Friday, May 05, 2006

Whining Versus Acting Like An American

If you ever talk to an elderly person about what life was like during the Great Depression, try asking if America could survive a real, prolonged downturn now.

The answer is "not a chance."

We are having Congressional hearings because gas is $3 a gallon. I suppose that next year when the price reaches $4 we will have to bring in UN peacekeepers.

This really is a good time to ask ourselves what it means when we think of ourselves as Americans. Are we just a bunch of fat, drunk, stupid, helpless automatons who can't think beyond "there oughta be a law" when everything doesn't go perfectly? What happened to the pioneers who risked life and limb to build this nation from nothing? Well, the truth is there are plenty of them left, but no one with those heroic attributes that makes America great would ever dream of running to elected officials because commodity price fluctuations turned against them in such a small way.

Those who sit around waiting for some kind of official guidance for surviving "high" gas prices would doubtless fall on the floor kicking, screaming, and turning purple if someone were to suggest shutting off the cable television.

That got me thinking about how what we really need is a small dose of perspective on gas prices. Seriously, if you eat out at restaurants -- ever -- your complaints about gas prices are merely about lifestyle, not survival. In fact, if you eat junk food or drink soft drinks, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, run up credit card balances, or buy new automobiles, the white hot anger about prices at the pump should be embarrassing. The fact that too many Americans aren't embarrassed by this skewed perspective says a lot about how lost we are. That such a minor hit to our lavish lifestyles would be met with ranting and raving rather than belt-tightening or, at the very least, a little shift in spending priorities, is startling and sad.