October 6, 2008

Another wild day on Wall Street, another day of hysteria from the talking heads on the cable networks. God almighty, if I hear ‘how scary’ it is on Wall Street one more time I’m gonna barf. Let’s face it, this country has lost its balls. You heard me – this country has lost its balls.

There was a time when the American spirit was a “can do” spirit that survived tough times through ingenuity, community, compassion, and charity. Unfortunately, you don’t see that much any more. Oh sure, we say we still believe in the basic fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but what does that mean anymore? We love and respect life only as long as people’s lives don’t in any way inconvenience our own precious situations or lifestyle choices. We say we value liberty, just as long as it doesn’t require sacrifice of any kind. And our right to happiness has become so warped that it is now viewed to to include the “right” to cheap and affordable housing, healthcare, travel, energy, education, banking, personal life choices, and access to goods and services.

Rather than face problems and assume personal responsibility for the problems we have helped create out of our own greed and desire for comfort – after all, we’d never want our children to have to “suffer” as we did, would we? – we wring our hands and moan and groan and say, “Government, take care of this!”, as if the government were some self-sustaining entity that would take care of everything and anything that could possibly ail or inconvenience us if only it were permitted to print enough money and hire enough workers.

The economy? Let the government take care of it – after all they’ve managed our nation’s finances so well in the past, right?

Health care? Let the government run it – after all, its runs Medicare and Medicaid so well, and it know what’s best for us, right?

Education? Let the government dictate where parents should send their children to school – after all, it knows what little Johnny and Janey need to learn, right?

Heck, why not just let the government run everything – after all, it has done such a bang-up job in maintaining the health of the Social Security trust fund, right?

Those from a liberal or progressive ideal will read this and say this is just another anti-government screed from some Libertarian or populist wannabe. But you’d be wrong. Hell, I’m willing to admit the government does, in fact, do some things really well (I’ve always been a fan of the U.S. Postal Service), and I will grant you that certain government programs are needed to administer safety nets for those who would otherwise fall through the cracks of society. But let’s not kid ourselves: more often than not, government has become a crutch for people who don’t want to take responsibility for things Americans used to do without even thinking about it.

Take the family unit, for instance. While my wife Tracey was in Florida recently to visit her parents (one of which is in a tertiary care facility due to complications from heart disease) she talked with a number of elderly people who were concerned about making ends meet, seniors with children and/or relatives who live hundreds and thousands of miles away, who either seldom or never hear from them. Of course, they don’t want to be a bother to them, saying “they don’t want to get in the way”, or, “they’re busy with their own lives and families”, or something to that effect. But isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

This is just one example, I could name dozens of others. Everywhere you turn – especially in this election year, “the government” is there, like some omnipotent and omnipresent maternal presence, seeking to reassure us that no matter how bad things get, it will be there and make sure everything will be OK. Never mind the fact that “the government” could care less about you and me – through its designated representative vultures in Congress, at the White House, and on the campaign trail, it cares only about one thing – consolidating and increasing power any way it can. And we not only hear this, we actually take comfort in it, knowing that you can never screw up so bad that “the government” won’t be there to pat you on the head and say, “there, there, it’ll be OK – here, have a million (or billion) for your troubles – and don’t worry, there’s more where that came from!”

Ask yourself this question: what kind of a country is it that would not just allow, but in effect encourage its own citizens to pass on all kinds of personal responsibility – the education our children, the management of our finances, our retirements, our health and health care choices, the care of our loved ones, to name just a few – to “the government”. Is it any wonder that the idea of actually taking personal responsibility for ourselves and our actions has been replaced by a sense of victimization and “what’s in it for me?” at every level.

I’m not saying this country is going to hell in a handbasket. I still believe in the ideals this country was founded upon; millions of others still do as well. It’s just that the majority of those people don’t actually live here – they just dream of coming here one day to stake their own claim and put up their own shingle. For the majority of people in this country, America has become not a land of opportunity, but a land for opportunity – the opportunity to gin the system, and take advantage of everything the system has to offer. We are a soul-sick people, a people so spoiled by the riches around us, so accustomed to getting our way and being told we can “have it all”, so driven to accumulate wealth and surround ourselves with comfort at the expense of everything and everyone else that the very thought that this five-decades stretch of good fortune might be at risk horrifies us and sends us squealing like pigs to “the government” to bail us out.

I’ve always believed that the comfort we surround ourselves with and the sense of control we attempt to assert on every aspect of our lives is nothing but an illusion. It takes only one “unthinkable” set of circumstances (and if we think long and hard enough, we can think of more than a few) to make us realize just how fragile and vulnerable our lives and situations are at any given moment. We live for today and care little about what tomorrow will bring, blinded by the idea that someone else will always be there to clean up after the messes we create no matter what choices we have made or the priorities we’ve established for ourselves.

It all saddens me and causes me great grief, and it’s hard to pray for this country and its people at this time in our history because a lot of what’s going down these days (both practically and theoretically) we’ve brought upon ourselves.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 17:34 | Comments (0)
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