Taking our worries to the next level


POSTED: Sunday, August 23, 2009

Just when you think the cup of concerns is full to the brim, another stream of worries comes flooding in.

It's enough to have to deal with the realization that your generation's cultural signposts are fading, or, like Woodstock, the subject of boilerplate retrospectives.

That a young policewoman in a New Jersey town didn't know the elderly man she questioned as he walked the streets in the rain was none other than Bob Dylan sure makes gravity fail for one whose youthful, callow angst was assuaged by his music and words.

No offense taken; the officer's parents were probably in grade school when Dylan cut his first album and she likely downloads tunes now that record stores are no longer part of the tangible retail scene.

It is somewhat disturbing that a solitary man rambling in bad weather seems sufficiently weird to call out the cops, but that's not unexpected in days of thinning thresholds for suspicion.

More startling is that there hasn't been much heartland reaction to unsettling occasions when members of the “;I-hate-everything-Obama”; club bring weapons of choice to presidential events and to meetings to yell about fictional elements of health care reform proposals.

The president's security people are undoubtedly on high alert during these episodes, even though White House officials put on a calm face about the incidents.

And the slogan of the right-to-bear-high-powered-rifles contingent is correct in that guns, by themselves, don't kill.

But standing in a crowd near a guy shouldering an AK-15 semiautomatic rifle would make anyone think twice about exercising First Amendment rights for fear of offending him. A trigger finger that can act in conjunction with the inanimate, benign rifle stifles, if not smothers, reasonable discourse.

It's called intimidation, much like the Taliban's tactic in trying to stop Afghan citizens from voting for their president, although bombs are the weapon preference there.

Heat-packers, at least the ones in gun-liberal parts of America, claim a constitutional right to possess, but common sense ought to inform them that there is also responsibility involved.

Similarly, citizens who exercise their free speech right—and their vocal chords at full volume—in opposing any and all changes to a broken health care system haven't owned up to the responsibility of being enlightened about what's being proposed.

It's as if they want to believe half-truths and outright lies so they can pretend to have legitimate concerns. Even if their claims are disputed point by point, they remain unconvinced, certain that “;death panels”; will deny grandfathers and disabled children medical care, that extending insurance to poorer citizens will have the government checking their bank accounts.

There is no shortage of worrisome things from the inconsequential, like the vanishing pops of salad-days culture, to the significant, like how to assure equal medical care so all Americans can thrive. If you can't get head or hands around the big issues, maybe it's time to sit back, hit the remote and sweat the small stuff.

I hear that a disgraced former House speaker will soon be boot-scooting with the stars.