial stage, often as part of an insanity defense.   The goal is to make the perpetrator the victim at trial, and to make the entire trial about the horrific things that happened to the perpetrator and not about the horrific things the perpetrator did to the victim.   If you can put the victim on trial at the same time, so much the better.

Crime is down in America - way down.   It is hard to explain to someone born after 1980, but in my day, when you went to New York City, you could expect to be mugged.   Riding the graffiti-covered subways was to take your life in your hands.  Central Park was a dangerous place in the daylight and basically instant death at night.  Other cities were not much better.  Even if you weren't assaulted, having your shit stolen was pretty much a regular thing back then.

Today, New York City is the new Disney World.   Times Square is a place where you take your children - not a place where they sell children (as was common in the 1970's - you did watch Taxi Driver, right?).    The world has changed for the better.

But at the same time, perception of crime has increased, and people perceive that crime is on the rise and that criminals are getting away with murder, quite literally.   This perception is what drove Trump into office.   And the perception is, the Democratic party seems to be more interested in the rights of prisoners and criminals than in the rights of hard-working citizens.   You can argue this is untrue or slanted, but it is the actual perception that a majority of Americans have, which is why the Democrats keep losing elections.

We are told, time and time again, that some guy on Death Row is getting a raw deal, even though he shot a toddler in the head, in front of his parents.    But hey, the lethal injection drugs might cause him some momentary discomfort while he's dying.    Get me a tissue, I'm crying here.

We are told that folks who steal your crap and are habitual criminals are getting a raw deal in life because they violated the "three times and you're out" law, which has been on the books since, well, that crime-ridden time of the 1970's.   Funny thing, they enact laws like that and crime goes down.

You see, the "three strikes" law was designed to "put away" people who just would never agree to abide by society's rules.   Back then, someone would steal shit or hold up a liquor store and you'd toss them in jail.   A few years later, they get out and do the same thing again, withing weeks or months.  You toss them in jail again.   And this could continue for decades, with more and more people being victimized, until the awful day when the liquor store robbery goes wrong and someone ends up getting shot.  Only then is anything done, if they catch the guy.

And that is the other problem.  For any given criminal, only about 1 in 5 of their crimes are detected and is the criminal caught.  For "mere property crimes" the number could be 1 in 20 or even 1 in 100.   Your bicycle gets stolen?   Odds are the thief will never, ever be caught.   Ever.   So when you hear about some guy who is getting life for "three strikes and you're out" odds are, he has committed dozens, if not over 100 crimes in his career - maybe far more.  I feel little sympathy.  He made shitty life choices, again and again.

Criminals seem to have a special place in our national consciousness.  We glorify criminals on television.  We celebrate prison with tee-vee shows.   We are more interested in the perpetrators of a crime than the unfortunate victims.   We basically root for the criminals, most of the time.  Maybe this is the root cause of the problem.

We also spend a lot of time weeping for other people as well - often people who don't need our sympathy, but want it and know how to get it.  People posit they are victims of circumstance or outrageous fortune, but usually tell only one side or part of the story, because if we knew the full deal, we might not be so sympathetic.

The problem with victimhood is that once we go down this road, everyone wants to be a victim.  When you reward victim behavior, you encourage it.   Today, every criminal claims to be a victim of a bad childhood because they know this will reduce their sentence - or at least hope it will.  The people with shitty childhoods who don't murder their spouses are basically ignored.  Or, maybe, by going down this road, we are encouraging people to see themselves as victims which may encourage them to do bad things.   "Hey, I had a bad childhood - criminality is expected of me!"   You laugh, it could happen, and in a way, I am sure it already has.  People live up to the expectations you set for them.

The same problem occurs with folks who are poor, homeless, or otherwise disadvantaged.   The Left posits we should feel sorry for such folks, regardless of how they ended up in the situation they are in, and of course the blanket proscription for a cure of their condition is more money, preferably that of someone else, who was "lucky" to work hard and not have a crack habit. 

And of course, there are poor people who are indeed victims of circumstance or are just not qualified to work any job other than minimum wage.   These are, of course, the people least likely to play the victim, but rather struggle to improve their lot in life.  These are not the folks with the cardboard signs trying to elicit funds based on sympathy.  These are not the folks "working the system" with a sketchy disability claim.

Drug users are another class of people that the Left likes to posit as victims and not victims of their own folly.   We are told by the Left that drug abuse is a health issue not a criminal issue and that we should "treat it as a disease" and of course, fund more drug treatment centers.   The reason more people are on drugs, of course, is lack of re-hab, which of course is posited as the only way to quit drugs, period.   Anyone who dares to question this logic is a heartless bastard of course, and is shouted down.

Drug abuse costs a lot of money, but the best way to put a stop to it is to prevent it in the first place.  And this is a personal decision that people have to make.  Opiate addicts often end up having heart problems.   One recent article online documents how one addict went in for heart surgery three times before he finally decided that maybe opiates were going to kill him.  Bodies of young people are piling up in morgues.

And it is not like people aren't aware that this stuff kills you - as does Meth and crack.   But instead of taking a hard line on this, we are supposed to feel sorry for addicts because being an addict wasn't their fault.  It just "happened" to them somehow.   So they go through a cycle of re-hab (getting attention) and then falling back off the wagon (getting more attention and getting high).  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.

People are not heartless - they are sympathetic to the ills of addicts.  But when it seems that people who make shitty life choices get all the attention and sympathy, a lot of people who do play by the rules, keep their noses clean, and work hard all day long, well, they get a little pissed off.

I am not saying this is necessarily the way I feel about it - at least not all the time.  But I can understand where this sentiment is coming from.  Our country seems to be more concerned about the plight of bums than the future of the working - and I mean working - class.

Democrats like to toss around this quote about how a society will be judged by "how it treats its least members" and attribute this quote to Nelson Mandela, Hubert Humphrey, the Dali Lama, and Mother Theresa, to name just a few.   That it is attributed to so many makes me believe that none of them actually said it.  And if you think about it, it is a nonsense quote.

But many on the Left love it, and they will argue all day long that the money "wasted" on the Moon Landing, or the Large Hadron Collider, or whatever other great project mankind has undertaken, could be better spend feeding X number of homeless people.   Their logic is that the greatest achievement of mankind is overweight bums.   And if that is our goal, the United States has achieved moon-landing status in that regard - we have the fattest poor people on the planet.

Of course, they have an answer for that - "well, they can't afford to eat properly!" as if obesity was something not caused by over-eating.   Sorry, but that is bullshit as well.  If you want to lose weight, eat less.   It is a struggle I am familiar with and the only thing that works, no matter what the fad diet people try to sell you, is to count calories (eat less) and exercise more, period.

I think a lot of Americans are tired of this nonsense - making excuses for people as to why they can't work, why they can't do things, and why they should get free money from the government.   And by "from the government" I mean from you and me.

The "Make America Great Again" crowd doesn't want to return to the era of racism and segregation and misogyny (OK, well SOME of them do, for sure!).   But I think what most want to return to is the era when America had grand plans - New Frontiers, a man on the moon before the decade was out, the shining city on the hill, and so on and so forth.

Again, I am not sure what they are pining for is possible, but I think there is a nugget of truth to what they are saying - that we should be a country of big ideas, not a country of how to feed the bums better.  We are not Sweden or Norway or Finland or whatever other Nordic country the Left wants to posit has it "better" than we do.   Small countries with monolithic populations (all white, all blond, all blue-eyed) have a much easier time setting social policies (as does Japan, which is also a monolithic culture) particularly when a huge part of their defense budget is paid for by someone else.

And that is a burden that we willingly bear.   But increasingly, I think many Americans perceive the rest of the world not appreciative, but resentful of it.   And again, I may not agree with this perception, but that is what the Right see and perceives.

Americans don't want to be Sweden.   So let's stop trying to make it like that and stop comparing ourselves to others and decrying how awful we are.   This is not a way to get votes or win elections.

We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and the Democratic party needs to present a vision for the future that is something great and wonderful, not just social programs to divide up the pie.   When a country goes down that latter route, it is the beginning of the end - the bread and circuses to appease the masses while the powers-that-be loot the treasury and the economy.

It was a Democrat - John Kennedy - who gave the "New Frontiers" speech and said we should put a man on the moon.   It was he who said, "Ask not what your country can do for you...."   A Democrat who told us we were great and could be great and lead the world to greatness.   And it would take sacrifice and courage and hard work.

Do you think he could sell that message today?

Today, the Democratic party is all about "ask what benefits the government can give to you!"   And yes, it is nice to get health care paid for, but as I have said all along, it makes me uneasy that someone else is paying for it and I wonder where all the money is coming from.  Quite frankly, I would prefer to see the cost of health care drop, rather than keep throwing money into the health care fire, which seems only to feed the flames of overpriced and unnecessary tests as well as overpriced drugs.   We throw money at healthcare and then wonder why it costs so much.

It is like student loan money fanning the flames of the high cost of higher education.  The answer isn't free college or forgiving student loans - that would just give colleges carte blanche to raise prices even higher.   The answer has to be cutting the cost of education - figuring out where all this money is going and why.  Because there has to be an answer as to why college costs have outstripped inflation for decades now.  And the answer is, because they can, with the funny money of student loans.

As incredibly imperfect as Trump is, he of all the candidates resonated with middle America, not because of his odious behavior but in spite of it - telling them they were great and he was going to make them greater.   Rather than living with shitty roads and bridges, we should have he best in the world.  Gee, the largest economy and wealthiest country should have decent roads, right?  This is  a message that should have come from the Democratic Party, but didn't.   Instead, we got pandering and "what can we give you today in exchange for your vote?  Food stamps?  Health care?   Obamaphone?"

What exactly was Hillary's message during the last campaign?  And did it resonate with anybody? 

And sadly, this doesn't look likely to change anytime soon.  Americans are hooked on government handouts.   It is a harder habit to break than opiates - and there is no re-hab clinic for it! 

We have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves!