Riding The Downward Spiral Is Not A Smart Way To Live

By Carl H. Tannert, Jr.


A brilliant new world.., or a continued decline in a accelerating downward spiral? Fortunately, the choice is in the hands of people just like you and me. There is no need for Republicans and Democrats to be so widely, and bitterly split. We the people, united, have it within our power to control the American destiny if we can set aside our unproductive, petty political differences and, count ourselves among those Americans who believe in our Constitution and the rule of law; who respect the rights of all human beings to live free in a clean, safe, healthy environment and who desire a return to an open, honest, caring society of enlightened Americans

America’s Core Values ... Trickling Down The Drain ... One By One. While Republicans and Democrats loudly bickered and fought over abortion, gay rights, the death penalty and other issues, a minority of religious zealots, a corrupt corporate elite and a wealthy untouchable class quietly utilized greedy elected office to gain the power they now have. A power they now exercise to abuse our hallowed Constitution; to strip the rights of others; to foul our environment; and, to sicken and kill fellow human beings, at home and abroad. While we sniped at each other along party lines, jaded politicians allowed America to reach today’s appalling state of degradation and degeneration of our principles of honesty, morality and ethical conduct. Today, the rest of the world looks upon America and the actions of our representatives with suspicion and with a great deal of disdain.

Take Back Your Precious Country. The vast majority of proud, hard-working, straight-shooting, religious Americans, regardless of party affiliation, long to return our nation to the time when it was truly a better place in which to work, play and live, in peace Your desire to do what’s right; to keep faith with the millions upon millions of our people who, over the past two hundred fifty years have died preserving our Constitution and protecting our rights (which some now feel are Quaint and Outdated) makes us all one ... at least for awhile.

You and I, though we may now be on opposite sides of a wide divide, cleverly engineered by persistent zealots over several decades, wearing a variety of disguises and supported by a pathetic press, can still join together long enough to restore our wounded nation to the former glory it enjoyed as the land of the free, the home of the brave and the home of compassion and protection against spousal, child, human and environmental abuse. Together, we can put an end to the chilling downward spiral of eroding American values and freedoms that threaten to destroy our freedoms. The time to act is now. Hopefully you will be among the millions of Americans who, after decades of complacency, apathy and, in some cases, selfish ignorance, are now beginning to awaken to the fact that there is something terribly wrong in our land of the free. Should we not care enough about an equal future for everyone, should we prefer the status quo, then we surely deserve to drown ourselves and the lives of our children in the downward spiral of deceit and lies that will plunge us into a cesspool of despair.

Today, we the people, The Nation’s Majority, are paying a heavy price for our collective actions and inactions. We have been manipulated and lied to by an arrogant, dishonest few about everything: Impending Domestic Terror, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Defense Costs, Medicare Costs, Torture Memos, and more. Our Congress, controlled by a wealthy blend of Republicans and Democrats have trashed our environment and sold us out to blatantly corrupt lobbyists, lawyers, bankers, drug companies, insurance companies and other interests, while they fill their own pork barrels to excess.

They even go so far as to pass bills in the middle of the night and use the printed bill as their own secret hiding place for things that they would rather we never know. A published bill is never ready ahead of time so that dedicated Congresspersons can read it over and analyze it before they vote. Instead, most are ready for review only hours before a vote is taken. Perhaps, in addition to campaign reform, we start thinking about procedural reforms which would expose many dishonest practices to the harsh light of day.

Apathy… No Longer An Option If Democracy Is To Survive. We the people invited the thieves and morally bankrupt in, and we made the downward spiral spin faster by allowing dangerous right and left wing fundamentalists to control intelligent thinking. The religious right is out of control. It has had an agenda for the past 25 years, quietly plotting to take over the presidency and the congress. Too many of us were complacently certain this could never happen because, after all, our democracy firmly insists on the separation of Church and State. The church was in control and humanity suffered greatly during the Inquisition. Today, the zealots are back in power and men like Ashcroft, utilizing the legal smoke and mirror approach, condone torture of prisoners. They justify it by saying we are under attack by terrorists and anything goes to protect the American citizen. But who is going to protect us against these self-righteous bigots!?

We have allowed a fascist cancer to get a toehold in our nation’s underbelly. Though the diagnosis calls for immediate surgery, the faith healers continue to tout dubious alternatives. They need time to gain stronger footholds in many facets of our lives. They have zero tolerance for the rights and devout religious beliefs of others and are willing to sacrifice Democracy to gain their objectives. If we the people don’t marshal our forces and smash them, with any means at our command right now, we might well become ensnared and controlled for decades and decades to come.

Most of us are tolerant of the religious, secular and life style others have chosen for themselves. We all believe in our own Constitutional rights and those of our fellow citizens. We also are very devout in our religion of choice. But we are not fanatics, nor do we wish to impose our will, beliefs and life style on the lives of others. Matter of fact, history records that most of the horrible wars, including the bloodiest of them all (our own Civil War), have been started, fueled and carried out by fanatical, religious zealots. . . .just like those we put in power.

On the far left, you find the same arrogance and intolerance for anyone who does not do as they say. But to believe that John Kerry is the epitome of liberalism is just as stupid as saying Jerry Falwell is a moderate Republican. Beyond Kerry you have a pig-headed, self important Ralph Nader and to the right, beyond George Bush, you have the ilk of a Pat Buchanan. I firmly believe, however, in the principle set forth in the statement, to each his own, but only if my family, community and I can enjoy the same latitude as others.

Thankfully we the people, reflected in America’s political spectrum, are beginning to question the actions, plans and true intent of our elected officials. It is encouraging to see and hear about more people than ever before learning about candidates and incumbents. Interest in real issues seems to be on the rise, and forecasters for the coming elections predict a record voter turn-out in November. Still, too many of our citizens have opted to complacently enjoy life, leaving the decision making and day-by-day planning to elected officials, town fathers and self-interest groups. Regretfully, too many of us seem to have forgotten the core competencies that made this country great and greatly respected throughout the world. Once we have rid our nation of the corrupt minorities, We the people will have to clean up one big mess, Here’s a look at just some of areas we have allowed to grow and must now clean up:

• Proliferation of man’s inhumanity to man;

• Disregard for the Constitution, human rights and due process;

• Mounting abuse of our Constitutional Democratic rights;

• The acceptance of white-collar crime as a way of doing business;

• Growth of an under-educated, underpaid, uncaring youth in our military;

• Rise in spousal and child abuse, broken homes and hunger;

• Congressional apathy toward equal healthcare for all, rich and poor alike;

• Lack of Congressional courage to put people’s well being, not politics, first.

• An environmentally abused atmosphere and disregard for safety laws that is bringing many species to the brink of extinction, killing high numbers of workers in industrial accidents and causing the American consumer and taxpayer countless billions in skyrocketing Workman’s Compensation and Healthcare costs.

Looking Through the Eyes of Young Americans. Have we finally become so besotted with ostentatious wealth, moral laziness and fear, that we are able to accept the fact that our current social values are the very same as those reflected by the terrorists we find so very disgusting. The degree of our descent into today’s moral and political quagmire and the state of our own degradation of human values shines brightly back at us through the eyes of our own American children, eyes of truth, recently frozen for all time, in gleeful merriment and ecstasy as American men and women beat, defecated upon and demeaned helpless, defenseless fellow human beings, proceeding to sexually gratify themselves. Great sport, eh? Sadly, those eyes reflect the true state of our society’s values recently mirrored by a woman Dean in Colorado passively dismissing the actions of a football coach who condoned providing sex for the players he wanted on his team.

It Is Time To Take Our Government Back. We the people are disdainfully labeled "The Ignorant Masses" by the politically, socially and economically elite who will try anything to exercise their will and their power over us. It is true that we may be stupid for awhile, in trusting these people, but the masses include a lot of educated individuals who employ brilliant minds, once alerted to danger. What can you do? Start by questioning the corruptly manufactured perception that has turned our country into a nightmare of reality. Ask yourself, Did we really need a Homeland Security Czar or was the appointment just another ploy to focus attention away from Iraq or a misguided effort to pacify the frightened masses by setting up yet another figurehead with no real plan or power? Also, think about this, If we had had a strong, honest Federal Aviation Agency with the political will and technology needed to actually force the airline companies (even in the face of lobbyist payoffs) to maintain adequate airport security and safety procedures, would the terrorist attack of 9/11 have even gotten off the ground?

It is unfortunate that while more than 50 million Americans can’t make ends meet, there are countless numbers of our citizens blessed with incomes above $100,000. And then there are the thousands who live and indulge themselves in an obscenely ostentatious way of life, with little or no regard for the lives, plight or misfortune of others. Makes me look for the not-too-long-ago promised land of trickle-down, thousand-points-of-light milk and honey. "Trust us", said those Presidents, "we’ll do the right thing." Ah well, maybe someday.

What Can You Do? Make a conscious commitment to yourself and take on responsibility for yourself and your family. Learn about your local, county, state and congressional representatives. Get involved and take responsibility for yourself and for your own actions in your own house. Get involved in what’s happening on your own block, in your own neighborhood and in your own town. Take on civic responsibility and question, question, question your elected officials. Then watch them to see that they legislate and govern in the best interests of the public, not in their own interest or contributors to their war chests. As for yourself, adhere to two strict rules: (1) Beware political ads that lie (about 98% of them) and (2) Never take any politician at face value. Ignore these rules and you deserve what you get.

Get The Truth ... No Matter How Hard It May Be. When you do, you’ll be labeled, stonewalled or arrogantly dismissed (unless of course you have a large check to contribute). But never give up. Persistence will win out every time. And never be afraid to ask hard questions; never quit before you have the answers. For example, why has the aging Fed-Bank head Allen Greenspan suddenly increased his going, when it has nothing to do with the prostate process. His routine monthly goings to and comings from the Democratic White House, between 1996 and 2000, has quietly mushroomed to six visits every month for cozy chats with the current Oval Office power group. I wonder why? Just like I still wonder what was said at Cheney’s famous meetings with top energy CEOs. Or better yet the true inside dealings of Cheney with Halliburton and George Walker Bush’s Harkness oil debacle.

I would like to know what’s really going on, right now behind locked White House doors. Whatever it is, you can bet it isn’t about helping we the people or providing a better way of life for the alarming numbers of American citizens who can’t make ends meet and who are without proper health care for themselves and their families. In Galesburg, a lack of strong leadership is obvious, a fact which just might stem from the fact that there is no collective vision that everyone can claim to own. In effect, we not only lack a common vision but honest guidance, as well. So it’s no surprise that many local officials, much like their DC counterparts, claim bragging rights to leadership. The truth is that words like this are usually thrown at us with little understanding of meaning or, more importantly, of the context in which it was spoken. We are told only what the teller of tales wants us to hear. If you want the truth, and a deeper insight into what’s really happening, don’t just rely on network TV alone. They offer news shaped by those behind the scenes and delivered by controlled, once-upon-a-time journalists or the new breed of packaged, blown-dried wanabees who have more interest in a fat pay check than in journalism.

In our area, we are fortunate enough to have a variety of newsprint at our fingertips. We also have access to two Public TV stations, and several NPR AM & FM stations, as well. If you want to learn more, use those tools and for even more knowledge, go online and read a cross section of national, Illinois and Knox County news But if you choose to immerse yourself in Network News, Sitcoms or Reality fantasy programs you will cast a ballot (if indeed you cast it at all) as all too many do, with uniformed bias. Here in Galesburg, many look upon our beautiful surroundings as a town in decline. As one who always says the cup if half full, not half empty, I disagree. However, perception is reality, so the time is right for all of us to join together in a half-full chorus, dispense with the gloom and begin to plan and execute a Galesburg Renaissance Plan, one that we all can buy into; one that will revitalize our town and make the quality of life in Galesburg, and indeed all of Knox County, the envy of Main Street Towns all across America.

Sadly, we the people, (average Americans just like you and I) are primarily responsible for the chaos rampant in our nation. What we do, locally, most certainly influences an entire nation. As our community actions trickle upward through the ranks of county, state and federal government, they gain momentum every step of the way. Galesburg, especially, has proved this throughout its history. Our unique people have always insured that Galesburg has been among the towns that have influenced the government, the economy, the arts and industry through entrepreneurship and by developing a sense of civic single-mindedness in those they touched.

Homeland Americans who are struggling with poor pay, no health coverage and a justice system that metes out excessive punishment for the poor and middle classes while ignoring the criminal behavior of the establishment’s corporate executives, accountants, brokers, lawyers and bankers. Maybe it’s time for a reality check, a fast, thorough one, before it’s too late. While our downward spiral was well underway long before 9/11, let’s start at 9/11 and go from there. Do you really believe that 9/11 has changed our lives forever, as many tout? Do you accept the scare tactics foisted upon us by the politicians who are afraid they might not be in power next year? You and I can stop being victims and begin acting in our own National Interest just by looking with suspicion on every TV, radio, newsprint or magazine ad, article or video (especially those coming from the politicians). Start with the premise that we are being targeted by someone slick who wants to take something from us and see if you can say So What to each media clip, ad or sound bite. If you can, then look at the message for what it probably is, a dishonest distortion of the truth, and dig deeper to get at the real truth.

In a way, I feel sorry for those smug executives who lost a truly great American way of life by moving on with the bottom line. They and their families have moved away, leaving behind a quality way of life, friendly town atmosphere and above-average ethics and moral standards that are all alive and well in Galesburg. Forget that we shouldn’t have allowed these unconscionable businessmen to con us into believing that they would ever have any loyalty to our community. Forget that the sizeable concessions we gave them in an attempt to buy their loyalty (and their jobs) would have been better invested in bringing to Galesburg the kind of people that originally built this wonderful town: The entrepreneurs, educators, small businesspeople, craftspeople and investors who knew how to create work for everyone. even in the worst of times. We can easily build Galesburg a new road to prosperity by utilizing the talents of all our citizens.

We can be successful, more quickly than you may think, but only if and when the petty mini-factions, self-serving nonprofits and political pundits in our town sincerely join hands in an ego-free, self-less program to inspire and empower every citizen within Knox County. Once we all decide to cooperate, not criticize and produce, not proclaim, you will see a wondrous change in yourself and in our beautiful town. I firmly believe that a community that works together in this kind of atmosphere always has the capacity to control and sustain its own destiny.

For many years, I was fortunate enough to work with a nucleus of professionals, politicians, community and church leaders, and community residents who were dedicated to making the revitalization of the City of Rochester, NY’s downtown and inner-city Priority One. I can tell you, from firsthand experience, that empowerment and involvement of all citizens ... youth, seniors and everyone in between . . .is a solid recipe for success. I came to Galesburg in 2002 and since then, have offered to help different Galesburg civic and economic groups. So far, sadly, no one has asked me to provide any input.

On 9/11, four hijacked planes, in the hands of evil men, were turned into deadly missiles and we were all asleep at the switch. Though we had an airport security system in place, it was staffed by anyone willing to wok for poverty-level wages which, of course, provided the shoddy protection that the smart terrorist capitalized upon. Once again, our representatives took the airline lobbyists’ loot and turned a green-clouded eye to reality. Public safety and security was never a political priority and the FAA continued to allow the shortcuts that contributed to the disaster.

Then too, there are subjects that our politically-balanced 9/11 Commission stays away from, questions that they simply don’t ask. For example, did the engineering technology in place when the Towers went up contribute to the collapse? Possibly, because I can remember the Saturday, long past, that a B-25 Bomber, engulfed in heavy fog, rammed into the Empire State Building. The grand lady shuddered as flames burned themselves out but remained standing tall, unlike the Twin Towers which, one by one, shuddered, stood awhile, and then dissolved into dust as one floor pancaked onto the one below, like downward dominoes, one after another.

It would also be nice to know why, in the 50 odd minutes it took the two off-course planes from Boston to fly to their targets, no one did anything remotely connected with questioning the flight paths or alerting our magnificent air-defense system to the fact that something was, indeed, very wrong. In the course of a few hours, three terrorist suicide missions hit their marks, some 300 miles apart, and only the successful actions of a few, selfless, courageous Americans, who paid the ultimate price, stopped the fourth before it could reach its target. How could it be that no one noticed anything unusual before the terrorists scored three out of four hits.

There’s no doubt that 9/11 never should have happened. But it did, and it happened because we the people, slumbering in our own complacency for far too long, allowed others to watch over us. Then slowly, unchecked, our watchdogs began the slow, subtle takeover which now endangers our democratic rights, the human rights of others and has put Americans on the world’s people to distrust and people to dislike lists. How could we have sunk so low in a few short years. I think we all have been bamboozled by those who believe God has chosen them to run the country, our lives and indeed the World. Perhaps we now can say that we finally understand why our founding fathers instituted the checks and balances they did, and why they insisted upon a complete separation of Church and State

As a citizen of Galesburg, it’s time you said Goodby / Good-Riddance to Maytag, Butler and other NAFTA nifties, and be done with it. The short-sighted, bottom-line stupidity of corporate executives may just have opened up new and even better opportunities for smart U.S. companies like John Deere, Caterpillar or others with vision, or for one of the growing Chinese companies looking for an American manufacturing base, complete with a waiting plant, rail hub and a skilled workforce.

Even amidst the horror of the so-called War on Terror, I found the good Senators’ words, amusingly revealing Why? Because they show just how far today’s politicians will go to justify not only their own actions, but those of their fellow party members as well by putting slick spins on them, leaving the truth choking in the dust. Kyl’s words also provide us with an unintentional peek behind the mask of God and Country, revealing the ugly look of true arrogance, and real disdain that all too many of our elected officials have for we lesser mortals as they stand before our adulations draped in flags. Of course, they blissfully leave the flag draping of coffins and other distasteful tasks to others.

No matter what spin the legions of politicos and pundits may put on the recent acts of humiliation and degradation, the undeniable fact remains that U.S. troops beat defenseless prisoners and committed human atrocities upon their minds and bodies and yes, even murder. To any decent American their acts were just plain wrong.

If we could restore life to those who gave up their own, for us, I wonder what they would say in the light of the absurd senatorial rationalization. What, indeed would they say in response to the words of another high ranking American, the General in charge. His words still float through the night. Then, with the same typical arrogance of his bosses, he flatly dismissed any higher up military or political responsibility by pinning the blame solely on the few poor schmucks (just out for some funnin’, you understand) who got caught. Hopefully the stupidity of those getting caught does not proliferate through the ranks but I’m afraid it may. We’ll see.

Any further attempts to shift the blame and whitewash these inhumane actions displayed by privatized thugs and American troops is unacceptable on any human level. Politicians caught with brush in hand should be voted out in the next election (and you, like I, thought that this was a real war we were fighting), and any military person also caught should have his career door slammed in his or her face and be put deep into prison if their actions so warrant. The commander’s conclusion that the prison guards acted alone is, at the very least, unconscionable and perhaps, even criminal. But then, who knows, maybe this gallant fighter believes in the ‘Tooth Fairy’ and the mythical ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ as well. After all, what American patriot would doubt any member of the administration, any Congressperson or, for that matter, any decorated military general, especially amidst all those flags, when they stand tall and tell it straight that common military personnel and their poorly privatized mercenary counterparts could not have possibly been following orders. They were simply a disgrace to an unsullied military force.

Senator Jon Kyl’s attempt to justify the beating and humiliation of defenseless prisoners forces me to place him right up there, next to the General and the many others already high on my list of today’s double-standard, politically-challenged, truth-less misfits. Even as the gullible among us eagerly devour the morsels of negative advertising, on both sides of the aisle, and even in the face of the unlikely denials of responsibility, I find it hard to believe, and virtually impossible to understand, that our society has degenerated into a nation with a total disregard for proper writing, language, respect, ethics, morals, humanitarianism and other principles that made our nation great in the first place. Unfortunately, we now seem willing to embrace all that is ugly just so long so we can smugly feel that we remain a tad above the criminal standards set by terrorists.

I wonder if anyone, especially Senator Kyl and his ilk, remembers the poor black man, slaughtered and then towed behind a pickup truck down south, with a rope around his neck. He stumbled along until his head was ripped off, bouncing along until it tumbled to a stop at the side of a dusty road ... with eyes staring in silent accusatory horror at what a few white boys who just got carried away had done to him. To me, this was more horrifying and more chilling than a group of Iraqi nationals beheading an American looking for work as a mercenary. Al Qaeda did not exist back then and the Evil Empire was the operative them word of the day. However, some Americans did emerge from their soporific smugness long enough to loudly protest the evil that lies within, and I, for one, would like to see us all increase the margin of error and perhaps allow a bit of breathing room, just in case we might need it. How about you?

Make No Mistake, Evil Is Evil ... No Matter Where You Find It. Most of us only care when evil touches our own personal existence, when it shows up in our home, block, street or small town. Sadly, we don’t awaken until it’s almost too late. I said almost, because that’s when we Americans seem to be at our best. Just when the unthinkable is about to happen, we wake up and save the day. That approach, however, has become far too harrowing. It seems to take us, as a society, a long time to absorb the obvious. It took the death of a movie star, Rock Hudson, to call attention to the seriousness of AIDS in America and to awaken we the people. Sadly, and with a bit of cynicism, I must ask, "Do you really think that former Galesburg resident, Nancy Reagan, would be for stem cell research if her beloved husband, Ronnie, had not ridden off into the lonely sunset of Alzheimer’s?

Timothy McVey brought down most of the Oklahoma Federal Building with a load of ammonium nitrate and some help from a few friends. Man, did we all breathe a sigh of relief when it became obvious that that horrific explosion was chalked up to one of our own and not one of them, a true terrorist, as we have come to love calling them. No matter what you think, we must face evil where we find it, together, as Americans. We should reject anyone who does not respect other people’s rights and feelings and those who insist on unilaterally deciding what’s right for we the people. Today’s politicians are arrogant because wealth and privilege breeds arrogance and their perceptions are almost always 100% wrong. I think it’s time for us to put aside our petty differences and rid ourselves of the chains (or lassos) aimed at us by those who have no qualms about utilizing human tragedies to advanced their own agendas and careers.

Dead Is Dead! Unfortunately there are always some who will try to capitalize on tragedy by flaunting their own self importance. God has called upon some to lead us, even though the chosen were no more than reluctant bystanders, themselves contaminated by the dirty business of corporate manipulation and inside trading. Who among our self-proclaimed leaders would have even considered coming to the Big Apple, were it not for the tragedy (and opportunity for them) of 9/11? All we can do is plan ahead to make sure that the guilty pay dearly, to guarantee the dead and their families are treated with the respect they deserve and do it, one of my fellow Hoboken compatriots crooned, with class. So when trouble strikes, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again…and look around to make sure you know who the real heroes may be. The real strength of our great nation, we the people, of course. There were hundreds of 9/11 heroes, most of them unidentified. We should remember the victims and those who gave their lives while trying to save them. Politicians who try to ride on the backs of the truly courageous individuals during any tragedy are beneath contempt. Whether evildoers shoot people, poison them, blow ‘me up or take down skyscrapers with suicide planes, the result is always the same: Death, Destruction and Deceit.

I, for one, want to control my own destiny and leave behind a better world for my children and grandchildren. I hope you will join We The People and stand up to those who are bent on fostering wrongdoing in any form. The choice is yours! Make sure you don’t lose the power of choice.

Carl Tannert is a graduate of New York University. He has been an editor for Prentice-Hall and written many articles for national trade journals and many business plans for corporations. He has also worked in advertising and public relations in New York City, Boston and Chicago and been a business development consultant for large corporations like Uniroyal, Ford, Kodak and others.

A management executive, he retired from one of the nation’s top Construction Management firms in

1998 and has since been serving as a consultant, advisor and board member for non-profit community-

oriented organizations in Galesburg and Rochester, NY.

He lives in Galesburg. You may contact him at ctannert2000@yahoo.com