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In the November 3rd edition of The Seattle Times, I noticed a front-page story written by Nicholas Confessore of The New York Times titled “Trump’s angry rhetoric speaks to frustrated U.S. Veterans.” It cites that “… many veterans are turning to Donald Trump…” despite his obvious shortcomings.

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I would like to go on the record to say that I am not one of those veterans who supports Mr. Trump. That said, I am as frustrated as any. As pointed out in the article, some of us veterans are angry and frustrated by a government and President hamstrung by a Republican Congress. Yes, there are the wars—the endless wars. In my opinion, we’ve been sent to one war after another to defend “freedom” only to find we were dying to protect business interests in the region. That was true for Vietnam, and it’s true for the Mid-East. Yes, some veterans sincerely believe that if we had more resources in Vietnam we could have won. They also believe they were betrayed when President Obama pulled out the troops. I, for one, believe neither of these is true. I feel that no amount of force could resolve the corrupt system in Vietnam propped up by the French and then the US and its allies. I know for a fact it was President Bush signed a treaty to pull out our troops to protect them from criminal prosecution by the host countries. No, I do not believe that the strongest army is the best defense and that better intelligence (in all senses of the word) and skillful diplomacy can save more lives and more resources in the long run.

I also know that during these wars, in addition to the tens of thousands of American and allied troops, countless (more than a million) innocent people were wounded, killed, their homes leveled and their livelihoods destroyed. As additional “collateral damage,” the populations of those regions have learned to hate Americans and hopelessly inflame an already volatile region.

But veteran frustration is not just about needless wars. It’s not about how we were treated when we came home in the late ‘60s and early ’70s—we’re over that—or some of us are. It’s not about how our bodies were contaminated with Agent Orange, wracked with PTSD, depression, and suicide, and how the Veterans Administration was defunded so we could not be properly cared for. It’s not about that—not entirely.

Today, some lucky vets receive better care, but still VA hospitals and facilities are underfunded and the number of homeless vets sleeping under bridges is higher than ever. Despite renewed efforts the wait time to get care is indeed rising. “Non-VA care (the Veteran’s Choice Program)” is expanding, but struggling with long wait times and a still-learning staff. Efforts to address these problems, to reduce suicides, to get vets, healed, housed and fed are still being stymied by the Republican Congress. Ask your Congressman (on either side of the aisle) if he or she voted to fund these measures. And yet, some Trump supporters blame President Obama. Yes, vets still need mental and physical healthcare, and homes, and jobs. We don’t need “privatization”—for-profit companies taking over and adding another layer of bureaucracy and expense to an already over-taxed system. We don’t need politicians who march in the annual Veteran’s Day parade and return to Washington to continue to skimp on our pay, benefits and healthcare. We don’t need the DOD telling vets they need to repay reenlistment bonuses because someone screwed up.

Basically, I, and many vets are fed up, and we demand change—and now. I don’t speak for all veterans, but of the ones I know who aren’t sold on Donald Trump are fed up with political parties who would let businesses pay their way into influence—in Congress and in the White House. We’re tired of individuals who brag about not paying taxes, or companies who move their headquarters offshore to avoid paying their fair share. We’re tired of companies who pay their employees so little the government is forced to subsidize their workers with food stamps and other relief. We’re tired of “speaker’s fees”, golf trips, junkets and favors used to buy legislation—yes, we’re tired of corruption. We’re tired of paying billions for programs (military and otherwise) we as a nation don’t need (and the military often does not ask for), while ignoring the crumbling roads, bridges, water systems, networking, and modern power plants we desperately need—and the jobs they would create to make them and the country great again. We’re tired of poorly trained police, especially those forces infiltrated by hate groups and lack of federal oversight to reign them in. We’re tired of those who would inflame these hatreds for their own political gain and incite men to shoot police officers. We’re tired of businesses who walk away with a fine that barely affects their bottom line after polluting major waterways or filling the air with greenhouse gases which threatens the entire planet. We’re tired of the lack of regulators who keep our food, water and air clean and of cities who poison hundreds of thousands of people and go unpunished—and unabated. We’re tired of the lack of regulation on banks so as to prevent the last crash from reoccurring. We’re tired of bankers who rob the economy and ordinary citizens of trillions of dollars but spend not one day in jail. We’re tired of states who disenfranchise entire classes of voters and the political parties which help make this happen—on both sides. We’re tired of corporations whose power to influence elections and the media is in direct proportion to their wealth. We’re tired of broadcast networks owned by foreign billionaires who fill our screens with countless hours of misinformation, hate speech, and propaganda. We’re tired of for-profit (but tax-free) religious groups dictating our laws, writing our textbooks, and deciding what is taught to our kids in school. We’re tired of a for-profit healthcare system and its co-conspirator, the for-profit pharmaceutical industry, whose goals have become not to cure the sick, but to treat illnesses until the patient’s financial and personal resources have been exhausted. We’re tired of a Congress who spends millions trying to defeat a healthcare law which helps so many just to make political points—but without offering a solution to the problems it fixes. We’re tired of a foreign policy which makes us believe that we as a nation can solve the world’s problems (many of which we have created) with our own money and young people. We’re tired of government or religious-dictated legislation which tells us who we can love, how we can show intimacy, and when we can choose to end a pregnancy—not to mention how we express our sexuality. We’re tired of being told how or if we choose to pray, or how we show our respect for our God, the flag or the nation, or don’t. We’re tired of people being treated differently because of the color of their skin, or whether they came here from another country or a war-torn region—a region destroyed by our own self-interest and ignorance. We’re also tired of partisan enforcement of the laws by powerful individuals in the government who overlook those issues which would derail any normal Presidential candidate, while indicting an opponent by innuendo.

I think one reason veterans give to support Donald Trump is that they don’t want a political “insider,” someone who perpetuates a system of greed and corruption. I get it. Neither do I, but I sure don’t want someone like Donald Trump with his finger poised over the button. Donald Trump is not the solution—He is the embodiment of personal lust and greed. His entire life has been spent avoiding responsibility, duty to country, his wives and family, and to those who trust him—all things honorable men, and most of the veterans I know have fought and died for—since before 1776.

But I digress. This election is about choices. I agree that our for-profit political system has laid the seeds for another civil war—this time our own. I fear it’s for reasons that have more to do with business interests than making the country “great again.” I fear the dormant sentiments of white power and the American Civil War have been rekindled to keep a for-profit-at-any-cost regime in power. Under our very noses, history has been re-written to show the American Civil War was not a conflict among those who would abolish slavery, torture, and cruelty of an entire race of people, but a fight to win back the rights of states over a central government. Any student of history (written outside of certain southern states) knows historical documents do not support that contention, but therein lies the other issue—misinformation. Never in American history has a political party spent tens of millions of dollars vilifying an individual they feel might threaten their way of doing business—but finding nothing of substance. Yes, historians also know there have been propaganda campaigns like this before. In the mid-1930’s a certain political movement in Europe chose to enflame nationalism and point the finger at a selected religion, at “intellectuals” and “communists.” They were scapegoated for every ill that faced the country. The result was the most horrific mass-murder in history and the second World War. Years later, at the Nuremburg trials, when civilians were asked why they let this happen, the same people who wore the hats and armbands, cheered at the rallies, and turned in their neighbors to the secret police would say “…we had no idea. We didn’t know.” In our own country, the rights of individuals were trampled by a similar witch-hunt as McCarthy searched out Communists.

This is all happening again. Today. This week. And after the election, it won’t stop. Congress promises to stall the nomination of anyone to the SCOTUS or other judicial benches if Trump is not elected. No doubt, the Democrats will reciprocate—assuming Trump is not indicted before the inauguration. In addition, Donald Trump continues to sow the seeds of distrust, despair and hopelessness to the eager ears of men and women who would blindly follow another authoritarian figure—regardless of his ability to solve any of the dire problems he’s described. IMHO, if we wanted someone to sort out the budget, get people working again, figure out how to manage trade deals that benefit the country and all the other complex problems the President’s leadership will face, would you hire a man who has gone through twice the number of failed companies as he has failed marriages? Why would you trust a man who does not pay his contractors, hires the same workers he says are ruining the economy, or makes his own brand of shirts in the country he says is the source of our own economic failure? I agree the Presidency is about trust. Can we trust a man who molests women under his control—even teenage girls? Would you trust him in the same room as your daughter or wife? Would you trust a man who cheats for a living and brags about it? More importantly, would you trust a man who owes countless millions to the Russians who thinks nuclear weapons should be used in the Mideast?

Yes, we veterans are frustrated. Donald Trump is not the answer, and no, IMHO, Hillary Clinton is not an ideal candidate, but she will not lead the country into another war—at least we hope not. But is there an even more sinister reason Trump has been brought this close to the Presidency. Perhaps those who put him there, those who pull the strings have made it so because they sincerely believe he can be easily manipulated. Perhaps they feel his ignorance of foreign policy, of military and political intelligence, economics on a global scale, environmental issues, and even morality make him an ideal candidate which can be made their puppet. Perhaps this is why the Russians and the evangelicals have done everything they can to get him elected—and they’ve nearly succeeded.

So no, veterans should not vote for Donald Trump. In any case, we veterans also need to make sure the Senators and Congressmen who perpetuate this for-profit-at-any-cost system from returning to Washington. Consider that when Donald Trump says he wants to “Make America Great Again,” he leaves off the last phrase: “For Donald Trump.”

Bill

Patrick, I could not agree more with your editorial this month. Based on what I hear when I leave my cave is that Microsoft just doesn’t get it. Because of politics (no, not the Bush/Obama kind) and an old-school marketing and sales plan, Microsoft has also forced its own development teams to pump out new versions of SQL Server and other serious platform engines on a ever-shortening cycle. The same is true for Visual Studio and the languages teams whose development cycles seem to be totally consumed trying to get the Entity Framework working. This means the teams place less emphasis on fixing existing long-term bugs and making development of existing architectures easier. Over and over again we hear that “Microsoft knows what’s best for developers”.

Painting with Mud

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I just had a Republican campaigner call me asking me to support a local Republican candidate. I don’t envy her job on this eve of the most important election since… well, in a very long time. While the candidate in question might be perfectly qualified for the job he’s seeking, I’m not likely to vote for him because of the campaign the other Republicans in the race have run. Yes, I’ve voted for Republicans before and there are some good ones in the race this time but I’ll have to think long and hard about supporting anyone from any party that runs a shameful campaign.

When will folks understand that when they slander their opponent they discredit themselves. This is a tenant that anyone in business will hammer into their sales people from day one. Cutting down your opponent does not make you or your cause any taller.

The trouble with throwing mud is a lot sticks to the thrower. Sure, it’s just as deceitful to have one of your minions do the throwing and it takes a lot of very strong words and deeds to undo the damage caused by lies, half-lies or simple misrepresentation of the truth. Sure, this kind of smear might influence the ignorant masses or make your supporters give more money to sling more mud, but in my mind it discredits you, your party, your race, your ethnicity, your gender, your cause and most importantly, your country. And it won’t win my vote.

I was in Fry’s (a local electronics superstore) and asked the clerk (a young black man) if he was going to vote. He said “Why? They’re both the same. Nothing ever changes…” I was nearly speechless. I told him that he must be willing to let others decide how the world around him will work—or not. He said “It doesn’t matter—things never get any better.” I shook my head as I walked away. I’ll never forget his look of cynicism and hopelessness. I expect he, like many others has given up. It’s not surprising. I’ve lived long enough to witness and vote in many elections; however, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen an election that has so polarized the country. I saw polarization after each of the Bush elections—one that he lost and the second where the country lost—but not this bad. This time, people on both sides say that the world will end if their side loses. If this is true, American is really lost.

I challenge the new President to bring us together as a country—to restore our faith in the American form of government. This will take considerable work on the part of the President and the Congress but even more on our part to keep them all honest and keep their promises. If we don’t succeed, we’re all doomed to repeat the history of the Roman Empire and the representative forms of government that have failed in the past when the citizens lost faith in their elected leaders.

Dino Rossi Call

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Dino has hired both a robo-call as well as a directed in-person call center. When I answered, they wanted to speak to me personally (by name). Next, the caller wanted me to vote for Rossi. I asked him "Why?". He said he didn't know--he was in florida and didn't know anything about the candidate or even where he was calling. I told him I would not be voting for someone who ran a dishonest campaign. He said fine...

I guess you get what you pay for.

McCain Supporters

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Remember, a vote for McCain puts Sarah Palin a vote closer to the Presidency. Given McCain's age and medical history, history of stage IIA melanoma, kidney stones, high blood pressure and six pre-cancerous polyps in his colon, it makes me nervous that Ms. Palin's a heartbeat away from the most important job in our scandal-tainted government. Sure, these medical conditions are typical of a man his age but we expect the President to take on one of the most demanding jobs in the world. The fact that Senator McCain chose this incompetent for the Vice Presidency is another sign of his inability to think clearly under pressure and keep the country's best interests in mind. Sarah Palin is not Geena Davis; I expect that Geena has more sense of the importance and gravity of the office. If Sarah Palin had the least concern for the country, a real love of America and not a selfish motivation for self promotion she would not have accepted this nomination. Unfortunately, being elected governor while still promoting the seccession of the state says a lot about her love for the country. Sadly, she is too ignorant to know what it takes to be President. No, I don't think she's that smart--not smart enough nor experienced enough to know what she does not know. If God-forbid McCain is elected, all we can do is pray for him and the country.

What I Believe...

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Finding myself in a strange time zone (Tulsa, OK) this week and not able to sleep, I passed the time surfing the hotel's 20-some-odd TV channels. My God, there are a lot of nuts, bigots and radicals out there. I had no idea that there were so many people that think they have the answers to the country's (and world's) problems but who clearly have no clue. Yes, some seemed quite sane, but for too many of the others, I wonder where they got their education and why CNN gives them airtime. Cynically, I expect that giving airtime to these radicals sells soap. My biggest issue is with a CNN newscaster who was fear mongering like the water had risen in Atlanta to the point where it was splashing around her chin. She frothed that people all over the country were panicking as their 401Ks, retirement funds, kid's school money and life savings were dissolving before their eyes... Ah, it's no wonder ordinary people are panicked. I guess I forgot that too many people get their education from watching late-night movies. Unless the Republicans privatize Social Security, it's still paying benefits and will do so for some time--most entitlement programs are totally unaffected by the financial crisis. Yes, your 401K, SEP or IRA might have lost value, but it might also have a cash component that's drawing a low interest rate. It's time to HOLD those stocks, not sell them. Those that sell DO lose value. It's too late to sell. As far as that spare cash earning a low rate of return, it's wise (in my opinion) to move it INTO stocks that have a good long-term future. Today is not a replay of "It's a Wonderful Life" where banks were not insured.

On "entitlement" programs. Ah folks, being near retirement and having paid into Social Security since 1965 when I entered the workforce (that's 43 years), take umbrage at those that think of Social Security as some sort of welfare. Yes, (unlike government workers like Congressmen and Senators and their staff) I was forced to put part of my wages aside in anticipation of drawing the principle back out now that I'm of age. Yes, if I had invested the money myself or the government had put it in private hands I would have very little at this point and the country would be more panicky than it is. 

What I also found in the USA Today dropped at my doorstep was a full-page ad placed by the NRA that all but fomented outright hatred of the Democratic ticket and might, just might, push some ignorant nut over the edge to take his "hunting" assault rife and kill someone. I hope to God that it doesn't. IMHO, the NRA should stick to making America safer for everyone--that does not mean putting weapons in the hands of every school kid, college student, teacher, lawyer, ignoramus or Supreme Court justice who feel its their right to shoot first when threatened--or when they even think they are threatened.

I also saw some very frightened people on TV who have been convinced by the passionate Republican rhetoric that Senator Obama is fundamentally evil and not to be trusted any more than some 60's radical terrorist. Some elderly woman in a Republican town hall revival got up, and in a trembling voice said Senator Obama was "...a ... an Arab!". Yes, Senator McCain said, "No, he's an honorable man", but he did not deny that Senator Obama was an Arab. He went back to his speech to further vilify Senator Obama. But what if Senator Obama is an Arab? He's not, but what if he were? What possible difference would it make? These same people think Jesus was white and probably from somewhere in Ohio. Clearly, the "heartland" of the country is still infected with the cancer of racism, ignorance and outright stupidity. Perhaps an Arab would know how to deal with the crisis in the mid-east better than one raised under the guidance of a Navy Admiral that was rarely home. No, the Republican apparatchik running the McCain campaign are not stupid or ignorant but they do know how to whip up the fears of these folks who were convinced to vote for the worst President in the history of the United States because he was on "God's side" or he had better morals than Senator Carey or Senator Gore. They're trying to do it again. Their powerful friends that circle Washington like so many remora know this too.

Personally, I object to the term "Red State" or "Blue State". If you plot the distribution of Democrats and Republicans from the last Presidential election on a precinct basis, you'll see a very different picture. It makes it clear to me that too many Republican supporters are from states where education is slipping, or slanted. Several sites have re-plotted this data to better represent the data visually--to give one a clearer idea of the distribution of the voters and how really close the last election was. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/ is an example. IMHO, it shows that in rural areas, the Republicans do better. Closer to cities, universities and other places where more educated people live (and vote), the Democrats win. CNN is still using this either/or (Red or Blue) approach for some of their maps but have changed some presentations to show shades of blue and red. Too bad their commentators are so radically biased--toward insanity and hyperbole.

The biggest problem as I see it, is if either Senator is elected, the country will be more divided than ever--thanks to the filth, carefully couched bigotry, lies and manipulations of the truth excreted past the sphincter muscles of both parties. I really worry that either candidate might be assassinated even before they took office given the inflammatory rhetoric. And if McCain is assassinated we would be faced with the first President who speaks in tongues, but barely knows the names of the Supreme Court justices--a person who would be ideal for the same Republican apparatchik manipulating the campaign and who have manipulated the Presidency for eight years.

I think that we as a country need to regain the moral high ground. This is not to say we as individuals or as a country are better than others but we live by our faith in God--Moslem and Christian, Jew and Buddhist, and all the rest. Frankly, we're not--not enough of us at least. It's ignorant and blasphemous to insist we're the "best" country. We're not. We might have been, but that age has long since gone. We don't learn from history, but that's a common failing. We no longer manufacture much of what we wear, the electronics we use, and too little of what we eat. Does that makes us better? Does consuming more than any other country (more than some entire continents), being more obese, wasting more, polluting more, imprisoning more make us better? Does killing and wounding tens of thousands a year with guns make us better? Does spending billions on wars but a tiny fraction of that on peace make us better? Is a country where impaired drivers kill more than 40,000 people a year and where we lose more young people to drugs make us a better country? Does having an ever-growing teenage pregnancy rate, or being are responsible for eliminating more species than any country, or having the biggest corruption scandals make us better? Does electing the worst President in history (twice) make the United States best? Our workers kill themselves trying to be productive--and they are, but Congress has moved millions of their jobs overseas--does that make us the best or the most exploited by the wealthy? Our elected government has permitted China to get a death-grip on our economy by opening the doors wide to their often shoddy, unsafe and contaminated imports built in factories where the workers are paid like slaves (or are slaves pulled from their prisons). Does this make the US better? Does electing a Congress that makes anti-corruption and anti pork rules only to ignore them to benefit their political supporters and lobbyists make us a better country? Hardly. We as a country, torture, imprison and extradite anyone we want to off to who knows where; places where US laws can't protect them. Until extraordinary rendition and torture is stopped and those who perpetrated these crimes are themselves sent to Guantanamo or to one of the gulags the CIA has created, we cannot call ourselves a moral country.

It's tough (very tough) to be proud of a country that can't seem to understand that it's not a good idea to elect men and women based on the color of their skin when their heart is black. No one is perfect. Clearly, no one expects an elected official to be pure. We do expect them to be honest--more honest than me. I expect them to be smart--smarter than me. I also expect them to be a better leader than me. Electing a good-ole' boy because he or she grew up in a small town and was confronted with small-town or small state problems is not enough. Electing someone like me, like many of us, is neither wise nor a way back to solid moral leadership.

As I see it the problem might just boil down to a failed education system. Today, thanks to "No child left behind" our schools are corrupted with lesson plans purged of the curriculum that teaches our young people to think for themselves, how to tolerate each other and live in peace. Nowhere does the curriculum teach them to know the difference between the truth and a lie or the gray area in between. As a result, our uninformed adults are easily swayed by politicians and TV ads. Too many sit around coffee shops and beer halls spouting off ignorant racial slurs and bemoan the state of the country but continue to elect the same people that put the country where it is.

We see too many of our kids and young adults are programmed by the media for immediate gratification, to consume, to yearn for goods they can't afford so they go into debt or rebel as they try to fit into this hedonistic consumer society. Some revert to crime and others rack up monstrous debt and the banks and payday loan companies prey on their ignorance and sloth--and the government lets them. High school graduates (and some college graduates) are too ignorant to know how to balance a checkbook, fix a faucet or change a tire or keep themselves healthy without quack medicines--and the drug companies prey on their ignorance--and the government lets them. Kids are encouraged in every magazine and film to have sex but our schools, and parents don't help them learn how to keep from getting pregnant. At the same time, churches and "moralists" are promoting abstinence while the schools are too frightened of the churches to teach birth control. The result is more ignorant kids having ignorant kids.

To me, the moral high ground means that we as a country make it possible for everyone who wants an education gets one--an education free of religiously or politically-guided dictums, at least a practical education that teaches life skills. How to study, how to read a contract, how to negotiate, how to save and how to spend wisely, how to build credit, how to give a good day's work, how to get and keep a job, how to use basic hand-tools, how to fix and maintain the stuff we buy, how we as citizens got to this point in time, what mistakes we made in the past, how to share, how to build and tear down, how to be a friend or partner or lover, how to conserve, how to clean and be clean, how to play fairly, how to keep our bodies strong and healthy, how and what to eat, how to read, write and review critically, how to listen and speak intelligently, how to understand and tolerate other points of view, how to lead and how to follow, how to love and treat others with compassion, how to be generous, how to be wealthy and what to do if you're poor. We also need to teach our citizens what they need to do to makes a good, moral, strong and safe country and how the US can be that country once again. Along the way we need to teach math, science, literature, art and philosophy as well as help kids learn sports and teamwork--even those too unskilled or physically unable to play.

We also need to learn how to tolerate, accommodate and live alongside others that are different. In my opinion, our nation's diversity is a great strength and one of our greatest challenges. We need to learn that being straight or gay or lesbian, a man, a woman or something in-between does not have to mean anything in particular. It does not mean that individual or couple does not value the sanctity of a personal union or the devotion to naturally born or adopted children. It does not make them unfit for service or any particular job. I also does not give one the right to inflict their point of view on others who might not agree with their point of view. Yes, it's hard to tolerate someone that's different but we've fought too many wars and lost too many lives over intolerance. 

Yes, I also believe religious education, proselytizing and indoctrination should be performed at a place of worship or in the home, not in the public schools, on the floor of Congress or in the workplace. Wanting to achieve the moral high ground means we don't imprison or persecute  people for addictions, or being poor, not agreeing with our point of view or not being educated. I think we should treat the addicted, ban addictive products (or at least stop subsidizing them), discussing our differences and providing basic education to the ignorant. It also means we as a nation don't torture or kill those we imprison--regardless of the crime or how much information we think they know or how evil their crime. It means we make the nation's courts available to everyone. It means we figure out how to accept those that want to visit our country to work without criminalizing them. It means we treat everyone fairly regardless of their sex, sexual orientation,race, creed, color or the country where they were born. It means that we attempt to accept that every religion thinks it's the only true faith and they have a right to think so. Ironically, most of the world religions worship the same God but I believe those that don't are also children of God and should be tolerated as such. No one should force their beliefs on another--not even if the belief is "democracy". It means we don't permit individuals or companies to promote, sell or distribute products that are harmful to our citizens or the citizens of any country. It means we don't impose our addictions, hatred, greed or intolerance on others. It means we tell the truth. It means we don't distort the truth or hide the facts when we're caught. It means we plead guilty when we are and innocent when we are.

The moral high ground also means we treat our planet with the same deference we treat our own bed. It means we don't foul its air, water or pillage its resources. It means we leave room for the plants and animals that God place here and placed in our stewardship. It means we do everything we can to leave the Earth as God gave it to use so those that inherit it (our own children) have a safe, clean, healthy place to live--and don't curse us for the filth we left behind.

I truly believe that if we don't come together as a country and address these problems, we are doomed to repeat history and follow one great civilization after another that have slipped into anarchy and destruction. The ignorant, unwashed masses are at the innocent pawns and soldiers of those who would pillage the country, sucking out it's blood to feed their greed, lust and avarice. The educated and caring are carried up into the conflagration as often they're too lazy, complacent or ineffectual to do anything about it until it's too late.

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