It is very fashionable to desire unity in a party, especially when it begins to look remarkably fractious. It is also the easiest word to say as part of wishful thinking because most of us dislike conflict and simply yearn for a quiet life instead. But unity comes out of two main elements: sincerity - genuinely ditching the past to concentrate on both the present and the potential for the future, and forgiveness - to pave the way for a better understanding and appreciation of all parties working together. With no forgiveness, it is very difficult to move on to get that sought-after bonding.
Two days after her great speech in Denver, the one almost everyone thought was a unifying moment, the one many thought did the job to heal the wounds and support Barack Obama, in the cold light of a new day that speech is found wanting, because the two main elements of getting unity are absent. Hillary said some supportive things, yes, but there were many others she did not say which she could easily have said to show that sincerity and one of them should have related to Barack's potential.
As Christopher Hitchens points out in his thought-provoking little piece for the Mirror, Hillary said quite a few negative things about Obama during the campaign, especially regarding his lack of readiness to take command, which many people would not have forgotten. Yet she "certainly decided not to utter a word - a word - about Obama's readiness to assume the burden of commander-in-chief." It means that there is no sincerity there at all. She still holds to her view, her possible trump card for the future, when she stands against Obama again. Perhaps quietly lying in wait to say "I told you so"?
Yet an emphasis on his potential to do the job, for many people, would have been the most important sign that they are both on the same team now, unified and ready to run together for the benefit of the Democrats. Acknowledging that, for now, at least, he is the man of the moment, as ready as can be to assume command. Her acknowledgement of his suitability would have retracted what she said during the campaign.
Everyone says things about one another when they are rivals, especially when they are playing for such high stakes. But being rivals in the same party carries a different kind of responsibility than being on opposite sides of the political fence. The responsibility to always remember that you and your colleague are on the same side, with the same party values and, most important, that the two of you will have to support each other at the end, regardless of who gets the nomination.
Without that sincerity regarding Barack Obama's true potential, there is obviously no forgiveness, either, on her part. Whatever the Democrats are hoping to have over the next few weeks until the election, unity, sadly won't be part of it, because the deep animosity and anger felt by her supporters for her defeat is really being repressed by superficial gloss hiding the wounds beneath.
Thanks to Newsvine, I have been able to watch the American elections from close quarters, to see the progress or fall of the leading candidates and to even have my two cents worth from the hustings through my favoured candidate, Barack Obama. i have to admit that if Obama were not in the race, I would have favoured Hillary Clinton. It just so happens that there are two history-making candidates with different advantages in the frame this year and that has presented a difficult choice to their supporters who would like to see either of them win.
For years, there appeared to be no other choices but white males for the public to elect and then, like busses in a row, two other choices pull up at the same time. No wonder the nation seems to be heavily divided and confused, not because Clinton or Obama is so different from each other, or better than the other, but because the election has become unpredictable and exciting for the very first time, particularly for the Democrats. For women and minorities, it is really hard to know which way to go. And if you are a woman AND a minority, jeeez!
However, from across the Pond, a few things haven't made sense in the selection process and I think they need to change for fairness to be seen to be done when the dust has settled.
First, the length of the campaign: It is far too long. It should start much later in the current president's term and last only a year, no more than that, so that everything is conducted in his/her final year and then a hand-over at the end of it. Such a long campaign is debilitating and divisive. It needs to be briskly conducted and no hopers winnowed out quickly to concentrate on the leaders. That should dramatically cut down on the next factor, money.
Second, the money required: It is obscene to need so much money to elect a president of the USA. The only message that gives is that money makes a president, nothing else. The ones with the most money and loudest shout appear to win the race. That could also be why the 'wrong' people are perceived to be nominated for elections. Yet being president of America is the country's highest office and should be treated with the respect it deserves. It shouldn't be a time when the media makes a killing out of the candidates through advertising because all adverts should carry a hefty discount, or even be free, for example, to get the messages to the people as much as possible.
Third, the location of the first primaries: All early primaries should be rotated around the country so that every state has a chance to benefit from the clear economic gains of being the first primary and also have a say in who the first winners are. To keep having the same states as front runners every time leads to jealousy, feelings of being sidelined and a desire to get in on the action, which happened to Michigan and Florida this year when they were penalised for wanting their primaries earlier. Yet it is very natural to want that kind of media and economic benefit for one's state that Iowa and New Hampshire appear to enjoy each election. In today's media world it clearly does not make sense to have the same two states enjoying that first privilege every time. It really isn't fair to the other states who have to watch from the sidelines with a silent voice wishing they could be part of the action.
Fourth, the elitist presence of super delegates: There should be no super delegates in any fair elections, especially with the anomalous position of favouring someone their states voted against, neither should there be any clear support from governors for candidates until the convention. Something seems wrong to me that Gov. Strickand of Ohio openly favours Hillary Clinton and is campaigning for her, hoping she wins, when there are two candidates fighting for that state. Surely, that does not make for a fair contest from the very beginning? No governor should indicate their personal choice until after a primary. That makes for a more level playing field to start with, especially in such a crucial contest as Texas and Ohio.
Fifth, the practice of endorsements: No one publicly endorses someone unless they want something in the process, even if it is simple acknowledgement, association with, or support from the perceived winner. I think endorsements can come after the person is in the White House, when they have got there on their own steam and their own efforts and owe no one anything. But are all these people coming out of the woodwork to endorse a candidate a good thing for the country? Will they want some kind of payback at some time? And how can one please all those disparate interests and expectations? Endorsements imply that a person is not good on their own merit until someone else says so, that they are inadequate until propped up by some group or person, which is why America is in the mess it is in from too many party and lobbying interests. Endorsements tie presidents to unwritten promises and give undue privilege to certain sections of society which immediately disenfranchise the rest of the population.
I think if these five factors were to be changed, there would be a fairer and clearer election process. This is the Internet age and it has had the biggest influence on the 2008 election, a clear pointer the future elections. Things cannot run the way they used to run, as Obama's very successful campaign has demonstrated .
And to anyone who might be tempted to say that 'this is how things have always been done', a genuine desire for all -round change among the population is why Barack Obama is now leading the field!
The latest polls seem to be going up and down like a yo-yo for President Obama. They have changed so frequently in the last nine months of him being in the White House it almost makes one's head spin.
It seems that people tend to be rather fickle. When it comes to political polls, responses appear to reflect the mood of those replying on that day, or whether they are feeling bad because their expectations have not yet been fulfilled, or they simply wish to be mean against certain politicians. So can we trust polls to tell us what is really happening at any given time, and with any accuracy, or are polls being manipulated to such an extent they should come with a health warning and be ignored until election time?
What do you think about political polls.
I seldom notice any poll until election time, unless they are pretty dramatic and different from the norm. The daily news is quite sufficient for me to gauge what is happening politically and how it is being accepted or received by the public. In this way I am not unduly influenced by the anxious and insecure noisemakers who believe that a daily poll gives the answer to everything they wish to happen!
Three years ago, President Barack Obama burst on the scene with a stirring "Yes, We Can". Many of the American population, especially the youngsters, were galvanised into action, having been in some despair about the Bush years. They saw Obama's vision, they could feel the possibilities, they loved his speeches and jumped on to his bandwagon. The rest is history as he stormed the White House.
Today there is some talk of voters being 'disillusioned', of him lacking 'leadership', of the president being 'weak', of falling approval rates, and all such negative perceptions. But is that really the case, or did some people just expect too much of a mere mortal? More interesting, are we operating in entirely different times which need a different approach and reaction if any President is to be seen to be achieving anything of value? Worse still, can any future politician cut the mustard and please the people?
Look at the eight American Republican candidates just now. Most of come across as naive and mediocre as a slice of stale bread. Not a single one is capable of beating the President as they stand, despite his low ratings, because they are all partisan, sectarian, limited in vision and scope, naive about government on a large scale, ignorant of global economics and politics, and trying to serve two parties instead of one! They have not a hope in hell of winning anything, unless they can appeal to a BROAD church of the voters, and that is not likely to happen with some of their extreme views.
However, one cannot really blame them entirely, especially when they are seeking easy answers and are also blissfully unaware of the seven other hidden factors in operation, which even the pundits are not taking into account. These factors apply to all developed countries, not just America, but they would affect it most because of its competitive culture.
1. A Distinct Historical Shift
We have moved inexorably from an authoritarian society to an authoritative one, where everyone is now an expert on everything!! It means that power has been wrested from those who govern to the public at large, who are able to assess the situations for themselves and pronounce on them too. Everyone takes delight in fact checking and disproving everything! Gone are the days when governments could make cock-ups and hide them for years, or lie about policy and not be found out for ages.
For example, Britain was in desperate trouble immediately after the second world war, especially when America refused to help without a reciprocal gesture, and the country almost went bankrupt! Yet that was not revealed until 40 years later!! Today we know the economic state of the countries on a daily basis. Now governments are having to rule by consensus than by dictat because they really can't hide much anymore. Wikileaks has seen too that!
2. Wider access to Information
This has been the biggest and most influential change in the world of politics. The ready access to information by voters means that politicians can't make silly promises anymore and people can also gauge the progress, or lack of it, for themselves. The power of anything on the Internet to go viral immediately - and to stay there in a mocking way - has chastened many a politician, or even deprived them of their seats! Politicians now refuse to say anything spontaneous and tend just to resort to boring, or predictable, soundbytes so that they are seen to be saying the 'right' thing, but not necessarily the truth, or the most appropriate. The emphasis is now on form over substance and a genuine fear of saying the wrong thing. Moreover, people are not so easily taken in by false promises, or exaggeration, because they can check things for themselves.
3. The Effect of The Internet
Well, what can one say about this powerful medium that hasn't been said already, but it has singlehandedly changed the way we view politics, politicians and the whole campaigning process, especially with everything available in one place to view or interact with.
4. The Global Influence
This part is the least understood, yet is is growing more in influence day by day, thanks to the Internet. One only has to see what is happening in Europe and the euro to appreciate just how much countries control the fortunes of each other nowadays. No one country can exist by itself anymore, mainly because of the shared banking system and the increasing dependency on trade with others. So when Michele Bachmann, for instance, was trying to garner easy votes by promising the $2 gas, she was talking nonsense, because that is not possible in today's age to return to cheap gas unless one has one's own! Or unless she is going to hold up the suppliers at gunpoint and dictate to them what to charge!
5. The Power of Corporates
Corporates are now like little countries themselves: with jobs to protect, massive budgets to manage and goods to deliver. Their main motive is of course, profit. But many of them now get extra power through being community conscious and even interfering with government policies. It also means that they will strive to keep their market share and position by fair means or foul. Money is power for the big magnates and that also means political power for the politicians they back. There's no such thing as a 'free lunch' in this new world of corporate influence. Hence politicians will always be in hock, be obliged to give something in return for such largesse, which ultimately takes away their independence, rob them of the scope to act, and keep business as their priority instead of their voters.
6. The Complex Web of Vested Interests
Today's world has so many vested interests one only has to see what happens when a new Congressional or Parliamentary Act is in progress. The stakeholders come out in force to either try to block it or to give it support. Like the drinks lobby in Britain. A lot could be done about the awful binge drinking among youngsters, there but that would upset the powerful brewing industry, so lip service is continually paid by various governments in order to keep business happy, while our youngsters stumble along helplessly, increasingly blighted by alcohol.
This has been a dramatic change in that politicians are not treated with any deference or automatic respect any more. They have to earn their respect and attention. Furthermore, what used to be social priorities in the past: like community cohesion, the family, serving the nation, chivalry, integrity, the protection of women, character etc., are not at the forefront of our lives anymore. Our increasing independence, women now leading lives of their own without recourse to men, and, above all, politics being regarded as a cynical activity engaged in mainly by people who are hungry for power, has put paid to such values holding sway. Instead individualism is encouraged and people wait to be convinced by the emerging political hopefuls with big dreams and little awareness of the political reality.
The current negative perception of President Obama has stemmed from the rude awakening he has has as his vision of ideal government, in which 'change' can come easily, clashes violently with the partisan powerful reality leaving him helpless and adrift, at the mercy of a cynical opposition party with two heads. In fact, I would think that factors 5,6 and 7 have proved a baptism of fire for him.
In view of those factors, anyone thinking that they'll get better results from government just by changing politicians are in for a rude shock. NO politician can really deliver anymore because voters are not in the dark or naive about politics, and greater information have merely boosted expectations to well nigh impossible levels. Voters can also see a lot for themselves but, worst of all, they no longer have any respect for political office. And where there is no respect, there is no desire to listen or to learn.
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There is a little saying, "Until lions have their own historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter." And that is the basic nature of history: it is subjected to individual interpretation, manipulation and wishful thinking, especially where the evidence was not as carefully preserved, well documented and accessible as it is now. So history is obviously a poor teacher, otherwise it would be more representative of our humanity, not just those with the power and voice, and we would have learnt much more from it.
History cannot be our teacher because we would not be repeating the errors of yesterday, repeating almost the same results without learning any new lessons. Iraq and Vietnam are cases in point. Despite the awful loss of life in Vietnam, the frustration with winning that war and it's sheer viciousness, the capitulation at the end and the general dissatisfaction about US involvement, President Bush happily revisited the sins of his father to do even worse in Iraq. Throwing caution to the wind, he squandered American reputation and trillions of dollars on something he could never hope to win, proving beyond doubt that history had nothing to teach him.
History is also dominated by particular slants and pervasive manipulation as excuses for bad memory. It mainly favours those who can give a good narrative and those who are well known, not the unsung and silent heroes who actually helped to make the substance of that history. We only hear of the great works of great people while every brutal act is downplayed and desensitised to favour the victor. Like the British Empire, an oppressive, racist, colonial regime which forced British customs, administration and language on many races across the world under the guise of 'discovering' new lands and peoples, and 'civilising' them, while robbing them of their resources and extending British power. Yet that has been reported in history as something glorious, a time which put the 'Great' in Britain without acknowledging, until recently, the insensitivity, sheer brutality and racist nature of some its administrations, not to mention the legacy of displacement and loss of local pride that was left.
History could teach us a lot, but it is not the nature of man to learn, otherwise it would curb our innovative spirit through fear of repeating the consequences shown in history. Our nature is to keep creating new history with the hope of changing what has already happened, and definitely bettering it. Not to really learn from it. Hence President Bush's rash actions. So we are the teachers of history through the mark and legacy we strive to leave behind us, while history cynically leaves a never ending trail of people who keep failing to learn from its recurring and ever potent lessons.
Yes they should be, every time. However, the limits shouldn't be in the actual amount of money being pledged, but in the percentage being contributed.
The main reason why any limits must be mandatory is because there is no such thing as a FREE lunch. No one gives politicians anything for nothing because, behind every donation, no matter how small, is the hope of some reward. The man in the street who might donate $1 is hoping that the politician will act in his favour when it comes to laws and initiatives which will affect him and his family, like reduced taxes etc. Just as the millionaire with his thousands is hoping that his business, organisation, product or service, will be catered for in legislation or protected against any adverse lawmaking.
No one gives politically for the sake of it. There is always a hidden motive: whether for benefit, association, influence or power. That is why politicians have to be protected from being obliged to businesses and interest groups who could use the power of their money to get what they want, by influencing political decisions unfairly, which might be against the public interest, and put undue pressure on them.
That is what happened in the UK a couple years ago in the the Cash for Peerages scandal where big businessmen have repeatedly donated to the government in power with the unwritten expectation of either getting a peerage (a seat in the House of Lords), a knighthood (being titled 'Sir') or having preferential treatment for their businesses when it comes to the law or other aspects of government. This is not good if the objective is to establish fair government for all.
Limiting the amount people contribute to elections keeps a fairer playing field between contributors. Moreover, by limiting the donation by percentage rather than actual amount, it means that people with money also get the opportunity to donate according to their capacity, because 1% of a $1000 income is far less than 1% of $1 billion. This varied amount should keep everyone happy all round.
But what do you think?
Yes, a third-party candidate can become president but it depends on three main factors.
First, a change in MINDSET: Currently, many people's mindsets are ruled by fear. They believe that a vote for any third party is a 'wasted vote' because that candidate will never get into power. That belief originates from fear of the unknown, fear of their vote not being counted, and fear of not seeing their own choices in power. Worst of all, there is the fear of letting in the opposition by voting for any third-party person. So they stick to the party they know and feel comfortable with, no matter how badly they have been served, and hope for the best. Voters need a new mindset that enables them to appreciate that anyone they vote for can win, if that person gets enough faith, belief and actual votes to put them in power.
Second, a broader PERSPECTIVE on what makes a good president. The electorate has only past experience to go on and that does not leave much room for innovation or trying something new. Presidential objectives and possibilities have always centred around known factors, wooing the usual suspects to get into office and trying to please as many people as possible. Few voters wish to install candidates who deviate too far from those perceived norms.
We all tend to stick to what makes us comfortable, what is familiar, tried and tested, and what we think actually works for us, even though it might not be in the interest of a large section of the public. Third party candidates, having never had power, are at a disadvantage here because they need to be trusted with that power to show what they can do, but are likely to follow a different agenda to show that they do not share the same objectives of the majority parties. But that very difference is what breeds fear. In a classic chicken and egg situation, people fear putting them there to try out any new perspectives so they get few chances to prove themselves.
Third, greater FAITH in potential leaders of whatever ilk. Third-party candidates tend to suffer from a lack of credibility. No matter how sincere they are, with them being untried, and having fewer resources and fewer backers, there is far less faith in their ability to deliver the presidential goods than members of majority parties. They suffer on all fronts because of that lack of faith and credibility because that means less funding to promote themselves, less helpers to get the message out and fewer audiences to take that message.
In view of those three factors which are dictated by fear, it is always an uphill struggle for third-party candidates, but only the people can change their fortunes by giving them the big break they need. For example the Liberal Democrat Party in England went from a 'phone box full of MPs' (12) a decade ago to 42 new MPs in the 1997 election. Even though the Party was always the dominant one at local council level, they never managed to convince the public of their competence, at national level, enough to vote for their candidates until when they broke through the 20 MPs barrier.
Being completely disillusioned with the Tories, yet not wanting to vote for Labour, many voters threw in their lot with the Liberals under the assumption that things couldn't get any worse! However, the fact that support fell away after that back to Labour in the 2004 election, shows the difficulty of maintaining such support.
In any democracy, including that of the USA, the press will end up choosing the leaders because the media is the vehicle of free expression. The press reflects the voice of the people and they depend on it, in turn, for their advice and information. So it is not so far fetched to say that the media chooses the president because indirectly it does, through its power, expertise and influence.
1. The press, by virtue of the awesome publicity it generates, has the power to make or break a candidate simply by focusing negatively or positively on them at any time. And now the Internet has added to that influence. For example, Barack Obama, the young and enthusiastic presidential hopeful, is enjoying a honeymoon period just now where most of his coverage has been positive, while his more experienced opponent, Hillary Clinton, with a known history behind her family, has been having mixed exposure, some of it not so complimentary. But come 2008, when things get really upfront and personal, expect something different. Thus the press has the power to at least keep its choice at the forefront of the debate for the people to consider and to vote for. It often uses this influence unashamedly to change the fortunes of the candidates and that is why they have to take notice of the press and always try to be overly accommodating to get the most favourable or sympathetic coverage.
2. The press is known for its expert writers and journalists who can analyse a person's suitability rather clinically for this top job. With such a reputation for investigative journalism, the public tends to take note of what is published, especially if they are loyal readers/viewers/listeners of a particular medium. They come to trust their source of information and often remain floating voters until they see which way the press coverage is going. In this regard, one can say that the press often does a valuable job in unseating insincere candidates who might not be consistent in stated policies or who have a dodgy public background. However, some members of the press have abused this position by deliberately giving negative publicity to those who might be competing too closely with their favourites by dredging up unsavoury things from their past or spreading questionable gossip.
3. The press has the capacity and means to affect the public perception of who is the best potential president and often manipulates that perception to suit their ends. Public perception is often fickle and highly changeable, depending on its knowledge and information, and the press enjoys the best position to alter that perception at any given time, especially when it suits their purpose to do so.
In the UK, the press has always dominated the selection of our leaders. In fact, one of the first persons to be called to Downing Street after Tony Blair won office was Rupert Murdoch, the media giant. His papers had sided with the Labour party in the election and that did make a difference to how Labour was perceived as 'electable' after their 18 years in the political wilderness.
July 2, 1964 was a landmark day in American history. Engineered by Martin Luther king and signed by President Lyndon B Johnson, the Civil Rights Act effectively swept away the second class citizenship of Black people in his country. It would take another 30 years before the full effects of the landmark Act was felt by the country (when the Civil Rights Act of 1991 encouraged positive discrimination and allowed lawsuits against employers if their hiring had a "disparate impact" on women or minorities). But, for that moment, it was the most important bit of legislation affecting Americans for years.
At the time the Act was passed:
Civil rights activists welcomed the new law and the secretary of the NAACP, and keen rights activist, Roy Wilkins, even hailed it as "the Magna Carta of human rights". Whether history has proved him right is another matter. However, on that landmark day in July, the Act created equal rights, regardless of race, colour, religion and national origin, across a swathe of social injustices.
The public accommodations part had immediate effect so that minorities could no longer be barred from service in public places, but other sections to deal with employment would not be really effective for five years.
Though the Act was passed with a hefty majority (163), a large number of lawmakers still opposed it (289 to 126). Not surprisingly, segregationist politicians from the deep South saw it as the thin end of the wedge. One of them, Howard Smith of Virginia, said it was a 'monstrous oppression of the people'.
On addressing the nation after the signing, President Johnson called on all Americans to "eliminate the last vestiges of racism". He added: "Let us close the springs of racial poison".
The key question today, on July 2nd 2012, 48 years after the Act came into being, is: Has racial poison been stemmed in America?
Other important questions to consider:
Points to consider when answering those questions (using 2009 stats):
Very pertinent questions for our modern world in judging the physical and emotional improvement for minorities in America since that landmark legislation.
Three incidents were reported separately over the past two months. On the face of it, they were not connected in any way, but, on closer inspection, they were inextricably linked in two ways: by sex and power.
Dominique Strauss Kahn, the former chief of the IMF, had everything going for him: money, wealth, the most prestigious global position one could have, a pretty, intelligent achiever for a wife, and was even a kind of leader-in-waiting for France. Yet he was caught with his pants down, and accused of rape, kicking off an embarrassing scandal, especially for one so high-powered, well established and respected, which lost him his job.
Worse still, it has emerged that he had a string of liaisons, was involved in procuring prostitutes for his own benefit, and treated women none too greatly, perhaps like his own candy shop where he could always help himself and with no questions asked. Many women are drawn like moths to a flame when it comes to power, especially younger ambitious women on their way up, hoping for such power to rub off on them. Often many women allow things to be done to them they would later regret in their bid to be associated with that power. But did Strauss Kahn take advantage of that power he had to manipulate the women he desired, and did his luck just run out?
One would have thought that their exposed position of influence would have made them more circumspect in their behaviour. Not at all. There seems to be a bit of risk taking behind the knowledge that their power makes them more attractive to women, and they seem to throw caution to the wind. They are not alone either. History is littered with the falling debris of illicit affairs and sex scandals on both sides of the Atlantic.
So what makes powerful men prone to sex scandals when they are at the top of their tree, when they seem to have everything which other people might envy? What makes them risk their achievements and family life for moments of madness? What prompts them to take such heady risks in the face of all they have to lose? Could it be that it takes a certain kind of very focused individual to get to the top, one who is often self-centred and egocentric; one who believes that their status gives them so much power that the only person who matters is them, that the whole world revolves around them?
A Sense of Entitlement and Privilege?
It seems, also, that life at the top is a different version of life for mere mortals. It carries tremendous pressures of service delivery, public expectations and professional exposure, a need to prove being the best person in that job while being consciously aware that the eyes of the public watch keenly for the wrong step that will signal their Achilles heel and, ultimately, their demise. The goldfish bowl of power is a very limiting and exposed place to be and, perhaps, men in this situation, charged with so much responsibility need an outlet, or activity, where they can simply forget the world and please themselves. But, paradoxically, the activities tend to be those which appear to carry great risks and also have the power to destroy them, in a perverse kind of death wish!
Whatever it is, these powerful men are a race apart from ordinary mortals in a competitive society. When they get to that level, the trappings of power: willing staff waiting on them constantly, money, perks, high status and conditions of office, can sometimes go to their heads. A few begin to believe that they are invincible and the rules cease to apply to them. They begin to test the boundaries, to enjoy the thrill of pushing those elastic boundaries hard, the ones they should be stabilising, and then getting away with it, until the day their luck runs out. Then those boundaries have a bad habit of bouncing back to hit them massively in the groin, bringing their world crashing around them with a huge and reverberating bang. Dominque Strauss-Kahn is experiencing that painful bang right and it will hurt like hell for some time to come!
For me the death penalty is not a deterrent because, quite simply, people do not think about the consequences of their crime when they are committing it. They might wish they hadn't done it afterward, but they would not have thought that they would die when they were doing the deed. All they would have focused on was what they were doing and how to cause maximum damage to their victims.
The death penalty is there mainly for retribution, so that society can believe that justice has been done by the taking of one life to compensate for another. Naturally, no killer can get away with their crime, but the death penalty has not been a sufficient deterrent because of the various reasons why crime is committed. Most crime stems from a desire for power over another. Every time someone is hurt reflects either a passionate, knee jerk response to that person's action, a planned revenge attack or pure self defence. But, underlying many heinous crimes, ones like the Virginia Tech massacre, is a desire for power and public significance and the death penalty is pretty useless in those cases. The moment of madness is always devoid of any feeling for the consequences which nullifies the effect of the death penalty being a real deterrent.
If the criminal lives, they might come to regret their action and perhaps be rehabilitated, but such regret comes only after a period of imprisonment and a looming noose for their head. Like John McVicar in the UK who was a dangerous career criminal, regarded as "Public Enemy No.1" in the '60s, who was wanted "dead or alive" and served 26 years in prison. He studied for a degree and wrote his autobiography while he was in prison then became a journalist and media pundit on his release and completely changed his life around. But he is not the usual.
Every person's basic desires revolve around being wanted, respected, valued and feeling like someone. When they don't feel affirmed and worthy, the most insecure among us will seek power in other negative ways, by blaming others for the way they feel and seeking to harm them to feel better. The thought of being put to death might momentarily cross their mind, but the fact that there are so many murders still going on in the various states in America that have the death penalty shows that something else is needed as a prevention, rather than a deterrent, to stem the flow of crime in society.
Yes they should. A soldier has already made the greatest commitment to his/her country: the tacit agreement of laying down a life to protect others. To know you are likely to lose your life on any day of any week while you are doing the job you chose is not a comfortable feeling. But many people care about service so much, they willingly take up that career and cheerfully resign themselves to their early deaths to play their part and make an impact. Therefore, that commitment of a life should be a sacred undertaking. It should not be taken lightly, be manipulated, coerced or be squandered for political ends.
Being a soldier is a lonely occupation away from the civilian community. Bonding is done with other soldiers to protect one another and encourage loyalty, bravery and self-preservation. Soldiers expect to support each other and go where they are sent. Naturally, if the system of preparation for fighting isn't to break down completely, there has to be discipline within the ranks. Each soldier has to obey orders, otherwise any resistance simply weakens the unit and fosters low morale among those left behind. However, if a soldier has a very strong reason, whether on religious, cultural, social or other grounds, stemming from particular values they hold that would prevent them fighting a war, this desire should be respected and upheld.
Thinking, Feeling Humans
Another key reason is that a person fighting a war they think is necessary will make a far better fighter, a stronger, more skilled and confident one, than someone fighting reluctantly or who feels coerced in what he/she is doing. They will be emotionally more in tune with what is required to help secure that victory instead of fighting with resentment and a feeling of impotence. When soldiers fight in wars they do not agree with, they have emotionally lost that battle in their heads before they begin because they are divided in their objective, fighting without beliefs and plagued by doubts.
Yet belief in the right and worth of any action we undertake is crucial to any success that we might wish to score. Such divisions merely make it harder all round for everyone involved at a time when brotherly solidarity and full appreciation of the enemy are the keys to success. Far better to allow the likely dissenters to opt out and have a stronger team left to fight than to leave them stewing there halfheartedly like rotten apples in the middle to spread doubt and confusion among the whole team.
It is easy to seek current retribution for past wrongs, but there should be no apology for the slave trade, or any other historical atrocity, for a number of reasons.
First, we cannot take it upon ourselves to apologise for the values and beliefs of people of a bygone age. That is to imply our superiority over their judgement based on limited knowledge of the reasons for their actions. Yet they were the best judges of their times because they LIVED in it and based their decisions on the nature of THEIR society, the norms, mores, values and what was acceptable, whether it is agreeable to us or not. Just as we are now living in the 21st century and are making decisions based upon what is appropriate to us and the knowledge we have, so every age bases its actions on the beliefs, resources, information and aspirations they have.
For example, the fact that Bush and Blair were wrong to go into Iraq will not be decided in 200 years time by a different world. We will make that judgement now, based upon our values of what is ethically right and wrong for us as a people in this time and space. Should we expect a future American president and British prime minister to publicly apologise to the future Iraqi people for what is happening now? That would be very silly because they would be taking upon themselves power which they do not possess over our age, dictating to us what they believe to be right by THEIR ethical standards and interpretation of our actions, not ours; depriving us of the right to decide our own destiny. Any apology should be made by our leaders, in our time and age, because they carried out the deed and were sure of the reasons why it was necessary.
The Value of Each Era
Seeking apologies for past acts might be fashionable but they cannot be sincere because they are simply guilt by proxy, being made purely for appeasement or a superficial notion of 'justice'. They are not for remorse or real regret because the pain, magnitude and true consequences of the act can never be understood by anyone outside that age.
Apologies are also highly selective. We only apologise for those atrocities which carry the most condemnation or voice. What about all the other wars and unjustified killings in history? Who is going to apologise for those? And why are only European peoples being asked for an apology regarding the slave trade? What of the African chiefs and leaders who sold their people in slavery? Who is asking current Africans for an apology, or doesn't their part in it matter too?
A Clear Acknowledgement of the Past
What matters most now is a clear acknowledgement of the past by everyone, especially the part such atrocities play in hampering the progress of a community, and a genuine desire to to learn from such acts. Not to deny it, mask it, bury it, justify it or pretend slavery never happened. It really, really did and one group of people benefited from it, while one group suffered from it, purely through their colour.
The main action now is to appreciate the enormous consequences of slavery through the years to our current time, and to make a major effort to reduce the inherent bias. That should make the present and future a much richer experience for all concerned, as one people in a genuine spirit of reconciliation.
(Photo images used on EmotionalHealthGuide.com courtesy of dreamstime free photos).
(Photo images used on EmotionalHealthGuide.com courtesy of dreamstime free photos).