Molly Fisk: The Only Neighborhood

If you could imagine yourself as God, and God as a parent, looking down at America from the sky, and you could imagine its citizens as your children, you would immediately put us all to bed, because we’re sick, and we’re tired. You’d feed us weak tea and cinnamon toast and tuck us in with hot water bottles.

Then I think you’d sit up late at your kitchen table above the clouds and try to work out how to help. You’d see we’re like babies, grabbing at the first bright objects we notice, and also like teenagers: sullen and hormonal, self-involved. You’d look at our credit card debt and our landfills and make the connection between them, the average American a kind of gigantic earthworm, turning material goods into waste. You might wonder — as we should all wonder — why intelligent minds were put to work inventing plastic cups that will outlive us instead of cures for cancer and AIDS.

You’d see individuals everywhere doing good work: the Amish in their fields, young VISTA volunteers painting inner city schools. But you’d be appalled at the tidal strength of the culture, how it influences almost everyone — blatant or subtle, but relentless — offering new things to buy and new reasons why if we buy them, we’ll be happy, and if we don’t, we’ll be ostracized, miserable, way uncool.

You’d wonder where this craziness came from, and do what a politician does: follow the money. You’d see the mansions with locked gates, the private jets and private islands. You’d see oil rigs and ticker tape, genetically modified corn, acres of churned hillsides, bare of trees.

At this point you’d wonder if there’s another school system that might be better for your kids. As a parent, you’d hate to see them so out of control, many with addictive behaviors, a few bullying all the rest.

This is where the metaphor ends, or maybe God decides to home-school the kids. There isn’t any other school system in America: Our country is one big neighborhood, a place where compassion, satisfaction, and self-sufficiency have taken a back seat to phenomenal waste and instant gratification, a concern with image over substance.

We didn’t vote on this. I doubt anyone said, “I want to be shallow and ignore the real issues of life until they’re overwhelming.” The situation just unfolded, gradually, at tiny decision points over the last hundred years. And now here we are.

“Greed is good,” says Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street.

I don’t think so.

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  • Gail W October 9, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    This is perfect. Thanks for re-sharing.

  • Deb Lundstrom October 8, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Always, always the exact right words! If God/Goddess/Spaghetti Monster were actually looking at us, we would all be disowned by this time. Thank you!

  • Molly Fisk October 8, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you Susan, and Shirley, I wrote the piece some years ago, I can’t even remember in relation to what event back then, but it seemed highly apt for today’s situation. Sigh.

  • Shirley October 8, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    The exquisite timing of this column’s coming out after yesterday’s release of the Trump video is especially fitting. Truth will out.

  • susan mikolasy October 8, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Well said.