After a relatively cool spring, the heat has finally arrived in Paeonian Springs. Grills are working overtime and the roadways are crowded with local kids heading towards the nearest river, creek, or lake in an effort to be cool again. There is a summer haze over the Blue Ridge. It's almost like the rest of the world and its troubles have slipped away. Of course, that's not true, but it's a pleasant enough fantasy. According to our media and others, there is plenty to stress over. Here are a few candidates:
MICHAEL JACKSON: I have not been inclined to keep up with the tedious trial of the King of Pop until recently – just when the case is being handed over to the jury. TV footage of Jackson portrays a grim, hurting Jackson. Frankly, my impressions of the same footage indicate a very frightened man. I think for the first time Jackson – guilty or innocent – has become aware of the reality that has arrived at his doorstep. I have no predictions on this one, but if the trial goes south for Jackson, they'd better double the suicide watch.
IRAQ: Speaking of reality, I'm getting confused. As the Viet Nam war drew to a close, the casualty count of young Americans – my generation – rose to as high as fifty GI's a week. In Iraq, it's different, but no less horrifying. Our troops are being killed steadily and there is little glory in it. We aren't taking territory – we already have it. We aren't dying heroically in pitched battles – we dominate the field in weaponry. Unfortunately, our kids are coming home in pieces after being blown up by truck bombs while an invisible enemy watches from a distance. Our President and others make the claim we are winning. I am reminded of similar claims from President Johnson and General Westmoreland. I saw a report recently where some of our soldiers are composing and performing rap music about their plight to get the attention of an American public that doesn't seem to be listening.
GENERAL MOTORS: 25,000-fired workers – one out of seven employees (some of the highest paid in the world) – is a big chunk. Compounded with the announcement by GM that it would start looking overseas for it parts, GM's layoff announcement will have a pronounced ripple effect throughout the economy. I don't have to wonder how those folks summer is going.
CHILD ABDUCTION AND KIDNAPPING: Is this something that the press is over-dramatizing? If it is not, then we are in big trouble. One of our basic freedoms I've assumed, but never seen written anywhere – is the freedom from FEAR. When a loved one goes shopping and we are uneasy until that person gets home is symptomatic of a climate that is pervading even the so-called "safe" rural areas of this country.
THE RUNAWAY BRIDE: First – I don't think it is news when someone gets cold feet and doesn't go through with a wedding. The young woman in Georgia who was recently fined and sentenced for her actions is a tragedy that should have remained private. Our news organizations, local and national, new standard is that of the cheap tabloids that line supermarket checkout lanes. A doubtful bride and her escape is not worthy of national TV coverage, let alone opinion pieces in national newspapers.
INDIA, CHINA, RUSSIA, AND JAPAN: India, which has become an economic powerhouse in its own right, is building 200 plus fighter aircraft for Russia in addition to building two massive aircraft carriers for itself to extend its power in the Indian Ocean. Russia is moving rapidly in bringing a massive oil pipeline to Western Europe. China is building and expanding so rapidly that here in the U.S., we are suffering from much higher energy prices and a nationwide shortage of concrete and steel. Has your local press reported any of those stories? Do you think the current conflict between China and Japan could affect us? On the other hand, did you know there was a conflict between China and Japan? Our press has found it much more convenient and profitable to report on alleged pedophile pop stars and runaway brides.
THE CONFLICT DEEPENS between Red and Blues. Watching C-Span is like watching worldwide wrestling. Any day now, I expect some senator or congressman to pull a weapon or a fist and go at it with a colleague. You know those emails that your inbox is clogged with that promote a political joke for or against the President, Hillary, or some other political lightning rod. I've created files in my computer appropriately labeled red and blue, and do you know what, both have almost the same number of emails.
MIKE THOMSON'S SOLUTION TO SUMMER STRESS: If you wish to avoid stressing or even wasting time with the issues I have raised, try this: This summer, turn your computer, TV, and radio off for one month. Buy a tube, find a river and float to your hearts content. Walk barefoot in the grass after a thunderstorm. Eat a few snow cones. Visit an old friend, sit on their front porch enjoying lemonade, and discuss baseball, needlepoint, or anything other than Red and Blue issues. Be politically incorrect, build a campfire, and tell your kids some ghost stories. Think about the people in your life that have loved you and been there for you and make a point to let them know it before autumn comes if they're still alive. If not pull out your checkbook and donate to some worthy cause in their name.
Have a great summer everyone!