Saturday, August 20, 2005

American disconnect

Now that When Towns Had Teams is finished, waiting to roll off the press at some point between now and the first of September, I’ve been able to step back and take a breath. There is still much to do on the marketing front, to make sure enough people buy the book, or at least allow RiverVision to break even. I have no illusions of growing rich off my publishing venture, but I would like to be able to bring out another book next year and possibly a book by another non fiction writer doing something unique, and Maine-related.

With a few days of “normalcy” under my belt, I’ve been slowly reintroducing myself to the happenings outside of my writer’s cocoon. Like a diver coming up slowly to avoid the bends, I’ve been reading some news articles, a bit of commentary and perusing some blogs, all with an eye to reacquaint with the American dystopia.

Maybe it’s the post-production letdown that’s inevitable after weeks of 16 hour days, readying my book for press. Then again, maybe it’s the reality that I see making me as cynical and lacking in any form of optimism as I’ve ever been.

For instance, a mother who lost her son in this debacle we call a war in Iraq, has been protesting outside President Bush’s Crawford home, where he’s been on a month-long vacation. I don’t even want to get into the propriety of taking a vacation while Americans are dying in the desert so Americans can have access to cheap oil.

Every summer since this spoiled little rich kid has been president, he’s had to retire to Crawford for his annual month of two-hour bike rides (with secret service detail riding along the back roads near Bush’s ranch), brush clearing, Little League baseball games and a GOP fundraiser or two—all the while, refusing to meet with Cindy Sheehan, conducting her vigil, protesting the war.

Apparently, the president believes he needs his vacations because he thinks the American people “want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy”. Interestingly, he’s not been able to make one decision that benefited working class people in this country, healthy or not!

We have a president who struts around and acts more like an emperor, or a king, than a president of a country that claims democracy for its citizens. It’s not surprising that we have a man lacking in basic human decency and empathy for ordinary Americans. From the time he was born, he’s occupied a world of privilege and perks that most Americans will never come close to obtaining.

In writing my book, set in a period just after World War II, and moving through the 1950’s and 1960’s, I was able to reflect on a time when there was still hope for better lives, and opportunity characterized the lives of most Americans. This was a period when a high school graduate like my Dad, could raise and support a family and send two kids to college, on his salary from the paper mill. When the mill where he worked was in its heyday, my Dad used to work overtime regularly, which allowed my Mom to stay home. I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of stay-at-home-mothers, but my life growing up during the 60’s was idyllic compared to that of children today. With drive-thru daycare, mother’s working long hours and children being tired and cranky whenever they’re in public, I don’t think things are better off today.

While our president can take month-long vacations on the dime of the American taxpayer, many of those taxpayers can’t afford to take vacations of their own. Many small business people haven’t taken a vacation in years. The person who I buy wood from, works two jobs (his wood business and a hunting lodge he owns up north) and works seven days a week, 52 weeks each year. I would have loved to take a week or two to unwind after working so hard to get my book to market, but my wife and I can’t afford to spend the money, or do we have the time needed to get away.

Recently, while driving home from Portland, I happened to catch someone on Air America Radio talking about retirement in the U.S. With corporations shifting the burden of retirement onto the backs of their workers, retirement income is now a product of the investment strategies inherent in 401K plans, as well as the whims of the stock market. Just to have $12,000 to $18,000 salted away in a 401K, a worker would need about $150,000 saved in an account when he retires. Since I just liquidated my retirement to finance my publishing venture, the odds aren’t too good that I’ll be retiring any time soon. Thank god for bottles on the side of the road! I’m not complaining, as anyone who goes the small business route, knows perfectly well the paucity of finance options available for capitalizing any small, or micro business venture.

Once again, we have a president and his party that blathers on ad nauseum about small business and how it is an important engine of our economy. Yet, neither he, nor his party (or the Democrats for that matter, those so-called champions of the working class) enact anything in the way of policies to benefit small businesses. Everything is about corporate tax breaks for big business and the ruling class, the well-heeled benefactors bankrolling our oligarchy.

Granted, much of what American presidents do is symbolic, but it might be beneficial if our current president tossed a bone to those of us who actually work hard and care about our communities. Instead, we are forced to watch the hijacking of place by corporate raiders, with their box stores, boat launches, and high-priced condos, raping and pillaging what little connection we have with who we used to be.

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