Americans living lives of quiet desperation

Many of us used to ruminate -- and sometimes joke -- about the old Soviet Bloc of the 50's and 60's: poorly dressed, sad looking people living in tiny apartments in sooty cement cities. There were food lines, cheap furniture, small apartments and lots of vodka. Sure, they were good at hockey and gymnastics, but it always seemed that Eastern Europeans of that era had such a gaunt greyness to them.  

Street scenes in places like Moscow looked as if the population was in a hurry to escape both cameras and cold weather. There were no bright colors, few smiles and it was all steeped in very hopeless vibe.  No one appeared to have hope for a better life, a little color, something to smile about. Much of that seems to have changed with the fall of the Soviet Union at the hands of Ronald Reagan. Many places in Eastern Europe are now livable by any Western standard. But still we remember that dullness and that colorless caste.

It seems, however, as we look around here at home, that the hopelessness and low expectations have invaded a good portion of our United States.  Americans have lived in recession and high unemployment for the past five years and it's beginning to show in their faces, in their body language and in their attitudes. They are tired, they are distrustful (often with good reason), they are politically divided, many are broke and must live very carefully.  It appears that hope is in short supply for many.  Look out on the street; a sort of "quiet desperation" pervades. People still laugh, go to the bars, movies and mall, but the national personality has changed- and not for the better.

American used to be people that lived in the future.  There was always excited talk about all manner of things -- the space program, new houses, children, education, science, current events, business, growing cities and suburbs. Americans are now so engrossed in their electronics that they barely have time for each other. They don't know or trust their neighbors. Taxes are so high that those who can work more than one job or worry incessantly about keeping the one they do have. Thoughts for the future are tempered by limits- internal and external.  We have a government that is growing bigger and more oppressive every day. 

It is no wonder that the people were see every day are getting smaller and smaller. Just like those Eastern Bloc people who lived those drab lives run by Government.

Recently, Barack Obama argued that the now expired Emergency Unemployment assistance should be extended another three months.  He cited a young lady who could use that money to buy a dozen eggs and turn her heat up a few degrees.  Could he have chosen any examples that sounded any more like the old Soviet Bloc -- a little heat and some eggs? No vodka? Is that where we are now -- subsistence and survival?  Are our expectation that low for a great civilization?  How about creating a job in which that lady could take pride and support her family. 

We need to dream big again.  We need to plan a glorious future for our kids.  We need color and smiles.  We cannot let expanding government make us into those poor drab people standing in line for a single loaf of dark bread.  We need politicians who understand this.  We must find them, elect them and hold them accountable.

Look around.  It's not too late.  Be an American individual again.