Crappy Birthday

planet of the apes

Americans’ unhappy birthday: ‘Too much wrong right now’, by Pauline Arrillaga, AP via Yahoo! News.

. . . talk turns to the state of the Union, and the [Gilbert, Ariz., chapter of the Optimist Club] become decidedly bleak.

They use words such as “terrified,” “disgusted” and “scary” to describe what one calls “this mess” we Americans find ourselves in. Then comes the list of problems constituting the mess: a protracted war, $4-a-gallon gas, soaring food prices, uncertainty about jobs, an erratic stock market, a tougher housing market, and so on and so forth.

One member’s son is serving his second tour in Iraq. Another speaks of a daughter who’s lost her job in the mortgage industry and a son in construction whose salary was slashed. Still another mentions a friend who can barely afford gas.

Joanne Kontak, 60, an elementary school lunch aide inducted just this day as an Optimist, sums things up like this: “There’s just entirely too much wrong right now.”

Happy birthday, America? This year, we’re not so sure.

The nation’s psyche is battered and bruised, the sense of pessimism palpable. Young or old, Republican or Democrat, economically stable or struggling, Americans are questioning where they are and where they are going. And they wonder who or what might ride to their rescue.

These are more than mere gripes, but rather an expression of fears — concerns reflected not only in the many recent polls that show consumer confidence plummeting, personal happiness waning and more folks worrying that the country is headed in the wrong direction, but also in conversations happening all across the land.

“There are so many things you have to do to survive now,” says Larue Lawson of Forest Park, Ill. “It used to be just clothes on your back, food on the table and a roof over your head. Now, it’s everything.

“I wish it was just simpler.”

Lawson, mind you, is all of 16 years old.

Then there’s this from Sherry White in Orlando, Fla., who has a half-century in years and experience on the teenager:

“There is a sense of helplessness everywhere you look. It’s like you’re stuck in one spot, and you can’t do anything about it.”

I also direct you to the website of US Senator Bernie Sanders, who is documenting The Collapse of the Middle Class: Letters from Vermont and America.

What did you all do with your Fourth of July weekend? Did you travel somewhere, or did you have a staycation like I did? For the non-Americans in the house, was this just another Friday, Saturday and Sunday for you?

I leave you for today with this quote from one of my favorite movies (that one of my favorite people starred in!):

“Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”

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12 comments for “Crappy Birthday

  1. July 6, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    The rEvolution was more than just a tax revolt. The Colonies had paid taxes for well over a centruy without any protest. The problem was that the taxes were levied by the English Paliment without the approval of the Colonial Legislatures (Hence “no taxation without representation”). Also, since when did the Northern Colonial Tradesman who kicked off the revolution qualify as “aristocrats”?

  2. July 6, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    oh no. This is way too empty-glass, yo’.

  3. July 6, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I went skydiving.

    Someone asked me what the appeal of such a sport was and I replied that none of your problems on the ground matter up in the sky.

    Maybe that’s why I still feel optimistic.

  4. July 7, 2008 at 1:35 am

    My son shares his birthday with the US, and in Sydney this year, also the last day of the school term. I spent it with very excited children having a special, last day of school, hot lunch (school is too small for a canteen) and more very excited children at a 3rd birthday party. It was full of optimism and happiness with absolutely no regard for the reality of the state of the world.

  5. Kelsey Jarboe
    July 7, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Back in MY day Americans never feared anything! Nope, there was no red scare, or depression, or Civil War, or… Oh wait.

  6. July 7, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    I hung out a flag. My husband taught our son the Pledge of Allegiance (without the 50s era revisions). We watched fireworks (on TV since it was raining).
    Not because of where the US is now, but because of where it should be.

    Part of why I went to law school was because fundamentally I think that the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, is one of the most basically sound and inspirational documents in the world. It is a fabulous framework for a nation.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    It wasn’t a bad idea. The execution sure could have used some work.

  7. Marked Hoosier
    July 7, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    I love us. We strive to change for the better… it may be slow, but it happens. :D

  8. July 7, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    You! Are so sweet!

    (America, on the other hand, ain’t doing so well.)

  9. UnFit
    July 8, 2008 at 7:04 am

    For the non-Americans in the house, was this just another Friday, Saturday and Sunday for you?

    Absolutely, though I did get lots of away messages from all my American online buddies.

    On Friday, there was a huge party here, but that was simply due to the fact that it was the first friday of an odd numbered month. Still, I had a blast.

  10. stonebiscuit
    July 9, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I worked.

  11. Mr. J
    July 9, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Double post!

  12. Meghan
    July 9, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    I love that quote and that movie. I’m just saying. :P

    Also, we stay-catiion-ed too. My dad rented a room facing the fireworks display. There were fireworks all over the horizon… I was worried all the while about fires starting. *surrounded by smoke in California’s central valley*

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