Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Rain Dilemma

Bottom of the Rain - Buffalo Tom (mp3)

“Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

Here’s my problem with that quote: we don’t mean it.

In Greece, a country that has collectively written a check its body couldn’t cash, people are rioting. They believe their bankruptcy is some secret German plot rather than the consequences of their own fiscally-irresponsible actions. They pissed on themselves for years but were OK with it, because they just kept calling it rain.

In America, The Great Recession might as well be called The Binge Drinking Hangover from Hell, because the entire situation can be summed up the same way: “How was I supposed to know that drinking the entire fifth would make me puke all night and leave me so useless the next day?”

Our wealthiest and most ambitious worked behind the scenes to cut corners and fly towards the sun, and our average Joes and Janes maxed out every penny and every piece of plastic we could find until, for one shining moment, our entire society -- our big family of 307 million -- was spending more than it was taking in.

Seriously. Let that fact swirl around in your mind for a minute. Appreciate the gravity of an entire continent, for the first time in our modern history, spending more than it earns. (We only once dipped below 5 percent before the mid-90s.)

By recession time, more than half of the 25-34 demographic in America had ZERO savings. Most of those, it was surmised, had never even grown up thinking a savings account was necessary.

Savings? Screw that, the lease is almost up on my Scion!
Savings? Screw that, they’ve just come out with 3D televsions!
Savings? Screw that, I haven’t yet seen the world!!

You know what we do to people who tell us we’re being pissed on? We vote them out of office. And we replace them with people who tell us it’s raining.

Locally, we have Howard School (of Academics and Technology and Fluffy Unicorns), a school with a rich history that long ago became the preeminent eyesore of inner-city educational horror. Before desegregation, Howard was the shining star that the black community around Chattanooga held up as proof of African-American potential. The school educated and graduated untold numbers of highly- and moderately-successful and men and women of color and beat plenty of odds and sneers to do it.

Yeah, that was, like, 35 years ago.

Or, if you want to stretch the lie and include the era of Reggie White’s years as proof that Howard was not yet a blight, then we’ll just say 30 years. For the past 30 years, Howard has been a shame and a tragedy. It has failed tens of thousands of teenagers, almost all of them black, almost all of them poor. The crime of it being labeled a “persistently failing school” by the state is that this label is about 25 years overdue.

So here’s what’s funny: the people who are angriest about Howard earning such a label are the people the school has failed now for two generations.

“Now is not the time to pull the rug out from under them,” said Walter Williams, a former local judge and one of the school’s alums from its Golden Era.

Um, has he looked at this rug? It’s a sh*tty rug. They haven’t replaced that rug since he was a student. It's stained, moth-eaten, frayed, and out of fashion. It's never been shampooed or even vacuumed. You can’t help but wonder why anyone would want that damn rug, or why anyone would object to it being pulled out and burned.

But people don’t rally behind slow neglect and decay. We don't hate the dude who lifts a dollar from the cash register every day for 10 years nearly as much as the guy who steals $100. We only rally when someone pulls a fast one. Americans are like frogs in boiling water who get upset about the jump in the electricity bill.

I think we like being lied to. I think we crave being deceived. I think when we pick up that huge turd and sink our teeth into it, we want to be told it’s Hershey’s Special Dark. When we rub our face in shit, we want to be told it’s deep-cleansing mud. When someone pisses on us, we want to be told it’s just rain.

How else to explain our modern world?

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