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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Great American Funk

Conquest, War, Famine, Death
I think we've all been in a Very Bad Mood for a Very Long Time.

It's been at least 10 years. Maybe a little more.

There are, no doubt, lots of reasons for this. Blame it on post-9/11, the recession, the two immoral wars, unemployment, the debt, the cost of having the first Black man in the White House, the Tea Party . . . . whatever.

I submit that all of these things are symptoms of the real cause which I'm calling "The Great American Funk".

It's not exactly a depression. It's more of a "funk" - a kind of deflated mood caused by a cultural miasma or "bad air." From my perspective, it's an aftereffect of the fear-mongering we have endured which has caused a lingering pollution of our national environment - including the cancerous nature of our political discourse.

Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rove, two of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice being the other two) galloped through the country spreading wars and rumors of wars and whispers of weapons of mass destruction.

I'm convinced that all this, plus the rhetoric of "The Evil Axis of Power" was designed to keep the citizenry in panic-mode.

Indeed, I am convinced that it is the Cheney-Rove ideology which gave birth to the Tea Party Movement which continues their fear mongering agenda.

Fear and panic are critically important political tools which helps to keep in power those who wish to stay in power.

It has ever been thus.

If you don't believe me, just watch how happily American citizens allow TSA agents to rifle through their luggage at airports and how easily we comply with full body scans and how we sit by and watch the profiling of people with dark or swarthy skin and endure other compromises to our civil liberties - like telephone and email surveillance - which were brought about by The Patriot Act.

By the way, if you didn't know this, the official title is the US PATRIOT ACT which stands for "Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001".

Welcome to 1984, Big Brother.

So, now that Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are dead, and we know that there never were any "weapons of mass destruction", but we've spent over 3 Trillion dollars on "Homeland Security" and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 is behind us, is it any wonder that Americans are in a funk?

We've looked into the face of the Enemy and seen our own reflection. Indeed, we've become our own worst enemy, complete with domestic terrorists that we have elected to political office.

The President has wisely urged us to call on "the people we hired" (whether we voted for them or not) in Congress to focus on creating jobs for people to get back to work.


He said,
"But know this: the next election is fourteen months away. And the people who sent us here – the people who hired us to work for them – they don’t have the luxury of waiting fourteen months. Some of them are living week to week; paycheck to paycheck; even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.
His administration has fashioned The American Job Act a four-point plan which seeks to provide tax cuts to help America’s small businesses hire and grow, put workers back on the job while rebuilding and modernizing America, create pathways back to work for Americans looking for jobs, and, provide tax relief for every American worker and family.

I know. Pretty lofty plan. I would submit that lofty plans are exactly what we need right now. Some goal to reach for. Something to make us stretch. Something to shake off the American Funk we've been in for the last decade.

The President ended his speech with these words:
These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let’s meet the moment. Let’s get to work, and show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.
Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother, March, 1936
It's bad out there but it's been worse. The Great Depression was probably the worst for this nation and the world. It took a long time to turn it around, but we did it by following a similar plan.

Two great dams - the Bonneville and Grand Coulee - were built in the 1930s and 40s which brought electricity to rural areas that were not served by existing utilities. The economy of the Pacific Northwest was strengthened as manufacturing opportunities grew.

During this same period, the Nave, the West Front, the Baptistry, and part of the North Transept of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC were completed. Construction on the National Cathedral in DC also continued, and, as the website says, "offer(ed) jobs to men who might otherwise have been on the government line for food".

Indeed, during The Great Depression, St. Peter's Church in Morristown literally pushed out the stone walls of the church to create a sacristy and skilled wood carvers were also given employment, incorporating marvelous carvings out of the wood beams.

Social Security was also developed during this time - based, believe it or not, on the pension plan for Episcopal Clergy - as well as federal regulations for the banking industry. 

Imagine! And, that was during a full-blown, world-wide depression. According to economists, the recession has already ended. (I don't think even God understands what economists say.)

I grew up hearing my father talk about working in CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and on WPA (Works Progress Administration) projects. He said that the money wasn't great but it did provide some income so people didn't have to stand in soup lines.

More importantly, he said, it restored his sense of self-worth and gave him pride in his country because the work he was doing was not only helping the economy, it was doing something to help America.

I think that's a very important point. You've got to shake off the American Funk before you can turn the recession around and prevent us from going into a depression.

That takes money. The thing I know about money is that you've got to spend it to get it.

More importantly, it takes energy.

Here's the thing about energy: In order to get it, you've got to spend it.

I don't know how that works. I only know that it does.

When my pup Theo asks to go out in the early evening after a long day, the last thing I want to do is take a long walk. I'd rather fix some supper, have a glass of wine, and collapse in my chair with a good book or even watch a rerun of "Masterpiece Theater".

The thing of it is that the more I focus on how tired I am, the less I'm inclined to do the things I need and want to do.

However, if I take Theo for a long walk, I come back into the house and discover that I have energy to fix my supper, and, while it's cooking... oh, look!... there are some clothes to fold and ... gee, why didn't I see that the bathroom really needs to be tidied up a bit and . . . well, lookie here, I've left shoes scattered all over the bedroom, might as well put them away and organize them better in my closet.

And then, I'll eat my supper and have a glass of wine which tastes ever-so-much better because I'm savoring my accomplishments as well.

So, we have a choice. We can continue to wallow in the American Funk we've been in or we can get up on our feet and begin to call on "the people we hired" to work together to get America back to work.

There will be great resistance to the American Job Act. Make no mistake. Even as we speak - or, more accurately, even as the President was speaking - you could see the wheels turning behind the beady little eyes in the middle of Cantor and Boehner's heads.

This is the time for "we the people" to turn to the Party of No and "just say no". No more partisan politics. No more thinly veiled racist ideology masquerading as "The Grand Old Party".

It's time for us to remind Democrats that you don't negotiate with bullies or terrorists. This is government "by the people" but it is also "FOR the people." Let's not let them forget that.

We are the ones we have been waiting for and it's time we got to work getting the "people we hired" to create jobs so that we can all get back to work rebuilding this country.

So, roll up your sleeves and start working the phones and emails and tweets and fax machines and writing old fashioned letters to Congress - Republican and Democrat. As Mr. Obama said, send the message by carrier pigeon, if necessary.

We got through 9/11 and what some have called "Anniversary Fatigue".

Let's put the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse back into the barn.

The time has come and now is to end The Great American Funk.

Watch the President's Speech here and then tell him "I'm in."

As Howard Thurman once said, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go and do that, because what this world needs is people who have come alive."


it's margaret said...

And, "the glory of God is the human being fully alive." (Ireneaus)


I'm in.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thought about adding that. Glad you did, Margaret. Also: Illegitimi non carborundum ("Don't let the bastards get you down".)

Brent Clarke said...

WOW! Where to begin. First, so much for a new tone of civility asked for by the President. Good people doing an incredibly difficult job under extraordinary circumstances are the four horsemen? Really? Oh, and the tea party is not a reaction to a half black president. Nobody except the left wing Janeane Garafolo part of the Democratic party believes that. The Tea party is a reaction against an overweaning, overbearing, wildy intrusive government that seeks to micromanage American citizens lives, pick winners and losers, and above all increase its power at the expense of the citizenry and the constitution, which by the way, is not a "living document" it is the template and rule book by wich a contitutional republic is meant to function.

Second. The provisions of the Patriot Act were already in force and had been for years. They were put in place to fight organized crime. Maybe we should have just ket Guido and his friends have a pass, as well as Mohammed and his friends, as well as those who would aid and abet them.

Third. Every security agency IN THE WORLD believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. (MI5, MI6, CIA, Mossad, Surete)We could ask the thousands Kurds he gassed for verification. Oops, can't, their dead.

Best estimates from is 1.9 trillion on both wars, and the Homeland security agency.

When I look into the face of the enemy, I see some nut job named Mohamed screaming Alahu Akbar as he detonates himself. Not all Muslims are terrorists, it just seems that almost all terrorists are Muslims.

Fourth. American Jobs Act? Really? This is what, the third or fourth Jobs act provided by the President? It contains the same tired, not going to work stuff he had in the other three or four or whatever. I am a business man, own my own small business. I need to be able to plan three years down the road. Me and millions of others like me have zero confidence that we are not going to be retaxed, or have yet more nonsensical regulations foisted on us. We aren't going to hire more people, or expand until we do.

The President is right, these are difficult times. The two dams you mentioned however could NEVER BE BUILT TODAY. Environmental regulations and lawsuits would keep them on the drwing board for decades, just all the nuclear power plants that can't be built, or the refineries that can' be expanded, or the hundreds of other "shovel ready" projects that are mired in federal red tape.

Fifth. Social Security is BANKRUPT. IT was designed that way. By the way, the best analysis of the policies initiated by the Roosevelt administation concludes that they lengthened the depression by six years. Europe rebounded far faster than the U.S.

Sixth. The Republican party is the party of NO? They are bullies. Let me quote the President. "We won". Ramming through a multi trillion dollar bill that will fundamentally alter the health care delivery system on a strict party line vote is bi partisan. Not even having a final vote, but "deeming something as passed" is bi partisan. Locking Republican out of discussions on that bill nad not allowing any amendments is bi-partisan? How many more examples doe you need? Republican are "bullies and terrorist" if they stick by their principles. Once again, so much for a new tone.
"we are the ones we have been waiting for" is so silly , vain, and narcissistic it doesn't even bear commenting on.
The Presidents latest copy of his jobs bill relies in large part on removing tax deductions for wealthy contribution to charities. I sure hope all those food pantries, homeless shelters, jobs traingn programs, et. al. can make it on a wing and a prayer, because if they are looking for money, its gonna be pretty rough sledding. THe "Jobs Program" while no doubt well intentioned, in a Keynesian, dictate behavior sort of way is still subject to the laws of unintended consequences. The consequence is going to be a HUGE reduction in charitable giving.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Brent, I'm not going to argue with you at length, point by point. We're just going to have to agree to disagree. But, let me say this:

There are some smart, reasonable people on the left who believe the deep racism of the Tea Party - we believe it because we see it. It's as plain as the nose in the middle of Mr. Obama's face. It's the driving ideology of the movement. Your remarks hover around that racism.

The Patriot Act undoubtedly restricted the freedoms of ALL Americans, but bumped up the racial profiling that had already been in place to a ridiculous level in the name of "homeland security". The term "homeland" and its allusion to what happened in the 40s still sends shivers up and down my spine.

Well, we now know that there WERE no WMD. It was a lie perpetrated to keep us all in terror. Obviously, you've drunk the Kool-Aid.

When I look into the face of the enemy I see some nut job named Dick Chenney. And, lots of faces of people who identify themselves as "Tea Baggers".

Let me just end by saying that the attitude that those two Dams could not be built today is precisely why this country is in the shape it's in. It's the negative attitude that we "Can't" that's destroying the "Can Do" spirit that has brought America to be the greatest nation in the world.

As I said, we're going to have to agree to disagree, but I appreciate your willingness to put your opinions and perspectives on this blog, of all places, in such a clear way, even if we disagree so fundamentally.

Please note, Brent, this is not an invitation for you to comment further. I'm not going to convince you and you're not going to convince me. Let's just leave it there, shall we?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Important article that really sums it up for me: Republicanism as Religion by Andrew Sullivan:

susankay said...

Just two comments on tax deductions for charitable contributions: They already exist and have for some time. (In one really weird year, we even got "caught" by that and didn't feel anything except grateful that we could give so much)

The less well to do (even the poor) give a higher percentage of their income to charities -- especially their churches and they seldom benefit from tax deductions.

I doubt that early Christians got tax deductions from the Romans for taking care of widows and orphans.

Just sayin (to quote Margaret)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Susankay. I appreciate your contribution - sorry, though. No tax break for it. ;~)

susankay said...

And I should have said LIMITED tax deductions for charitable contibutions.

Hutch said...

My own dear Dad was in the CCCs and often commented on what he learned there. Used that to go on to the Army and then go on to a civilian job managing a trucking firm. Talked about the number of young men who learned a job that would pay a decent wage and also a high school diploma. I have often thought we could use such a program now - paying the person as well as the community (a good deal of the paycheck was sent home by the CCCs to "mom" to make sure the family and the community benefited). Personally, I found President Obama's speech exciting and hopeful - let's get moving on re-becoming America.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Susankay - I assumed that's what you meant.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hutch, My dad went from CCC into the Army. We would not have been able to afford the home my parents bought had it not been for the Veteran's benefits he received which included breaks on property tax. And, he would not have had the job he had if it had not been for the skills he acquired at the CCC and the Army. There's a lot to be said about those programs.

I think Obama's took his mojo out for repair and it's working just fine now.

JCF said...


In the immortal words of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "You're entitled to your own opinions. You're not entitled to your own facts."

PLEASE turn off FOX, and get some actual facts for a change?

["The Tea party is a reaction against an overweaning, overbearing, wildy intrusive government": What's that, the North Korean Tea Party? O_o]

IT said...

Brent rather makes the point, doesn't he?

Let's take just one point, and think of a few recent terrorists:

Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bombing)
Eric Robert Rudolph (Atlanta Olympics bombing)
Anders Breivik (Oslo bombing and shooting)
the Hutaree Militia ("Christian Patriot" movement planning anti government attacks)
the Army of God (violent anti-abortion group assassinates abortion providers)
the IRA (committed terrorist acts in Ireland and Britain for years)

It took me about 5 minutes to come up with those.

Terrorism knows no religious boundaries.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, IT and JCF, for your response to Brent. It won't convince him at all (facts never do), but this is still America and he's certainly entitled to his opinions. That is, of course, unless 'Republicanism' becomes the national state religion.

it's margaret said...

Illegitimi non carborundum.

My new motto. Thanks Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I love it too, Margaret

MarkBrunson said...

You write as if Brent Clarke and his sort were capable of reasoning - he's a "small businessman" he says, so he's only capable of seeing his own profit. He is unconcerned with the society HE DEPENDS ON to keep that money coming in.

Bet you anything he'll tell you how much HE did by HIS OWN hard work. Phooey. When he goes and lives on his own, he can complain about taxes - makes his own food, builds his own roads, buys and produces his own goods/services, and generates his own future.

Until then, people like Brent Clarke are nothing but sickening, adolescent, spoiled crybabies. First to complain if someone else benefits from government, first to panic if those services are withdrawn. Look at the complaint that the government seeks to pick "winners and losers" - the classic example of someone who has nothing to offer and so it must be everybody else's fault!

It would be funny, if such people were not allowed to vote.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Matt. Your comment is spot on in my estimation. Brent won't care, however. Arrogance is the fuel that drives these folk. His mind is already made up - don't confuse him with facts.