It rained all week in Northern New Jersey. The entire Passaic watershed is saturated and as it drains the Great Falls roars with the swelling volume of racing water as the river makes its way to its ultimate release into the Atlantic. Its a good metaphor for the surging rebirth of Paterson as a revitalized center of commerce and culture.
Long a typical neglected northeastern industrial city in decline, Paterson is experiencing a vibrant transitioning and repurposing of it’s heritage as a manufacturing center thanks in part to The Art Factory.
The Art Factory is an incubator encouraging the formation and growth of the creative arts industry. Tourism and cultural enterprises that attract tourists are critical economic drivers necessary for the rebirth of Paterson. The Art Factory’s offering of working space for artists and commercial enterprises is a critical initiative seeking to build on The Great Falls Historic District’s recent National Park designation that anchors the city’s hopes for a long awaited revitalization.
The Art Factory is busy renovating the once dilapidated Dolphin Jute factory space and filling it with the creative energies of up and coming professional artists looking for commercial acceptance of their art.
Memorial Day weekend, The Art Factory’s Art Walk showcased a torrent of local artistic talent. The volume of exhibits compliments the range and scope of quality art that met and exceeded the expectations of the many patrons and enthusiasts eagerly exploring a labyrinth of cavernous exhibition rooms located throughout the century old industrial complex.
Indeed half the fun of The Art Walk is making your way through the multiple floors of exhibition space. The thrill of walking stairwells and darkened brick laden passageways opening into old shop floors flooded with art, bathed in the light of industrial windows framing cityscapes of surrounding street life, wooded hills of Garret Mountain and historic skyline of Paterson. Or descend into the bowels of the old factory’s basement storage areas carved out of granite bedrock bleeding water, showcasing multimedia sculptures divined from the subterranean strata of broken bricks, steel scrap, rubbish bins, wooden pallets, cardboard packaging, dexterous hands and fluid imagination.
One of the great pleasures of The Art Walk is experiencing how the art interacts with industrial space. A virtue of The Art Factory is its mission to repurpose dormant manufacturing space and refill it with the creative energy of artists. A great portion of the art on exhibit in The Art Walk addressed the idea of repurposing, industrial stasis and the human and ecological cost of industrialization.
The idea of repurposing industrial artifacts and disposable waste to portray the human cost of rampant consumerism was intelligently portrayed by conceptual artist Aleksandr Razin and his bold installation Jurassic Park.
Comprised of 4 extensive installations filling a large basement space; The Mosquito, (68’x 20’ x 12’); The Paterson Butterfly (51’x54’x12’), The Grasshopper (35’x45’x13’) and The Fly (54’x55’x20’); Jurassic Park was fully constructed from materials culled from the excessive waste of our throw away consumer society. Each installation appears as though its belongs in the dank basement of an industrial complex.
One piece, The Caterpillar, is a boxed construction of corrugated cardboard enclosing an inner lighted workplace of benches, machines, tools and cabinets. One can look inside the caterpillar through windows or enter the piece from an hidden doorway. From the outside the cardboard construction looks like its about to collapse from flimsy construction materials. A caterpillar suggests transition but once inside the caterpillar I imagine a shift of workers trapped in a dangerous workplace at risk of imminent collapse. Certainly a timely observation given the recent catastrophic collapse of a Bangladesh textile factory killing over 1,000 workers manufacturing high end clothing for some of the leading western fashion brands.
The Mosquito installation was equally unsettling. Inside The Mosquito we find outdated school rooms. We can only surmise how school systems are challenged by obsolete teaching methods and institutional distress. Are schools like a mosquito, sucking the life blood out of society’s young minds? To paraphrase the artist statement, Mr. Razin asserts, the size of the installation suggest extinct dinosaurs and that out of control consumerism and toxic waste is threatening life on earth.”
Another large subterranean installation offers a complex tube structure of air blown inflated denim. A haunting soundtrack of industrial sounds echoes through the room; as sparse lighting casts long shadows of the piece and patrons onto walls of bedrock and weathered brick. The patron assumes the role of a consumer who becomes complicit enablers trapped in the denim web of global trade built on the exploitation of third world textile workers.
Jonah The Prophet and The Gates of Hell completed a trinity of subterranean social commentary installations. Jonah, a suspended wire piece portrays a figure devoured by a fish. The room’s floor was covered in broken brick. Scattered cubicle panels lined the walls. Here in the lowest level of The Art Factory we have been consumed, entrapped in the prison of industrial monotony.
The upper floors of the show mostly featured portraiture, photography and small sculptures. An installation on Industrialism portrayed the hard edges of industrial capitalism. An oil painting, Made In China sympathetically portrays a child attached to a sewing machine. Its a striking depiction of western consumerism complicity in enabling child labor.
With the exception of the basement installations, for the most part politics and social commentary was absent from the Art Walk. The pieces were clearly positioned for sale; and as I said earlier the quality and subject matter of paintings make this art highly marketable. Refreshments, bands and a wedding added an air of festive lightness to the day and set a consumer friendly atmosphere to The Art Walk.
And that’s how it should be. Though I couldn’t discern any major artistic breakthroughs, commercial development and the art of capitalism is the star of this show. Bravo The Art Factory and The Paterson Art Walk. The journey back from economic doldrums has begun in Paterson and The Art Factory and The Art Walk is a big first step in that journey.
Music Selection: Fats Domino, I’m Walkin
risk: urban renewal, small business, tourism, culture
Is Sarah Palin the friendly and ever so lovely face of a new American Peronism? Is her resignation from office as Governor of Alaska the first step and necessary precondition of her coronation as titular head and leader of a new political party? Does it signal her desire to lead a movement that embraces the growing number of disaffected middle class Americans perplexed about their plunging standard of living and growing obsessively angered with insolvent and impotent government institutions inability to arrest the decline?
Everyday the institutions of government and constitutional law are being delegitimized by raucous Tea Partyers, abortion doctor assassins, family focus fanatics and political miscreants waving birth certificates screaming that they want their country back. We wrote about this back in October. Please allow me to quote from our McCain’s Know Nothings post of 10/11/08.
“Sarah Palin’s masterful use of the rhetoric of division and suspicion “who is Barack Obama?” has stoked the ugly side of America’s political angst. The lipstick wearing attack dog has done her job well. She has skillfully tapped into voter sentiment that is frightened about their economic security, fed up with the self serving lies of our political leaders and furious about their powerlessness to exercise control to stop the radical changes occurring in their lives. The stasis of Bush Republicanism is being washed away in a tsunami of world events that is accelerating the pace of change and cultural transformation. Palin promises to change our inability to arrest the changes that are overwhelming Americans. Sarah’s minions just want it to stop. They want it to go away. They want it to stay the way things always were. America is on top. God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. They will accept nothing less then our full entitlement to the birthright of our American Exceptionalism; and unlike Easu we will not sell it or be tricked out of it by a fast talking Jacob that goes by the name of Barack.”
Sarah, “the barracuda” has a whole mythology springing up about her even as her pronouncements concerning vigilant hockey momdom (daughters teen pregnancy), pit bull fighter to the end (resignation as governor), irascible maverick (support of bridge to nowhere), impeccable governance ethics (improper use of state government funds) all paint a very different portrait of the super girl from Alaska. Her identity as the all American girl, who worked, rose and battled an establishment with nothing more then moxie and good old values has captured the hearts, support and imaginations of “real American’s” willing to fight against those seeking to undermine the values and ideals of our uniquely God blessed land.
Palin’s timely resignation stole the limelight from the Michael Jackson funereal spectacle; a nonstop orgy of media affectation that refused to let MJ’s troubled soul depart in peace. Sarah’s announcement was a perfect foil and counterpoint to the ghoulish parade. Sarah’s photo op complete with overall fishing waders offered conclusive proof of how the still Governor of Alaska was working hard serving the needs of her constituents as her abandoned term of office was coming to a close. Sarah’s image of pulling in the nets bursting with sockeye could not have provided a more dramatic contrast to seeing MJ’s body bag being offloaded from a helicopter and placed into a ambulance for a trip to the Los Angeles morgue. It confirmed for her followers that Sarah’s way is filled with truth, light and a great catch as she stood beaming at the center of attention of a country obsessed with celebrity and a media that affirms their personal ethos du jour.
One of the reasons cited by Sarah for her resignation was that she was constantly under attack by the establishment. Sarah’s victimhood elicits empathy and a deep sense of identification from her countrymen. Middle America’s sense of victimization is quickly becoming its defining pathos. Home foreclosures, job losses, bankruptcies, community instability and spiraling taxes are combustible issues ripping apart the social fabric of America’s middle class. The crushing pain is being expressed in a growing chorus of cries that Sarah’s political antenna is accurately attuned to. In turn, Sarah’s minions understand and validate her victimization that they believe she will overcome and triumph if she remains true to real American values. Persecuted Christians exhausted from the prolonged war on Christmas feel her pain. Family value proponents that yearn for a constitutional amendment to define marriage so as to exclude civil rights for the LGBT community are down with Sarah. Uber patriots who are convinced that terrorist lurk in the quiet shadows just off Main Street remain willing to cede their civil rights. They also express a solid conviction to prosecute endless global wars as the only means to eradicate the terror threat staunchly stand with Sarah. Real American’s who live in a geography of anywhere USA that is not urban; or resides in an existential state of multicultural exclusion support Sarah. Those who are terrified by the hard edges of modernity and the difficult manageability of our complex society are arming themselves to the teeth to protect themselves from its ghostly specter take a cue from gun toting Sarah. And as Sarah’s supporters scream “drill baby drill” as a rallying cry to defend an expiring mode of life based upon the insatiable and unsustainable consumption of natural resources requiring the imperial projection of power and environmental degradation mindlessly shout “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah”.
Sarah, our self styled, self proclaimed maverick. American’s steep themselves in the mythology of the outside gunslinger taking on established power elites to effect change. But I sense an alarming correlation that is closer to Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” then Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. Individualism counts and boldness wins out in the end in Sarah’s political morality fairy tale. But I see little in the actual trajectory of her career or her political pronouncements that suggest that she is an unconventional politician willing to lay it on the line to take principled stand against the power elite. Sarah’s principled stances are driven by political opportunism rather then courage.
Yes, Sarah is a perfect victim. White, hockey mom from the rural region. Liberal elite city slickers hate her for who she is. But as Sean Hannity is fond of saying, “let you hearts not be troubled” because as the world continues to hate America for it’s values Sarah remains on watch. She is a sentinel of our arsenal of democracy protecting the common folk, Joe six packers and wannabe plumbers. This woman who rose to heights in this male dominated world got great legs, sports a nice dew and is quick with a wink and a smile. She has seduced America and as national dissatisfaction grows with governmental institutions unable to address economic malaise and cultural deterioration, nationalistic sentiment and Sarah’s popularity will rise. Unlike our current President, Sarah is American to the bone. Palin’s physical place of birth may have been Idaho; but her resignation as governor may have born her again as a new political force to be reckoned with.
You Tube Music Video: Madonna, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina
Risk: politics, Peronism
The wisdom resonating from this voice that now belongs to the ages still begs his countrymen to heed it. Lincoln’s admonition that his countrymen must disenthrall themselves to meet the momentous challenges of the time continues to speak to the dire condition of our nation today. Lincoln asks us to let go of our intransigence and the tired dogmas that we cling too. In a world rife with uncertainty and risk, surrounding us in a whirling maelstrom of existential dread, emotional responses to pressing problems born from fear of a perceived pending doom is insufficient and dangerous. We must mount a constructive response of considered actions to safely land our ship of state in a safe harbor. It is our pathway to becoming whole once again.
The great national hero Captain Sully was successful because he refused to succumb to the quickly deteriorating conditions that were enveloping him and the plane. He disenthralled himself from the emotional distraction of pending doom. He kept the wings level, his nose up and maintained the right speed. Captain Sully landed the plane in the most trying circumstances and became an example of how we must respond get through our national crisis.
Our politicians in Washington can learn much by heeding Mr. Lincoln’s words and studying Captain Sully’s actions. Our elected officials are enthralled with the righteousness of their ideals; contributing to a dreary deadlock of legislative stasis and partisan intractability. Politicians got to get over themselves and begin to serve their largest constituency and not their largest contributors.
Large corporations need to become disenthralled of their self perceived cleverness. Many believe that major investments in applied intelligence create a culture of insularity that hedges all risks and protects every business move. This allows corporate executives to hide behind a wall of opaqueness. They buy the best and brightest minds from our esteemed business schools convinced that this treasure of intellectual capital will protect them. They believe the digital blips of risk models to be sparkling Rosetta Stones containing the secrets that unlock the mysteries of effective risk management. The codified results of these algorithmic exercises are revered as holy Dead Sea Scrolls that offers the protection of an supernatural mojo. This is the thinking of a bankrupt brain trust.
As citizens of the worlds greatest military power we must disenthrall ourselves from the conviction that the powers of our armies, superior technologies and well stocked arsenals is our country’s surest way to protect our beloved country. The power of an enlightened citizenry educated in a vibrant public school system is the bulwark of a democratic republic and its surest defense. Our enlightenment will be a lamp to those who value liberty; as will our practice to extend the hand of peace to all nations through considered diplomacy and an honest search for shared interests.
As a people we must disenthrall ourselves from the petty preoccupations, dogmas and prejudices that consume our time and attention. I believe too many of my countrymen are more impassioned about A Rods admission of steroid use then they are about the substances that control and dictate our behaviors and beliefs and the ever present and growing dangers to our democratic way of life.
We’ll end with the words from the great man himself.
Happy birthday President Lincoln.
“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
You Tube Video: George Harrison, Beware of Darkness
Risk: fear, discernment, action
The weather report called for a mix of sun and clouds.
The forecast read, partly sunny, partly cloudy, rain would change to sleet and snow. The temperature would rise to just below zero; a new all time high, as I lay sleeping, dreaming of electric jazz.
A purest said, “that ain’t jazz” as I wrestled him for the last copy of “Get Up With It” in a dilapidated record store. (This is the same guy from my baseball dreams. He hates the designated hitter.)
“This fusion is just the bastard child of rock & roll; a mere reaction to heavy electric guitars and synthetic synthesizers,” he shouts as I rip the record from his hands.
“This synthesis is more then just three cords strummed in a Capitol Records executives head,” I said. “This bitches brew, will return forever as long as I sing the body electric.”
I rolled over and pulled the blankets up to my ears as the clock radio played Miles’ Red China Blues.
You Tube Video: Miles Davis, Electric Miles
Amidst all the layoffs, business closures and shutdowns the hard edge of capitalism is a painful experience far too many people are forced to endure. During times of plenty, the relationship of labor and capital is harmonious and symbiotic. Both parties recognize the value that each bring to the corporate community and each parties enrichment and well being is served by the degree of harmony present in that relationship. During down business cycles management may resort to layoffs to preserve the enterprise. Unfortunately this often causes resentments and hard feelings on the part of workers who have lost the means of earning a living. When workers return to their jobs this can cause problems and hurt an affirmative corporate culture that is critical to maintaining a sustainable business enterprise.
In the face of the meltdown in the automobile manufacturing sector, Honda Motors is one of a very select few that is not resorting to layoffs. Honda Motors known for product quality and leadership in product innovation and business processes is also highly respected for its treatment of employees. Honda Motors places great emphasis on the creation and maintenance of an affirmative corporate culture to sustain profitability and market leadership.
Honda Motors decision to restructure the work force, and give workers a period of paid leave until business conditions improve speaks volumes about how management respects and values the contribution labor makes to the long term sustainability of the enterprise. Any remuneration workers receive during the leave will be paid back to the company with unpaid overtime when the workers return to the production line.
The value of good will on the Honda Motor balance sheet has increased exponentially. The sustainability of an affirmative corporate culture will drive profitability, product innovation and market leadership for the many years to come.
We applaud Honda Motors for this innovative and enlightened response to the current market challenges.
You Tube Video: June Carter Cash & Johnny Cash, One Piece At A Time
Risk: sustainability, labor relations, corporate culture
Amidst our poverty of riches we tremble with fear and loathing. We resent the blessings The Almighty has so richly conferred upon us. A maddening clamor of a million incessant voices ceaselessly whisper “be afraid, be very afraid” dispatching us on an endless war with the infinite armies of darkness that we perceive to encircle us. This provokes an intense inner struggle with a seditious soul, a self saboteur, that endlessly works to undermine our emancipation from the ghetto of fear.
Our state of the nation mirrors our psychic state. Barraged with a fusillade of negativity from a multichannel digital discourse of real time bad news our physical state of being and virtual emotional resources are more depleted then the Treasury Department’s account balance after a TARP payment. War, terrorism, recession, home foreclosures, wealth dissipation, culture wars, job losses, the calamities go on ad infinitum. This is our daily bread. During the height of the Civil War in Northern Ireland I recall the picture of a child passing a graffiti strewn wall scripted with the question, “what will the monster bring today?” Indeed, what will our monsters bring today? Most likely more of the same. And it is the ongoing sameness of ever increasing distress that makes the crisis du jour just another routine day. Crisis has become the new normal.
We think ourselves to be unique in our victimization. Victimhood is a bad damn hood to be from if there ever was a bad hood to be from. Our national posture during the past 8 years under Bush has exclusively been about our victimization at the hands of the terrorists. We believed our victimization to be peculiarly ours because the evil doers hate us for who we are. Bush nursed it into a xenophobic obsession that led us to surrender our civil liberties, invade a sovereign nation to depose its head of state and use interrogation methods and tools refined by Spanish Iquisitioners 4 centuries ago. We rationalize it by promoting the fear that the consequences of another strike will be to terrible to suffer. It as if the entire history of civilization had never known the slaughter of innocents, the sacking of cities, the devastation of blight, plague and famine and the excessive collateral damage from the clash of civilizations. Indeed if history teaches us anything it is that egregious conflict is just another day at the office.
Fear has taken up full residency within many houses of worship. Too many sermons emanating from the pulpit preach of a vengeful God, heard by the trembling souls of congregants filling the pews responding with an affirmative amen. Fundamentalist preachers, imams and priests of all religious stripes and secular ideologies carefully construct a theology of fear to avoid eternal or temporal damnation. They warn against having your soul cast into eternal lakes of fire. Said Thomas Paine, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” The admission price to the eternal paradise promised demands a vengeful soul fired by the vulcanism of fear.
Guarding your eternal well being or next life manifestation is available only by strict adherence to the fundamental precepts of a narrow belief. Non-believers are damned. Backsliders are shunned. Heretics are tortured and beheaded. Given the choice between a beheading and fearful submission to a jealous deity most will eat the bread of fear a jealous deity abundantly offers. Thomas Paine wrote that “Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”
These victims of conviction don’t get better they just continue to be victimized. The Pharisees warned Jesus that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. Right wing conservatives need to consult this passage to understand why they should support universal health care. True conservatives are fearful this program is the sure road to socialism. Jesus asks what is more important, to cure the sick or worry if it meets the criteria of some stale dogma? I agree with Jesus and ask conservatives not to be fearful to heal on the Sabbath.
There is a comfort with the certitude the ideology of fear offers. One need no longer wrestle with the great cosmological questions of a universe that is older then 6,000 years or Darwin’s theories of natural selection and the theory of evolution to understand how species evolve. The tenants of secularism, liberalism and humanism as flowering ideals of the Age of Reason can be dispensed with as well. As we disallow the satanic verses concealed within the learned tomes of humanist literature; America, the grandest political expression of the Age of Enlightenment democratic foundations will crumble due to a poverty stricken citizenry ignorant of the cradle that suckled our legacy of liberty.
Fearful that these ideas threaten a fundamental understanding of God as the source and creator of all things they demand that their deity hide away from the prism of science, anthropology and history. Such a God is a small God indeed. It demonstrates how fear robs the human experience of a rich spiritualism and deeper relationship with a God of their understanding; condemning the true believer to a bankrupt religion of stale dogmas and inert ritualism. The Infinite One’s knowableness surpasses all understanding. All of humanity’s trite scientific inventions and worldly philosophies occupy but a minuscule portion of a single cell within God’s cranium. The All Knowing One would not have allowed the sciences, arts, philosophy and other branches of knowledge to flourish if it was not useful to serving the development of humanity and enriched our understanding of the Beneficent Ones love for all creation.
A truth I heard spoken in the rooms is that as children we are afraid of the dark. As we grow into adulthood we become terrified of the light. This profound truth speaks plainly about our mental, emotional and spiritual condition. Children fear darkness because they think that they are alone. They tremble under their covers unaware of the protection and security of their home and a guardians presence in an adjoining room who sits ever mindful of a duty to protect the child. Darkness confronts children with a wall of uncertainty conjured from an untamed imagination. The capability to comprehend and understand the condition of darkness is merely an absence of light and is not a lair of monsters and bogymen. In workplaces all over the world workers tremble with fear in the cubicles and workshops fearing the delivery of the dreaded pink slip that condemns the worker to an awful redundancy and a certain downsizing in their standard of living. It may come or it may not. Fear and conjecture will not make it go away.
Fear is abolished when the child becomes safe in the knowledge that their guardian is near and remain fully secure in a comfortable bed. Darkness then becomes a place that doesn’t threaten but is an ideal condition where rest and the restorative power of sleep can be realized. We should engage the darkness that surrounds our nation not hide under the blankets or blindly flail away at it in an exhausting exercise of shadow boxing. It presents numerous opportunities for our nation to engage our demons and gain a better understanding of our country’s enemies and how we can disarm conflict by discovering the common ground of our shared humanity.
Paradoxically as adults we become fearful of the light. We ignore Socrates advise about the undesirability of an unexamined life. We prefer pathways of avoidance to stay secure in our ignorance. Agonizingly fearful about confronting the personal demons that continually haunt us we prefer to sit in darkness content to engage our guilt and shame in an ongoing conversation with ourselves; chaining us to the paralysis of a broken past.
We are only as sick as our secrets. Think about the sick soul of Bernard Madoff. Had he only brought to light many years ago that some of his investments did not perform well. His clients would have understood and forgiven him. He would have been off the hook and not beholden to the damnable demands of a larcenous ego and the financial ruin it brought to the people who trusted him. Or think about the obsessive mania of Dick Cheney to withhold information about events and discussions he held with parties that determined the fate and well being of all Americans. Transparency shines the light of disclosure and assessment on things vitally in need of clarity. Mature adults shine a light on themselves to conduct sober assessments and initiate corrective actions to grow and become more perfect.
The Apostle Paul reminds us not to be anxious in anything. It is an unfortunate circumstance that we don’t embrace this teaching. We have allowed fear to move into our neighborhoods and it has fully expropriated the fine residents of our communities. Fear has commandeered our country and bent it to its ugly will. Fear forces us to react to challenges with anger to engage in an endless vendetta that imprisons and tortures our spirit. It has separated us from one another with suspicion and denigrates our sacred relationship with the natural world.
We have allowed fear to become the omnipresent existential condition of our soul. It has fully eradicated the holy spirit from its rightful place as the unifying force that brings us all together in the human family. Fear is a pernicious millstone that grinds away our earthly home. Fear can be eradicated with courage reason, tolerance and faith. Certainly worthy vehicles to consider for an exodus from the ghetto of fear.
You Tube Video: War, The World Is A Ghetto
You Tube Video: Elvis Presley, In The Ghetto
On Thanksgiving Day in 1973 I trotted off a football field knowing I played my last game. In my mind I kept repeating the words, “when I was child I acted like a child and now its time to put away childish things.” Like many teenagers, athletics had been a very large part of my life and comprised a good portion of my identity of who I was as a person and how I defined myself. I was a good athlete but a not so good student. I intuitively realized that if I were to succeed in college I would have to devote the energy and attention to academics that I had previously given to athletics. So as I walked off that field with my team as league champions I knew it was time to put away childish things if I were to progress to the next stage of life as a young man. It was a turning point where a teenager begins a journey to manhood by stepping away from the loves of his youth.
President Obama’s Inaugural Address cited the same verse from Corinthians. Apostle Paul’s words are often cited at Christian weddings as testimony to the supremacy and power of love. President Obama’s purpose in citing St. Paul was to wed Americans to his clarion call to come to the service of the nation in a dire hour of need. Yet on a deeper level the citation is more of a transformational call that asks us not to reassemble the vestiges of a broken past but to engage in the earnest work to grow into a more mature, sober and steadfast nation.
In the history of civilization the USA is a very young nation. Its been only 234 years since the America declared its independence to end colonial rule. As political cultures go we are but a precocious adolescent. Our adoringly daring and quixotic youthfulness has marveled the nations and people of the world. For the last century America has roamed about the aisles of the globe like a bull in a china shop at times seemingly ambivalent to the collateral damage the path of its will has wrought. The ego of an unrestrained adolescent is a difficult bull to tame. President Obama’s call to leave the childishness and sometimes foolish selfishness of youth is a call most worthy of our attention and may help to preserve this more perfect union for the future generations of citizens.
The stultifying behaviors Americans need to leave behind are numerous. None more so then the selfish sense of entitlement that warps our value system and cripples our sense of a shared humanity. Too many people believe that the pursuit of property is a divine right encoded into our cultural DNA entitling American’s to anything they can grab. Many believe this is codified in some celestial capitalist manifesto bill of rights that assures that we must be first in line, receive the greatest portion, can go through anyone or any thing to realize desires, can rationalize aggressive behavior with a socio-religio creedo “that God helps those who help themselves”, is recused from answering the question “when enough is actually enough”, and will act on the principle of “never ask permission because you can always apologize later”. Like a child tethered into a shopping cart seat grabbing everything off the supermarket shelves as his perplexed parent wanders down overstocked isles we need to recognize these behavior flaws and learn not to be slaves to them.
Many believe this sense of personal entitlement is the well earned dividend of American exceptionalism. But American exceptionalism is more a gift of grace then an entitled dividend. Yes America is an exceptional place because of its democratic ideals, affirmative culture and freedoms protected by our constitution. It is not about being above the rules all others must live by. American exceptionalism is about responsibility. This exceptionalism requires us to be stewards of our natural abundance and guardians of liberty’s light. The Pilgrims understood this well and thought that this would be the celestial yardstick by which the Beneficent One will judge the recipients of these divine gifts.
As a culture we have badly confused the meaning of freedom as a society with freedom to consume and acquire material things. Americans need to take only what one needs and bless their equitable share of apportionment. We need to share in the reward for responsibility that others assume while affording patience to let others equally deserving have their earned turn and make a genuine effort to give something back for the general good.
A definition of adulthood is one who accepts responsibility for choices. If American’s want to fight wars in Iraq we must be prepared to suffer the loss of opportunities the cost of war surely brings with it. If American’s don’t want to pay taxes they better be prepared to suffer the closing of the local firehouse, poor roads, dangerous bridges, decrepit schools, lax regulatory protections, no social security and masses of people falling through safety nets creating social discord and displacement. Mature adults prioritize what issues are most important and live with their choices. Americans need to make sober assessments of what is needed and discern wisely how it will act.
The healthy soul of a mature nation treasures the meaning of democracy and the responsibility its protection places on its citizens. That means serving on jury duty and voting in elections. That means getting involved in the schools and communities. That means preserving and strengthening public schools because the defeat of ignorance is liberty’s surest sentinel. That means transparency in government and an undying commitment to civil discourse and the protection of liberty for all citizens.
Adults believe it is better to desire mercy then demand sacrifice. Americans must understand that the projection of its power as a nation is not measured in military capabilities but how effectively it can mitigate conflict with diplomacy, arbitration and the relentless pursuit of justice. Our nations expenditures and exertions in pursuit of war denigrates the respect for life, erodes our world leadership, bankrupts our treasury and defies the spirit of the people.
The time is now America. We must put away the childish things that prohibit our national growth. The clothes of our former selves no longer fit. We must don a new golden fleece that we alone can weave. As we take up the call of our new president to set aside childish things we will begin to perceive as we peer through the glass darkly a new vision of what we are capable of becoming. It is then that we will rightfully reclaim our birthright affirming that our nation is that shining light of liberty and freedom that cannot be extinguished.
That will be something to behold.
You Tube Video: Song of the Sirens, Go To Sleep Little Baby
Risk: refusing to grow up
The Black and Blue Division rivals Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions are today’s big match in the NFL. The teams will face off on a frozen Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Though the game has no playoff implications and each team sports a losing record this game is significant because the 0-15 Detroit Lions are desperately trying not to go 0-16. An 0-16 record would place the Lions in the infamous company of the 1976 (0-14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers; the only team in NFL history to have a winless season.
Though its only a game the outcome of this contest has garnered much attention. The game presents some interesting insights into our culture and the role sports have assumed in our society. Today the Detroit Lions quest for imperfection is given a national stage to display a comedic relief of professional ineptitude. This is balanced by the need to avoid the notoriety of shame and dishonor a win less season bestows on tribal pride of the team and its fans.
As a metaphor the ineptitude of the Lions seems to mirror the economic and social distress of the Motor City’s automobile industry. Flush with a $18 bn line of credit from the US Treasury’s coffers, all American’s now have a vested interest in the success and economic viability of our auto manufacturers and we should all be rooting hard for a victory.
So Go Lion’s! We need to see the deliverance and tangible rewards that grit, determination and endurance confers on people that never quit and never give up.
Today we are all Lion’s fans.
You Tube Music Video: NFL Music, Sam Spence, The Linemen
You Tube Video: CBS Pregame 1970: Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions
Risk: perfection, perseverance