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Identity crisis USA (07/12/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns
A new class of people has evolved in the USA, in a whirlwind of commercial greed and unrealistic desires. Social-climbing, white collar, suburban couples have spent far beyond their means. Subsequently they’ve lost their possessions and their homes, and America has sacrificed clout and dignity.

Current author of books on spirituality, the environment, and health, Thom Hartmann has stated, “Within two generations we (Americans) have become the most voracious consumers on Earth, using 30 times the planetary resources per capita consumed by a typical resident of India.” “As we slid from an American culture based on community into one based on consumerism, we turned this nation from a rich garden into a giant mall.”

Today’s upcoming elder generation, forever labeled “baby boomers,” among less appealing criticisms, came into a restrained, idealistic world they were destined to change drastically and to rebel against, a sexual revolution out of hand. The boomers are now floundering in a technological, cutthroat, global society, where they no longer feel that they belong. Misplaced rebels without a cause?

Escape to the sixties and seventies is a transition back to their music, the Beatles, Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin (Pearle,) Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones, and their weed, Harleys, beer kegs, and tattoos. Those whose lives had gone sour – divorce, kids in trouble, the job lay-off and loss of pension, the third DUI, the flood – seek out old buddies and girlfriends, crossing the midnight white line, absently leading back to an inhospitable place to crash and to reach for hollow, lethal ecstasy that never loves back.

Wallowing in self-pity, destructive addiction is a dangerous escape. It’s a sad situation that many lost souls find themselves stumbling alone on a Sunday morning sidewalk and in cold, decrepit, and dirty hellholes, when their families and friends care very deeply about them. One wonders, is their addiction the drug itself or is it the lack of moral stability and courage to get the help prevalent in our therapy-oriented society?

With upcoming generations there’s a good possibility of conquering racism. The college age American today has an intrinsic sense of acceptance when it comes to culture, race, traditions, beliefs, etc. in a global society. They interact in all avenues of life, playing on sports teams together, sharing apartments, attending the same classes, partying together, and even being raised together in the same household.

Marianne Williamson speaks of spiritual rejuvenation in her thought –provoking “Everyday Grace.” She writes, “We beat the Nazis, but the world is not yet rid of evil. We outlawed slavery, but our nation is not yet rid of racial tension. World War II could not end hatred, and the Emancipation Proclamation could not end racism. The deeper changes we are seeking to effect, in ourselves and in the world, are dependent on a level of inner transformation that no external force can dictate.”

The USA was once a bellwether nation in the struggle for justice and equality worldwide. Thom Hartmann paints a bleak picture of our nation today. He writes, “We turned the poor of the world into our slaves: peasants in China work for a dollar a day so that we can buy cheap jeans, faux Tiffany lamps, and inexpensive area rugs. We didn’t end slavery: we simply exported it.”

Haven’t we noted yet that many other cultures in the world, the ones we’ve labeled primitive and ignorant, don’t murder each other, haven’t accumulated ridiculous amounts of possessions, and have great respect for the natural world!

“Our technological superiority was, in our minds, the proof of our cultural superiority,” Hartmann writes. “Many (indigenous people) didn’t even have words for war in their vocabularies, and genocide was a totally alien concept to them. They didn’t build prisons, and withholding health care or food from people was unthinkable to them.”

“Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” -Pema Chodron

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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