Sunday, April 20, 2014

Good Morning Jessicca...

Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 20 April

Sunset Boulevard

Good Morning Jessicca…

Can it ever be argued one day that we have too much freedom, too much personal autonomy and that liberty and the pursuit of happiness has led to self-indulgence and a ruinous sense of entitlement?  It is an argument that is made by some now but not likely from someone trying to hold a family together on irregular work and minimum wage.  Who, then, is it that sees this nation as being one of individuals corrupted by wealth and whose vision of freedom no longer includes the responsibility of citizenship?  It sounds like a caricature of us made by someone on the outside of our national boundaries looking in.  We are the ever acquiring Yankee, manipulative, pushy – always seeking a new advantage under the soft empire of globalization.  If words and money won’t do then there’s always the military:  with actions in Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Sudan, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan; all since the end of the Cold War.

Of course, much of our almost continuous conflict of the past several years is the result of 9/11.  Al-Qaida and Osama bin-Laden needed to be destroyed.  Saddam Hussein was not to be trusted.  Iraq was a preemptive war.  Our initial military incursion went off with nary a hitch.  Unfortunately the Iraqi people didn’t follow the script we had for them.  Matters took an ugly turn.  Chaos erupted and casualties mounted.  With Iraq emasculated there wasn’t much left to check the growing influence of Iran in the region.  Troubles mounted.  Wars have a way of dislodging the foul detritus of unintended consequences. 

The good news is that only volunteers and their families were adversely affected by years of fighting overseas.  These people represented only a tiny portion of America.  Meanwhile the rest of us went on a spending spree.  The best way to thumb our nose at terrorists was to demonstrate the robust nature of our economy.  Taxes were cut as we decided to defer the cost of the war to some vague point further down the road.  Our purchasing power made for a marvelous time.  Jobs were plentiful.  New financing plans made it possible for most anyone to become a homeowner.  Home prices soared in response to overwhelming demand but that’s not a problem.  Forget the principle as you could now make payments solely on the interest you owed.  It didn't seem wise but if banks approved it then it must be OK.  Besides we were all enjoying ourselves so who’s to notice the drowned fly in the punchbowl. 

There were other little nagging indicators the party wasn’t quit what it claimed to be.  The easy availability of credit cards enabled us to spend beyond our wages and, if your debt got out of hand, you could always bail yourself out with a loan based on the soaring equity of your home.  Forget buying stocks on Wall Street.  What better return on your money was there than owning a home?  New car, new home, big screen TV and dinners out with the family at least twice a week – life is good.  We were all busy giving ourselves high-fives when, suddenly, the lights went out.  The Grinch pulled the plug and panic set in.  The national glut turned out to be just another Ponzi scheme that came due.  The emperor truly does have no clothes and we are in over our heads, simply losers after all.

Life has its ups and downs, even on a national level.  We dig out from the rubble and tend to our bruises.  Hopefully we’ve learned something from it all.  What that is we’re not exactly sure.  Democracy has many voices talking at once.  It’s hard to discern a clear message but what I’m getting is something to do with individual freedom tempered by responsibility and one’s compact with society includes recognition that personal success always requires the participation of many others.


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