10.10.2008

A dose of CNN

I wrote this in June, and sat on it. But I reread it today while I was waiting for the bulletins to finish printing and thought I'd still post it. Two reasons: I feel smart because I called the recession, and I feel it is still relevant in terms of our current economy woes and the upcoming election.

While my family visited, I got a dose of The Road to the Presidency 2008 via CNN. One evening, there were four almost consecutive pieces that caught my attention.
  1. A discussion of Obama and McCain's positions on rising gas prices and their solutions.
  2. A legal firm that helps foreign workers obtain visas was audited for being too involved in their clients' hiring process, hurting middle-class Americans' job opportunities.
  3. The rising cost of everything, from food to mortgages.
  4. The controversy over Dr. Dobson criticizing Obama for his Biblical interpretations, versus Obama saying faith and morals should impact public policy.
These all connected in my mind. Hopefully my big ideas and revelations will make sense. And if I offend with my soapbox stands, I am unapologetic. Offenses are unintended, but I don't think my criticisms are undeserved. And keep in mind I am making generalizations — I'm analyzing our overall culture and realize there are exceptions, sometimes large ones, to the statements I make.

Our society has unrealistic and contradicting expectations and we refuse to take responsibility. We expect our government to fix things for us and make our lives better. The McCain camp and Obama camp spoke loudly over each other about how their candidate will fix things, and his opponent can't. But I don't see a big movement towards encouraging us to change our lifestyles to help with the problem. In fact, lifestyle changes due to lack of options (not driving because we literally can't afford the gas), are treated as an inconvenience, not a long-term solution. We just focus on how the government should fix the problem for us.

This thought continues into the story about American companies hiring foreign workers. The people interviewed said they want companies to do the "right" thing, not just the "legal" thing, inferring the companies hiring cheaper foreign labor have a moral obligation to hire US workers. However, our economy is all about making money. Companies have to pay higher wages to Americans, which would translate into smaller profits. Wouldn't that hurt our economy and drive prices up even more? So while you would have a job, it would cost you in other ways. Yes, I understand the frustration. But when it pays to (legally) hire foreign workers and we condition them to chase increased profits, can we blame them?

Moreover, companies propagate the condition by constantly tell us to spend our money so they can increase their profits. Promos for everything you "need" are everywhere, like a new giant flat screen HDTV or designer clothes. Spend, don't save. Who cares if it is on a high-interest credit card. People outrun their coverage, and get stuck when they have to start paying. Now, when situations drive up the cost of necessities like food, people are crunching to cover the bills.

I know that this isn't the case for everyone. But think about it. You pick your priorities. Do you spend money on more than basic food, protection from the elements, the cheapest way to work, basic clothing needs? I include myself in this. I don't mean spending money for enjoyment is wrong. We just need to be responsible and save for a rainy day so when things happen out of our control, we don't lose everything. Work for what you get, and spend only what you have.

I don't mean to say people's problems are small. I refuse to say if you are struggling right now, too bad, you are responsible, get over it. I empathize; and I think it shows our culture needs to reevaluate. Even the government assumes we will spend all the money we get — we received the economic stimulus payment to increase sales to help the economy. Our economy needs to constantly be growing. While I am not an economist, it seems inevitable it will eventually see a recession.
With the news constantly rehashing our woes and unintentionally highlighting the seeming futility of politics, you think I would feel depressed. But I don't. It reminds me while men fail, God doesn't. We can rely on him. I appreciate Obama saying faith does have a place in government: political positions based on religious beliefs shouldn't have to be checked at the door. That doesn't mean I'll blindly vote for him. I need to weigh his faith and positions against the truth I know. But I hope this gets people talking and thinking. I look at our problems and I know God has answers.

I think of what C.S. Lewis wrote about how we get polarized: Democrats and Republicans, for example, and not exclusively right or wrong. We focus too much on one area, and we lose other vital things. A real, wholly biblical community would scare the pants off everyone because it would be so radical — not in a violent political sense, but in a way that contradicts our society and is unlike anything we generally see today. Love, selflessness, giving up our wants for others' needs, responsibility, much more than I can summarize here. C.S. Lewis sounds much more intelligent than that, but I think that's the general idea. Read Mere Christianity for the whole picture. These ideas also connect with a few quotes from Velvet Elvis I thought would conclude this nicely, in regards to God's call for us in our society.
Ultimately our gift to the world around us is hope. Not blind hope that pretends everything is fine and refuses to acknowledge how things are. But the kind of hope that comes from staring pain and suffering right in the eyes and refusing to believe that this is all there is. ... It is in the flow of real life, in the places we live and move with the people we're on the journey with, that we are reminded it is God's world and we're going to be okay.

It is our turn to rediscover the beautiful, dangerous, compelling idea that a group of people, surrendered to God and to each other, really can change the world.
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