Saturday, May 25, 2013

What A Country!

It's all too easy.  You watch the nightly news and read any of the national papers and you begin to wonder if we aren't on the decline, after all.

We've seen tragedies like the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut.  We've seen peoples' lives literally washed away in Superstorm Sandy, and blown apart in Moore, Oklahoma and West, Texas.

We've seen how inadequate the aid has been, and how slow in coming.  We see dozens of families still homeless in New York, months after help was promised in the aftermath of Sandy.

Unemployment remains high, and a historic percentage of Americans have been out of work for more than a year.  People are losing their jobs.  They are losing their homes.  They are losing hope.

Many have tried to put their faith in the government coming to the rescue and providing relief, yet we've been inundated lately with reports of scandals involving government malfeasance:  Lies and potential cover ups over the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.  Reports of the IRS illegally targeting conservative and Tea Party groups applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status for additional and intrusive examination, while giving liberal-leaning organizations a relative "rubber stamp" of approval.  There's also information coming to light that the Department of Justice was using it's power to "go after" FoxNews, as an organization, and Fox's Washington Chief correspondent personally, claiming he was a "co-conspirator", as well as a "flight risk(?!)" in order to get a judge to approve the order to allow them access to phone records and emails.  This same DoJ also illegally subpoenaed 2 months of phone records of the Associated Press, without either gaining the approval of a court (required by law) or notifying the AP of the search and seizure (also required by law).  Private individuals have come forward, testifying in Congressional hearings that they were targeted by government for scrutiny and financial audits by reason of their political activism and/or criticism of the President.

Does this sound like a government "of, by, and for the people"?  A government that has as it's primary obligation the preservation of individual rights and liberty?  A government that you can have faith in?  When you add in the continuing attacks on our Constitutional rights (1st Amendment, 2nd Amendment, 10th Amendment, etc.)?  Not from where I sit.  From my point of view, the future is looking pretty dim.

Then I got my optimism renewed in (of all places) a Family Dollar (tm) store.  I had stopped in to get my mother a couple packages of her favorite (oatmeal raisin) cookies.  As I was standing in the checkout line, I couldn't help but notice the array of products avail; all for a dollar!  Bic lighters, decks of cards, ball point pens, digital calculators, toys for the kids, the list seemed virtually endless.  Later in the trip I had reason to visit another bargain, dollar-type store.  In this particular store were more than affordable prices on everything from $5 Polo shits and shorts, to name brand household appliances for as little as $35-40, to imported room and woven area rugs.  Goods that would have been beyond the reach of many middle-class families a couple of generations ago are being sold at prices that would have been inconceivable at the time of their introduction, allowing even the poorest  to achieve a luxurious standard of living beyond even that of the richest of people 100 years ago.

It's even more amazing when you stop to consider the genius required to provide this bounty.  For example, the technology that goes into the creation of even a simple digital calculator is worth much, much more than $1.  A "cheap" set of plastic plates, cups and servingware?  Someone had to invent the method of turning oil into plastic, someone had to conceive of the possibility of plastic dishes and create the technology that makes them.  How much brain power?  How much time & effort?  How much trial and error?  How much money invested?  Certainly more than $1's worth.

The now ubiquitous cell phone?  You can now hold in the palm of your hand computer technology far beyond even that which powered the space race and landed man on the moon, and gives you access to all of the knowledge of the world with the press of a finger; a luxury truly beyond price even 50 years ago.

During the span of time that all of these advances were being made, we've gone through two World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, multiple conflicts in the Middle East, the Great Depression, the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl, the oil embargo of the 70's followed by the recession in the early 80's, political protests and violent riots in the 60's, the dot-com bubble in the early 2000's, the financial collapse and the housing bubble; we've seen the near collapse of "invulnerable" industries such as GM and Chrysler, we've had a President resign under a cloud of scandal (sound familiar?), we've had the S&L bailout, the Congressional page scandal, the House Post Office scandal (Congressmen could, and did, use the Post Office as a bank, kiting checks and never remedying the overdraft, but never called to account).  In short, we've never had a significant span of time in the entire history of our country without some sort of crisis, scandal, and financial hardship.

If we as a country can make the strides we have, in spite of all the chaos we've gone through in the past, there's no reason to give up hope now.  We may even go on to reach even greater heights of individual and national achievement.  Looking back at what we've been able to achieve in a relatively short span of time (historically), what a country!


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