Monday, July 18, 2011

The American Way-wardness of Baby Boomers: Bye-Bye American Pie

 Last night I went to a meeting of sorts.  I am a vocal and proud Democrat, typically.  But last night, I was more than that or, a great deal less.  More because I was ready to take a stand.  Less, well, read on.  The purpose of the meeting was to reinstate “The American Dream”.   I came out to support the efforts and become more vocal.  After introductions and purpose was set we broke into smaller groups. I would like to imagine that I joined the “wrong” group.  My group seemed to consist of one voice.  This voice did not represent all members because there was little interest in allowing for all voices to be heard.  Hopefully other groups were a bit more collaborative and considerate, or sadly this is what has become the very non-partisan “American Way”.   We bulldoze and stampede.  We have an idea and agenda and the loudest or most aggressive gets to determine what the rest of us want or need.  This occurs locally, nationally and globally.  The purpose of the meeting last night, however was to change all that.  Or all that is wrong in America today.  The purpose was to engage folk, down home sorts, grassroots style.  Question, collaborate and maybe even determine what we believe to be some necessary actions or future programs to help reinstate that good old American Dream.  I thought that was the purpose, that’s why I attended, I am one of these foolish hopeful types.  We don’t really belong in these political venues, us foolish hopeful types.

After we broke into smaller groups, our task was to rate the most important issues and/or solutions in the following categories:
·      How do we create good jobs and invest in a sustainable future for America and our kids?
·      How can we stop corporations and the rich from dodging taxes?
·      How do we ensure good healthcare, quality education, and a retirement
·      with dignity for all? 
·      How do we make sure the people call the shots—and no one gets left out?
These are all meaningful and important issues.  Somehow, we are missing some really important constituents in making these decisions and I can only hope that was just a shortfall of my meeting’s attendance.   The cross section of this group was upward of 45.  A few younger representatives were in the crowd, but I would love to see more, soon, fast.

Jerry Rubin is remembered for saying “Never trust anyone over 30”.  It has never been more pertinent than it is currently.  But I will be generous enough to change the age to 46.  That would be the cut-off for baby boomers and older generations.  Maybe trust is not the issue as much as being gravely concerned with permitting us 46 + to speak on behalf of younger generations, or to be the loudest voice, in shaping what is to come.  The majority of issues, as well as solutions, have a great deal to do with the agendas of this, my,  aging population.   Again, I hope this is relevant to the particular group I was sitting alongside of and not the overall experience, but I kind of think it is a bit more far reaching based upon the topics of this event, a growing consensus against worker’s rights, weakening support of education, outsourcing of American jobs, tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthiest few and the American corporations that are not employing Americans, corporate buy-outs, and the limited number of newly developed jobs in this nation over the past 30 years, give or take. 

The baby-boomers, a group I am somewhat ashamed, statistically, to be a part of, seem to be very adept at wanting the cake, eating it too, and wondering why anyone else thinks they should get a piece. Our parent's generation expect social security, but they don’t particularly want to pay the taxes needed to educate their grandchildren, and some truly can’t afford to.   We want skilled laborers to be available to repair our endless foray of gadgets and gizmos in our homes, McMansions,  weekend homes, and myriad of vehicles, but we long ago looked down upon vocational educational programs and maintaining a skilled labor force. We want safe drinking water in our faucets and recycling plants for our endless supply of plastic drinking bottles.  We want organic foods in our super stores but we don’t want our fruit to have any natural bumps or bruising.   We want some sort of clean and green energy, but we don’t want it in our backyards, we don’t want the wind turbines to hurt the birds or shadow our landscapes.  We don’t want the drilling to impact wild-life, we don’t want the oil that is owned by others to cause us to threaten or wage war, but what else are we to do, really? We don’t want to have to support such a large military, but how will we get that oil that we would prefer not to use?  We want or need or are accustomed to getting, having and keeping. Democrat, Republican, all. 

One item that bothered me a great deal on one of the rating sheets was to “End the War on the War on Drugs”.  Not because that particular war was never really supported with any real purpose or goal, but because I think we pulled the plug on that war a while back, and I thinke there are issues that are quite a bit more relevant to hone in on.  We want to end this war on the war on drugs, (according to the rating sheets and the consensus of my group), but we don’t particularly see the purpose of equal rights and equal pay (also on the rating sheet, but not considered very important).  Women’ s Rights to Health was not particularly  important either.  As a woman, and a mother, I think these issues are  extremely important.  In spite of the fact that my child bearing years are behind me, I am still  concerned about allowing, yes, allowing women equal rights, equal pay and even access to healthcare about our bodies.  Go figure.  But that’s me, hopeful and foolish. I guess if I had to do drugs  and it was legal, I wouldn’t worry about these silly little women things.  If we didn’t have to work so hard to get our currently illegal recreational drugs, we wouldn’t have to worry about those inequalities.  We could just numb ourselves in peace and maybe call it liberty.  Ok, a pot-shot for sure (enjoy the pun). 

I personally think it ridiculous that we spent as much money on the “just say no” campaigns.  The fact  that  we continue to fill our prisons with drug users and small time dealers is a bit over the top, while drug cartels yield big power.  We then refuse to offer rehabilitation programs that work after we imprison these silly little drug users.  In this way we can ensure that prison jobs are justified, I guess, but even prisons are getting closed.  We change and alter the criteria for possession and DWI’s and then we have to  pay fees to overturn the decisions and continue the cycle of abuse.  The American Dream may just be learning to put your money in the right coffers  to do whatever you want.  When I was growing up that was the concept called communism and I was lead to believe Russia and China were horrific for engaging in this corrupt system while pretending that everyone was equal.  OK I digress, a bit.  We are a wee bit idiotic about our dependency on drugs and alcohol and our way of managing this highly marketed money making dependency.   But I don't think this area is first and foremost in making radical change to a system that warrants immediate change.  Not even the top 3.

I don’t have all the answers, but I can say with great clarity, we, yes, us, baby boomers especially, are the very people that have embraced a style of living and being that was doomed from the start.  “The American Dream” to own a home, have a job that provided a living wage, and contribute to our own retirement has long ago gone amuck.  The American Dream once meant if you worked hard you got ahead.   You provided for your family and you appreciated this way of life.  When did we reconfigure that aspect of the American Dream?   We started to want a little more , and then that was no longer enough.  We tested the boundaries and pushed the limits. We needed 2 or 3 cars in the driveway.   We now express anger over the current state of foreign oil dependency.  It probably has nothing to do with wanting or “needing”  a surplus of fuel dependent Soccer Mom transportation vehicles that could enter combat zones with some assurance of safety and go to the grocery stores with style and ease.  We supersized and superimposed this lifestyle onto our children that want, need, must have more. Now that we must face the reality that we were not ever able to provide for this particular rendition, we want to be involved with creating the New American Dream by complaining about it and pointing fingers.

It seems as though we want the American Dream but we don’t want to have to pay for it. Or we feel like we paid enough and we are done.  We “can’t take it with us” so we may as well have it all now.   The generation before us find a little humor declaring “we are spending our children’s inheritance”  proudly on bumper stickers of their gas guzzling cars on the way to their winter homes and summer cottages. Here’s a newsflash: as you are spending that money, and demanding to collect pensions, social security and medicare, your grandchildren can’t  fund college or find jobs to begin working.  We forgot that the American Dream once meant, everyone had the opportunity to work hard and get ahead to own a small piece of the American pie.   We want a big piece.  We want it all and we didn’t think about what that might come to mean. 

We point our fingers at the corporations, and the politicians.   We forget that we have the power to enact change.  We need to stop pointing fingers and start joining our hands.   Ok, that was schmaltzy, but we do need to take responsibility and then really work together toward change.  It’s going to be painful.  But it will be a great deal worse for those that follow if we don’t start making some radical changes now. 

Years ago the NRA had a slogan: “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people”  It meant guns  were not responsible for murder, people were.  It was a twisted way to support NRA’s goals.  In the same way, Corporations are not destroying the American Dream, People are.  Corporate greed is directly connected to people.   People that run them, people that support them, people that benefit from the goods and services they supply.  We own these corporations that are doing so well.  We own them because we are the CEO’s of them and the employees of them.  We own them because we purchase the goods and materials that they supply.  We own them because we own the stocks and bonds that keep them operating.   We own them because we vote for the politicians that protect them and provide for them and hide the legally corrupt practices that help them not pay taxes, and help them not provide new jobs, and help them with unfair trade agreements.  We can change the way corporations function.  We can stop purchasing some of the unnecessary goods, even briefly, to send a strong message.  We can vote for politicians that are willing to work for us and we can not vote for them if they fall short.  We can’t accuse these corporations and politicians of rape and then get back in bed with them time and time again.   We can get into our own beds and dream big- American style, and fix these problems.  We are Americans, and that once meant something of great value.   If I recall, it was done by the people, for the people.   

Good Night. And pleasant dreams.

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