This year the American people have more than ever to be grateful for. While this might sound contradictory to a lot of us in the face of this economy, we have been given another chance. How often does that happen? Think about it.
Let's talk turkey. We have been the most spoiled brat consumerist country in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for decades on end. The process accelerated under the Clinton Administration with the internet bubble and the passage of the first so-called "free trade agreements," and then blasted into outer space by the totally criminal Cheney-Bush war machine. Some of the experts are now saying the whole world economy was based on United States consumerism. No matter what the scientists told us about global climate changes threatening the lives of our own children we continued to buy stuff, bottled water, electronics, SUVs, houses, dinners out with ever increasing size of food portions. Nothing seemed to have any force of waking us up from our American Dream, the corrupted version, now available on DVD. We really must acknowledge the problem to begin recovering.
After the disastrous consequences of 9-11 and various Gulf Coast hurricanes we started yapping on and on, angrily blaming all our problems on the Muslim world, as if they could have done anything to have saved us from our hunger for more-- more oil, more bottled water, more corn syrup in our food and drink, more chain restaurants, more travel, more sex toys, more revealing clothing, more swimming pools and luxury homes, not to mention weapons, guns, bombs and the games that replicate them. Things were as they "should be," USA on top of the world, playing king of the hill, a dangerous and delusional game that could not but result in our eventual tumble down the hill alongside our friend jill, the EU.
Finally the inevitable happened and for the first time since our founding we have had to take a thoroughly good look at ourselves in the mirror of destiny. We haven't even begun to see our own image through that frosted up glass. And we may well remain in this fog until reality sets in. That is how delusional thinking works. "No, this can't be true, we are the wealthiest country on the planet, and nothing will ever change that." China chuckles, Russia outright laughs. And Higher Power, if it Be, raps us hard on our knuckles just for starters.
A lot of us, including me, have likened what we are now experiencing as analogous to the Great Depression. But it isn't. Yes, that fall was precipitated by a Gilded Age, a generous dose of materialistic obsession, as well as political corruption. But the real story today has more to do with the bottom line of natural resources. We have gobbled resources up like rats in a grain elevator who have a genetic metabolic disorder. It hasn't mattered to us how much we have or how little some others are living on-- we have still needed desperately to continue to eat, eat, eat, gobble, gobble.
Now, about those turkeys, and I don't mean the ones that are now leaving office. The turkey was the bird that Benjamin Franklin would have chosen for our national symbol instead of the bald eagle. He was, of course, talking about wild turkeys, the kind that I used to have in my rural front and back yards when I once lived in a little cottage up a gravel lane. They were close to extinction by mid twentieth century, with an estimated count of 300,000 birds nation wide.
The Eastern wild turkey is indigenous to Missouri and also a feed into our current state economy. Unlike eagles that soar in the sky these gloriously feathered creatures keep to the limbs of trees for safety, mostly living close to the earth where they consume insects, select grains and nuts. Every spring and fall these birds, related to quail, pheasant and grouse, reinstate themselves as a success story in the history of conservation in our state, bringing hunters out to rural areas to bag themselves a meal. Because of our first rate conservation efforts Missouri can now afford the hunting of over ten thousands of these creatures each year.
Where I was living in the late 80s, in Iron County, the turkeys were probably attracted to the pond on the roadside end of the property, a watering hole inhabited by peeper frogs and surrounded by tall grass and wildflowers. My undisciplined dog had alerted me to their presence by barking at them at night After that I noticed them more often as I traveled the countryside on home visits. They fly in small groups, gathering in flocks in some fields, and once I happened across a pile of feathers left behind by some hungry coyote.
The local people knew when hunting season began and when it ended so they could choose when they themselves would hunt. "Those city folks are going to be out here this weekend like flies on dead roadkill," they would say on the last days of the shotgun season. It was the most likely weekend for hunting injuries to show up in the ER and the worst two days for putting yourself in harm's way. Same with deer season. But it brought money in, which was important of course. Money is important to all of us, each in our own way. Some of us who are used to living more humbly are also more likely to survive the ups and downs because we have developed survival skills along our paths which we never forget.
Others ride individual private jets to Washington, D.C., to beg for a bailout loan. They expect their workers to keep them fat, even when some of us "lower" beings are starving. Here they are now, wearing their depleted money bags like millstones around their collars, having taken a workforce down with their lack of vision, not having planned ahead or faced the facts about the consumption of domestic and foreign oil that they have been selling to us for decades. We should help them out of this fix? Whatever for? So they can build factories in other countries for lower wage workers?
Instead we need to direct our attention to the workers, the people who create the wealth by their own sweat. We need to extend unemployment compensation, place some safe guards on IRAs and retirement funds, create a system of health care that treats everyone equally and covers all of us. We need infrastructure repair jobs created in every large city. We need mortgage assistance for the people who are in danger of losing their homes. And we will have to shore up the conservation efforts everywhere, planting neighborhood gardens, eating food that is within a two hour drive of where we live, and cutting back on the fertilizers that are creating dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico by farm runoff. We are going to have to start using some of the knowledge we have gained about renewable energy and energy conservation. If we want to remain a viable species in the web of life we will have to steward the planet in a more conservative and responsible way. This will be an exhilarating, wondrous experience as each community begins thinking and acting locally instead of just monetarily.
Globalization is necessary in the realm of human rights but not in the corporate world. The World Bank has not regulated global trade, it has facilitated escalation of exploitation by companies we know as "American," but what have they really become? Truly American corporations will need to be regulated with an eye to benefiting GDP, not CEOs. Capitalism is not in and of itself evil, but the motives behind it often become so.
Do we need any of these fat cats, who have been selling financial products that are essentially empty folders of bad debt? NO! Send them straight to prison. Empty some prison beds for them by creating recovery services for drug users and dealers that include training to work in self motivating neighborhood gardens, cooperatives, local theaters, shops, restaurants, and renewable or passive energy manufacturing. Make small business loans available in downtrodden urban neighborhoods instead of accelerating big business on the interstate edge of suburbia. We need to call a lobbyist what s/he is, a prostitute for corporate bigwigs, and make the job title "lobbyist" represent a felony crime. The johns in Congress need reforming as well as antibiotic shots into their every "but, but, but. . . ."
We are going to have to return to our roots as a community based democracy which is based on an assumption of sharing and responsibility for each other, a naturally occurring hierarchy of cooperation that is inherent in all primates. In the spirit of Thanksgiving perhaps we can remember that the living local model for American democracy was taught to us by the indigenous population of people whom the pilgrims met, and who were later to be exploited by the immigrant European concept of take, take, and take some more.
The reality is that we will have to accomplish this goal of community if we want to survive on a planet that our dear nation has been robbing blind. The word "corporation" in no way actually implies rights recognized by the Constitution. In fact the word has been expanded in meaning from a collection of like minded investors in business together so that it has taken on a connotation of corruption, imperialism, exploitation and downright evil. Money can only be a false idol to a social parasite.
Sometimes I feel kind of sorry for the Ayn Rand fans and other upper one per cent of the top ten percent of our population that control most of the world's wealth. They are so addicted to a way of life that feeds them more, more, more, that they have lost their sanity. If you dropped them off at a house trailer out on old Highway V they wouldn't have the foggiest notion what a turkey looks like or how to hunt for one.
Chances are the one they might spot would be in their own mirror, which is now beginning to defrost. And this is a good sign for the resurgence of true democracy, which has been handed back to the people after a recent significant election.
Just don't let yourselves down, folks. You are going to have some real work ahead of you. Vigilance is ever so. Change is welcome but never easy.