My fellow Sicilian sentimentalist, Frank Capra, made a sentimental classic when he made “It’s A Wonderful Life” back in 1946. Remember that opening scene? The starry heavens looking down upon a world full of anxious voices, pleading and praying for something they desperately needed.
Were the cheery-cheeked Clarence to come down now, he’d find a very different America.
Oh, we’re still pleading and praying. But not so much from a society of war-weary want, as one of shelf-filled plenty. Have you ever checked your bountiful supermarkets. Dozens of cuts of meat ….scores of fresh vegetables….dozens [count them!] of different toothpastes, deodorants, shampoos and nail polish. It’s a crazy consumer paradise down here.
Here’s the point.
Back then, Clarence was on a mission to save a life. Today, his mission might be to save a society. A society which, despite its currant anguish and angst, is filled to over-flowing with consumer gratifications of every little and large kind. When you’re neck-deep in gratifications, it’s often hard to still see that beach from where you began. That national shoreline which initially defined who and what and where you were in this ocean of plenty.
Currently there are waves of discontent and outright anger. About what…? Strangely about some of the best, most humane things we’ve ever done as a country. You know, those government lifeguards assigned to our protection. Agencies for creating intestate highways… regulating milk and meat deliveries…screening drugs….guarding our borders….monitoring our banks…not to mention two of the most compassionate national efforts in our history: Social Security and Medicare.
I have access to both. If you don’t, you too have been assured some kind of access. But here’s what might drive Clarence wacky. Sinking deeper in an ocean of plenty, we’re actually arguing among ourselves about the “dangers and evils” to these time-tested lifeguards. Some of us point to their flaws…their incompetence… mostly their “unsustainable costs.”
Lets grant those grievances. After all, no federal lifeguard could ever be as wondrously economic and efficient as rugged-individualist me!. Still, come the next wave or tsunami in our lives and those lifeguards — deficient, defective and un-American as they may seem — will be the first ones we call for
Whatever they cost…
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