jump to navigation

Words To Die By

Once upon a time, the Statue of Liberty called out to the world’s wretches with the twin promises of freedom and enterprise.


“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”


Millions answered that siren’s song and on the strength of their pioneering spirit, their collective labor and enterprise, a young and burgeoning country became the world’s unquestioned superpower.  From WW II to Man on the Moon, The Industrial Revolution to the Age of Information, the American Dream became the American Way, as hard work and enterprise paved yellow brick roads from the Motor City to Silicon Valley to Wall Street.

But these days, Uncle Sam’s challenging “I Want You” has been weathered and watered down to where “I Owe You” is the mantra of the day.  And while everyone points fingers for our current malaise, the truth hides in plain sight.  Who do we blame, you ask?  Not our stars but ourselves.

For while our ancestors envisioned the American Dream and our grandparents and some parents lived it, we—unquestionably—pissed it away.  While they worked ‘til it hurt, we partied like it was 2009 . . . and suddenly, it was, our work ethic lost while watching TV, first living off the accumulated work and wealth of our ancestors, then borrowing money to maintain our accustomed lifestyle . . . a lifestyle we never earned, a standard of living well beyond our shared means.

And that’s how it all came crashing down, like it did for those fat, feted Romans of so long ago.  Our get-up-and-go just got-up-and-went; lost, perhaps during commercial breaks for Beavis and Butthead, sitting in drive-through or hitting the spa.  And really, it’s no surprise, given the narcissistic nuance behind what we’re all told, like Scarlett Johansson saying “We’re Worth It” while Britney Spears lip-synchs “Gimme More, Gimme More.” 

Well maybe we’re worth it but more likely we’re not, and maybe just once, gimme more’s shouldn’t get.  But what do you expect from a generation that coined the expression “If it feels good, do it”, where the corporate culture’s a new non-word:  Chillax?

Not much, I’m afraid . . . except trillions of debt.

So what happens from here?  Well, I’d like to think I’m just temporarily depressed, beaten down by the world’s current state of affairs.  But the fact is, for every empowering Obama speech—“We have to change our bad habits”—I realize we’re lost, exorbitant corporate bailouts just another extension of the illness that ails us.  Remember the television game show Truth or Consequences?  Well the truth is, we’re lazy.  And the consequence?  Print money.  Where’s the stimulus for change in that?

Cheryl Crow sings, “it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got,” and if we all changed our mindset this current recession might lose half its bite.  But Crow’s inspired lyrics still fall on deaf ears; like our headphones are on but we’re tuning her out.  Still, a new President urges us to rise from our shared sloth.  “Lets get this right,” he implores.  “Lets create a template that’s going to restore a sense of confidence in the marketplace.” 

Far better, I think, to restore our lost work ethic and failed sense of pride. 

Anyway . . .

You can tell a lot by the actions of a generation’s icons, and while Cinderella Man repaid his debts, Millennium Man adds zeros to his.  And while our ancestors, like Shakespeare’s Polonius, lived by the words “neither a borrower nor lender be,” today’s generation—like Seinfeld’s Costanza—simply does the opposite. 

Former basketball star, current sports analyst and social commentator Charles Barkley puts it this way:  When asked if he had a rebounding technique, Barkley glowered:  “Yeah.  I called it ‘Get the damn ball!”  But like a parable too hard to understand, Barkley’s straight talk doesn’t resonate with today’s generation.  Like Nike’s “Just Do It!” it no longer sells.

So, while the Statue of Liberty once lifted her golden lamp to the world’s hardworking hungry, today’s Golden Arches feed us a new message we’re all eating up: “You Deserve a Break Today,” Dirty Ron tells us . . . but don’t you believe it.

See, the spokesman’s a clown . . . and his food makes us sick.




No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: