Empire at Risk: Apathy, Revolt & Revelation The Actual State of the Union

by Brittany Stepniak, Outsider Club featured image credit – Mr. Peak Crackers/ZenGardner It’s the dead of winter here in the 410. It’s cold. The holidays are over. It’s a little bleak at times. At least we’ve had a few tranquil glimpses of snowy winter wonderlands — a change of scenery is always good for the soul… Certainly no historic blizzards have shut down Baltimore; just some subtle courtesy coatings of frozen crystal veneers to temporarily mask the city’s decay. And, although the days are getting longer, the sun still goes down early to make room for the dark frigid nights to settle in. Aside from a few long snow globe inspired walks with my pup, I’ve been spending lots of time indoors. Lots of time to catch up on, I don’t know, everything going on in the world — especially in the wake of this year’s State of the Union address. It’s a little overwhelming if you dwell on it all too long. So I distract myself with movies, music, books, spending time with the kids next door — all which make the world seem much more livable. So last night I was listening to “Fake Empire” by a band called The National. To me, it immediately echoed the state of affairs here in the U.S. and how we’re collectively dealing with that situation by checking out mentally.

Stay out super late tonight
Picking apples, making pies
Put a little something in our lemonade
And take it with us

We’re half awake in a fake empire
We’re half awake in a fake empire

Tiptoe through our shiny city
With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice
Bluebirds on our shoulders

We’re half awake in a fake empire
We’re half awake in a fake empire

Turn the light out, say goodnight
No thinking for a little while
Let’s not try to figure out everything at once
It’s hard to keep track of you falling through the sky

We’re half awake in a fake empire
We’re half awake in a fake empire

I interpreted this as a poignantly poetic way to describe our tendency as human beings to simply distract ourselves with that which is trivial or superficial in order to cope with real issues that can otherwise fill us with despair. Many fear we’re currently dealing with a generation all but completely lost to disillusion and apathy: a world where reality is too grim to process so we, instead, create imaginative pseudo-realities filled with “apple pie, lemonade, ice skating, and bluebirds.” But when we actually step out of the comfort of our own distractions and into the Republic in which we actually live, the challenges we face look like mountains beyond mountains. For each hurdle crossed, two new ones appear in the distance. Even the president isn’t immune from creating pseudo-realities where everything is rainbows and butterflies when faced with the daunting task of jumping these seemingly endless hurdles… If you watched President Obama’s State of the Union address, you might be one of the many American voters who feels at odds with some of his proposals and direction. First of all, he asserted that the “the shadow of crisis has passed and that the State of the Union is strong.” Ah yes, we’re all just one big happy Leave-It-to-Beaver family working hard all day and playing hard all night in Pleasantville, U.S.A! And to reward us, Obama’s taking government action to improve economic conditions for the hard-working middle class. But polls show that even middle class voters believe his policies should focus more sharply on improving the economy at large. Again, voters are split on Obama’s methods of “spreading the wealth” in light of the massive income inequality that’s plagued our nation for decades. To be fair, I agree with Obama’s outrage over complicated tax loopholes that favor some large corporations and allow them to skirt billions in taxes while small businesses and average American workers in general front the “full freight.” I have no problem with closing loopholes and rewarding companies that keep investments in America instead of keeping profits abroad to dodge massive tax burdens. And while I applaud our president on the sensible and humane aspects of his tax plan, there are some obvious flaws, especially if he wants to “maintain the conditions of growth and competitiveness” as he said in the SOTU address. Increasing taxes on savings and investments is dangerous in that it punishes those hard workers that have also exemplified discipline and fiscal responsibility — some fundamental pillars of success. More importantly, savings and investments are key drivers of economic growth, according to research and reports. Good intentions or not, ideas have to be judged on their results, not their projected purpose. And history has provided countless examples where government intervention has fallen far too short in securing its goals. Continue Reading>>>

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