Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I first heard Cat Stevens' song Father and Son, in the late 70's.  I am pretty sure I owned the 8-track tape, although I can't say on which album the song was contained.  I do remember that my reaction to the lyrics and sentiment was immediate and extreme.  And, of course, I identified with the son.

Recently I heard the lyrics again.  My reaction was no less immediate or extreme.  But I was forced to realize that my identification had changed.  I was the father now. 

How did that happen? Where did the time go?  All questions for some future blog.  For now, Father and Son.


It's not time to make a change,

Just relax, take it easy.

You're still young, that's your fault,

There's so much you have to know.

Find a girl, settle down,

If you want you can marry.

Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,

To be calm when you've found something going on.

But take your time, think a lot,

Why, think of everything you've got.

For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.


As a son, I was never a fan of the lines, "It's not time to make a change, Just relax, take it easy."  To me, youth is exactly the time for change, exactly the time for restlessness.  I was certainly restless, searching for the changes that would help me understand myself, my world and my part in it.  Now, so many years later, I am still an advocate for change.  Not just for the young but for all ages.  Stagnation remains my least favorite state, the status quo my always questioned foe.

"You're still young, that's your fault, There's so much you have to know."  These lines could certainly not be understood then, by me, as they cannot be understood now by our sons (and daughters).  Only through the eyes of time do we realize all that we did not know when we were young.  I often tell young people that they have the luxury of selfishness at this point in their lives but it is a luxury that slowly fades as we move from children to child caregivers.  And like all luxuries, it is frequently taken for granted.

I can clearly remember the day, alone in my basement apartment that I prayed for a young lady to enter my life.  Of course, in retrospect my prayers may not have been driven by a spiritual need, but fortunately for me they were answered anyway.   So, I heartily concur with the lines

"Find a girl, settle down, If you want you can marry."

I especially like the option of marriage as opposed to the command to get married.  It is the finding of the partner that is so critical.  As for the settle down part, I would encourage a nice lengthy unsettling time filled with curiosity about each other, maybe some travel, and an openness to the new.  Discovery on ones own is wonderful, but with a partner, well that is priceless.  Now, of course, I hope my children think that I feel that

"...I am old, but I'm happy."

The easiest thing for parents to say, and probably the least effective is

"I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,"

But we will say it anyway; just try to limit it to once a week.

As for

"To be calm when you've found something going on."

Forget it.  Harness those emotions, perhaps, but fore go calm.  Be loud, be obnoxious, be boisterous when you've found something going on.  Like those young people protesting on Wall Street this past week, like myself when we clambered on buses and went to Washington DC for anti-nuclear power rallies, voice your opinion.  There is plenty of time to be calm when you are focused on your family and getting a good job and paying the mortgage.  (I think they are the calm activities?!).  Even if you are uncalm for the wrong reasons, when you don't fully understand why Wall Street's denizens need to be protested or why nuclear energy has problems, eschew calmness even in the face of corporate talking heads and your best friends' father who works at a nuclear facility.

"But take your time, think a lot"

Take your time evokes the same image as be calm, and I won't have it.  I like "think a lot" but wonder if that is my bias as a result of aging (perhaps maturing is a better word here).  Think a lot as opposed to just following the herd, but not if it begets a reluctance or inability for action.  I think that our current president thinks a lot, perhaps as much as any we have had in the recent past.  But maybe the thinking is getting in the way of action on his part to make his thoughts into policy. 

"Why, think of everything you've got" is another line that I believe virtually impossible for the young to comprehend.   They lack the experience to compare and contrast.  I didn't respond to it then and I would avoid that line as a parent now.

"For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not."

That must be the most depressing line of the song.  It is surely the leading cause of the young's avoidance of growing up.  Let's hope that while the dreams may change, they are still alive.  I see far too many people in their 40's and 50's who have lost their dreams and/or not been able to formulate new ones.  It is no way to live; one might even say not living at all.  I have been fortunate in that I rediscovered my dream of writing and, unlike dreams that require physical prowess or energy, writing only requires a bit of time and thought.  You will still be here tomorrow, and bring your dreams along is my advice.



How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.

It's always been the same, same old story.

From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.

Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.

I know I have to go.

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,

It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it.

If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them They know not me.

Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.

I know I have to go.

As a son, and like so many other sons, I found it difficult to "try to explain".   Not because my parents wouldn't listen, they were extremely open to my thoughts.  It was more because I was convinced that their time was not my time, as I am sure my children think today.  At the least, we need to be open to their explanations, even if they don't make sense or are immature.  After all, they are children.  What we must not do is "turn away again" and allow them to think our response is and will always be "..the same, same old story."  Our worst response, one which will drive them away both physically and emotionally is similar to the "children are best seen and not heard" philosophy that some of our parents were raised by, or, as Cat Stevens says "From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen."
"..there's a way and I know that I have to go away.  I know I have to go."
This is one of those lines that reminds me how immature my understanding of life was in the heady times of my youth.  For a short period of time, "I have to go away" meant literally, leaving the earth.  I was far too important to just go away by moving out.  I had to go away permanently.  I am not talking about an actual death wish, but I certainly engaged in some activities that were less than healthy.  It was mostly subconscious of course, but so clear today.  Luckily, the "go away" part became a lust for travel and then finally just moving out.  In the song, Cat Stevens does not seem to sing that line with any malice, but I am sure that "going away" for some sons meant hurting ones parents in the process.  When Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams" recounts leaving home he remembers it as "I packed my things, said something awful and left".  Consciously or subconsciously, all our sons and daughters dream of going away, which includes leaving the stifling influence of their parents behind.  Knowing we smother them, even if with love, might make their going easier.  It will certainly make the coming back more comfortable when they pass from sons to fathers and daughters to mothers.
"All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them They know not me.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away."

I don't remember crying all that much as a young adult.  Strange, but I seem to be more prone to tears as I age.  Is it that I ignored all the things I knew inside as I navigated the seas of expectations involved in being a spouse, an employee, a father?  Is it that I now understand who I am and hence the line "it's them They know not me" has finally come to be an actual fact? 

Perhaps it is the arrogance of experience that tells us that the young can't possibly know who they are because we are still trying to figure out ourselves to this day.  Or perhaps the young do know who they are but the answer is even more disturbing for us because they know who they are not - us.

For me, Father and Son evokes all the emotions of growing up, and growing from knowing everything, to thinking you know something, to knowing how much you never knew, to just being happy that 

as Cheryl Crowe aptly stated

it is not knowing what you want its wanting what you've got.



Friday, September 23, 2011

Repeal of Don't Ask/Dont' Tell

The weather turned back to high humidity and frequent showers these last few days.  Back to shorts while delivering my route.  Today was the last of the three week sample program which required me to deliver an additional 75 papers each morning to selected homes.  As a result I was rising at 2:27 AM rather than 2:57 AM.  It was certainly extra work but the additional income has come in handy also.  Unfortunately, a memo received this week from the ownership will result in less pay to deliver papers going forward.  As is true for so many Americans, it will result in an evaluation of the job in terms of pay to work, but will probably lead to the conclusion that a reduced income is better than none.  And so the race to the bottom (for middle class working Americans) continues.

A more important event of this past week was the official change to the military's policy of don't ask - don't tell (DADT) in reference to gender preference.  Congratulations to the president for leading this change, and for military leadership for realizing that it was time to join the rest of society in its regard to employing people with same sex gender preferences.  To be fair, I actually give our military leaders some credit in seeing this change through as there was/is enough resistance from various circles that would have given them an out to making the change. 

I may be wrong on this account, but I imagine that many of the current crop of Republican presidential candidates would not have endorsed this change.  Certainly the tea party/Christian right candidates such as Michelle Bachmann, Ron Santorum and Rick Perry would not be in favor of this change.  I am not sure about Mitt Romney; probably he would be against it during the current presidential nomination campaign and for it if he became the nominee.   I would like to think that the Libertarian candidate, Ron Paul, would come out (did I say that) for the change.  This is one of the areas where his candidacy makes for curious theatre when those in the tea party who endorse him begin to understand the full ramifications of what it means to be libertarian, what it means to say that one is for individual liberty.  As I have said before, the tea party seems much to focused on their rights to say and do anything they please, while providing a litany of actions and beliefs that others must not do or believe if seriously searching for a tea party endorsement. 

As an aside to this thought, I recently read that a local Catholic college, retracted its invitation for a speaking engagement after pressure was brought to bear by a strong (but I hope small faction) that was unhappy with the speaker's views on abortion.  I guess they are so insecure of their faith, and especially of those who attend their college, that they do not think it wise for someone with a different perspective to speak.   Too bad for everyone.

But to return to DADT.  It is also important to acknowledge the thousands of American soldiers who bravely defended the constitution while serving their country (and dying, in some cases) despite the fact that they were not being accorded the same protections under the constitution as those who promoted the discrimination against them.  I can't imagine a more frightful and revealing scene than those misguided church goers who protested last year with ugly hate signs at the funeral of an openly gay soldier.  A group clearly more interested in their own freedoms, a group allowed to exercise their freedoms in a way that completely disrespected the rights of someone who willingly gave his life to defend those freedoms.  Those brave men and women who served under the yoke of pretending to be something they were not are the best example of what America and the American experiment of individual freedom is about.

Finally, and even more importantly, we need to recognize the incredible strength and fortitude of those individuals who chose to serve and proclaim their sexual preference.  Those men and women who understood the real meaning of the Constitution, and whose love for their country and respect for that great document drove them to fight against the unfairness of DADT.  Just imagine, please, the difficulty one must face when his/her patriotism, nay, their very right to live free in America, is questioned based on an activity that, if denied anyone practicing the heterosexual version, would generate immediate outcries among all factions of society.  (Should I mention here the fact that anal sex is practiced by upwards of 20% of heterosexual couples?)  No, perhaps it best I don't mention that. 

We rightfully admire the civil rights activists who helped push America into a more racially neutral nation.  We recently unveiled a monument in Washington honoring the recognized leader of that movement.  In this case, there will probably not be a monument to any one particular person who embodied the drive to repeal DADT.  Perhaps it is better that way, but only if we come to realize that the individuals behind this change are our neighbors, nephews, and nieces.  People we know, and people we know of but haven't allowed ourselves to know. 

Congratulations to all those on the front lines of this change, and to the countless men and women who have made this change happen precisely because of their anonymity.  


Monday, September 19, 2011

Deficit Games

The weather turned from summer to fall this past week.  I delivered my papers in shorts and sandals, and went to work similarly dressed.  When I left work it was winter; well not really winter but at least 15 degrees cooler.  Needless to say, my shorts and sandals were insufficient wear for the weather.  Since then, I have had to wear long pants on my route as the temps have been in the low 50's and upper 40's.  Despite the change, however, I am not ready to relinquish my sandals.

I caught the end of the movie Wargames today.  If you don't remember the flick, it featured Matthew Broderick as a high school computer wiz kid who hacks into a military website and begins playing Global Thermonuclear War with the computer, nicknamed WOPR by its handlers.  In the end, the computer takes over the decision making of the military, still thinking it is playing a game, and starts the end result of a thermonuclear war; launching the missiles.  Eventually, the wiz kid trumps the knowledge of the computer experts and "teaches" the WOPR that there is no winner in the game of thermonuclear war.  Or, more precisely, the only logical way to play the game is to not play at all.

Currently, we are seeing a similar game being played in Washington between the GOP and the President (Dems).  Unlike the two players in the cold war, today's Deficit Games will not bring about the end of the world.  But like the generation growing up during the years of nuclear shelters in the back yards, nuclear drills featuring school children hiding under their desks, and nuclear anxiety penetrating all levels of society, these Deficit Games are causing debt/deficit anxiety in America today.  While it is common knowledge that America's largest businesses are sitting on $1-2 trillion, they are not hiring.  While it is true that 9 out of 10 people have a job, many like myself with two or more jobs, we are not spending as we should.  We are stuck in a cycle of low consumer spending which means no reason for company hiring which means no new jobs which continues the low consumer spending.  And, when I read columns written by our best economic minds, it is uncertainty that is given as the prime reason for the continuation of this cycle.  We are afraid that the bad times will continue which, in a typical example of a self fulfilling prophesy, continues the bad times.

Which brings us back to the Deficit Games being played in Washington.  While the GOP and the Dems play the game, America suffers.  The president proposes a tax hike to improve revenue and the GOP calls it Class Warfare.  The GOP suggest entitlement reform and the Dems cry about granny dying in the street.   And Americans continue to suffer. 

The ironic thing about it, the really crazy factor in these Games is that what each side is trying to win is the 2012 election.  The very thing that we, as Americans can have the most effect upon via our most precious right to vote, is the goal of both sides.  But, instead of not playing the game as the Americans and Russians did during the Cold War, these two combatants haven't learned that there is no winner in these Deficit Games just as there would not have been a winner had we engaged in a Thermonuclear War.  By playing this game, the Dems and GOP are cementing the anxiety that permeates our country because each idea to move forward is lambasted by the other side, not with facts, but with sound bites that very rarely reflect the truth.

We must insist that future debt/deficit and jobs discussions include real potential solutions to these very real problems.  Perhaps we need our own "wiz" kid to emerge who can teach us the folly of playing these Games.  In the meantime, we can not afford another 14 months of this mutually assured financial destruction before the election.  But if that is what we get, we need to make sure that neither side "wins" while the rest of us lose.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Recent Presidential Debate

I watched most of the Republican Presidential debate this past week, the one sponsored by the Tea Party.   I can't say it wasn't difficult at times to stay tuned,  but I feel it is important to hear the views of this disparate group of candidates.  Based on what appears to be a win for the Republican candidate for the House seat vacated by Rep Weiner in an area that has had a Democratic rep for quite some time, it is certainly possible that one of the candidates at that debate will become the next president. 

My impressions?

Well, first, I actually felt sorry for Gov Perry.  He had signed an executive order which required all teenage girls in Texas to receive the HPV vaccination.  Of course, there was an opt out for parents who did not want their children to receive the shot, but he was attacked nevertheless by Ms Bachmann and Mr Santorum.  At one point, Bachmann accused Perry of authorizing the vaccination as a result of the campaign donations he has received from the drug maker, Merck.  I felt sorry for the gov because it appeared that he was quite surprised to be taken to the mat for attempting to prevent cervical cancer in young girls.
He also appeared quite insulted at the suggestion that he signed the executive order as a reward for the donations. 

Funny, a republican candidate accusing a governor of allowing campaign donations to affect his/her governance yet when the Supreme Court came down with their decision last year which opened the door for even more money in our political system, it was the conservative/republican justices who voted for and it was the conservative/republican pundits and elected officials who defended the decision.  

Anyway, the look on Perry's face seemed to say "I was doing what I thought was best for the children and families of my state and I am being attacked?!".  I wonder if Perry will remember how he felt before he accuses President Obama (or any Democrat) of ramming the government down the people's throats when they propose or enact legislation that they believe to be in the best interests of their constituents. 

Another interesting moment came when the moderator asked Rep Paul who should pay for the medical care of a 30 year old male, without coverage, who has a medical emergency which costs a large amount of money.  It is a shame that all the candidates weren't asked this question, especially Bachmann who must have used Obamacare in a pejorative tone at least a dozen times.  In the case of Paul, he suggested that the victim's family, friends, community and church help pay the bill.  When pushed to respond to the possibility that there were no support systems in place for the individual, should he be left to die, Paul hesitated, then mumbled that no one is denied care.  Which, of course, does not answer the question.  However, it was clear that someone in the audience knew the answer as a resounding YES could be heard in the background when the question of letting the man die was asked of Paul.  We know that rep Paul will never have to face the prospect of deciding to allow a loved one to die or go bankrupt to pay for their medical care; let's hope the individual in the crowd who was so eager to condemn the man will never have to face this tragic situation.

Oh, by the way, in the meantime census figures just released for 2010 show that almost 50 million Americans are without health coverage.  That is one in seven people in a country that has no qualms about giving sports stars $100 million contracts, granting health care for life for its elected officials (yes, even the republican ones), and spends in the neighborhood of $300 million a day on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To give Rep Paul kudos, he did mention his belief that the wars should end.  But his clear libertarian views seem too austere for the voting center.  Most people, I believe, accept the government's role in assisting those in dire need and in protecting those who are not able to protect themselves.  Also, if his libertarian beliefs run completely through his campaign as I have read, he will not be opposed to gay marriage which may make him a non-starter for the tea party group dogma that wants government out of our lives, except for those that lead lives different from them. 

It was amusing to see Newt Gingrich's response to Jon Huntsman's statement that the current leaders in the republican presidential race are too far right of center to win a national election.  Gingrich seemed to defend the far right candidates by dismissing Huntsman's concerns.  I guess, at this point, that will be his role. 
I almost fell off my chair when Santorum claimed that he had won two Senatorial elections in a traditionally Democratic state, Pennsylvania which meant that he could win a general election.  Not because that isn't true, he did win, but because when he lost he lost by one of the largest margins ever by an incumbent Senator. 

We didn't hear from Herman Cain much although he did get in his 999 plan.  I believe it means 9% taxes for individuals, 9% taxes for corporations and a 9% sales tax, or VAT.  The mention of a VAT surprised me as I thought that this was anathema to republican candidates.  I give him credit for thinking outside the box.  Unfortunately, my taxes would increase under a 9% flat rate if all deductions were eliminated.  I imagine most middle class income earners would see the same result if they own a home and have children.  It is a shame that most people don't realize that a flat tax would benefit the rich far more than regular working class folk.  Of course, there could be a flat tax plan that may include some type of deductions for lower wage earners or a higher "flat" tax for higher earners, so while I traditionally believe in the merits of a progressive tax system, I am certainly in favor of tax reform which removes the plethora of deductions, especially if there is a means test or base line where the deductions are completely eliminated.  Despite what all the republican candidates said, there is a spending and a revenue  problem; it is the combination of over spending while reducing income that has created our current yearly deficit and overall national debt. 

Finally, there is the "scam" that is social security.  Let's be clear.  It is certainly possible, most likely actually, that if someone took the money that was removed from their checks and invested it on their own, they would have more to show for it today.  The problem is, IF they invested it.  What if they didn't.  What if even "only" 25% didn't?  Would they then be faced with the same response that emanated from the audience about the male without health coverage?  Let them die?

The fact is, social security was designed to counter a time in America when literally tens of thousands of Americans had no money, had no friends or family with the resources to help support them, and ultimately, had no life.  It was designed when people lived into their 60's and 70's, not 80's and 90's.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  But has it prevented untold millions of Americans from facing a time in their life, a time when they were the most vulnerable due to age or infirmity, from losing all they worked for, and even their very lives.  The real scam is that all the money invested in the social security system during the years that intake exceeded output was "borrowed" rather than placed in trust.  If social security is a Ponzi scheme, Mr Perry then the people running the Ponzi were/are our elected officials.  60+ years of them.  So, rather than scuttling a program that should be sitting on a few trillion dollars of benefit money awaiting the rainy day that has now started with the aging of our population, how about some rationale thought as to how to make sure it survives the upcoming baby boom years. 

Or, how about another idea.  Since politicians from both parties participated in the looting of the trust fund, how about if we earmark all the money being donated to all the congressional and presidential races to help pay down the debt owed to the social security fund by the politicians who diverted the money in the first place. 


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reflections on 9/11

So much rain lately.  Twice this week I had to ad lib my delivery route as floods and road blockades diverted my path.  It even rained a bit this morning on my way in to the warehouse.   There was a break in the clouds however, and at one point in my morning travels I was a spectator to a very clear, star filled sky.  I am not sure if the number of stars seemed greater because I haven't been able to see any stars lately, but it certainly seemed like there were more visible than normal.  Especially Orion's belt which appeared extremely bright.

I have read a number of columns about the upcoming 10 year anniversary of 9/11.  Most have been respectful to those who lost their lives, and non-political in abstaining from attempting to make points about/against either party. 

I may not be quite as restrained.

To start, it is clear, 10 years later, that the events of 9/11 were a significant factor in how this country has changed since then.  

In early September, 2001, we were still riding the high of being the only superpower still standing. 

Unemployment was around 5%. 

The national debt was right around $6 trillion.   

Of course, it is impossible to know how the leaders of America would have governed had they been from the Democratic party.
Perhaps the events of this horrible blow would have transcended all politics and the actions of our elected leaders and nothing would be different today.  

But what we do know is that we had a Republican president from Jan 2001- through Dec 2008.

We had a Republican controlled House of Representatives from January 1999 (actually their run started Jan 1997) through January 2007.  

We had an interesting dynamic in the Senate.  From January 3 to January 20, 2001, with the Senate divided evenly between the two parties, the Democrats held the majority due to the deciding vote of outgoing Democratic Vice President Al Gore. Senator Thomas A. Daschle served as majority leader at that time. Beginning on January 20, 2001, Republican Vice President Richard Cheney held the deciding vote, giving the majority to the Republicans. Senator Trent Lott resumed his position as majority leader on that date. On May 24, 2001, Senator James Jeffords of Vermont announced his switch from Republican to Independent status, effective June 6, 2001. Jeffords announced that he would caucus with the Democrats, giving the Democrats a one-seat advantage, changing control of the Senate from the Republicans back to the Democrats. Senator Thomas A. Daschle again became majority leader on June 6, 2001. Senator Paul D. Wellstone (D-MN) died on October 25, 2002, and Independent Dean Barkley was appointed to fill the vacancy. The November 5, 2002 election brought to office elected Senator James Talent (R-MO), replacing appointed Senator Jean Carnahan (D-MO), shifting balance once again to the Republicans -- but no reorganization was completed at that time since the Senate was out of session.

At this point, Republicans took control of the Senate in Jan 2003 and held it until Jan 2007 when again, there was an even split of Democratic and Republican senators (49 each) with one independent democrat (Lieberman) and one independent (Sanders) so the Democrats had a slim majority. 

In essence then, we had a republican president with a republican controlled House and Senate for five plus years of the ten years following 9/11.  The critical first five years when all the major decisions were made concerning our national reaction to this horrible day.

And what was our national reaction?

At first, unity.  Perhaps a unity based on revenge, but a unity nonetheless.  When we were told that the terrorists were trained in Afghanistan we gave full approval to invade that country in October 2001.  After 18 months, we were told that Iraq was also involved in the training and planning for the attack.  While there was some hesitancy, again, another military incursion was begun. 

In the meantime, at home, the business friendly Bush Administration continued some of the regulation relaxations that had begun under Clinton and added some of their own.  The housing bubble, driven partly by a belief that everyone should own a home (even if they couldn't afford one), partly by the greed of the mortgage companies and banks who turned a blind eye to those who shouldn't be granted a mortgage, and partly by the illusion that America was the greatest country on Earth, nay in history, and that everything we touch will turn to gold. 

As we spent more money on our attempts to find justice through the military, the supply side economic theory begun under President Reagan gained favor again.  Tax cuts for all were initiated in both 2001 and 2003, but it was the 2003 cuts that had the most effect.  Combined with the costs of the wars, these cuts did not spur growth as the supply-siders theorized but instead began a series of federal budget deficits that averaged over $500 million per year. 

And then the housing bubble burst.  Mortgage companies were left with clients who couldn't cover their payments, the actual mortgages had been bundled into derivatives that had infected banks and insurance companies, working class Americans began losing their jobs and the cycle was complete.  More houses foreclosed, no construction jobs to find, more people unemployed, no orders for manufacturing, etc, etc.  Coincidentally, the top 1% of wage earners saw their share of overall income increase.

Which brings us back to the solemn remembrance of those who lost their lives on 9/11.  But what else did we lose that day?   Did we forget that it is in the face of tragedy that we can demonstrate our best qualities?  Did we also forget that hatred only begets hatred, and that ten years of war will never bring peace to those who lost loved ones, never bring solace to our country?

It is time to move forward and create a new reaction to the attacks on America that occurred ten years ago.

It is time for us to end our conflicts overseas. 

It is time for us to remember the sacrifices made by those who built our country, sacrifices that included thinking beyond our own material gains.

It is time for us to replace the maxim that whoever has the most toys wins with whoever displays the most humanity wins.

It is time for us to reject trickle down economic theories and embrace one which puts the american worker's interests before those of the multi-national corporations.

It is time for us to cease the false glorification of the individual above community and recall the wagon trains of yesteryear where everyone moved forward together, succeeding or failing as a group.

It is time for us to memorialize those who died on 9/11/01 with more than just words, more than just hatred for the perpetrators of that horrible carnage, more than just the money above all attitude that permeates our culture.

It is time for us, each one of us, to display American exceptionalism, not as measured by economic gain or the bottom line but as measured by the teachings of the person whose name forms the basis of our belief that we are a Christian nation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day

I drove my son back to college this past Tuesday.  Another 13 hour round trip.  On the way home, I was struck by the beauty of middle Pennsylvania.  To my left and right were fields and farms as far as the eye could see.  Over my left shoulder, the sun was setting in a picturesque display of oranges and pinks.  And in front of me rose the blue ridge mountains.  As the commercial says; Priceless.  Let's hope our desire to tap the Marcellus Shale does not ruin this landscape for future generations.

Even though I delivered papers this morning, and extra papers at that as today was one of those "bonus" days where the weekend only subscribers get a paper as well, I still consider today as a day off.  But national holidays like Labor Day are not days off for many people.  My wife is working (her part time job) at our local pharmacy, a chain outlet.  Although only a 5 hour shift, she is still working just as our so many other people who work for chain pharmacies, as well as all the "traditional" retail outlets.  My daughter is just finishing her summer work at out local, community pool so she is working a 4 1/2 hour shift, despite the on and off again rain.  Also, I shopped at our local Giant which meant that all those folks were working today just as all those who work for supermarkets.  I passed our local WAWA and it was open; more people working on Labor Day.  Next to the grocery store, the Chinese food store, the Rita's water ice store, the local pizzeria, and the Subway were open.  Still more people working.  Yes, service industries are alive and well in America today. 

And yes, we are grateful as a family for not only the two jobs that I work but the two jobs that my wife works as well as the summer job my daughter secured this year.  And certainly, we are extremely happy that I am getting paid by my full time employer to not work on Labor Day as is my wife by her (newly acquired) full time employer.   We are in better shape that most households where little or no money is coming in and while we would have preferred to honor Labor Day by not working at all, we are not faced with home foreclosure, unattended to health issues or bankruptcy.

Still, I can't help wondering how so many middle class families came to this situation where Labor Day includes actual labor.  My parents certainly did not live a luxurious life nor did they want for life's basic necessities yet my recollection is that Labor Day featured a family gathering with assorted relatives and friends.  No one missed the backyard festivities for work. 

For those of you who are reading this and who in fact, did have today off and did enjoy time with family and friends, are you aware of the fact that you are becoming the exception rather than the norm?  Did you have to invite 20 people to get 10 to come to your party because so many worked today? 

Perhaps the problem is that in our 24/7 lifestyles, we expect "service" 24/7.  We expect the grocery store and the gas station and the local pizzeria to be open just in case we forgot something for our party or need gas for the work week or just didn't feel like cooking.  I happen to work for a service company that is closed today.   Both yesterday and Saturday, I was asked numerous times if we were open on Labor Day, and most of the time my No was greeted with a sigh or visible disappointment.  Only once did a customer say, good for you, enjoy the day off.  Have we reached a point where we take our "service" people for granted to such an extent that they have become less than people?  That we expect them to be there for us, even when we expect to have off on Labor Day.

One of the topics I have broached with my son, as well as in past blogs, is the concept of work as a source of personal satisfaction.   Do we even teach that to our children anymore? Do our schools/colleges?   If we are going to spend 40 hours a week times 50 weeks a year times 40 years (80000 hours) of our lives shouldn't we be doing something we enjoy most of the time?  Something that we can even feel proud about doing when our shifts are over?

"Everbody's working for the weekend" is a line from a well known rock song.  Perhaps if we were working for more than just the money we earn, we might be able to have our service needs supplied and still allow everyone to have celebrate Labor Day by not working.