Summer of Discontent

The warm weather of this summer has arrived late this year, extending itself well into September. The swirling rain and clouds of the past several months coincided with an American economy still sputtering along, and a majority of people feel disconnected, and not at all happy with the direction of this wind of  “change”.

While some of us partied on boats and lakes, eating hot dogs, hamburgers, and clams at our summer barbecues, others were searching for employment, a ray of job seeking hope, some quick cash to keep the collection agents at bay. Those that are still left employed are taking their cuts, having their lifestyle taken away or altered beyond recognition.

This is, no doubt, the cause of some of the discontent which is now starting to run rampant through our country. But not all. Nope, a lot of folks had trouble with the word content long before our consumer based economy started falling all over itself. In the race to be a rat and the attempt to win the contest of bigger house/more stuff, that house of cards is collapsing. And even if they weren’t part of this illustrious race, Joe and Jane Average Homeowner are still being unnerved by the events around them. The discontent dominos.

I think general lack of awareness has a lot to do with this. Although we are overexposed to television and internet just about every day, we don’t seem to learn much, or know much beyond who is the favored contestant on the latest installment of Big Brother or that fascinating Top Ten list of American Idol finalists. No, the information we absorb doesn’t serve us well at all, shielding us from the very fact that we still have it pretty good, while others around the globe really don’t.

We lament the fact the neighbor has a new car, while a kid dies in Africa from lack of medical care, and his parents (if he has any) are powerless to do anything about it. We envy our friend’s gleaming granite countertops in a gourmet kitchen, as a family that used to own their own home sets up their new residence in a cardboard box on the street…right here in America. That’s right, the have nots live right in your neighborhood. Lift your head from your Macy’s flyer and take a look around.

I’m no stranger to the occasional feeling of discontentment. We’re are Americans, after all, and entitled to the good things in life, myself included, right? But lately I’ve been reading myself some history, and learning a little bit of what my grandparents may have gone through coming to this country. Want to feel good about things happening now? Read about the trials of European immigrants coming through Ellis Island.

Their adventures started in the homeland, being scammed by their fellow countrymen before boarding their ship. Then their transatlantic “cruise” consisted of inhumane travel conditions in steerage, crowded together by the hundreds, with the smell of urine in the air, and the only method of cleaning themselves being saltwater. Arriving at Ellis Island, they were allowed to stay if they were seen to be disease free, and able to answer inspectors’ questions. Some that were deported died by drowning, trying to swim to the New Jersey shore to save themselves from the trip back to their home country.

Poverty and deplorable working conditions awaited most immigrants in America. They built railroads, worked in mines, and worked the high steel of skyscrapers so much that a historian once wrote “the greatest metropolis in the world rose from the sweat and misery of Italian labor”. When I see or read anything like this, I have to ask myself what role the word “discontent” should play in my life.

Here in modern America, we really do have the best of everything, and most of us don’t want for much. If you aren’t convinced this is true in your case, you have the power to change whatever you want. To start changing, take a ride in what probably is your nice late model year car. Pick up your latte or cappucino. Go to your massive bookstore in the mall. Sit down and read yourself some history. About the people who really had it rough.



2 thoughts on “Summer of Discontent

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

  2. I LOVE IT! You are dead on.

    The debt-fueled consumption that has become the meaning of the “American Dream” is disheartening at best, and disgusting at worst.

    My dad lives in NJ, and this past weekend marked the 25th anniversary of then-President Ronald Reagan’s visit to a nearby small town. The town is predominately Italian-American, and the president noted this in his speech at the time, stating that he he couldn’t help but notice– and hold in high regard– the sense of pride that these 2nd and 3rd generation Americans held in their heritgage; and a large part of this heritage involved working hard for their peice of America. The parents and grandparents of the town’s citizenry hadn’t come to the country to leverage what they earned in order to have big screen TV’s or the newest and biggest car or the largest house on the block. They worked hard because it was the right thing to do, and they earned everything they owned; they didn’t ask for stimulus packages or “Cash for Clunkers.” They made due with what they had, and appreciated life all the more because they had succeeded by their own ambition and will to work.

    President Reagan recognized it then; and he’d undoubtedly recognize the sorry turn John Q. Public has made since that time. Perhaps it’s about time we, as private citizens, took responsibility once again for our own success and happiness, and stopped allowing government to make excuses for us and eventually hijack our ability to care for ourselves.

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