Jeff Ackerman: Focusing on the good combats the bad
Let me pull my head out of the sand long enough to grab some rum and orange juice and to try, once more, to convince some of you to lighten up.
Last week I suggested that there are too many miserable people in this great nation of ours and that if they stopped complaining for just a second or two, they’d find that life is relatively good, all things considered.
“Mr. Ackerman must have his head in the sand,” wrote one of my many fans. “With his dark rum and orange juice, he must be oblivious to what is happening in the real world.”
So tempting. Sand, rum … me on a beach with one of those frozen rum-runner drinks they serve in frosty glasses … but I digress.
The letter writer, it turns out, does not actually live in the “real world.” He lives in Nevada City, so I didn’t take much stock in his miserable assessment of things today. It’s easy to talk about hunger, hot chocolate makers (he pointed out that a hot chocolate company is laying off 500 people and outsourcing its chocolate making to Mexico), wildfires and Iraq from the comfort of your Nevada City home.
It seems my Nevada City friend is not alone in his misery, which was my point in the first place. Yet another news story came out this week about yet another survey that found only 25 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction. The story said it was the lowest level of satisfaction since even the gloomier days of 1992, when G.W. Bush’s daddy lost his election to Bill Clinton. For whatever reason, and I’m not trying to make any kind of political statement, it seems Americans are particularly miserable when we have a Bush in the White House.
Unfortunately, Americans are not miserable enough to do much about their misery. Some have suggested that the 2004 presidential election was one of the most important elections ever. Why, then, did only a little more than one of every two eligible voters bother to cast a vote? You would think that a nation of so many miserable people would want to do anything to rid itself of so much misery. I can only conclude that most Americans just like being miserable and that misery loves company.
To prove that point, I look no further than tomorrow night, when an estimated 40 million Americans are expected to watch the finale of “American Idol.” Why would so many miserable Americans care more about the future career of a singer than the future of their country they say is headed in the wrong direction? Did you know that more than 10 percent of all American adults have actually cast a vote for one or more “American Idol” performer? How is that for voter turnout?
And we wonder sometimes why other countries think we’re funny.
For the record, I don’t care one bit who the next idol will be. And I stopped calling 900 numbers when one of my calls was answered by some woman named Brandi, who said she’d talk dirty to me for just 50 cents a minute. I told her that I didn’t need to pay people to talk dirty to me, so she hung up.
Besides, I had an idol once, and he was busted for steroids, the miserable wretch.
I suspect most of the misery can be traced to Iraq, where our young men and women continue to die for a cause that gets more confusing by the day. Perhaps if a few more miserable people had shown up at the polls in 2004, we’d have a few more yucks and grins today. I doubt it. If it wasn’t Iraq, it would be something else. Weren’t we even more miserable before we invaded Iraq, when terrorists were busily blowing up our planes, buildings, ships and barracks? Did we think America was headed in the “right direction” when Clinton sent a few missiles to Baghdad for Christmas after Saddam thumbed his nose at the world for the umpteenth time? Forgot about that already?
None of that suggests we wouldn’t feel a whole lot better about things if our children, husbands and wives were out of Iraq. At least until Iran, or Afghanistan, or North Korea, or a number of other “hot spots” started to bring us back to the reality that this world is a much more dangerous place today. Do you really think that if we pick up our jacks and go home they will leave us alone?
And that’s exactly why we need to stop a moment or three to focus on the good things in life. We still live in the land of plenty, a land that has provided a pretty good living for most of us. So, as my iPod friend Dave Matthews suggests, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we’ll die.” Or … as Uncle Sam says, “Pay your taxes, eat, drink, be merry and, if you don’t like what he’s doing, vote.”
If I could make one little suggestion along those lines …. dark rum and orange juice goes well with your head in, or out, of the sand.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
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