The Depression Below the Depression
My people are shovel ready: they are ready to shovel the manure out of the barn and clean political and economic house.
When I gave the pastoral prayer on Sunday, I couldn't help myself. I had to pray to God that God stimulate congress. Stimulate means to activate, deepen, embolden, inspire. What stimulates my people right now? Hope, most of which they are having to come up with on their own.
The President is now stumping for the Less than Perfect But Absolutely Necessary Stimulus bill, which sounds like a vitamin that upsets your stomach more than anything else. In the pews, we know what burps. We know the difference between stimulation and boredom, stimulation and soul, stimulation and substance. We know when our leaders don't know - and we wish they would at least fake it.
In the pews, there is a triumphant pessimism, a load of boomers become doomers, slum dogs pre millionaires. We knew the government was letting the liars and thieves run the government. We know about the people who do enjoy tax cuts. We have seen their houses, their advertisements for themselves, the amount they spend on face cream, which would feed our family for a week. We still have a sliver of hope that someone might lead the liars and thieves and SUV crowd out of town - and do so with a smile, our smile, on their face. So far, not so good. Thus the confirmation of that bulletproof jacket known as cynicism. At least we are not surprised.
It could be different. We could have leaders who understood the relationship between catastrophe and transformation. This is what ordinary people say to each other when terrible things happen: God never closes a door without opening another one. Isn't it great news that the old economy is dead? It was mean when it wasn't unfair. It was a giant Ponzi scheme. It benefited the few and ignored the many. Right now our leaders are missing a great opportunity to take the cynicism out of the electorate. Taking the political depression out of the electorate might even avoid a material depression.
A good leader right now would articulate hope. Forget about the material stuff, forget our rail system that shames Bulgaria, our highway system and automotive industry that destroy the air our grandchildren might have breathed. Forget about the shovel ready infrastructure projects, leaders, and talk to us about our souls. They have been trickled down ON for too long. Stimulate them and you will be amazed at the growth that results.
My people want nothing less than perfect from our new President. Think how Sullenberger landed the plane. They want him to tell them how things are going to be better, in a different way than they have always been. Nobody needs another hair dryer or toaster. We need protection against depression, and I don't mean the economic kind. We don't need to buy tasteless tomatoes any time of day or any time of year: we'd like our food to taste better and be less fattening and artificial. We need the government to figure out how to move us around without destroying the planet's air. We can't figure that out by ourselves.
We are shovel ready - shovel ready to shovel out the s....... that has comprised our government for way too long. You can take the trickle too. What is that s........? It is the government's lying in bed with the rich who have now stolen both the spiritual and the material infrastructure for the American Dream. A good leader right now would say enough of that. A good leader would guarantee that the rich are no longer going to enjoy BONUSES !!!! while the poor and middle class can't get the bank on the phone to remortgage their 3BR, 2Baths. A good leader would work from the bottom up, not the top down.
The ground and the pews need attention. If they don't get it, watch out for social revolution. Watch out for the current depression in the pews to turn into anger in the streets. That will also cost pragmatic leaders something: they will think they will have to protect the rich from the poor. Instead they could avoid that expense and funnel stimulus money to the poor and middle class right now. Think of it as a bargain.
Want to avoid a depression? Work on the depression that already exists.
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City and author of GRASS ROOTS GARDENING: RITUALS TO SUSTAIN ACTIVISM.