Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beginning to Feel a Bit Like Christmas

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas. Not because it’s snowing or anything like that. But because various people report that it is snowing . . . somewhere else. I can still remember it snowing in Bethesda, on a Sunday morning, as we watched out our living room window at snowflakes falling and accumulating.
Trees are arising all around us, sparkling house lights are coming into view, as people begin their decorating.
Daily, we get reminders of both the season and the dismal economic times through which we are passing. We are grateful for our health, and for the fact that, for the moment, we are still economically afloat.
I had really quite forgotten my life during the early 1940s, when my Mother struggled to keep food on the table—it was rationed, as were her wages. We never experienced the bread lines of the 30’s, to my knowledge, although I have only spare memories of that time. That early stock market crash, caused by precisely the same kind of greed and stupidity as has now caused the latest crash, had less effect on our family, because we owned no stocks, no real estate, no car. We bounced around from apartment to apartment, staying just ahead of the bill collectors. Then we stabilized at being simply poor.
Now, we actually know people being hurt, perhaps even ruined financially by the fools in whom, the Nation entrusted its economic future. We have been hurt also, just not as badly as people who were poised to retire on their company’s stock holdings, only to find those holdings now worthless. We have not been hurt as the many millions who irrationally bought houses above their income levels, because they wanted a piece of the American pie. Now they find themselves facing a homeless, bankrupt Christmas.
So, having so far escaped the worst of the current crisis, we are profoundly thankful. But we are thankful, with one eye watching our backs, waiting to see if someone or something else is approaching from the rear. Our past is never so far away that it is beyond recognition. Our grandparents, unprotected by such systems as Social Security and Medicare, literally ran out of money, and then time. Again, we are fortunate.
So, we look forward to yet another happy holiday season, mindful of the many people who face a more bleak future. Will we ever learn, I wonder? We have been regaled for decades with tales of the depression, and why it could never again occur—we had systems built in to prevent such occurrences, we were told.
What they neglected to tell us is that the folks we left in charge have been systematically dismantling those protective systems to the point where they simply disappeared. Now we have a new group of folks coming in to fix the roof on our collective national house, which is currently hemorrhaging. Let us hope that the incoming folks remember the earlier dismal days, and act to erect safer edifices to protect the Nation from the fools within. . . and there will always be fools within. .
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