The first snow of the season fell today, first in soft flurries, then in larger drifts covering Ocean City in a mantle of white wetness. Asbury Avenue resembled a Norman Rockwell Christmas card, holiday decorations hanging from the streetlights and the shops pimped out with Santas and evergreen garlands. Still, the gray day had a distinctive chill and snap to it. As I made my way to the convenience store, I felt the headcold I’ve nursed for the last few days return in a wave of muted sniffles. Nobody was in the store when I entered, besides a rotund guy behind the counter. Tattoos decorated his arms and he had pierced ears and a ring on every finger. He greeted me enthusiastically, “Hey, buddy how ya doin’?” People like that should ween themselves slowly off their meds, I thought as I placed the Styrofoam cup beneath the plastic nozzle of the hot chocolate dispenser. “Hey, pal! What’s up?” the man said, beaming.
“I’m okay,” I replied.
“That’s great!” he said jovially, and took my money.
Over my shoulder, as I exited, I heard him exclaim “All right! Yeah!” as he threw a wad of paper into a trashcan.
I made my way from the store, heavily burdened with ennui. What the hell happened to this country, the United States of America? We used to be a beacon of hope, a paramount civilization others aspired to emulate or join. We were the good guys, a bulwark of freedom, opportunity and fair play.
An insane dance between the left and the right fill the airwaves, blaming each other for the degradation of our culture and values and the destruction of America. Baby boomers, not content with retirement and living their lives in gated over 55 communities are fighting Vietnam over again, the counter culture unfurled their tie-dye T-shirts and are waving them in the establishment’s faces, however, they are the establishment. They make the rules. The ones who never questioned authority have become authority. No wonder we’re a nation of unblinking, unfeeling robots and automatons.
Republicans claim the liberals are turning America into a nightmare circus of gay sex, mindless political correctness and a cultural swamp, while Democrats blast conservatives for creating an atmosphere of fear, hatred and ignorance at the hands of Bible thumpers, warmongers and corporate greed. A lazy, indifferent and corrupt media airs the disputes, pettiness and trivial controversies nonstop.
No wonder why we’re so jaded.
No wonder we’re all fed up.
Viewing people as abstractions or by political affiliations, sexual preferences or national origins is far easier and convenient than accepting them as Americans.
This is what the corporate status quo really wants: divide us up by making us afraid. Instead of cooperating with each other and viewing each other as Americans, the peddlers of shit want to sire a nation of frightened, pissed off consumers and ideologists dedicated to the extreme right or extreme left.
Logic, reason and questioning will soon be forgotten. Debates won’t be decided by the most articulate or intelligent positions; they’ll be won by who yells the loudest.
Hot-button issues, fear and faith instead of what's best for everyone.
Civility and national duty are replaced by discord and selfishness.
Time was, America had it all. We had the best ideas, inventions, technologies and universities. We were an economic strongman and extremely prosperous. We gave our resources to those who were less fortunate and helped our allies even if they didn’t ask for our assistance.
Perhaps we never were these things and all of those educational films from the 1940s and 1950s were raw bullshit and brainwashing propaganda. Maybe a generation of kids who grew up listening to “duck and cover” mental hygiene films and read Boys Life magazine were lulled into manipulation by the status quo that abhors change and social progress.
Thing is, we’ve got to survive. The nation has to change for the better. We’re never going to do that if we’re clawing at each other’s throats.