02 March 2009

Which Song Are We?

I had a rather odd experience this weekend. While driving around, hitting the "SEEK" button on the car stereo, I stumbled onto a real blast from the past: Seasons in the Sun, by Terry Jacks. For those not familiar, it's among the darkest and most depressing songs from the early 1970s [The refrain includes nuggets such as: "We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun, but the stars we could reach were just starfish on the beach" and "We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun, but the hills we could climb were just seasons out of time."] I settled deeper into the car seat, glad to be alone with my thoughts; the music seemed to match the gray and dreary February landscape perfectly.

The next song began playing, and the mood and message couldn't have been more different: I Knew You Were Waiting, by George Michael and Aretha Franklin. I cranked the volume up, and realized that the juxtaposition was so sharp it couldn't have been accidental; some D.J. at the radio station must have put those two songs together on purpose.

When the music faded and the station went to commercial, I switched the radio off and tried to process my thoughts. I've always thought of America as an "I Knew You Were Waiting" nation --- a country that has encountered more than her fair share of difficulties and setbacks, but in the midst of them remained optimistic about her ultimate future triumph. What other country has even claimed to have a "Manifest Destiny?" Our best days, it has always seemed, have been those still ahead of us.

And yet...and yet...in a distressingly short period of time, we seem to have become a "Seasons in the Sun" nation. Our family used to make confident plans about the future, secure about certain assumptions. But how do you make decisions about significant business investments, or even personal retirement planning for 30 years down the road, when you can't even be sure who will be running the banks next week? What our tax rates will be next year? How much more the stock market will slide? If the bank will revoke the line of credit we have against our house? (We've never tapped it, but it gives us tremendous peace of mind knowing it is there as a last resort.) Have we moved enough cash into assets that will not be wiped out by the inflation that seems inevitable given the current spending spree in the nation's capital? If the Michigan economy thoroughly implodes, and displaces large numbers of people who have grown accustomed to having all their consumer wants satiated, how far will the civil unrest spread? If I have to call 9-1-1, will anyone be able to come and help? Do I have enough firepower here on my farm to protect my family? And will the Attorney General try to take that firepower out of my hands? Why does my bulk ammo dealer keep selling out of .45 ACP, 7.62x39, 12-ga 00 Buck, and nearly every other popular defensive round? And why have I started to see people around here flying the Stars and Stripes upside down, which is the universal sign of distress?

While our country was distracted celebrating the historic events of January 20th, something quite different (and underreported) was happening in Iceland: economic collapse led to rioting in the streets. Are images like these a precursor of what we can expect this summer?

I don't think the USA is "coming apart at the seams" --- but it sure appears poised to do so. Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I want, with every fiber of our beings, to believe that this is still an "I Knew You Were Waiting" nation. But we also believe, with equal intensity, that we need to prepare for what may break loose when large swaths of this country conclude that the wine and the song, like the seasons, have all gone.

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