The signs of a bad economy reveal themselves, to some extent, all around us. We have just made a cross country drive, New Mexico to Florida, and couldn't help but be aware of what was going on, in terms of the economy, in different areas.
Even Dallas, sometimes seen as the opulent jewel on the southwest's eastern gate, is trying to figure out how to weather the storm. Malls are closing, some jobs being outsourced, and of course the end result of that sort of activity, people are losing their homes.
Driving through bright spots, one wonders if they are really bright. One wonders if they are simply trying to hold on, hoping that the situation will reverse itself.
An example: Vicksburg, Mississippi. This Santa Fe-like city (no, not in architecture, nor geography, but ambience) overlooking the Mississippi River would seem to be doing fine. Perhaps it is, but one can only hope for a reversal before this city, too, feels the pinch.
Florida, the upper or western Gulf Coast, seemed virtually deserted, compared to what might normally be expected. Yes, this was a late week to have spring break, and it was raining, but one still gets the idea that the Gulf Coast is feeling the pressure, too. A drive along the picturesque beachfront communities reveals entire blocks that are barely hanging on.
I suspect that areas of rural Louisiana and Mississippi we drove through may, perhaps like other rural communitites, be weathering the storm better. Perhaps this is a result of lower expectations.
I remember working in Ohio back in the mid '80s, amidst a local recession due to the closing of steel mills and potteries.
A neighboring clergy shared with me that a family in that parish, the family of a pottery president, was not able to afford their winter trip to Aspen for skiing. The point was, for that family, this was as much a loss as mine at being unable to afford to go up to Lake Erie (about 70 miles distant) for fishing, which was the discussion.
I dug deep, but found little sympathy. I was young and idealistic. I proposed that maybe they were just spoiled, and life was tough.
Life is tough. It is definitely not a sport for sissies. However, I have, or possibly would have, more compassion now.
The reason for that sympathy, aside from the mellowing of age, is that I think, in the past several years, we have all gotten used to "great expectations." We have all come to believe that, if we work hard enough, we deserve that fancy beachfront house, or that home in the historic section of Vicksburg, or that shopping spree at Niemann-Marcus.
It's hard to tell if we are on the uphill climb, or if we still have more slide to go before the economy can be reversed. One thing seems clear; the country was taken for a collective ride by a select group of very skilled and amoral, no, immoral shysters.That being said, what are we going to do about it ?
Each of us may need to tighten our belt evenmore, drop our sense of entitlement.
The right to earn a living is not the same as the right to a beachfront house. The right to take care of one's family does not stretch to include the right to Telluride every winter.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: email@example.com