A friend and I were lunching the other day, talking about this and that as friends will do. Discussions on any topic were fair game. Good guy.
One such topic was when he asked what was on my mind and I said “The lack of permanence.” I blurted it out. Then I expounded on it before giving it much serious thought. But, I gave it a lot of thought driving home. And since.
“The lack of permanence.”
For several years – and to this moment – I’ve felt anxieties, anger, a tendency to worry more about conditions and just a general unease. At first, I thought all these emotions – and more – were part of the aging process. After all, I’ve never been four-score-and-five before. And we aren’t born with a book of instructions to refer to as we go.
For nearly all my life, there’s been a sense of permanence, normalcy and order in nearly everything. Through all the troubles of this nation, we’ve survived, our living conditions normalized and our institutions stood firm. Some changes occurred and we adjusted. Returned to normal.
No longer! It just keeps changing and causing – in many – a sense of impermanence. A general lack of stability.
Take the USPS. You know, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor dark of night….” Permanence? Not under Louis DeJoy! Maybe the President can’t directly fire this guy who’s tearing our mail service apart. But, he can damn well fire the Board of Directors who keep the bastard in the job. Permanence? No!
Take public schools. Business as usual? Not since COVID, masks and “critical race theory.” Just consider the scholastic “wars” going on between school boards and angry parents nationwide. Some actual brawls over subject matter or vaccinations or just about anything. Definitely not permanence or the historic scholastic calm we’re used to.
Been shopping or dining out recently? Permanence? We tried to have breakfast out the other day. We were told we could be seated immediately but not served for an hour! Staff shortage in the kitchen? Quite likely.
Tried to drop off the family pup for a bath. Noted line from the back wall of the store to the single checkout. Poor management or staff shortage? Really doesn’t matter. That’s the “usual” in stores and other service business these days.
Church? Permanence? Ours didn’t meet in the sanctuary for months. Used the I-net. Now, meeting in person, more than half the seats roped off, no touching and masks highly recommended. No social time following services. Is that the church you remember all these years?
Car buying? Is it “business as usual” at the dealership? Not now. Inventory down to 10-12 cars on the lot. Prices at sticker. Or above. Shopping for cars online is the big thing. But, even there, sold-out or greatly reduced inventory. Chip shortage. Some dealerships closing. Try making a shop appointment. A week or two out.
Grocery stores. Same old shopping experience? Hardly. Many shelves empty. Short inventory. Fewer check-out stands open.
Personal banking? Some have closed lobbies. Others allow only two or three customers at a time if lobby is open. Staffing levels cut. Branches with four or five employees. In some, no loan officers. Business as usual?
Congress? Effective? NO! The political parties are so divided little is done while needs of citizens go unmet. Poll after poll shows where the nation is on urgent issues – jobs, infrastructure, foreign affairs – even abortion. But, none seem to matter to congressional leaders, as they ignore the will of voters who sent them to the Potomac shores.
Sense of permanence in government? Again, hardly. We’re running month-to-month paying our national bills with a total shutdown looming over our heads. We’ve got a national party hellbent on stopping any important legislation. Fractures in governance have made Congress nearly useless.
A new national budget, tailored to our needs, hasn’t been devised in many years. Pentagon spending so bloated even the military can’t conduct a complete – much less accurate – accounting for hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year. Spending completely out of control. And, for the first time in my long life, our military has lost two wars. Wars lost to people with no air force, no navy, no up-to-date military equipment. Yet, we spend some 800-billion-dollars a year on “defense.”
Government has lost touch with the people. At some state and local levels as well. The postal service is a mess with higher prices and poorer services. Our national treasury is running nearly on empty. Our vaunted military is in disarray and defeated. Civic continuity and comity are gone in many places. Institutions valued for generations are being challenged as never before and some have been rendered nearly ineffective.
Our world is unsteady in ways we’ve never known. If you, too, are searching for permanence and find it, please let me know.