Monday, March 03, 2008

On a stump, ranting about something or another...

I count myself fortunate to have a profession which reminds me daily how blessed I am. I think it is human nature to take certain things for granted and were it not for my job, I'd stand guilty of that very sin. But I often reflect on what life would be like if I were dealt someone else's hand. I pray that I never lose that empathetic ability. It makes me good at what I do and it makes me thankful for what I have. Bad stuff happens, and not just on Television.

Everyday, working middle class Americans go about their daily grinds oblivious to life outside of their bubbles. With bills piled on the kitchen table, we peer over our cups of morning joe and bat nary an eye at the sadness that blankets our world. How is it we've become so jaded? I work in an average middle sized population on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Its a "destination" for many. People actually come here to relax and vacation. It's beautiful here. For others, its not so much a destination so much as just a place where they've landed. Economic woes are painfully evident here. Wages are low and unemployment is high. This is the Southland. Social services are sucked up by 4th and 5th generation recipients of government handouts as fast as they can be conjured.

We still have "Dixiecrats" here, though they are increasingly rare. Those "Southern Democrats" are people with conservative values wrapped up in a liberal social spending package. God fearing men in overalls with calloused hands and sore backs. No, I'm not a "Southern Democrat", but despite our differences in fiscal and economic philosophies, I respect the hell out of them. Honest folks with a home they worked hard to get and work harder to keep. Kids with fresh haircuts and bibles with creases in the spine. People who say "yes ma'am" and "thank you" as a matter of course. A bounty on the table at the expense of a name brand label on their jeans or a car that was built in the past two decades. Priorities that fall neatly in order with what is important in life. Does that guy deserve a break? Yeah, probably. Is it my responsibility to ensure that he gets it? No, I don't believe it is, but I'll bitch a heck of a lot less at the prospect of dropping money in his pockets than in the pockets of the new recipients of social services that have supplanted him.

He's being systematically replaced by people whose kids go without while they drive Lexus' and Cadillacs with rims and stereo systems that cost more than my whole car. Wearing expensive name brand clothes, women with new elaborate purple and red hairdo's, gold and platinum jewelry and ridiculous manicures swipe EBT cards at the register then shuttle their truant kids back to their poverty stricken, crime ridden government subsidized housing. Dysfunctional violent households in dilapidated trailers give shelter to those who would ignore a help wanted sign in favor of cooking methamphetamine. Priorities entirely out of whack and no intent to get better.

Meanwhile, Obama runs for the highest office in the land on a campaign of magnanimous generalities describing "new hope" and "change"... empty promises of prosperity with no specific plan and no pocketbook to pay for it. Hilary peddles her socialized medicine package to a roaring crowd of hapless sheep who actually believe that she can pluck them from their plights by giving them something for nothing. Modern day "Robin Hoods", they take from the "haves" and give indiscriminately to the "have nots". Seemingly striving to increase the "crush factor" of social equality while tearing apart any notion of the "American Dream", and like freewill busting juggernauts they remain bent on providing for people instead of teaching them how to provide for themselves and more importantly, holding them accountable for the responsibility of doing so. I think that's really where we miss the boat as a society. We can have all of the subsidies and handouts our imaginations can fathom to try to ease the pain of the downtrodden but unless people are held accountable for what they do with the opportunities afforded them, we will continue to see one generation begetting to another a sense of "entitlement" for those handouts.

I'm thankful for what I have. I'm thankful that my parents instilled in me a sense of pride in a days work. I've hoed some hard rows. There have been days in my past when I honestly didn't know how I would pay for my next meal. But God has provided for my family and I and not a day goes by that I don't value the comforts we've accrued. I remember those days as a young adult when I didn't have a nickel to my name fantasizing about how great it would be to just press the fast forward button to a day when I could just go to work and come home, pay my bills and live my life. I'd imagine having a famly, a house and a car, food on the table and gas in the tank... a normal life. Now that I have those things, I've come to realize that my "American Dream" exists on a sliding scale. The more I have, the more I want. I struggle against the tide to go from financial equilibrium to financial independence. That is my natural tendency. To be farsighted. To lose the present in the haze of the future.

But by a firm hand, God has given me a flush valve for all of those selfish tendencies because just as soon as I lose sight of all that is important to me, along comes my job everyday to remind me that I AM living the American Dream. That's what it's all about... the struggle. Reaping the benefits of my own labor. Knowing that nothing is certain, my successes are all the more satisfying having earned them myself. I am not rich nor is it likely that I will ever be. I am not meant to be. I wouldn't be very good at it. I wouldn't be a better man for it. This I know of myself. So it is with a generous portion of humility that I have learned to be happy with what I have. Slightly more than a meager existence, we have some of the things that we want, but we have all of the things that we need. So, what's so wrong with that? I may have to plan and budget for every dollar I spend but I'll not soon complain about it, not so long as I am fortunate enough to work in Public Safety and be confronted daily with the stark reality that life is so very short yet so very sweet. It gives me pause. And pause is all I need reflect on what I have. So chew your food slowly so as to savor the flavor. Take the scenic route home every now and again and hug your kids every chance you get. Take a look around your house and love the junk you've accumulated. It's yours. Smile and be happy with today because today is all you have. Tomorrow might not come. I see sadness everyday, and I am a happier man for it.