Tuesday, July 10, 2007


What happened to us? Melissa Etheridge asked that question at the Earth Aid concert the other day, in one of most thrilling musical moments I have ever heard.

What happened to us? Why do we live in a world where a family once made a living wage and is now reduced to penury, either unemployed or worried about jobs, struggling to keep the house from foreclosure? Some can't keep that from happening and the Foreclosure Sales are now being advertised by the real estate merchants, so some folks will get bargains at the expense of the misery of others. That doesn't matter any more, it's every man for himself, every dog scrambling for the bone.

What happened to us? Why do we try to make a simple phone call and, after an hour of hanging on the phone, grappling with computerized voices, we are connected to a foreigner with an accent so thick it is difficult to conduct your business? Why are many of our doctors so inept with the English language that a conversation about the pain in your side or your head or your gut is like working through an episode of Sesame Street? Why are these jobs not open to Americans, who need the work and can speak the language? Is it worth a few dollars to employers to throw our country away?

What happened to us? We have a president so obdurate that he claims victory in defeat, demands the right to invade our privacy, trample on civil rights and ignore the law, while peddling fear as though it is a necessary commodity to survive? Presidents of great vision and foresight, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt said to us at a time of great chaos...."We have nothing to fear but fear itself!"

George W. Bush says, "Fear! Terrorism! Fear! We are winning! Fear! Mission accomplished! Fear! Global War on Terror! Fear!"

He has used fear as a useful tool in starting a war, continuing a war, and stubbornly refusing to end a war, even though the mock government of Iraq is so corrupt they wouldn't know democracy from a lemon pudding and refuse to settle their differences. As for the Iraq Army, with its refusal to understand the training we have paid dearly to give them, they just don't show up for a battle they have no interest in fighting. I guess, if you look at it closely, they are much smarter than we are.

What happened to us? The streets of Detroit once ran with blood as men fought for the right to have decent working hours, employers unable to pry into their private lives, good wages and paid vacations. Today, the unions are busted. Where are the unions? Where are the fierce fighters who battled for their jobs and their places in life, who fought for their families and for what was right? Have we outsourced them, too?

What happened to us? We once could afford to send our children off to college. We knew they could get an education and we knew that those who weren't scholars could learn a trade and end up with decent lives as good citizens. Today, a college education is out of reach for most families, unless they are wealthy, and there are few jobs for those that cannot afford college. College students are graduating with debts piled upon them like donkeys laden with heavy burdens, debts they have to struggle to repay, our best and our brightest owing hundreds of thousands of dollars before they get their first jobs.

What happened to us? We were always a decent people, a moral people, people that respected good behavior. Today, we have kids beating the Homeless until they are a bloody pulp, ignorant people refusing to give Gays the right to be equal simply because of a line or two in the Bible that speaks against homosexuality, the same Bible that says it is okay to sell your daughter into slavery and stone a woman for adultery. Because a small group of radically religious started bleating loudly about Christ disappearing from Christmas, of all the idiotic ideas; because this group made us descend into primitive, barbaric behavior, torturing prisoners, holding them forever in cells, we acquiecsed.....it's mindboggling. Should we each of us pick up the jawbone of an ass and go out to slaughter? Should we behead our enemies after we torture them?

Well, they say, look at the way the jihadists treat us? They kidnap people, torture and kill them, behead them. Why shouldn't we do the same?

Why? Because we're Americans. Because we are light years ahead of these imbeciles, and you can't regress, you must progress. You can't say..."my daughter was raped, so that gives me the right to rape!" It's illogical thinking, at best, and insane behavior, at the worst.

What happened us? Melissa, I don't know. You said it was because we started to believe there was a difference between people....a difference between the rich and the poor, the Black and the White, woman and men, homosexual or heterosexual. For a while there, we all had someone to feel we were better than.

But it didn't last. As the war drags on and the conditions here at home deteriorate, we are learning. Don't listen to some rich man without a clue as to what it means to really work for a living, with a view of common people that is like a king looking askance at the peasantry. Never again should we listen to a rich man with no compassion for anything but corporate wealth, nor should we believe that God supports such a man.

What happened to us? I don't know, but I hope it isn't too late to return to normalcy. I hope it isn't too late to shove fear into the back closet, show a little courage, and secure this country from foreigners pouring over its borders. I hope it isn't too late to close those doors somewhat to China and India and Mexico and give our people the jobs, or let the corporate bosses sell their wares elsewhere.

What happened to us? Whatever it was, we share the blame, you and me. We have to work together to insist upon change. A bright and prosperous America would be the worst defeat the jihadists could suffer. An indebted, jobless, and troubled America is just the victory they seek.