Thursday, March 09, 2006

Drifting, Falling, Floating Weightless

Dear Americans,

How are you? Feeling well? Good, good. How's your Mom? Up to snuff? Glad to hear it. Nice. Nice.

We have a problem.

If you know me, dated, married or lived with me, you know that I cannot add and subtract. In my adorably coiffed head, numbers are shapes and colors and covered with papier mache and filled with helium. I compensate for not being able to do this crucial thing kindergarteners can by mentally fitting together shapes, colors, forms and gases. This is what it sounds like:
...turkey cutlets are right-triangle right-triangle and I have a coupon for minus right-triangle so that's right-triangle...kitten chow with the coupon is right-triangle, together they are square: 5 dollars...
It's not foolproof, what with tax and store discounts and my microscopic attention span, but fool that I am, I can sometimes see how things will add up and turn out.

Pretend we're - millions of you and tiny, old me - walking through the produce aisle with $12.77 in our pockets. We think as clearly as we can about how shapes, colors, forms and gases come together. We can do it! Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables but it is often expensive, though a grocery store bundle is usually about a pound, which I can stretch into several meals. That's good and thrifty - if I can afford the blue right-triangle the asparagus will cost. Artichokes may be isoceles-triangle, and I'd get two, forming right-triangle, which would be two whole meals for me. So we - millions of you and tiny, old me - carefully pick from our dark, leafy greens, knotty root vegetables, firmest fruit and berries, fragrant herbs and fit together two squares - $10 - and approach the Express Checkout with ten nourishing items or fewer to sustain us for several days, in conjunction with staples we have at home. We even have a little change to drop in the Humane Society tin at the Courtesy Counter, because in real life, we are most prosperous when we live gently and passionately, and share.

Still, I can be a doofus, and sometimes I get distracted by some new confit or fleshy scallops. No one is sensible all the time! Certainly not I. However, we need to examine our current shopping bill, and I'm going to try helping you.

1. Our troops in Iraq are stretched thin and inadequately equipped. The engagement has not gone as expected by the Pentagon, and it threatens to go on indefinitely. Many soldiers have been retained in stop-loss programs and some branches of the service have relaxed recruitment criteria.

2. Medical care is better, so greater numbers of soldiers survive more serious injuries than ever before, leading to a greater number of disabled veterans. This has become so financially draining an aspect of the Iraq war that the Veterans Administration is cutting medical benefits to the surviving veterans, including counseling for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

3. Last summer, a major American city was virtually destroyed. Thousands of Americans cannot yet return home and thousands more will never be able to. The economic consequences of the hurricane to all Americans will take decades to tabulate.

4. Engaging foreign companies of any nation whatever to safeguard our ports is financially silly and the stuff nightmares are made of. You wouldn't give the keys to your house to a stranger; say this with me slowly, "Why am I handing over the keys to my entire country?"

5. As jobs are outsourced to foreign shores, middle-aged and older workers are losing health insurance and having a harder and harder time finding jobs to make ends meet. We are now a nation of individual debtors, one health crisis from bankruptcy we can't declare anymore, with an aging population whose pension funds are increasingly tanking.

6. Our federal budget deficit is gigantic, and growing at a pace that should alarm each and every one of us. The war has been financed by loans from China, among other nations holding the notes. Our debt to China alone should keep us awake at night, but that's by no means the only one.

7. We are thirty years late on getting off that oil habit.

Now, I want you to fit these shapes, colors, forms and gases together. It's not easy, I know. When I fit them together, I see a monster floating toward us aimlessly. It's gigantic, colorful, rock-hard and we can see it from a distance. Still, we sit here and do nothing to prevent ourselves from being crushed by it.

Now, behind this thing is an even larger thing in the distance, hard to make out because its edges blur, and the sunlight seems to have gone a little gray. This larger thing is War with Iran. The first thing we need to observe is the cost to our military, the human beings who protect our nation every day of our lives. The military cannot double in size, cannot afford to draft and equip the force it would require to conduct war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. It cannot be done.

The human toll on our nation would not be recoverable. We cannot destroy an entire generation of Americans, as this war would. Well, we could destroy it, but we would have to be suicidal to do so. Who do you think would fight? Not your children? Precisely your children. They're teens now? Perfect! Pre-teens? Even better.

What is the purpose of War in Iran? To prevent the Iranians from obtaining a fully realized nuclear program? Maybe the Pentagon should have thought of that before American soldiers marched into Baghdad and blew our war budget for the next thirty years.

The consequences of the path we are walking diplomatically and economically will lead to large-scale ruin. Looking down the list of items on our list, the first thing that must be observed is that one thing is true for persons and nations: one must take care of oneself before caring for someone else.

It is time to take a dispassionate look at the way we are handling our and our nation's finances. We spent money like drunken sailors while we had it and kept spending long after it was gone, and now we keep spending as if it is our divine right to do so. This has got to stop. We are approaching a time of unparallelled destruction and economic depression the likes of which haven't been seen in our lifetime, because when our economy tanks, it will take most of the world with it.

The bill is coming due very soon. The United States you know and love: kiss it goodbye. We cannot afford to engage in war anymore.

I love you, and want only your happiness,


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