The Obamas are at it again. Instead of building her menus around the finest produce importers in Washington, a city whose tables are heavily laden with Chilean Strawberries at Christmastime, the First Lady is planting a garden.
This will be the first time American royalty has bothered itself with family farming since Mrs. Roosevelt's Victory Garden during the (last) Great Depression. The Bushes (and of course, the next President, Ms. Piggy Palin) only chop wood to show their down-homeyness; actually producing something from nothing means real work and regular attention.
Obama and his family are taking their roles as America's leaders seriously. Mr. Obama has even revived the Roosevelt "fireside chat"; his appearance on the Tonight show last week was the information coup of the first hundred days. People that would never watch an official presidential speech (most of us, me generally included) are drawn to such relaxed and informal programming. And programming it is.
If the Obamas have a prayer of fixing America, they must find ways to fix Americans.
The great boom-time in America was in the 1940's and 1950's, back when Americans were fresh from the privations of depression and war. Everyone had a garden. American males actually fixed things, like cars and lawnmowers and their own roofs. American women actually sewed clothing and cooked food. Televison was still a new thing and most Americans watched it only a little; most of those early, hard-working and economically successful Americans entertained themselves in the most satisfying way there is. They did things, made things and worked on things.
Today, of course, we have been too rich for to long to do anything of the sort. Our country has had the riches to squander supporting the unproductive, lazy and arrogant for so long that the national aspiration is, in a word, to do nothing. Ask any American what he or she would do if they had the means to do anything they liked and the answer will almost always be some version of "nothing". Many say "travel". Everyone wants to live like a sultan, being entertained by new sights, new sounds, rich food and lazy days by the pool. Never mind that the pool-side American would be hunted for its blubber in earlier times, mistaken for seals and small whales.
For a nation like ours that has fallen for the Siren song of leisure above all things, having lost all ambition, as a people, to be or do anything other than to direct the work of others, the call back to the plow, the wrench and the hammer is unlikely to succeed without divine intervention. Will the Americans once again find it within themselves to return to their roots and embrace hard work, finding fulfillment in doing rather than in having done?
Doubtful. Rather than support the first family in its genuine efforts to lead us into a better Eden, the press and the people are most likely to ridicule the first lady's farming efforts as impractical and inefficient. After all, the pandemic of laze has gone bone deep in the American psyche and the re-hab of the coming depression is still coming, not yet an effective treatment.
But there is another option; the Bush option. We can go on doing as little as possible, all the while consuming as much as possible, until the result is war. Already the Chinese are upset with us for devaluing the piles of American cash they have stashed away, the result of hard work and perseverance. If we keep, as a nation, doing nothing, those that suffer for our laziness will do something about it. In fact, they have already told us to stop printing money and calling it "stimulus". For them, it is just plain stealing, as every dollar we "create" to pump into our lazy economy devalues all the money already earned and held in savings.
Remember that you heard it here first and go plant an Obama garden.
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