This is shaping up to be a rare week where I'm probably going to do back-to-back posts. I'm not sure why, I just feel like it, I guess.
Monday night Aly and I trucked all the way up to Lowell to hear Tim Russert, the moderator of "Meet The Press" speak at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. He was excellent. Unflappable, full of cool anecdotes and just all-around positive about this country and what can be accomplished.
After a steady diet of cynicism, angst and sarcasm, tt was refreshing to hear someone speak so positively about the future, and mean it. The good thing was is that he isn't a Polyanna about the future. He knows that it's going to take some work to return America to it's perch as number one in the business world, he feels that we've pretty much plateaued when it comes to the American workforce and education after fourth grade.
He mentioned that the United States is with the rest of the world when it comes to elementary education, but when the fourth grade hits, American students are falling behind the Europeans and the Japanese. The solution is simple and it starts with us, if we have children, we have to keep their noses to the grindstone and show them that we take responsibility for our actions. He wants us to be more like the folks from his parents' generations who had constantly pushed to make the next generation better.
And I agree with him. Baby boomers don't like to hear this, but there's is the first generation that really dropped the ball when it came to personal responsibility. The whole tune-in, turn-on and drop-out mantra of the late 60s was in stark contrast to the work hard, keep your head down and shut the fuck up attitude of previous generations. To me, it seemed that most of that generation was trapped in a state of arrested development (and not the good kind) where adulthood was put on hold for a number of years.
Is it any wonder that the hippies that had a drug problem grew up to become yuppies with an even bigger drug problem in the 80s? And while mom and dad were snorting lines, maxing out their credit cards on ridiculously shallow endeavors and trying to keep their needs fulfilled, what were their kids doing? Taking note. This is why there are so many me-first, spoiled kids in the world, not taking responsibility for their own actions. This is something that Russert says that we have to change.
Before I get angry emails from people telling me that I missed the entire point of the 60s and the Baby Boomers, I know that every one wasn't like that. But it seems as if the majority were, which has festered into the collective American psyche.
Am I a nose-to-the-grindstone type guy, truthfully, I'm not. Like most people, I'll take a day of fun over a day of toil any time, but my parents have instilled a strong work ethic in me that I hope to pass down to my kids.
The other thing that Russert spoke about was common sense and how it is not prevelent in Washington these days. In the weeks and months following 9/11, party lines were erased, everyone was an American. It didn't matter if you were a Republican or Democrat, from the North or the South, red state or blue state. We had a goal that we were all focused on.
Somewhere that goal was lost and after six months or so, it was back to the same old mud-slinging. Now we've come to the point that if the Republicans rewrite the rules in Congress regarding fillibustering for judicial appointees, the Democrats say it's going to be a long three years where nothing is going to get done. Russert says get it done. Get the party leaders into a room, have them roll up their sleeves and begin working on getting the Medicare problem solved, the judicial appointee conundrum fixed and work on implementing a solid exit strategy out of Iraq.
"We've done it before," he said. "There's no reason not to do it again."
And I believe him.
All of that writing of selfishness has sort of made me think on my own recent acts. Am I a selfish person? I don't mean do I take everything that I possibly grab ahold of or whether I'm charitable or not. I mean something a bit different, am I selfish with my time.
Ok, before you think that I'm on myself or something, I'm not. But at work, during lunch I like to be alone. All morning people are barraging me with emails and phone calls asking if something has been done or when something will be done, etc. And the afternoon is pretty much like that too. I know that from noon until about 1:00, I can chill out, read my book and enjoy my lunch at the beach or in a quiet restaurant.
But a friend of mine constantly asks me to have lunch with her. I've known her for a bit and while she's cool, she never keeps quiet. It's always yak, yak, yak. So it feels like that the time where I should be relaxing, I'm not. Consequently, I rarely go out with her. And to be honest, it's just not her. There used to be a few guys that I would regularly have lunch with. No more.
I find myself wanting to be by myself. I guess the question of selfishness is raised in whether I'm being a dick or not. I don't tell them straight out that I don't want to hang out with them, I usually make up some excuse (when I'm feeling like a huge passive agressive pussy) or I tell them a morsel of truth (that I want to eat alone today), but I always end up feeling sort of bad.
It probably all goes back to junior high school when I didn't have a lot of friends and was begging for anyone to hang out with me. When I got to high school and college, I had a lot more friends, but I still found it hard to say no to anything social. Now, I'm just more at peace with being by myself. Yet that constant nagging of the kid who had no friends is in the background telling me, "If you keep saying no, you're going to be left all alone forever."
I don't want to be all alone forever, just for an hour a day. No matter how rich, how successful, how popular or how anything we are, there is always that nagging voice in the back of our minds. We have to find a way to tell it to shut up.