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What the heck is wrong with us?

Recently, I helped my son move into a new place. It was one of those things where he's moving to a bigger house and needs stuff to fill it up, and logistics dictated that we rent a vehicle here in Napa. The guy behind the counter appeared to be of Indian or Pakistani descent. At least he had a South Asian accent and looked like a pissed off Ghandi. I told him that we were helping my son move into a place big enough for his new family. He mentioned that most of his truck rentals were one way these days, as people were losing their jobs and relocating.  I said something to the effect that Americans are getting used to relocating, and he nodded glumly. I gave a sort of shrug, like "what are ya gonna do?" and he couldn't help himself any more.

 "What the hell is wrong with Americans?" he demanded. "You pay five bucks for a bottle of water, let credit card companies charge anything they want, watch all the good jobs get shipped overseas, and you care about is cheap gas and low taxes!" Your schools are going to hell, the roads seem to get worse every year, and you say nothing, because it might cost you some money!"

I started getting a bit defensive at about this point, but didn't really have an answer. Why DO we let faceless corporations decide what we're going to get paid and where we're going to live? How can the highest court in the land decide that millions of dollars of lobbyist bribery is free speech and there's barely a whimper out of us?  There has been some objection to that ruling, but why aren't there angry mobs waving signs and chanting slogans outside the courthouse steps? Are we really that stupid? Have we gotten so caught up in Social Networking, taking everything that appears on the internet as Gospel if it fits our world view that we just don't have time to think about implications?

We used to have pretty strict rules about how many media outlets one entity could have in one locality, but independant radio stations have been disappearing even faster than newspapers, and we don't seem to give a damn. That may be because they all play the same narrow playlist aimed at a certain demographic, polished and produced to within an inch of it's life, and it makes no difference.

We have all become atomized, with our own narrow interests, and very little curiousity about anything outside of that narrow band, and no inclination to put our I-pods away and look at the larger picture. Little by little, we are becoming a different people, who would rather text someone in the next room than talk to them face to face because we might have an awkward moment if we didn't have time to parse our words. I'm not sure Democracy can work in the kind of enviornment we are creating for ourselves.

The Tea Party is less an American disease than it is a symptom. I think they are wrong about almost everything, but at least they seem to be aware that something is slipping away from us, and no one is doing much to stop it. I don't know if we are ever going to get all those manufacturing jobs back, but almost everything else can also be outsourced, if we let it. Every time we do that, we get a temporary break on the price of crap that we have come to think we can't live without. The truth is, we need the cheaper prices because our purchasing power has not changed much in thirty years, but that can only go on for so long. As you can probably tell, I don't really have any answers, but I think it's time we woke up and asked ourselves if this is the sort of country we want to have, and what we can do to fix it.