Before flood waters, before thoughts of babies raped, before images of sisters and brothers lying in abject and shocking repose on American streets…
The cable bill is too much. My car needs new brakes. Hail damage. I need to make more money. Chew with your mouth closed and elbows off the table. Shoes I don't need. Age I don’t want. Husband works too much. Weeds in the garden. Not enough hours in the day. Chicken costs too much. I hate my life.
Aren't we fond of saying, "Profoundly impacted"? September 11, 2001 would change us forever and I suppose in some ways it did. Shoes come off before we get on a plane and we invoke the name Homeland Security as if like a god, it can protect us.
We are collectively self-satisfied, superior and infinitely elitist. I am, you are, we are. Bad things happen somewhere else. They are not allowed to happen here in the land of the free, the home of the brave. Bombs destroy other people; oceans swallow up cities somewhere else; people go to bed hungry in far away places.
It's easy for us to look at dark-skinned babies with bloated bellies on our cable window to the world. "That's a shame," we think and then we sit down to pass the pot roast and talk about that bitch of a boss that doesn't appreciate our spectacular and unparalleled contribution to a miserable company that doesn't deserve us anyway.
We have the 'I gave at the office' mentality. We'd much rather hand over a few bucks here and there to satisfy our guilt than to actually do anything. Anything but complain, that is. We have plenty of energy left over at the end of our day to point fingers at everyone and anyone that could possibly bear the responsibility for all that is wrong in this country and in the world, but we never point the finger at ourselves.
The President, the governor, the police, the National Guard, the bureaucracy, the poor, the stubborn who would not leave, God, global warming, SUV's, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, Bible believers… they are responsible for this mess. Not me. I didn't do anything. They did it and now I will sit on my dry sofa, sipping my diet Pepsi, in front of my television and my laptop computer screen and with a click of a PayPal button, I'll ease my conscious and pay the compulsory tithe that gives me the right to continue to complain.
What will I do? What will I change? Will I get rid of the gas sucking SUV that my citizenship says I have every right to drive? Will I stop allowing my teenager to sit mindlessly in front of MTV soft porn and require her to volunteer her time to a shelter instead? Will I pack up the ten pairs of never worn shoes I might want someday and give them to someone for whom someday is now? Will I tell my children that Christmas this year will mean one less PS2 game for them and in its place, gifts for people we've never met? Will I buy one less bag of Dorito's and three more cans of food to donate where it's needed?
Whose fault is this? Who can we blame? We have to blame someone. That's what we do here. We blame…but never change. It's someone else's responsibility to protect us, to insulate us, to allow us to continue to live a life of national excess that the entire world has told us for so long we have no right to live.
This is a choice. You're part of the problem or part of the solution. The luxury of middle ground has been washed away.
Copyright © 2004-2005, Sherri Bailey
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