Monday, July 4, 2016

The Rusting of the Red, White and Blue

                                                                                                                                                                 Today is the 240th birthday of the United States of America. I wanted to write something about that. I thought and thought and slowly a vision entered my mind.
I saw a brand-new, spiffy sedan sitting in a driveway. It was the Fifties, and the driveway sat in front of a cookie-cutter, small ranch house in the heart of America. The car was red and blue with white-wall tires, well-loved colors across the land. The Big War was over, G.I.s had returned home, after fighting to preserve freedom from those who would steal it. Everyone, well almost everyone, was happy; the future was bright; things were good. We older folks were much younger, healthier, better looking, and we had our lives before us. The car stood shining in the sunlight, proud, positive, hopeful for the future.
Then came the Sixties. There were many disruptions in the Sixties, riots, bombings, an unpopular war, drugs became the rage. This was the advent of the Age of Wackoism., the likes of Jane Fonda, Black Panthers and SDS. The Sixties were a raucous time. I enjoyed the Sixties for the wide-openness, the freedom; there seemed to be fewer inhibitions and acceptance of differences was high. Haight-Asbury was a bummer, though. Too many really bad druggies. (Sometimes I wonder if any of these putzes ever recovered.) The radicals were turning the country on its ear. The grill of the car sagged on one end as it showed its concern for the future. As the Sixties ended, it looked around, shuddered just a bit  But all seemed well, only the red, white and blue paint was starting to fade.
The Seventies brought protests against the Viet Nam War, American soldiers decried as baby killers, corruption in the White House, the resignation of a president. Young people stupidly shouted the virtues of Lenin and Mao, as if they really knew what they were shouting about. Anything other than what we had was good (exactly the liberal agenda of today). I rejected all this crap. I had read enough history to know that whatever was wrong with the country (if anything was truly wrong or we were dealing with a bunch of mongrels having a hissy fit.)  I decided to just go on about my business – got married, went to school, started a family. Watching politicians for a good chuckle became a hobby. But, silently, the car wept. Here were people using the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution in order to destroy it. The car looked up and saw storm clouds mounting. A quick check told it things weren’t good in the land; an evil force was showing its ugly head. The upholstery was starting to tear and there was a ping in the engine.
Then the Eighties swept into history. A president entered office with the right antidote to remedy the dreadful mess left behind by the previous administration, i.e., the Misery Index. The Misery Index was a way to keep track of how bad the economy was doing: Add together interest rates and the unemployment rate = Misery Index.. Ronaldus Magmus (Reagan) lowered taxes and the economy rebounded splendidly – there were several years of 6, 7 percent growth. Jobs opened up, people went to work, paid their bills, spent money and life, again, was good. The car looked around from the driveway and felt good about the U.S.A. The principles the country was built on were working, as they always did when the politicians left things alone. The car thumbed a headlight at the Maoists and the other pinkos. The tires were nearly bare, but there was tread for the long run. Yet an ominous underbelly was becoming more evident as the Eighties wended away. Rust spots were showing and the chrome was peeling away.
When we entered the Nineties it was evident to some that the country was securely in the hands of those who would do it harm. Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, raised taxes after promising for months, “Read my lips, no new taxes!” He was bounced in the next election, but his successor, Bill Clinton, strutted his way into the White House and found more ways to embarrass the office than there are provisions in the tax code. Mr. Embarrassing, nonetheless, oversaw a tremendous economic upsurge during the Nineties, which he will gladly take credit for, but happened in spite of him. Nothing, not even his huge tax increase in ’93, could put a damper on the burgeoning computer age. The glitz and glitter of the dotcom era did much to cloak the disastrous financial turmoil just ahead. Most of us did not see this coming, as we foolishly took our eyes off the rats in Washington and allowed them to lie, cheat and steal the country into a later recession. The car, now very worried, shuddered uncontrollably. The bumpers and doors were falling off now, the grill hanging dangerously near the ground. Someone had kicked out the headlights.
Enter the new century. We had a new president, and hopes were high. But anyone expecting a resurgence of the American spirit and the can-do way of life that forged a great America, would be disappointed. Nine-eleven would change our world forever.  During the next decade the country would rot from within. It became very evident the worse thieves in the country wore three-piece suits and called themselves “investment” bankers and who contrived to bury the country in debt. Most of us could only sit by and watch as the stewards of the republic destroyed our way of life. We would scratch our heads and blubber, but we have no power, except at the ballet box. The next election would show that was definitely not the answer. As the first decade of the 2000s bumped into the next, we knew we had a big problem in Washington – worse than anytime before. The car crumpled further, slowly sinking to its axles, all its tires blew, while it wondered  how far away the junkyard could be. The paint was gone now, the upholstery all done, bumpers and grill had fallen off long ago. The windshield was cracked, so its vision became blurred, the ping in the engine was a loud knock.

It had been a mostly downward run since the Big War, and America’s car was barely running. It had been falling apart for a quite some time. But it had weathered the storm the best it could – then this last bunch ripped off the hubcaps.

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