How You Sound
It’s a huge struggle it for a people to maintain a worldview. Holding on to beliefs means acting against forces seeking to alter your way of life. Protecting your identity means nourishing your roots, even in a hostile world. It means casting your light and blinding those in the dark. The adjustment of vision by those looking in and those looking out takes time.
Looking in or out, it’s no surprise, but there are really two Americas. They are separated not by wealth or race or religious belief, or by region, sex, or age. They are not divided by political party, geography, or by liberal or conservative ideologies, or those for or against change. They are not split according to symbolic or real foxes, elephants, donkeys, guffaws, or mules.
Increasingly, America is divided and dispirited by the remarks of living that are our daily requiem on the future. A weary world, speeding by, comments on its turning points. Without a careful eye, it is easy to overlook our serious differences.
As each day dies, our requiem is supposed to celebrate the passage of our common journey, recount its steps and its scars, secure its common hope. Yet increasingly, dead words mark the future and its hope. Distorted words mark our past. Difficult words mind our future.
There is another requiem rooted of tested wisdom. Its words are seeded in experience. They grow our future. They nurture us past the shouted and silent fears.
Unlike others across the chasm, these words rise from hope and this rquiem will never be a judgment that shuts mercy out of our ears.
Dreams For Sale
Price increases are killing the American dream. They nibble and tear away its fabric in the short and long term, by indirect and immediate means. Profits were once tied to the values of a country founded to benefit the common good, a country where those with more pledged to do more. Profits now reflect the simple intent to get more and to widen the gap between rich and poor.
Prices are an economic element that seldom draws any attention in discussions except as a bugaboo for inflation. Few remember that Nixon, who believed in the powers of big government, actually implemented nation-wide price controls, requiring every price for every item be posted and increases were strictly regulated by the feds. His party now carefully overlooks the utility of big government practices and controls they pretend to abhor.
The debate over economics rarely views the impact of prices on the family as a whole. When it is expressed, it’s mentioned as an index, rising and falling in percentages, of “real income.”
The dying ideal of prices is tied to our dreams. In Disneyland, the price of an admission in 1971 was $3.75. A 2010 one day children’s pass (9>) was $68.00. Have family wages kept up with the price increase?
What’s worse, income, falling behind prices, is now divided by ceilings. It is broken into horizontal layers, with no trickle down to the unemployed, with minimum wage workers locked in to service occupations that offer limited advancement and even fewer benefits, with middle class professionals having no employment guarantees, with retirees not able to depend on pensions (re: Pritchard, Alabama), with fewer services provided by businesses at the local level. This alone shows how we have misdirected economic efforts away from a conservation model that would conserve resources, produce growth and enhance prosperity. (Example: the $80 solar power units in demand in African villages but produced in China.) Instead we have turned to a consumer model that produces a runaway contradictory spiral of profits and shortages – a model rapidly approaching the limits of diminishing returns with the family as its first catastrophic victim.
Sure, it’s new media, but the small spark that triggers revolutionary change has caught fire in many places and eras. No matter the technology or circumstance, the seemingly insignificant happenstance touches something deep and profound at the source. The obvious example, for me, is Mrs. Rosa Parks’ weariness that tapped into a deeper strength that day in Montgomery when she boarded a city bus and refused the driver’s order that she give up her seat because of her race. Arrested, fingerprinted, her personal protest of an embedded system of injustice was the flash point for an entire country to be galvanized into action.
The irony of social media is that as it grows, mass action in America is almost extinct. No more stadiums filled with protesters opposed to war, no more marches with the giant ballons that symbolized the power of the masses for peace, progress, and jobs and justice, not even the feel good event that was “Hands Across America.” Now we all participate by texting our vote and waiting until next week.
We are left with tiny screens that transmit our images and chronicle our actions, but also leave us trapped and segmented and separated into bubbles with personal passion but without the power of collective action. Once, the tweet was less important than the feet. I think we are too exuberant and effusive in our praise of the power of the new media and its role in change. It should not obscure the fact that revolutionary conditions had to be heightened, and were roiling just beneath the surface, ready to spill over into the streets where people stand for change.
Back in the days of handwriting and putting words on paper, a Poet of the Library of Congress, in his poem, “The Middle Passage,” Robert Hayden, said it best: you “cannot kill the deep immoral human wish, the timeless will.”
(O B Joyfuls were strawberry daiquiris served from pitchers by a host of a Charleston winter inn in the 1950s. /wr)