Friday, August 13, 2010

Random Ruminations

Hi Campers, welcome to Friday the 13th!

I haven’t been too excited lately about life in general. Combined with my apathy, is the oppressing heat that keeps us indoors, and you get a television watching couch potato.

I’m not sure what has come over me. My 65th birthday came and went, without too much hoopla, and we’ve had enough rain that the flowers, grass and trees in the yard are beautiful.

Strider (the wonder dog) has an internal medical problem that is somewhere in her skull and cannot be completely diagnosed. It has caused her left eye and the side of her face to look as if she had a stroke. Our vet recommended we ride it out and we will visit the vet every six weeks or so to have an exam. Strider will be eight this year.

Our church, The Chapel, is opening a McHenry campus, not too far from us and we will worship at the McHenry West High School on Sunday mornings. We’re excited about the start up even though we switch from Saturday night worship to Sunday. Deb and I will be involved in several things at first until we get more people and then we will be in training mode. We also have a terrific small group we like a lot.

I’m looking through the other end of the telescope now. Reversing the lens allows me to see the present as a result of the past, I guess.

Every president and most elected officials, it seems, are not only reviled in the media but they are under such intense scrutiny that I wonder how they govern or why they would want to serve. I think it becomes apparent that most of them survive by promising the electorate anything for a vote and so start running for re-election the day after they take office. We coerce them with the threat of block voting for someone else, and they rob Peter to pay Paul until we have our financial backs to the wall, and still we borrow money to keep Illinois afloat. Why would anyone delude themselves by thinking that our elected officials are any different than the constituency that elects them?

Illinois is TWENTY ONE BILLION in debt. And that’s not counting the enormous undervaluing of the state and local government pensions. How did we get that way?

They say that hoarding has become more common in the last few years. Two Chicago Tribune stories in the last month told of a couple found buried (dead) under mounds of stuff in their homes. In one case a hole was cut in the roof to extract someone who could not even touch the floor. Our savings are down, and our debt is up. Even taking away the massive amount of money lost of the home debacle, there is still trillions of dollars owed by Americans to satisfy the lack of financial discipline over the last forty years.

Was it the lure of easy money the last few years that led so many to live above their means? Did we think that a day of reckoning would never arrive? Is our live now, pay later, responsible for the rampant obesity and health woes? When the bills come due, and they always do, will we understand how we got there and be ashamed?

We have made America the champion of a disposable life style. We have moved from the bedrock that was American values to a mean spirited people who are more concerned about the latest technology than supporting good works with their time and money. And it’s not just stuff, but relationships, marriages and friendships that suffer, wither and die too.

We have no time for anyone anymore. We’re impatient with our spouse, our children and family. We are always in a hurry, afraid it seems to let time have its way with our lives. We resent the intrusions of life. The child who is ill, lonely, or sad, the neighbor who needs help or the poor people that are everywhere, never register on our radar screen because we are so self-absorbed. We have become the rich fool from the Bible.

And our anger. Where did that come from? Road rage, parents killing children, people on stabbing sprees, murder-suicides, it defines American culture today. Harsh words, escalating arguments, some settled with fists or guns, permeate our cities. People beaten with baseball bats, by strangers who didn’t know them. Mental derangement or uncontrolled anger? Hard to decide.

It may be that generations behind us will be different. They won’t care as much about stuff and power. The old guard politicians will make way for those who really want to govern, with equality, fairness, compassion and honesty. My bet is that the other 49 states will get there before our land of pay to play here in Illinois.

Or it may be that people will finely see that for every dollar spent by government, you and I have to pay taxes equal to that dollar and one more for the government worker for his wages, fringe benefits and retirement costs. We can only defer those costs so long before we collapse under the mound of debt.

I would be nice to un ring the bell, put the genie back in the bottle and go back in the past to when life was simpler, more predictable and maybe more fun. I don’t know what year that would work. Maybe 1955? 1925?

The only peace I seem to enjoy is reading a good book or taking a nap. Not much of a recipe for all our social ills, is it. So tonight I’ll curl up in my recliner and fire up the 52 inch big screen and watch the ball game or the PGA Championship. And I’ll wonder where the heroes of government are today. Do we have a John Adams or a Thomas Jefferson out there? Who would we compare to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln today? We need courageous leaders in Illinois who will root out corruption and waste and be accountable and transparent.

But perhaps most of all we need people to demand fairness and honesty and then have the courage to model that by paying their fair share of taxes and supporting efforts with time and money to help those who suffer most. We need more humble servants, we have enough leaders, it seems.

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