Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Can't we jump the track?

I wish we could. This country is barreling down the wrong track on every level. We cut services to the poor so we can cut taxes to the rich. We're spending money that should be used to rescue a great American city to reclassify secrets long ago exposed. We hand over the security of our ports to outsiders when many of our own countrymen remain unemployed. We offer vouchers to parents so they can pull their students out of failing public schools, a self-perpetuating cycle designed to destroy public education. We bury fertile farmland under business parks; gas prices are rising while ice shelves are melting; we're guilty of mass genocide by our actions in Iraq, and our inactions in the Sudan; privatization is bombing us back to a feudal society, and this song keeps echoing through my mind:

Cause you can't jump the track
We're like cars on a cable
and life's like an hourglass glued to the table,
No one can find the rewind button, girl
So just cradle your head in your hands.
And breathe,
just breathe
whoa breathe
just breathe

I'm trying to breathe. To keep my chin up. To be grateful for the good things in my life. I have wonderful friends. The winter scenery in Los Angeles is lovely. It's truly beautiful when it's cold and it's clear and the white-capped mountains peer graciously down on us. I have an apartment that is spacious for the price. I have my health.

And yet.

To look at reality these days is like driving the hills in San Francisco. You get to these points where you can't see the bottom. You don't know if you're going to make it. There's this yawning chasm and a moment of weightlessness, suspended over the crest. But in San Francisco, you know that your front wheels will again touch the earth, and you will be safe. I don't feel that way these days. I don't feel safe. I feel like I'm forever hanging out there, two wheels off the ground, not sure if our country is going off a cliff or just over a hill. I feel like we're in free fall, like a bad dream from childhood....

There's a light at the end of this tunnel you shout
cause you're just as far in as you'll ever be out
And these mistakes you've made
You'll just make them again if you'll only try turnin' around

I want to believe. I want to believe we're just going through a tunnel. But it feels more like we're sinking in a polluted lake.

And our poison is spreading. Canada's much-vaunted health care system has come under attack from a right-wing effort there that gained power in their recent election.

And then there's the problem with our vote. Friday at 5pm, before a three-day holiday, our Secretary of State pulled a fast one on Californians, certifying Diebold voting machines even though state law requires machines be federally certified, and Diebold machines failed federal tests because they use interpreted code. And again, the virus is not localized. The truly Orwellian-named "Help America Vote Act", HAVA, requires machines that are accessible to all, a noble goal that has wrought us a Faustian bargain: the only machines that meet the HAVA requirements are the electronic voting machines, and the money goes away if the state doesn't spend the HAVA funds quickly. At least the New York Times headlined their story, appropriately, "Bungling Voting Machines."

2am and I'm still awake writing this song
If I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me
threatnin' the life it belongs to.

And as if this isn't all reason enough to be depressed, I saw a documentary called, so very appropriately, "Darwin's Nightmare", about the fishing industry that has sprung up on the shores of the formerly pristine Lake Victoria in Tanzania. Nile Perch, a delicacy in Europe, were introduced into the lake, and there, they grow to monstrous size. They are harvested by Tanzanians, who can't afford to eat the fish they haul, and won't, even though many starve to death, because their paltry share of the proceeds is enough to discourage the eating of the fish. Their children sleep on the ground, able to because they melt the fish wrappings to make glue, which they sniff. In that stupor, they can then sleep through their hunger, through the cold, through the all too common acts of rape and sodomization.

And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary screamin' out aloud
And I know that you'll use them however you want to.

Everywhere I go I see increasingly hollow people - people too tired from increasingly long workdays to have the energy to think about, much less reach out to solve, these problems. All the gains of a century of unionization are slipping away. The forty hour work week doesn't seem to exist any more. Certainly one-income families are a thing of the past. The middle class is disappearing as fast as Iceland's glaciers.

And the middle class has always been the hope of the world. The middle class provides the moral bedrock of society. The poor are forced to make choices they don't want to out of sheer necessity. Jean Valjeans are made daily. The rich are tempted with choices most people can't imagine having. Only the middle class - those with just enough, not too much - are in a position to make the best choices for the rest of us. Destroy the middle class, and you destroy a society's heart and morality.

Oh God. Please help us jump the track. It's getting harder to breathe.

2 Comments:

Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Reason to breathe, for a moment. Check out this story. One man's life was spared today.

1:40 AM  
Anonymous mondo said...

Excellent. It's nice to know a fellow Angeleno sees through the CT haze that most seem to be completely brainwashed, and/or brain-dead, by, here in in LA. (Or should I say man-made Tsumani version 3.0?

12:21 AM  

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