Saturday, April 25, 2009

American Truth

I heard this story about a women whose husband died on the day she was supposed to pay her utility bill. She had to make funeral arrangments so she paid the bill the next day, one day late. When her credit card company heard about this outrageous irresponsibility they raised her rate from ten to thirty percent. My friend Rochelle called me last week crying. Her credit card bill was lost in the mail. Her rate was raised to twenty-nine percent. These are not isolated stories.

This is what's going on today in a country that supposedly espouses Christian values, especially from corporate America and the banking industry whose executives extol the virtues of truth in lending, whatever that means. Obama talked to the credit card companies yesterday to tell them to be a little more reasonable in their actions. "Unbelievable," was the reaction of CNBC analysts. How could Obama interfere in the free market system. This was a direct threat to the American way of life. Capitalism was under attack. Are you serious?

There is one thing about America that will not change. There is one thing about America that is the essence of our culture and that no matter how much rhetoric there is to the countrary we do not have to be concerned about. America has been, is, and will be a nation of wheeler dealers, entrepreneurs, and free spirits whose primary focus is to make a buck and spend two on whatever the latest fad or gadget might be.

No matter what you read on the internet or hear on TV the American people give lip service to ideas, dogmas, or belief systems. What we believe in is whatever is to our financial advantage in the moment. There is no way Americans will become suicide bombers or fly planes into buildings, or fast for long periods to protest unfair practices. We may have theoretical conversations about higher ideals, or write books, or even produce moving documentaries and movies that support saving our environment and feeding the poor and homeless. But at the bottom line, these are all money making ventures.

Whenever I hear Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity harangue us about the deterioration of America and the growing threat to our freedom I think about going to Burger King for a Whopper or maybe McDonalds for a Big Mac. Or maybe I should watch Bret Michaels Rock of Love, or reruns of LA Law or any one of hundreds of other choices always available to me. Or should I play chess on the internet, or watch the latest porno e-mail sent to me by my sixty-six year old conservative friend ? How about taking a walk on the beach or a ride in my car? No one is telling me what to do or what to think.

America is a great place to live. There are definitely flaws and room for improvement. But the critics on the left and on the right can't be taken too seriously. They are allowed to express their ideas and make money from disagreeing with whatever they find bothersome to them in the moment. In my opinion, they are entertainers, for the most part. who have found a shtick and are capitalizing on it. That's fine. Let's not get carried away though, unless we want to and find it pleasurable, with any of the glib talkers who have all the answers and are totally sure that their point of view is not only right but sacred. I'm really not worried about it though. I have to decide whether to watch the Sixers or the Phillies tonight after I determine whether I should call in for Italian or Chinese. When that changes then I will become concerned. But I don't see it happening.

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