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The Things We Fear

"We fear instant death by atomic war or slow death by conformity and stifling of independent creativity." --Norman Mailer, 1950s

Hello, America. How are you?
I'm fine, thanks. Actually, on second thought, I'm petrified. I'm 21 years old, in three months I will be graduating college, and I have absolutely no idea what the future holds in store for me. Oh, yeah: also, we're going to War.
Geepers -- before, it was a matter of finding a reasonable job that I could both enjoy and contribute my skills, passion and time. Now, well, maybe I'll be dead before I have to worry about finding my first "real-life" paycheck. In case you were wondering, America, here is a list (in some order, but not really) of what is keeping me from sleeping, why my joints are in great stress pain, why I've been throwing up, why panic attacks are rampant, and why drug use is a much more abundant part of my life these days.
1) A president who, even if elected legally, never had the popular vote, while forgetting that he is our employee, not the other way around. He won't listen, he's inexorable in what he wants (or at least what he's told he wants) and he plays with our lives like they're his little toys. He won't listen to any of us, which is not only frighteningly reminiscent of the dictatorship he's trying to quell, but is just plain rude.
2) These DeVry/ITT Tech commercials. A constant deluge of reminders that our dreams, our aspirations, our hopes are fine and good, but now it's time to grow up and become part of the System. Maybe one day we can still be a poet, but today it's time to learn the skills required to work in a cubicle.
3) Video games that are a little too good at disrupting the player's verisimilitude when it comes to combat. I like George Orwell and Aldus Huxley and Arthur C. Clarke as much as the next guy, but this is getting ridiculous. Even if I do live to see the next generation grow up, will they be the model mindless drones Washington tacitly wants here? Will they see certain other world leaders only as a "bad guy" to be defeated without question from a video game they were weaned on as pre-pubescents? I guess only time will tell... if it's still around in ten years.
4) Legal barriers keeping me from ever having even a remote chance in becoming part of the legitimate entertainment industry. Guilds make sure only those who are members can play with the big boys, while managers/agents play a similar Catch 22 game of "you need us to get in, but you need to get in to get us." As Miramax/Disney and DreamWorks put their bids in for Academy Awards, I wonder why Gangs of New York can be nominated as "Best Original Screenplay," whereas Adaptation has garnered an "Adapted Screenplay" nod, when it has diverged just as much, if not more so, from the former's urtext. Apparently, the politics of Hollywood are just as convoluted as America itself.
5) Anti-drug ads that not only don't work, but have proven time and time again, especially in this last "it's more dangerous than we all thought" wave, to exacerbate drug use. They tell us cigarettes can be soothing, that we can have a little fun with alcohol. But, when it comes to marijuana or similar mild stimulants: EVIL, EVIL, EVIL!! Confused? I know we all are, sir. Obviously marijuana's not good for us... we know. But, I really don't like drinking. It's just not my bag. I could go on and on ad infinitum about which artists, bands, filmmakers, forefathers, diplomats, historians, archeologists, and philosophers from the Ancients to contemporaries were and are "users," but instead, I'll just say that I can't believe it's not enough that we're being sent to war and being shoved into conformist computer jobs. We aren't even allowed to escape for a few well-deserved hours to another more "soothing" plane of existence.
6) "Reality" Shows that not only completely take advantage of "consenting" young adults, but that make it seem as though their scripted, histrionic, soap opera joke is actually how life is currently lived. What's dangerous here is that when you place a mirror in front of our faces, no matter how cracked or opaque, there will be those who will unconsciously or consciously believe this is the way to live. As if we needed to be even more confused. If a Minor has sexual relations with someone over 18 years of age, even if consenting, the Law reviles the relationship, stating that the Minor had been taken advantage of. With "Reality" Shows, Anna Nicole Smith or not, it seems as though no one seems to mind of this advantage being taken. Revisionist Disney movies are one thing, but these shows are not animated. They do not use actors (sometimes, supposedly). There's no hint that it's just junk food for the mind, not to be taken seriously. It's a joke with a punch line that may just be on us.
7) Fundamental organized religion. This is, unfortunately, rampant all over the world. Our wills have been so broken down by lies, fear, confusion, anxiety, and laziness that as if being dependent on a deaf government weren't enough, here we are in the 21st century still suicide bombing or stoning 12-year-old girls for being Jewish just because of an invisible man in the sky. I recently read an interesting article about Free Will: if Charles Manson can be jailed for merely convincing others to kill, then, to some extent, Free Will is legally dead. If it were alive and well, telling someone to do something would not be grounds for punishment, as those who were told would have the Free Will to do what it is they choose. I'm not analogizing Charles Manson to preachers or other pedagogues, but it's definitely something to think about.
8) Superfluous technology like picture phones that seem to only be useful if one wishes to send his friend a picture of Little Richard in a bowling alley. We can't cure Cancer or fix constantly crashing computer software, yet here are cell phones with cameras. Great. These distractions sure will take our minds off other looming problems.
9) ATM machine surcharges, especially by those of Bank of America, that not only keep a steady hold of extraneous charges on its clients, but now need to little by little raise the surcharge on ATM's they monopolize all over the country. While we're so busy with war and beating off drug use, no one seems to worry about the smaller issues like ATM machine surcharges. Commercials are louder and longer and more frenetic (disrupting our already dwindling attention spans), channels are more and more placing little electronic emblems at the bottom right corner of the screen (again, disrupting our already dwindling attention spans), these ATM machines charge us more and more every day, and it's become ever so easy to drive one's car without insurance or without worry of smog regulations as long as one knows the right people to take care of their legal woes in the situation. But, War goes on, and we won't have time to worry about this peripheral nonsense.
10) The horrible, atrocious, disturbingly poor state of teachers these days. As if it wasn't frightening enough that our own president isn't paying one iota of attention to us, here we have our very teachers casting an indifferent glance over their students. After 12 years of education in an upper-middle class public school system, four years in an upper class private institution for "higher learning," and a hefty tenure of mentoring and assisting at various indigent public schools or special education institutions, it's clear to me that, once again, the teachers forget they work for us. Half-heartedness has pervaded erudition far too long, as teachers leave early, come in late, remain unprepared for their lectures, and without resorting to immaturity on my part, seem to have found a place along their misguided trail of failure where they may not have accomplished their dreams, but at least now have power over younger persons who are trying to accomplish the same. The answer? More stringent testing, more money for teachers (how's about forgetting this silly little War and put the money to good use) so that better quality teachers will come into fruition, less need of pointless credentials (experts are what we need, not students of teachers who have taught them how to teach), and finally, understanding on the part of teachers need be tantamount. Times are different. Students have moved on, and now it is time for teachers to follow. It might be a great deal of work to revamp their lectures and assignments, but perhaps they've forgotten that this is their job. Teaching is not just about assigning work, but making sure the work is connecting with the students who can understand what it is they are doing.
11) The way that sex and relationships have become a courtroom fiasco in our daily lives. Why are so many of us alone, socially inept, divorcing more and more, and totally enamored by relationships? Because we're made to believe that if we even touch someone the "wrong" way, we're off to jail or divorce or expulsion or excommunication. The problem, patently, is that what is "wrong" to one is "right" to the next. So, what do we do? Short of a contract stipulating what we will or will not do in a dating environment, it seems safer to just give up and wait for them to come to us... of course, when everyone adheres to this maxim, there'll be some true difficulty. Then again, maybe this will aid in our overpopulation problem.
12) The fact that though it's clear the old, dying generation is leaving us a country they've completely run into the ground on an economic, social, diplomatic, environmental, and spiritual level, they still have no faith in what we can say or do or think. They don't listen, they don't care, and they don't do their jobs, then excoriate us for failing at ours. They forget that improper actions stem from improper guidance.

Maybe it's time to move to Canada.

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