Columns » Bob Lancaster

Trickle-down empathy



I saw where one of John McCain's ward heelers called us “a nation of whiners” the other day, while Der Alte himself was iterating that our economic troubles are mostly merely psychological. Just a lot of purposeless dithering, in other words. 

The campaign view seems to be that all those little mashed-flat digits on all those tickers and bottom-screen scrolls are just outward confirmation of what is essentially a chaotic and perhaps incomprehensible mental process. Money doesn't mean Jack Squat except in that counting-house of common consent that exists only between our ears. So why such a fuss and bother about it? Why the constant weeping and wailing?

The McCain economic model, in brief, seems to be this: since the big moolah foofaraw is just a big abstraction, and therefore unreal, we shouldn't be getting our bowels in such an uproar about it. Who cares what toys from China cost if all our offspring are going to die from gnawing the lead paint off of them anyway? Who worries about $1.25 per gnarly supermarket tomato knowing that salmonella looms inevitable anyhow?

As long as the campaign contributions keep rolling in, and no children are starving, or not many of them, and most of those from the other camp, why all the infernal whining?

But no, it's always the end of the world with us whiners when gas goes up another piddling dollar a gallon, or when a piece of meat at the grocery store costs only a little more this month than the whole cow did last month. And whining is all we know to do about it. Whining, and blaming, and seeing the glass as half empty.

It's all in our heads, people. All in the way we decide to look at it. Don't worry, be happy.  You might as well since it's going to work out however it's going to work out. Kay say rah, say rah.

I took some of these upbeat  Republican ruminations along when I went to visit a neighbor of mine who's been down on his luck. Thought they might cheer him up a little. He's been downsized, outsourced, foreclosed, pyramided, downturned, laid off, hostile-takeovered, phished, gouged, cherry-picked, subprimed, turned every which way by this economy including loose. And whine about it, yes he does, like Ned Beatty in “Deliverance.”  Whee, whee, whee without surcease.

He and his wife and family and dog were out by the curb in front of what used to be their house, looking one way down the street and then the other, as if a remedy might lie this way or that, with the grill, mower, Wii, rubber mattresses, and piled cardboard boxes and lumpy plastic bags. Waiting for directions, for a clue.

I was determined to be sanguine, but it didn't help matters, the poor mutt getting run over like that, but I swear I wasn't speeding or driving recklessly. He just dashed out into the street, intent on suicide in my opinion. Was it a gesture meant it as a group suggestion? Not a bad one if it was.

And of course they all had to whine around then about the dead dog, along with everything else.

For instance, the wife, their sole breadwinner for some time now, had just lost her job. The company had decided to give it to a man. A man in India.

I tried explaining to them the Gramm-McCain-Herbert Hoover positive-thinking glass-half-full Republican position that this latest misfortune to beset them was 99 percent mental. The guy in India probably had two or three dozen mouths to feed, while my neighbor's wife had only herself, her deadbeat husband, their deadbeat teenager who's a boy or a girl one or the other, the squalling baby who's also one or the other, and with the runningest damn nose I've ever seen, Grandma, and the dog – and the dog, if you wanted to look on the bright side, was no longer a factor.

It wasn't any great shakes as a job in the first place and they should just suck it up and move on. If they could find somewhere to move on to that recognized squatters' rights.

These arguments right out of the campaign playbook made no headway with them. Uplift is simply lost on whiners. They act like they're listening but you can tell they're wishing you'd just shut up and write them out a check.

Even Grandma. Turned out of the retirement home because her long-term care policy expired. Not that she was flung out onto the parking lot with her walker, her black-and-white TV, her knapsack and dollbaby. No, they just drove her out to the big woods and let her out beside the road and “forgot” to tell anybody. Who would've guessed she'd almost beat them back to town? Not that it did her any good.

It was whine whine whine from Grandma, too.

I did my part. Besides the encouragement, I offered to donate a half-pint of unleaded, which they could use to go looking for a job for one or more of them. Using one of the cars that other neighbors had abandoned beside the street along there, or in the middle of the street, when they were no longer able to pay that psychological $4 a gallon at the pump.

Add a comment