Don't Just Do Something, Stand There

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by Ed Cobb

Americans are pushovers. It seems that the majority of us are suckers for just about any emotional appeal to "do something" about nearly anything. We were told that the Serbs (whoever they were) were pursuing "ethnic cleansing" of the Kosovars (whoever they were) in the Balkans (wherever that was) and that we had to "do something." We did. Most of us were entirely clueless about who these people were or what their beef was but we were told it was unfair and we felt bad and that was good enough.

What did doing something accomplish? A nation in ruins. Thousands of civilians dead. Young American men and women in harm's way and likely to stay there. We pour money into a government that persecutes Christians and whose role model is the Taleban. They will turn on us sure as Bob's your uncle when the price is right. The Kosovars still hate the Serbs and it is still mutual. We changed which one had the upper hand and flattened a Chinese embassy. That's what doing something did. Was it worth it?

Most Americans are still clueless because calculating the worth of that particular price-value equation would require facts and we no longer believe in facts. Facts are hard and we like emotions because emotions are soft with a creamy center. It would require self-examination and self-criticism while Americans prefer self-esteem. It would require rational thinking and being rational is mean spirited. It would require making a judgement and being judgmental is the only remaining sin in a culture that has lost all sense of sin.

The story is the same with gun laws. Every time a bad person does a bad thing with a gun Americans feel bad and want to do something. An emotional appeal issues forth from one of the usual suspects and we are told that we have to do something."for the children." That's code for more laws. It is code for sacrificing more constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, our God given rights for taking a bigger bite out of the fruits of our labor but it is worth it."if it will save even one life."

The facts will tell you that it won't save that one mythical life. It will cost lives, plural. And it still would not be worth it even if it did. But that is a mean spirited, rational analysis based on fact and Americans would rather roll over and have their emotional bellies scratched by doing something, anything as long as it feels good. No one thinks about the number of times an innocent person is saved or a crime is averted because of a gun; between 1 million and 2.5 million times each year depending on whose estimates you buy. Where's the emotional appeal in someone who did not become a victim? We like victims. And we can't do something about something that never happened. But let some misfit lose it on the six o'clock news and America craves the emotional fix of doing something and making sense is not one of the requirements.

You want more? The war on drugs. How many billions have been poured down the sinkhole of that government welfare program? How much freedom sacrificed? Do you really believe this country was founded with the idea of regulating what people put in their blood streams? How many otherwise innocent, potentially productive people have been jailed? How many families, especially poor black families destroyed? Are we winning? Does anyone who doesn't make a buck off the war on drugs even pretend that it is winnable anymore? But still we pour in the loot, the liberty and the lives. You know, continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result is a form of insanity. Our insanity is our emotional need to do something. Emotion trumps thought and we are sated, until the next time. And there is always a next time.

Campaign finance reform might feel good. The consensus seems to be that there is too much money in politics. You want to know why industry and unions and PAC's throw money at politicians? Because politicians have so much to say about how they conduct their affairs, that's why. Political contributions from these sources are nothing more or less than payments to the protection racket run by the government mob. Ask Microsoft how much they spent on lobbying five years ago and how much they spend now. Bill Gates will never forget to pay his protection money again. If you want to take the money out of politics take the state out of our business. But rallying around the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act is doing something and it feels good.

It feels good to say we are pro-environment so we do something. And forests burn, good people lose their livelihood and the most populous state in the union goes dark.

Our emotions are touched by the plight of the poor so we do something. We send them welfare checks and create a permanent underclass with no stake in the future of the culture and undermine the black family in the process.

We are moved by an emotional appeal for "equal rights" and to let women control their own bodies. And we slaughter 1.5 million human lives yearly in a holocaust of "choice" that Hitler would admire. And all of it is because we no longer think. We feel. We want to do something. And because there is always a next time.

There is always a next time for two reasons. First, the world is imperfect. We are imperfect. We enter this vale of tears conceived in sin. Perfection is the only goal worth the effort but it is and will remain unattainable. Bad people will choose to do bad things. Bad things will happen to good people.

The second reason flows from the fact of that imperfection. Because the world is imperfect it will always be true that any situation could be safer or more fair than it is. Always. But once we buy into that line of argument, and emotional America has bought in bigtime, we begin a slide down a slippery slope that leads from do gooderism through collectivism to tyranny.

You see, there are people who make their living off the next time. There are people who profit by the fact that we no longer think but only feel. In the marketplace of emotional manipulation, just as in any marketplace, success is the best incentive. The do gooders and the Leviathan State are very successful. The do gooders get paid in the power to make you live your life the way they want you to live it. The state gets paid in greater control. Both get paid with more wealth, your wealth. We pay in higher taxes. We pay with the loss of the right to use our property as we see fit. With less privacy.

Every time we allow some collectivist do gooder or nanny state bureaucrat to take away more of the fruits of our labors and curtail more of our liberty in order to make the world safe and fair we take another step down the road to degradation and slavery. But it sure feels good to be doing something.

    Ed Cobb [send him mail] is a printer in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He is a northerner by birth, a southerner by choice, and a Catholic by the grace of God.

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