Sunday, March 22

The United States of Reactivity

Just goes to show you how much I know about the country in which I was born and raised, and in which I have always lived (despite that stint in Hawaii, during which time visitors would always refer to their lives "back in the states"). I thought that the motto of the United States was E Pluribus Unum ("Out of many, one"). Silly me. I don't know what I was thinking. How could that be the motto of the United States if it doesn't have God in it? (smacking myself on the side of the head) No. The motto of the United States is--you guessed it--In God We Trust.

If there's one good thing that has come from doing this blog every day (and I'd like to think there is more than one), it has got to be that I've looked up a lot of things in the course of trying to write. In my research on this one, I discovered that I wasn't quite as stupid as I thought. The original motto of the United States, established in 1776, was E Pluribus Unum (ha!). It was changed in 1886, and wasn't on paper money until...get this...1957 (and on all denominations only since 1966). A lot of God got added to all kinds of stuff (like the pledge of allegiance) in the 50's. It was that kind of time.

You might say it's that kind of time again. But you'd be wrong. It's a different kind of time.

So with that in mind, I am proposing a new motto for the United States of America, one that more clearly illuminates the guiding principle that Americans live by and by which our government runs. Here's my idea. I'm thinking we should change it from

The United States of America: In God We Trust ..... to:
The United States of America: Closing the Barn Door after the Horse is Out.

Whaddya think? Good, huh?

I know. We're going to need new money that reflects our true values. Don't worry your pretty little head about it. I'm one step ahead of you. Just for you, a sneak preview (click on it and you'll see it closer up*):

Ya see, it has seemed to me, for years now (and if I pay attention, it seems to me pretty much every day) that that's really our belief, our modus operandi, our way of life.

Today, I heard on the radio that there has been a new law enacted in Massachusetts that requires drivers to slow down when there is an accident or a car that has been stopped by police (i.e. for speeding) in the breakdown lane. This is what our legislators have been working on. This law came about because, in the last year, three state troopers were killed when drivers plowed into them or their vehicles while they were in the breakdown lane. Of course, there is no denying that this is a terrible thing to have happened. But we need a new law to tell us to slow down? Who is the genius in the legislature that thinks that these three accidents would not have happened if only there had been a law on the books telling them to slow down when there was a State Trooper car pulled off to the side? Give me a break. Wouldn't it make more sense to put more energy into ticketing the hundreds (thousands?) of Massachusetts drivers who drive disrespectfully in general, who ignore basic existing traffic laws and speed limits, and who demonstrate on a daily basis that they feel that the laws don't apply to them? Every day, on the highway that I take to work, countless people drive in the breakdown lane, to try to get around the congested areas. This is clearly illegal, as when there is a police car nearby, some of them invariably get ticketed. If a much larger percentage of them got ticketed, that might help, no? Sure seems like it would help more than this law might--and this is the sort of place where such a tragic accident could easily occur.

Better yet, how about forgetting about ticketing altogether, and implement a curriculum and a parent education program that teaches children about being respectful of others and being aware of the people, space, and goings-on around them? The other night, I was at an event at my daughter's school, and there was a show in the gymnasium. All the kids were sitting on the floor to watch, and a group of us parents were also sitting on the floor behind the packed mass of children. Now Phoebe goes to a good school with patient teachers, attentiveness to social and emotional development, and with a reputation for kind students and more-aware-than-average parents. At the show in the gym, my hands were stepped on, my legs were kicked, I was bumped into, at least 20 times as kids maneuvered to get to where their friends were seated on the floor. And what I experienced wasn't an eighth of what I saw kids going through, being stepped on and pushed aside and having to adjust their personal space to accommodate a child who just decided that he or she had to sit in a particular spot (where there clearly was no available floor space). I didn't hear a single "Excuse me", even when parents were the ones being stepped on. In 5-7 years, all of these children will be driving. Isn't this where it starts? Teaching our children, at more impressionable ages, that being aware and considerate of those around you--including eye contact (heaven forbid) isn't only a "courtesy" but is a necessary part of civilized community? Isn't it possible that such an education program--or better yet, an increased parental commitment to demand such behavior out of our children--might have more of a long term effect on those state trooper accidents than passing a law that imposes a $100 fine? Oh. Right. I forgot. We don't do long term effects.

And it goes on.

There's a shoe bomber on an airplane. After that, we all have to take off our shoes when we go through security. Forgive me, but you'd think that we'd figure out that that trick has already been tried (and foiled, by the way), and that next time it might be something new that (gasp) we haven't thought of. But no. Take off your shoes.

There is some sort of incident with a liquid explosive on airplanes. After that, we can't take a bottle of water on a plane anymore, and we have to take only little tiny containers of toiletries, and not many of those at that (and did anyone else notice that they started charging for luggage at the same time, so it's not like you can put the other toiletries in your suitcase and just carry on a few things...everything's gotta fit in that ziploc bag....and did ziploc underwrite this effort? Hmm, I say. Hmm).

There's a huge government bailout of corporations and when huge bonuses are paid to employees of those corporations, we take up precious legislators time and energy crafting a bill to tax the recipients (as opposed to paying attention to restricting such things in the bailout process, that is).

And one of my favorites...the still ongoing security inspections of the trunks of every single car that enters Terminal B parking at Logan Airport in Boston, which is where the 9/11 hijackers' car was parked. Don't get me wrong. It could be a perfectly reasonable idea. But it's ONLY in Terminal B parking. Not in Central Parking. Not in Terminal E parking. Only in B. And the logic here is...?

We simply do not believe in preventive action. We do not believe in proactivity. We believe in waiting for things to happen and then changing what we do to try to make sure it doesn't happen again. And maybe it doesn't. But something ELSE does...why is that so hard to get? Then we can stop doing the something else, at least until a third thing happens.

I sound judgmental. Damn right. I don't get it.

*The latin inscriptions around the barn are: Pervenio Laxus, which means "React Later", and Parum Quoque Tardus, which means "Too Little Too Late".


Audrey said...

I don't get it either, and am so glad you posted about this. We are a reactive nation--I think it's because all critical thinking has been beaten out of us by the time we're about eight years old. Or maybe we're just a stupid bunch of folks; a nation of cretins. I didn't hear about the MA law re slowing down. Oy. I LOVE the new motto on the back of the dollar bill--it looks And harkens back to our rural beginnings, dontcha know.

ConverseMomma said...

I have always believed the way to change is via education before the fact. As an educator, I see that even this approach is flawed. I'm not sure I have any answers anymore. But, I sure as heck have lots of questions.

david mcmahon said...

It doesn't matter if you sound judgemental. You are perfectly entitled to youe opinion. That is true democracy.

Robin said...

Congratulations, David. You are my my first (I think) visitor from outside the U.S. Yay!

Carrie said...

Excellent post, Robin. Agree completely. Healthcare is yet another example of this incredibly backwards system that is anything but cost-efficient. On the one hand, we don't believe in universal healthcare, and yet, when someone is in dire medical need (heart attack, cancer, AIDS, trauma), we provide tens of thousands of dollars in services to them, often on the tax-payer dime.

I saw a cartoon a while back that illustrated this aspect of our healthcare system: It shows a man in a river headed toward a giant waterfall cliff. He is calling to the people on the shore to toss him a life-raft, but they don't. Finally, just as he is about to go over the edge, a helicopter swoops in with 3 emergency personnel to save him. ...totally an accurate portrayal, and a pathetic one.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and how did you do that to the dollar bill? Totally awesome!

Robin said...

I have my ways. :)

Pat said...

I was wondering when someone would notice the 'barn door' thing!