Thursday, February 26, 2009

All for One and One For All

I knew we were in trouble back in 1996 when the conservatives ridiculed Hillary Clinton for saying, "It takes a village to raise a child."

Bob Dole and other Republicans scoffed at the idea. Following the lead of their exulted leader Ronald Reagan, they downplayed the importance of our social bonds and suggested that only the rights and responsibilities of the individual mattered. Instead of community, they promoted self interest. Welfare mothers, social programs, who needs them? We needed rugged individualism, tax cuts and that frontier spirit.

It's been down hill ever since. With our focus fixed on individual need and individual greed, we've blithely careened along this collision course to ruin.

We must come to our senses and realize that we need each other. People do better living in groups. That's what makes civilization possible and and what makes it preferable to living alone. We band together because, when the night is long and cold, it's a great comfort to have friends huddling with you around the campfire.

Hillary's point when she evoked the proverb in her book and at her speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention was that we need to pool our resources and our strengths, to accomplish communally that which would be near impossible alone.

It's time to rediscover this spirit. Today, we must come together to get ourselves out of this massive economic ditch we've landed in. President Obama's economic stimulus and mortgage rescue plans are heading in that direction. You bail out your neighbor today in the hopes that your neighbor will be around to bail you out when you hit a rough patch tomorrow.

America has always managed this crazy balance that pits the needs of the group against the needs of the individual. As a country, we're strongest when we foster both.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nothing on My Hands But Time

Most mornings I lie in bed and try to convince myself there's a reason to get up. I trudge out of my bedroom dazed, blinking at the new day, wondering how in the world I got here.

If you've ever been unemployed, you know how scary and disorienting it can be. The activity that defined your life and gave you purpose has been ripped away and you must find something to fill the gap. You know you should remain motivated and positive. You know this small setback is really a great opportunity, a chance to move forward, to reach out and grab a brighter future with both hands--but you know, you just don't have the energy.

For the past six years, working at my former job, I've often wished I had more time to do the things I wanted--exercise, walk in the park, sit in a coffee shop and drink expensive coffee while watching other people with time on their hands do the things they want. Now that I have the time, I can't. I feel paralyzed. Numb.

I'm supposed to be job hunting, of course. But since there's a glut of folks in LA doing the same the thing, it's not easy. Thus far, the prospects haven't been great. I do what I can.

Meanwhile, I should take the time to smell the flowers and read the morning paper. Maybe I could take in a weekday matinee or browse a museum, or go down to the beach and look out at the ocean.

Maybe I'll sign up for an arts and crafts class. Then I could use the want ads to make an origami butterfly.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just Another Day in Obama's America

The unemployment roles are growing. The banks are failing. The economists are predicting dire consequences.

Down at the Capitol, the Republicans are lying and protecting their own interests, the Democrats are jockeying for position and the voters are sick of it all.

According to the Republicans, we can't afford to fix our schools, or pave our streets or shore up our bridges and dams. We can't afford to feed the hungry or care for the sick. We can, however, always afford more bombs. And more torture devices. (They must be cheap.) We can afford more tax cuts for the wealthy because that unsteady breed always seems to need more and more of our tender care.

The man responsible for fixing it all is being underestimated and second-guessed by cut-rate pundits and newscasters grasping at anything that resembles controversy, just to fill up dead air.

On the jobs front, Mr. Obama still has openings for a Commerce Secretary and a Health and Human Services Secretary, if you still haven't sent in your resume.