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The Gross National Debt

Saturday, January 28, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and Booman Tribune)

I am not a person prone to a depressed personality.  Like most people, I have good days and bad days.  The former outweigh the latter by a large proportion, I'm glad to say.

I'd have to characterize today as a bad day.  I am, today, overwhelmed by American grief.

More on the flip.

It's difficult to articulate what I have to say in this diary.  Compelled to write, I am struggling for the words that give life and meaning to a tension wire of emotions that are running beneath my outward exterior.  I woke this morning to stories of the anniversary of the Challenger disaster.  Like many people, I remember being an 18-year old on hiatus from my first year in college, working my first job as a waitress in a popular restaurant in Alexandria, VA.  It was before opening hours and we had the TV on in the bar area as we set up and prepared to meet the day's customers.  Challenger had received a lot of attention - prior flagging interest in NASA's space program had sparked efforts to re-engage Americans in the wonders of space exploration and Challenger's flight was to showcase the first "teacher in space".  She had captured America's imagination - she was the sole winner of a contest that began with 10,000 qualified applicants.  I watched the launch with interest.  Challenger's explosion 76 seconds into its launch on that January day in 1986 is a defining moment of my young adulthood.

Seeing the coverage on television led me to look for coverage of Challenger.  I went to the trusty Goggle home page and searched and came across this site.  I don't know anything about its owner - but what he had on his page was some very fine video that I downloaded on both the Challenger and Columbia disasters (juxtaposed - link here) and a Katrina retrospective (link here).  If you download either of these, beware - they are large files.

It's the Katrina video that sent me into a tailspin.  Perhaps it was because I had just finished reading this article on the post-Katrina failures in today's Washington Post.  Regardless, grief poured in.

The devastation wrought by Katrina is certainly another defining event in my lifetime.  I see the faces of people who have lost everything - I bear witness to the devastation of their lives - but that doesn't drive American grief.  Disasters happen.  Lives are lost, families are shattered.  What brings American grief is the apathy of official America towards the victims of Katrina and towards the region it deccimated.  I really can't understand how any genuine human being could stop, even for a few minutes, and try to put themselves in the shoes of a Katrina survivor and fail to move heaven, earth and any and all resources at their disposal to ameliorate the suffering.  All discussion of what people should have known in advance of Katrina aside - there is no excuse for failing to be moved on a visceral human level by the plight of these survivors.  I simply can't make sense of leadership in our country that feels a necessity to squabble over who and how much and when where Katrina is concerned.  It's not a negotiable issue - it must be fixed.  These people must be helped.  There are no options where this is concerned - it's so obvious.

Challenger - 9/11 - Katrina - all are singular events that drive my grief.

But that, in itself, is not my American grief.  American grief is different.

American grief is watching the desperate and abandoned faces of New Orleans residents day after day without seeing any attempt on the part of government to intervene.

American grief rises to the fore of my consciousness as I watch Sam Alito bob and weave during his SCOTUS confirmation hearings while a majority of Senators from either party posture and pontificate and bluster.  Very few were the real expressions of impact on American lives.  Content to make a political statement that would solidify Senatorial electoral power, the message of Sam Alito's America was lost - an America that steps on the little guy.  An America that believes women should be forced back into some bizarre second-class citenzenry.  An America that believes in rewarding the powerful with more power.

American grief swells when I see leaders who are willing to compromise in action all the principles and tenets which spawned past greatness to bestow, in word only, the same principles and tenets in a "do as I say, not as I do" alternate reality that has become our daily lives.  It swells even further when the very thing this leadership has said over and over and over again - Democratic elections in the middle east are good - yields one of two likely "improper" political asendants in the stunning victory by Hamas in the Palestinian elections (the second, to me, would be the rise of a fundamentalist Shiia in Iraq).  We pushed.  We insisted.  We cried from the rooftops that Democracy would take hold in the middle east.  And, seemingly, it has - just not a Democracy of which our leadership approves.  Therefore, in the ultimate expression of hypocrisy, our government is publicly declaring its refusal to deal with the new Palestinian-elected leadership.  Unbelievable.

American grief becomes overwhelming when I learn that the Constitution and particularly the 4th amendment are being sacrified on the altar of "safety" with very little outrage on the part of average Americans.  I wonder, in the extreme, if this mentality is not similar to those who consider it appropriate and necessary to bomb abortion clinics to "protect life".  The logic is alarmingly similar to me.

American grief is accentuated and exacerbated every time an American soldier or Iraqi or innocent Palestinian dies in our zeal to "bring Democracy" to the middle east.  

American grief crests when I see the faces of the Ford Corporation's workers who have just discovered that the company in which they made a life-long career investment is not able to make the investment in kind.  It breaks the dam of reasonability when our American President demonstrates such an appalling lack of connection with the average, working-class American that he talks vaguely of retraining the now-jobless Ford workers.  What?  When?  How?  At what future income level?  How will he pay for it?  How will he ensure it is successful?  It is grievous that this is how our government responds to the plight of its dwindling middle-class citizenry.  It becomes too much to bear when I let myself think about the stockholders banking money on higher Ford stock values - driven higher on the news that Ford will devastate the lives of at least 25,000 of its employees.  I struggle to believe that employees were also stockholders but can't quite accept that that's true.


I am surrounded on all levels, in some way, by American grief.  I have my life - there are many, many days when the living of it pushes that grief to the back-reaches of my consciousness.  But it is never absent... It waits to rise up and it asks me one question:

What is this America in which I live?  Is this what our founders envisioned?  Is this the culmination of the promise of the American dream?  A dumbed-down electorate, a continuous sapping of our rights, an inexorable march towards tyranny and oppression, an inevitable apathy towards the plight of the average American?  How did this happen?

It makes me question the adage that "the truth shall set you free".  It's not setting us free of this system and these decisions that strip our rights and dignity piece by piece by piece.  It's not stopping the disgusting move towards compromising everything for which we have always stood in the name of power and supremacy.

There are three options as I see it:

  1. Give up.  Join the disengaged.
  2. Complain a lot and try to enact change within the construct of the system as it exists.
  3. Revolt, rebel, resist.

I'm going with #3.



posted by RenaRF at 3:34 PM 0 comments links to this post

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