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Enough Already

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My husband likes to talk about sports. Since I gave him an “e-book” computer for our anniversary in 2009, he makes use of his “library time” (I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out which room in our home qualifies as his library) reading sports stories from all over the internet. He has, in fact, become somewhat of a walking sports encyclopedia in the course of the past sixteen months.

Absent a community of other men with whom to engage in analytical sports banter, he sometimes gets really desperate and starts spouting his facts and figures at ME. To my credit, I have enough residual interest in sports (I used to be a genuine fan) and just enough exposure to news outlets that I can generally engage in a moderately satisfying exchange on the subject.

We were sitting in a booth at one of our favorite eating spots—we call it “the sports bar” because from every booth, one has a clear view of no less than five television screens, each tuned to the sport du jour—when the husband began to wax encyclopedic about the latest big story. Seems there is a young man who plays baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. A very talented young man, who has been with the team for the first ten years of his career. That’s nice. Nowadays, the players tend to sell their services to the highest bidder, and never play for more than a couple of years for any one team.

Well, it seems this young man (Albert Pujols) is up for a new contract at the end of this year. And the negotiations, apparently, are no less complex than a trade treaty between international giants. Pujols sets a deadline. Deadline goes by—no contract. Rumors fly, but neither side will tip its hand. The team is said to have offered $200 million over eight years. Cardinals manager theorizes that Pujols is being pressured to “set the bar”—by demanding something exceeding the current fattest contract: Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million over ten years. They think $300 million over ten years might properly set that bar.

Three hundred million dollars. Thirty million a year. To play a kids’ game.

This young man would earn—well, not earn, exactly…let’s say he would be paid—the equivalent of twenty-five years of my husband’s current salary in slightly less than a month. We could live comfortably well into our retirement (husband will be 80 in twenty-five years) on what this kid will put in the bank in thirty days.

And the thought occurred to me: there’s no shortage of money in this country.

It’s simply that more and more of it is going to those who already have more than they could possibly need or use.

How much filet mignon and caviar can the guy eat? How many south sea islands can he own? How many designer drugs can he put up his nose?

Meanwhile, the price of meat and fish has us increasingly dining on…pasta. The price of gas has us vacationing in…our back yard. The price of health care and pharmaceuticals has us…taking aspirin for a heart attack.

And WE are the “middle” class. God help those below US on the food chain.

Enough.

Enough already.

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Hindsight is 20/20

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Like many Boomers—the original “Peter Pan” generation—I find it almost impossible to believe I’m over thirty-five, much less fifty. Unfortunately I am rudely reminded of that reality several times a day…particularly when dealing with the—what do they call them, now…generation “y”?—with whom I am in close contact every day. Oh, yes; there are times when I definitely feel like the moldy old relic I am. For the most part, though, I see myself as the same hip, anti-establishment almost-renegade I was thirty-five years ago. Plus a few pounds and a bit of perspective…

It’s funny how the accumulation of years upon the planet begins to impart a sense of history to those of us who are paying any attention at all. It starts when we begin to see our parents as human beings; we notice and understand the things they conquered, the mistakes they made, the hurdles they cleared. And we see how those things eventually became part of who WE are. That knowledge settles upon us like the stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, eventually, acceptance—that we are, to a large extent, those people from whom we struggled so valiantly to break away and distinguish ourselves. Little do we know that, another decade or two down the road, as our parents pass on and all we have left of them is what we can see in the mirror, we will cling to that connection as if it were the last life ring thrown over the side of the Titanic.

That compilation of years has brought me another bone to chew, of late. I’m beginning to see how we Boomers have failed our children. How our mistakes—those things we did thirty or forty years ago when WE were in charge of writing history—became a less than exemplary model for the generations that have come after us. We were all about bucking the system. We were all about re-writing the rules to suit our own sensibilities. We were young and we were free—or we wanted to be. Our parents’ social mores were stifling, prejudicial and outdated. So we threw away their rules and wrote our own.

Granted, some of those rules cried out for rewriting. We understood that our parents’ rules criminalized behavior that was the sole business of parties engaging in it. We didn’t/don’t need Big Brother hiding under our beds or dictating a social order based on ethnicity or skin color. But we were not at all selective about which of our parents’ rules we flushed down the toilet. Down it all went. We didn’t understand that the kind of freedom for which we clamored carries a great burden—first of discernment, then of self-regulation. We didn’t take the time to discern what part of the social code to which our parents subscribed was valid, timeless and universal. Our governing philosophy became, “We should be able to do whatever we want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.”

And so, we have passed that watered-down, unspecific credo down to our children—who have proceeded to alter it even further. Today’s rule is, “We should be able to do anything we want.” Evidently, the “as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else” part of the rule was entirely too subjective—What does “hurt” mean? And who, exactly, is “anybody else”? And why should I care, anyway? So the next generation did away with that caveat completely.

In the end, what we thought was a leap toward great and necessary social liberation, turned out to be that…PLUS a step down the road to utter chaos. All because we didn’t understand that human beings are notoriously incapable of self-regulation. Because we didn’t understand that was why our parents’ rules—which were surely mutations of their parents’ rules—were developed in the first place. Now…NOW that we have managed to put a few decades under our belts and acquire some of that “historical perspective” I mentioned, we GET IT. But what can, what WILL we do about it? How can we rebuild what we tore down? Who will listen to us now?

And can we hope that our children will “get it” before their children, or their childrens’ children, drag us down to complete anarchy?