Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Doesn't anyone else think this is wrong??

For weeks now, I've been listening to Henry Paulson and others make the case for pouring billions of dollars in credit markets. They justify the outrageous dollar amounts by saying it's necessary in order to make credit more readily available so that people can meet their everyday needs.

Meet their everyday needs?
So we're dumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the finance markets so that I can buy my groceries with a credit card? So that I can finance that flat screen TV that I just HAVE to have?

Am I the only one who thinks our focus is completely wrong? Am I the only one who thinks this is a huge mistake? We're propping up an economy that, for decades, has encouraged people to live outside their means. Don't look at the cost of an item, just look at the monthly payment. Don't save up and pay cash... why wait... buy it now. Can't afford a house payment? Get an interest-only loan. Don't worry about what the payments will be in a year or two.. just get into a house now... worry about the higher payments later.

We've gotten lazy, and greedy and irresponsible and Congress is rewarding us with multi-billion dollar programs that will ensure our ability to continue being lazy and greedy and irresponsible.

I know, I know... there are exceptions. There are people who have lost jobs and wouldn't have made it if they hadn't had a credit card to use for groceries and gas. But it's exactly that, an exception. Most of the borrowing that's been done in this country has been done by people who could have saved up money and paid cash, or by people who were buying things they didn't really need anyway. But we have to have the latest and greatest of everything don't we. And now that we can't get it, we're mad. We're mad at the greedy people on Wall Street who created sub-prime mortgages and made credit cards so easy to get. We're mad at Congress for the deregulation that allowed sub-prime mortgages and easy credit.

Why aren't we mad at ourselves? Why aren't we mad at ourselves for going along w/the sub-prime market, easy credit and purchases of things we couldn't afford and didn't need? Why aren't we responsible for following along? Banks and finance companies only continued with their practices because there was a market for them.

And why are we now just quietly following along, again... as our hard-earned money is used to stave off the effects of greed, selfishness and impatience? We're seeing the bottom fall out, not on an economy, but on an ideology. An ideology that says we can't survive without credit. An ideology that says we're not gonna make it if we can't put Christmas on a credit card because a) we're not self-controlled enough to save money and b) we think Christmas isn't Christmas unless the tree is overrun with fancy, high-priced, unnecessary gadgets.

Have we really not awoken to the dangers of financing a lifestyle? Have we really not learned to think long-term? Have we learned nothing? And do we really think it's all someone else's fault?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Let me preface this post with a caution: the contents are probably going to upset some people. That's not my intent, but - given the topic - I think it's unavoidable. If any of this makes you angry, I'm truly sorry. Please don't post angry or derogatory comments. They'll be deleted. Simply try to humor me as I process the thoughts and questions running through my head.

Well, it's here. That moment that so many thought would never come. America has elected a black man as President of the United States.
It's historic. There's no question about that. But I have questions about other things.
Not about his policies (though I have concerns and doubts about some of those), or his ability, but about why he was chosen.
Because America is tired of the Republican party and feels it's untrustworthy?
Because people are so desperate for hope that if the promise of something better is made, they don't care how the promise is fulfilled?
Or do we truly believe that he was the best candidate; that his policies, agenda and overall vision for the United States is just what we need at this time and place in history?
I want to believe that he was chosen because of his vision for the United States and because we think he can move us toward the realization of that vision.
But I wonder if he was chosen because he's black.
I know.... we're not allowed wonder about those things, especially not out loud. But I *am* wondering, and I'm pulling you in to the conversation. Awkward or not, right or wrong, it's what I'm thinking about.

I heard the sentiment a lot: "it's time this country elected a black man", "we've been waiting a long time for this" and similar comments. And, honestly, those thoughts were running through my head for a while, too. I considered voting for him, just so I could "be part of history."

But if voting *against* a man because of his race is wrong, why is it any better to vote *for* a man because of his race?

Webster's Dictionary defines "discriminate" this way: "to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit."
The definition doesn't account for good or bad treatment.
Isn't a decision to vote *for* someone based on race or color just as discriminatory as voting *against* that person because of race or color?
If so, why was it ok for so many people to say they voted for Obama because "it was time" for a black man to be elected President? No mention of his policies or abilities. Is this the kind of "victory" Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke and dreamed of?

I know, I know... dangerous questions. Especially coming from a middle class white girl. But hear me out.
I'm not asking these things because I doubt Obama's abilities. On the contrary, I think he's a very capable leader and while I know many people who are disappointed, I think during this time in our nation's history we need a diplomat like him. The world has grown tired of a United States that strong-arms its way around the globe - and rightfully so. The nations have had enough of that stance. I have had enough of it. I'm ready for someone who has the intelligence and self-control to present the image of a global partner rather than a bully. Some of his national policies are scary and you better believe I'll be paying close attention to what he's doing in the years to come, but I also believe he can stem the tide of anger and hatred that has been generated towards the United States as a result of the previous administration.

But I want to know that other people who voted for him believe that, too. I want to know that he was chosen because he's capable. I want to hear people say they voted for him because he was the best candidate, because he's this country's best chance of repairing our global reputation, and because people believe he can move forward on his vision of hope for the United States.

But if the main reason people voted for him is because we got caught up in the powerful idea of "making history" by electing the first black president, then we - as a nation - are still incapable of looking past the color of a man's skin, and nobody won anything last night.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

on the eve of the eve

we're only a couple days away from election day (thank goodness!), and I've been reading a fascinating book called "Crazy for God" that has some interesting things to say about politics and leadership in general.
"Crazy for God" is the autobiography of a man whose parents have been in vocational ministry since he was a child. Sadly it all but ruined his opinion of Christianity.
His comments about politics and the selection of leaders is excellent food for thought. Keep in mind, I'm not endorsing what he says, just putting it out there for people to mull over.

"Roe v. Wade has given us more than thirty years of culture war. The results have been tragic. For one thing, Roe has given us some terrible leadership. This works both ways. The Democratic [and Republican] Party [have], until recently, also limited itself to candidates who are rigidly correct 'theologically' on abortion and other social issues.

It seems to me that by demanding ideological purity on abortion (and other single issues as well), both parties have worked to eliminate the sorts of serious smart pragmatic people who make competent leaders. What we are left with are those willing to toe the party theological line, who are talented at kissing the asses of their party's ideologies, raising money and looking good on TV, but not much else.

But what if absolute consistency on any issue from the left or the right, religious or secular, is an indication of mediocre intelligence and a lack of intellectual honesty? What if the world is a complex place? What if leadership requires flexibility? What if ideology is a bad substitute for common sense? What it ideological consistency, let alone 'purity', is a sign of small-mindedness, maybe even stupidity?"

"I think there is a difference between killing in cold blood, where there are other alternatives, and killing out of necessity. And I don't think the difference is always clear... executing a criminal who is no longer a threat to anyone is different (practically and symbolically) from shooting a hostage-taker who is about to kill innocent people. Fighting Japan after it attacked us was different from attacking an Iraq that was no threat to us.

I want to live in a society that is willing to struggle with these balancing acts. I want to be in a society that values human life, because I am human, and far from perfect, and I want to be valued.

What I don't want to live in is a culture that makes sweeping and dismissive secular or religious 'theological' one-size-fits-all decisions that oversimplify complex issues. And ideas of the good life based on perfection are a trap, a trap that prophetic books like Brave New World gave us fair warning about, and that films like Blade Runner explored...

What kind of insanely individualistic culture do we become when the words 'I want' trump all other considerations? What happens to all our rights in such a world?"