Tuesday, September 13, 2005

On Retirement, Weakness and America's Soul

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Social Security into law, the United States was amidst the greatest economic crisis the industrialized world had ever witnessed. As millions of society's weakest died from privation, the President peered deep into the soul of America to see if it really existed. Could a civilization be a civilization if it allows its weakest members to perish from want amidst plenty? As Roosevelt knew well, the path from vigorous health to physical infirmity is a well travelled one. All humans literally age and decay over time... or as my brother points out, despite our best efforts, the mortality rate is still at 100%. Society must protect the weakest, because every citizen will eventually fall into vulnerability through the trials of illness, economics or time.

In the wake of Katrina, 45 bodies were found at a retirement facility. This latest grotesque chapter in America's greatest tragedy lays bare our nation's soul as it never had before. The vulnerable were left to float, but the healthiest of the vulnerable were able to escape with their lives through cagey ingenuity and physical strength. These 45 elderly, the weakest of our society, died of basic privations available in abundance not 200 miles away in Texas.

Perhaps we have a greater crisis on our hands than a basic question of preparedness. Perhaps America, basking in the unprecedented wealth of the world's first 'Hyperpower' since Rome, simply never took the opportunity to look down from the elevated freeways that carry us past those undesirable places and asked why such places exist. Perhaps the culture that carried this President to the helm, one of Tax Cuts, 'self-sufficiency' and personal salvation, was too busy on the Up and Up to bother looking down. Perhaps the saddest truth lies in Bush's careless uncontested nominations to various integral service posts throughout the government... perhaps we don't give a damned.

I don't have the answers, and would deplore any LBJ knee jerk government program to solve our issues immediately... Sadly, these aren't immediate problems, they're historic. The Ghettos of Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles will likely stay as they are, as America's temporal concern for them blows away with the deadly Winds of Katrina.

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