Below – back again in the USA for a couple weeks. This is the airport bus.
I am back in the U.S. on my last R&R. I can easily see that my country that is prosperous, peaceful, clean and full of opportunity – and very green in Virginia. Yet all I hear on the news is how tough everything is. Maybe all those whiners should check out some other places. You really have to wonder about the points of reference.
My point of reference is the 1970s, when I started to pay attention to things like jobs, the economy and the environment. Then like now, I was very concerned about the environment; it was a lot worse back then. Lest we forget, Lake Eire was declared dead and you couldn’t safely breathe the air in major cities. Many people seem unaware of the improvements and perhaps most think the opposite, but the environment is indeed better. So is the economy. In my economic courses back in college, I learned that unemployment of around 5% was “full employment” and almost impossible to sustain. I remember the stagflations and unemployment rates of 10%+. Of course, when I was apt to whine, my father would point to his youth during the 1930s. Now I hear that unemployment of around 5% compared to the Great Depression and economic growth of only 1% is called a recession. What great times we live in when such trouble we have is cause for gnashing of teeth.
It doesn’t get very much better than this in terms of opportunity, despite what politicians are promising. Maybe that is precisely the problem – it doesn’t get much better. Let me give a individual analogy. Alex has been working out for a year so that he can now toss around hundreds of pounds w/o much effort. He is worried re “plateauing”. It is a little sad to reach a goal, but at some point you are about as good as you can get. Society is not the same as an individual person. Experienced people understand that general conditions do improve – over time – and it is indeed possible for them to improve their own circumstances with hard work, patience and a little luck. But some aggregate measures will never get much better. It is not possible for unemployment to drop much below 5%. Some “problems” are merely tautologies. Half of all Americans will always earn less than the median wage, for example. And the weather is always bad someplace. If you look for reasons to be depressed you can find – or make – them, but why would you do that?
What I take a bit personally is the rotten information being generally believed about Iraq. I could sum it up like this, “Let’s call our victory a defeat because it was harder than we thought.” There are movies and TV programs about Iraq, none of them show our troops in a good light. An episode of ER was on my flight’s entertainment center. It featured a crazy, drug addicted and mistreated vet. It turned out that he had gone nuts because he had seen so many Iraqis abused. What kind of crap is that? I saw a variation of that on “Law & Order” a couple of months ago. We have to call attention to this. Some people in the media seem to be working up the same type of slander they pulled on the Vietnam vets, only this time they pretend to care about them as victims.
The true story of our success in Iraq would be more interesting. We have heroes. It is not even very hard to find them if you try.
Our troops are not victims and they certainly are not perpetrators. They are doing their duty in a difficult environment and doing it well. For most, their time in Iraq gives them valuable insights and makes them better citizens. It is a hard thing to do. Doing the hard things reveals character.
I blame the politically correct culture for these problems. We essentially have to downgrade heroism and bravery so that we don’t imply those not exhibiting these traits are not as good. We let people revel in victimhood. In fact, it is legally enforceable. Somebody claims victim status and it becomes legally hazardous to give him/her a hard time – even when they have it coming. Who knows how the lawsuit will go with a credible (if deceptive) victim? It certainly is considered bad manners to tell the truth and it is politically dicey.
When Phil Graham made his whiner comments, the whiners came out in force and whined that they were being called whiners. Of course, politicians distanced themselves from this and listed the many reasons why whining was appropriate.
Is this the way it is going to be? I don’t think so. Most of the Americans I meet are still self reliant. Most of us still take care of ourselves; we pay our mortgages on time; 95% of our workers have jobs and they dutifully go to them. We grumble about how things are (grumbling is not the same as whining), but we understand that OUR efforts will improve our situations. But many of us have the impression that we are part of a small and dwindling minority that practices these virtues. We do indeed look like a nation of whiners, not because most Americans are whining, but because the whiners dominate the debate and everybody is afraid to say anything, sort of like the bystanders in the “Emperor’s New Clothes” story.
We all have to make choices and we never can get everything we want. This is probably a good thing, but no matter whether we like it or not, it is just how things are. It is nobody’s fault. I understand that I run the risk of becoming a curmudgeon, but I just don’t see the crisis the media tells me about. We face challenges – as always – which we will overcome and meanwhile life is not bad. It is just not perfect. If you find yourself is a perfect world, check your pulse.
Who of us would want to live permanently in a different time or a different place? We live in a great country and it is a great time in history to be here. To pretend otherwise is dishonest and to believe otherwise is silly.
Above are Mariza & Chrissy at Mariza’s new place in Baltimore.