No, not in the numerical sense. In years, this place is still a baby in the established country game. We’re old in the sense of how we see society, what passes for an acceptable standard of living nowadays.
Slowly but surely, our nation is inching into modern society, with increasingly diverse cities, respect for various cultures and lifestyles, and hey, we even voted for a non old white guy to be President! But, as anyone will tell you, change doesn’t come easily. The push forward has some of us so scared, there’s clamoring for things to go backward, worshipping the time of an actor-turned-President that seemed to give “America” everything it needed. The man’s been dead for 8 years. Sorry, Gipper — I’m more than ready to let you rest in peace.
President Barack Obama was handed quite the crappy hand, and has been expected to perform Jesus-level work in reviving our stalling economy. He’s had to reach back and get into Grown Ass Man Mode over the last year or so, once it seemed clear that the job would only get harder. And yet, his team has pulled off three huge victories — ridding the world of Osama bin Laden, saving General Motors, and passing the Affordable Care Act. Those in opposition have found reasons to devalue his actions, and paint him as an ineffective leader (and person, on occasion).
But where are we as a society when we’re more concerned about paying a “tax” (that isn’t really a tax if you give a damn about being alive) than we are about keeping a large part of our population healthy? This isn’t the government meddling where they shouldn’t — this is the powers that be asking the people to help keep the people strong, and the people saying, “Eff that! I’m not paying for anyone but me!“
The freedom of the people is dwindling, and hard work won’t get it together like it used to. We blame those who are dependent on state and federal assistance for being leeches; unfortunately, those on the bottom of the ladder are modern-age slaves. They work, and everything they work for goes up the ladder. It’s much more than life choices at this point — and yet, teachers are being asked to take less to educate the next generation. How are kids supposed to be encouraged to learn when the resources and positive influences are few and far between? Their parents are working more than ever, and their teachers are discouraged by the lack of options, and find it hard to give students the direction they need. Young adults want to work, and can’t work. We’re still waiting for someone to teach them, and no one wants to.
The man who wants to become President, Willard “Mitt” Romney, appears to be a rich guy who doesn’t quite understand how good he has it. That, of course, is very much in context; I believe he realizes he can make moves with the Big Kids, but I also believe that he, as well as his wife, Ann, may be completely inept when it comes to making moves with anyone who doesn’t qualify as a Big Kid. From observing his interactions, he doesn’t appear to be very comfortable in “mixed company” (in multiple contexts — take it how you will), which is not a good sign for a country that desperately needs to continue on its path of increased diversity and integration. Unrelated, but related: why didn’t he go with his first name, at least for political purposes? Will would go over a little better with the majority of his support base. Unfortunately for him, Mitt has “business” written all over it.
The meat of it is, we’re not treating each other very well. If you need and example, look no further than Walmart. The company just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first store in its current format, and should be lauded for its longevity. But, here’s where the story gets sad: the handful of Waltons currently in charge of the company are currently four of the richest U.S. citizens, checking in at no less than $20.5 billion in net worth. Apiece. And yet, somehow, those stockroom employees pulling the graveyard shift at your favorite 24-hour Super Walmart can’t seem to earn more than minimum wage, if they manage to get to that point. So, to recap: Rob Walton, the oldest of the Walton clan — $20.5 billion earned last year. That stockroom employee? In Illinois, $17,160. And that’s if they’re working full time (which is becoming increasingly unlikely…don’t want to pay those pesky benefits). The federal poverty line is $14,570 (for two people). Minimum wage isn’t enough for an Illinois citizen to thrive on, God forbid they any closer to being impoverished. There’s a six-zero gap between the bottom and top of a company that prides itself on making things better for the people. Cheap groceries and electronics isn’t treating each other right.
And, just so we’re clear…we’re celebrating the birth of a nation that came from: a couple boatloads of Europeans sailing over to escape a douchebag of a monarch, only to be total douchebags to the Natives they met once they got here. Odds are, if not for a very nasty outbreak, the Natives would have sent the Europeans back across the pond, given that they’d destroyed the Vikings at earlier points in time. instead, they got cornered into small circles in Boo Foo, and the Euros “claimed” the land. The Euros decided they needed more help building it up, and shipped in a few Africans wholesale to take care of the menial labor. A few of us figured out we were screwing up, we fought with ourselves, decided things *were* screwed up; the guy that led the charge to change the screwed-up-ness gets shot (and becomes a recurring theme in history). The Euros (with some others sprinkled in, having decidedly established themselves as The Status Quo at this point) couldn’t sell humans anymore, but made no point to respect the existence of anyone not like them — this one has kinda stuck, and the government has had to scrape off parts of it using the law of the land. The prosperity gap that was created and allowed to grow during the first 100 years of our nation’s existence is far and wide, leading to our current situation.
The Status Quo still exists, simply in a different form…the CEOs, the bankers, the mediators. They’ve managed to convince the people that if you make them pay *less* back into the system, they’ll be inclined to do *more.* Nah, homey. Our government had to pass laws to persuade some of their people to respect the fact that people not like themselves had the right to live as they did. And plenty of people still aren’t on that boat. What makes us think that The Status Quo would do what it would take to restore a semblance of balance and positive evolution?
So, here’s to you, America…Happy 236th Birthday. Let’s try to keep growing up — 250 is right around the corner!
- The Compartmentalist