Sunday, October 26, 2014

The land of the Free and the Brave, now the Land of the Fearful


If FDR was correct and “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” then America is truly in deep shit. Since 9-11 (and perhaps well before), we have embraced every petty fear and made it our own, rather than wade in and change what needs to be changed. What the hell has become of the nation we were so recently in our proud history? The evidence is overwhelming.


60 million American families are a health event or job loss away from bankruptcy. Those with good jobs are scared to death their employer will be merged with another company and either moved or closed down. Kids just out of college owe more Student loans than America’s total credit-card debt and auto loans combined. Ebola is going to kill us all. Terrorists are everywhere and not a day seems to go by without a school-shooting or police over-reaction. Our national government is all but shut down and we can’t even talk among ourselves about it because we’re polarized into silence. It’s a news-cycle where Jon Stewart and Fox News exist to satisfy both wild-eyed sides of the uproar, but Game 3 of the World Series is all but off the horizon.

We Tweet and Game and Facebook rather than get together with the neighbors, mostly because life is too intense to discuss face-to-face. Does anyone play cards anymore or go out with one’s spouse to a quiet dinner and then drive the babysitter home?

We’re in the midst of a new era and its name isn’t the Internet or Knowledge-based Society, it’s Deep Shit.

If global warming doesn’t drive us off the face of the earth, Bank of America® will. Just last week I saw a YouTube presentation by a major American CEO, urging his employees to ‘write to their congressmen’ about the state of the national debt. He’s alarmed. Well, aren’t we all?

This dude was a member of the Bowles-Simpson Commission put together by the President Obama to shake us by the neck and pound some common-sense into the nation. Congress was unable to quiet their bickering long enough to do something about it themselves—which is their duty under the Constitution. Anyway, it shook him up, as well it should have, but ‘write their congressmen?’ I simmered as I watched this Norman Rockwellian approach to what was a sort of corporate town-hall meeting.

Here he was, appealing to his employees (who are all terrified of losing their jobs) to contact their Senators and Representatives. If he actually wanted to do something, he’d have sat down with other CEOs and demanded they call Congress. They’re the ones paying for their votes, we only get a momentary shot at them every two or four years and it doesn’t matter who we choose, Democrats and Republicans are both owned by business. Jimmy Stewart (as Mr. Smith) no longer goes to Washington and hasn’t since 1939.

But it’s still all theater, folks—a vision of a once great country, captured, bound and gagged by FDR’s fear itself. Even the CEO who played the Norman Rockwell role is afraid—of his stockholders, his golf handicap, his quarterly earnings and the day when we all come for him with pitchforks, as this TED Talk suggests.