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Starbuck's 7 Discuss the State of the Union
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          Dick took the first sip of his strong, black coffee and recoiled. “Yow, that’s hot – Hoo-boy.”
          He carried the large cup to the pair of tables pushed together outside the local Starbuck’s and awaited the arrival of the other members of the Starbuck’s 7.
          Soon after Dick sat down, Helen, Steve and I joined him, each of us carrying our favorite coffee drink. Helen with a caffee latte, Steve with an expresso, me with my small cup of decaf. We greeted each other, shaking hands and hugging. Each shared warm feelings toward the others.
          Within a few minutes, Helaine with a cappuccino, Aimee with a caffe Americano and Mary with her carmel macchiato settled into their seats.
          Dick, as usual, opened the meeting.
          “Well folks, we’re gathered again because some of you wanted to discuss the state of our nation and I agree, this is a timely and important subject. So, drink, enjoy and let us begin. Who wishes to start the discussion?”
          Aimee, Asian, 46 years old and conservative in her beliefs, nodded to Dick and began, “In all my life I’ve never seen our country in a state that it is in today. The peoples’ trust in members of Congress is low and falling every day. Same with our trust in the President. Barely half of those eligible to vote actually do. We are fighting a war that few Americans support and we are running our national debt into obscene levels. We grow obese and out of shape and yet, we are proud that we remain the strongest and greatest country on Earth. My fear is that our will, our strengths, our determination is waning and being replaced by a slow deterioration of our power, our courage and our greatness.”
          Steve, the handsome, athletic, black man, held up his right hand and pointed his index finger as if saying, “There’s more, we are fighting a war against terrorism around the world as our citizens go about their daily activities, worrying only about their portfolios, new cars and the rise and fall of the stock market. It appears that we have lost our ability to think of the betterment of the country, rather than just our own interests. I feel that we are inextricably headed for some kind of serious confrontation with the radical elements of Islam. Americans are absorbed in themselves - in their pocketbooks, in Wall Street, in getting immediate satisfaction from all that surrounds them. Our cities, our states, indeed, our nation, suffer from years of wasteful and political spending. We are faced with profoundly serious problems that we must learn to face with a collective intelligence – not with greedy self-interests.”
          “But, Steve,” Helaine interjected, “Why are you so negative? So worried? We’re still the most powerful country on Earth. Our people still have the highest living standards, the best way of living. Most of the world’s people would give up their way of life to live in America. I know we are going through a difficult time, but we will survive as we always do.”
          Dick responded. “Personally, I feel that America is at a crossroad. We are at war in Afghanistan, trying to convert a primal land into a junior United States. The people of Afghanistan want to keep their age-old way of living. We are at war against a few hundred Al Qaeda and still we can’t find their leader after searching for him for almost a decade. Isn’t it time that we focused on nabbing Osama bin Laden and forget trying to convert countries that don’t want to be converted? The big picture is that we are at war with an enemy which doesn’t wear a uniform, or a helmet and doesn’t march in pretty columns. It hides behind out-houses and churches and takes pleasure in packing their bodies with dynamite and blowing themselves to kingdom come. We’re fighting a war against people who want all of us dead. And they believe it is God’s will that we all die. We are at war and we’re still grumbling and griping when we’re frisked at the airport to prevent a terrorist from blowing the plane into tiny pieces. I agree with Steve, it’s time Americans started behaving like they cared about their country rather than ignoring what’s going on in their cities, their states, Washington D.C. and the world. It’s time to start paying serious attention to what’s going on.”
          “I don’t know what it will take to wake America up.” It was obvious that Helen, the logical 51 year old was riled. Both of her hands were flat on the table top as if she was ready to stand quickly, but she controlled herself and remained sitting. “I’ll tell you what bothers me a lot. It’s the extremely abusive, vituperative, offensive and depreciating attacks on the President of the United States. It must give comfort to you enemies to hear and see the attacks on our President, especially during these dangerous times of war. It must appear to the terrorists that our nation is seriously divided and without adequate leadership when they hear the blaspheming aimed at our country’s leader. Let the opposing party criticize, let them question the President’s decisions, but we should not feed our enemies fodder which encourages them. Let anyone who cares to denounce the President’s decision making do so. Fault-finding is the American way, but denigration and personal insult is not. Especially at times as these we need to support our Commander in Chief, not blindly, but with the awareness that the world is watching us.”
          “To a large extent, I agree with Helen, but I have some additional thoughts. “What’s eroding our country is the growing lack of trust in our government. I understand where Aimee is coming from. Millions of Americans refuse to vote because they don’t believe that their vote will mean anything. They believe that money and power are all that matters to our politicians. We’ve come to a time where Americans must demand more from our elected officials and the only way that can happen is if Americans pay attention to their government and then vote intelligently. The great bulk of Americans must learn to care about what happens with their government. Until then our country will continue to fall short of its destiny.”
          Mary, in her early 40s, from a small town, had listened closely to each member of the Starbuck’s 7. While listening, her thoughts had coalesced. “What bothers me a lot is the way Americans are acting. Seems to me that people are getting ruder and with less social graces. Drivers are less courteous and more impatient on the road. In stores people appear to be distracted and edgy. They have a certain look in their eyes that wasn’t there a few years ago. It’s as though they’re unsure about what’s going to happen, you know, bomb threats, suicide bombers, terrorists, chemical weapons. Everyone is on their cell phones, staying in contact with loved ones and friends – just in case. I really think Americans are still reacting to 9/11. Everyone wants instant gratification. Everyone wants everything right now, just in case there is no tomorrow. It’s become a way of life in America. Get it today, who knows about tomorrow. It’s all making our country a bit more petulant, peevish and ill-tempered. I personally long for the days when people were more polite and gentle with each other, but perhaps those days won’t return until the terrorist war is resolved.”
          Steve and Aimee got refills. Dick, Helaine, Mary, Helen and I continued discussing the state of the union for a few minutes. Finally Dick said, “Well, folks, we’ve brought up a lot of things about our country. We’re still the greatest, but we do agree that we have a long way to go if we’re going to continue being the greatest. Thanks for coming. We’ll meet again, soon. Let’s hope things are better by then.
          I patted Dick on the shoulder and said, “Let’s hope.”
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