Just Let Me -- G -- Indoctrinate You!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dear America,

I am up, then I'm down.
I am up again, oops s'daisy, slide back down.
I am up again, this time for good...

...can't make any promises.

It would seem my life is more polarized than D.C. could ever be -- but hey, that's life, right?

I was absent for a wee bit, given it was Spring Break and all; just really had no intention of staying down and out for so long.  Sometimes even the best laid plans do not turn out like they are supposed to.

I was reminded while catching Joel Osteen's TV ministry yesterday not to sweat the small stuff.  Most of us do realize this to be true and yet, why is it so much easier said than done?

Of course, he added a story relating to the tragedy in West Virginia this past week, and the loss of 29 miners.  Referring to a moment in time when they were asked of what scares them the most when faced with all the risks of their work, was the first thing to come to mind an explosion?  No.  Was it a collapse of a mine wall? No.

The answer was in the dust.

Black Lung.

Now upon this week's tragedy, our President immediately called out for a review, demanding answers to the cause, liabilities overlooked and faults of management or corporate greed, as a show of leadership and federal response to a catastrophic loss of men in the day and the life of a miner.  Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that, so please don't misconstrue.

But I can't help myself this morning -- now in this new age of health care for all, I wonder now, just how much more will the exponentially higher number of deaths from the little black dust that gets sucked into each man's lung will be weighed and monitored and diagnosed and treated under our fair and wise federal government bureaucracy?  (Here's a sweet little chart to picture that reality)

The good news, that since the seventies when we were at a high of 30-35% of all miners having some level of CWP, Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis occurring, with signs of emphysema. silicosis, or bronchitis -- today we have cut that percentage by about half, due to federal regulations and stiffer standards to achieve healthier work environments.  And having said that, the data continues to have holes in it -- for instance when adding the dimension of those miners who smoke -- that muddies it up quite a bit I would think.

But going back to the message from Osteen, it is the dust, the little things, the small stuff, that we allow to add up and take over our emotions, our relationships, our faith in life itself, isn't it?

It's never the big one that gets the best of our day to day; it's the stupid, bits and pieces of spilling our coffee, sitting behind a slow driver, losing our keys, forgetting our lunch, losing our temper, burning the toast, and on and on and on.

For a miner's world, the accidents large and small happen once in a blue moon, but the real home-wrecker is in the dust.  Is it possible for a bit of the new found glory in coming to the aid of these miners -- in the wake of this disaster -- be also an opportunity, that with all due respect, keep all things in perspective?  What about the constant, the bits of dust, the common denominator amongst all unexpected acts of loss and destruction?

President Obama, in light of your quick step to the podium to point fingers at the failings of corporate America, the owners, the greed, black listing any sign of corporate compassion which seems to flow easily and vehemently in the veins of this administration -- a look at the big picture here is worth taking a couple steps back. Just sayin'. 

I must say, it is fascinating to watch you; looking back to times when you have calculatedly waited before making any statements (sometimes days, even months) to the moments where it would seem you have chosen to accept a major jump to conclusion, in front of all the world to see, almost immediately -- it never ceases to entertain me time and time again.

I am comforted in this moment, however, by America's uncanny ability to keep numbers of just about everything imaginable.  But one thing's for certain, and believe we might all agree, we are an industrious nation -- by nature -- and on purpose. 

And with that we could look back and see that when building things like the Hoover Dam, we lost about one hundred lives -- to the opposite end of the spectrum, building the Transcontinental Railroad, we lost 20,000 lives. When building the first, and now oldest, suspension bridge --the Brooklyn Bridge -- we only lost about 27 lives according to the best of records kept way back when, in 1883 -- over the course of the 13 years it took to build it, I might add!

It was the John Roebling, along side his son Washington as Chief Engineer, who were responsible for building the greatest advancement over a stream of water at a span of 5,989 feet.  But not long after construction began, the senior Roebling got his toe's squeezed in between pylons which called for amputation and he was no longer able to work. Due to the liability of the times, he later died from tetanus, of all things (now that's a shot in the arm worth having) -- and left Washington, and his wife Emily, to continue the charge.

As history made it's way, Washington was soon plagued with "decompression sickness", or something we nowadays refer to as "the bends" -- and became virtually bedridden for his remaining days. The sole family member who was left to keep on keepin' on, was Emily -- and make no mistake, after apprenticing for years under her husbands watchful eye, she became astute at numbers, mathematics and in her ability to communicate between her husband, at home, and the on site engineers left to finish the job. Some might say, she became the bridge to somewhere (ba da dump bum) and in the end, instrumental to a job well done.

Now the annuls of American trivia also say that the bridge was pronounced suspect within the first week's of opening -- this rumor spread so fast and so furious that twelve people were supposedly killed in a stampede to get off the bridge (that is according to wikipedia...so...) But I love the reference to what happened months later (and can only hope this to be true, too) -- but P.T. Barnum and his circus was coming to town.  As a way to entice people to come see the greatest show on earth, he put on a show (like we haven't seen stunts like this before...).  Anyway, he had all 21 of his elephants leading a train of clowns and fat ladies, tigers and acrobats across the bridge -- with Jumbo at the start!  Low and behold, all fears were dispensed and the bridge still stands as testament to the ingenious know how of a few hard working Americans.

Much later, as in the 20th century, it would be noted by John Perry Barlow, of the

"literal and genuinely religious leap of faith embodied by the bridge...the Brooklyn Bridge required it's builders faith in their ability to control technology [and be able to carry on without them as the case may be]."
Ultimately, the Brooklyn Bridge stands as a monument to a united effort for seeing the bigger picture.

Now, I don't know much about Barlow, except that in recent years he has been an ardent and relentless freedom fighter for the cyber world -- and continues today a long standing advocate...previously a rancher, more libertarian than republican, he was also a writer for the Grateful Dead (talk about polarities...) but what's not to love!

I will never look at the bridge the same again...and perhaps that goes the same for the water that comes out my tap from the Colorado river passing through the Hoover Dam, or for that matter the next time I'm sitting on the train passing through the mountainside of the Rockies (like when I was twelve), or when lighting a fire using charcoal briquettes -- for they are all symbols of the optimism that takes credit for building America everyday -- from yesteryear to tomorrow.

In everything we do -- from driving our car -- behind a grandma --  to simply picking up our children after school -- to just before we have to walk outside the door we find ourselves at our wits end, screaming in utter frustration 'where the he** are my keys?" and accidentally spill the cup of coffee sitting on the counter over the pages of a finished tax return -- we can stop and realize, some things are just not worth all the fuss.

Of course, some things really are -- and there's the rub; funny, keeping things in perspective truly works both ways.

There is a reason for the extremes of opinion running rampant in America -- the polarization of ideologies -- the swinging of the pendulum between what is right, what is left, along with what just makes us individually go a little nuts.

At the risk of sounding totally warped, I will go to my latest turn-on, in Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals for refuge and irony in one fell swoop. Found in S'linsky's final paragraph (I, of course, will edit as I see fit):

"The great American dream that reached out to the stars has been lost to the stripes.  We have forgotten where we came from, we don't know where we are, and we fear where we may be going...When Americans can no longer see the stars, the times are tragic.  We must believe that it is the darkness before the dawn of a beautiful new world; we will see it when we believe it."
From engineers to radicals, from the every day to the monumental, we always have FAITH to see us through.  Faith made America and made America great. 

It's a beautiful thing today and always.

Make it a Good Day, G 

your homework today is to play some grateful dead and let the small stuff slip away for a few minutes...you can do it...you tube it...go...now...or just click back on Dear America above, she will take you there...

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