Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sleepwalking Through December

“So we beat on, boats against the current...” F. Scott Fitzgerald  The Great Gatsby

The long drive home in the evening. Endless traffic and gridlock, all of us like one animal curling our way through the streets, inching our way forward. One hour to travel a mile. Plenty of time to ponder recent events:

Nice to know we are pawns in a political game. Multi-millionaires in Congress make deals that favor the rich. Tax cuts for the wealthiest two to three percent of the nation? Oh, yeah, we will throw in the middle class cuts and reluctantly add another thirteen months of unemployment. Meanwhile, the 99rs, or those whose unemployment benefits have completely run out, must shuffle through the holiday season with no income. Worse, the talking heads in Congress call them “shiftless” or “lazy.” They are “people who won’t get a job until the government money runs out.”

I do not understand why people in this country do not realize that our government favors only the wealthiest Americans. That two to three percent—billionaires, many of them, and many times over—dictate our policies, our economic system, our very future.

In this last election cycle, many middle class voters elected these shyster politicians into office because they were sick of the other side. But what Americans fail to understand is that those newly minted senators and representatives are at war with us. This country is suffering through what has been predicted for years: the disappearance of the middle class. In gathering speed, only two classes remain: the very rich and the poor. Many people are now without homes, without retirement savings, without jobs, without any recourse whatsoever. People in extremis discarded in the art of the deal! Banks got the bailout; human beings got nothing.

Who knew back in January, 2009 when we celebrated the inauguration of our first African-American United States President Barack Obama, that his race would be his only legacy. We elected the first black president, and that is all he turned out to be. I had hoped for so much more, but I should be used to potential heroes disappointing us. It is childish to believe that heroes come along and save the day, and I am an adult now. “Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.”

So I am driving the streets in the falling darkness of another evening. I truly believe we have lost our way. We worship at the altar of Oprah, of pundits and charlatans. And there are pretty shop windows, malls full of people, everyone frantically preparing for a Christmas we can no longer afford, so caught up in our holidays of orgiastic buying. We are Americans, and this is who we are.

If we have any hope in this country, in this world, of ever rising to our potential, this much is clear: it will not be Barack Obama or John Boehner who leads us home.

Remember the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
At the end of the day it is we who must save ourselves.

4 comments:

Woman in a Window said...

"I do not understand why people in this country do not realize that our government favors only the wealthiest Americans."

I lived in the United States for a few years. My (ex)husband is American. It is a strange and powerful place. There is a great machine at work inside of America, I think. I'm not sure if anyone in particular is in control of it.

In a very small trailer in the middle of nowhere Canada, I remember my then husband about two months out of the States. We were watching the local news. He shook his head. He said, I had no idea. I had no idea.

It is a very persuasive mechanism in place. It is all omnipresent.

And so, what is the future? Change is needed. In order for change, there will need to be bravery and leadership. I am curious, what is the future? 'Cause north of the border we are in great need of change, bravery and leadership as well.

xo
erin

Paul L. Martin said...

If anything has become vibrantly apparent in the last decade, it is that America and the world lack leadership. Not only do we not have the person to lead, we are short on people of intelligence to lead. I think that is the real evidence of the decline of our education system in this country. No creativity, no intelligence, no leadership. We have lost our way and I fear there is no way to get things back on track. I used to think the artists and writers would turn the tide, but if no one is listening or creating, things will not change. We need people who are willing to stand up and lead without any agenda other than to do what is morally and ethically right. We could all be very old, or dead and gone, before that happens, I fear. It would also help immensely if journalism was still a force to be reckoned with in society. Public discourse these days consists of people screaming at each other on CNN. Again, I hear only agendas without intelligence. So we keep going and hope for a miracle. Thanks for the comment, Erin, and I wish I could sound a more hopeful note.

Woman in a Window said...

I do believe we need a revolution in thought. We are too distracted with accumulation and grooming. The world is. It is a sickness. We all swoon.

"We need people who are willing to stand up and lead without any agenda other than to do what is morally and ethically right."

Now, how are they going to sell that? And who is going to buy?

I happen to agree with you. I pound my fist and get excited about this, but I'm afraid that is only one vote for two distinct nations.

I had believed, and perhaps in a morbid way, hoped, that the oil disaster would force our hand ecologically and we would need to restructure the world economy. Or the fall of the American dollar. Or perhaps SARS (which hit here hard) or another international health threat. Our hand will have to be forced, I fear. I don't see us buying into revolution and disturbing our buying trends unless we have to.

xo
erin

Paul L. Martin said...

From the very beginning, there was a vast conspiracy to cover up the gravity of the oil spill. It seems that Obama is tuned into the banks and oil companies. He gives lip service to middle class and poor people, but I do not see that this goes deeper than a superficial level. With today's ruling on health care, I wonder if the legislation was planned with legal loopholes so that the new program would be found unconstitutional, thereby allowing the administration to declare their support while knowing that it would never come through. Sort of a "See, we tried!" kind of thing. It would be a horrific shame if some disaster would be necessary to bring everyone around to their senses. There has been too much suffering already with Katrina, September 11th, and the economic downturn. As for "selling," it does seem as if capitalism takes priority over values and ethics. Is it too much to hope that the world gives up its relentless march toward oblivion and decides to read philosophy instead? Of course, people would have to understand what they read, and I am not sure our culture can do that.