The Starbuck's 7 discuss "What's up with America?"
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        Steve had run into Helaine at the check out counter at the supermarket. After the cordial greetings Helaine mentioned to Steve, “I don’t know what’s going on in the country, Steve. It seems that everything is going wrong. Nobody trusts anyone anymore. What do you think is happening?”
          Steve, ran his fingers through his hair. “Ya know, Helaine, I know what you’re talking about. Nothing seems to be going right and people are getting more and more negative aren’t they?”
          Helaine agreed and said, “What do you think about getting the seven of us together to discuss what’s going on in America?”
          Steve agreed and offered, “I’ll call everyone. How about Wednesday, is that a good day for you?”
          Helaine agreed to a meeting of the “Starbuck’s 7” in two days, on Wednesday.
          Steve and Helaine were the first to arrive at their favorite Starbuck’s. Aimee, the conservative Asian and Dick, the sixty-one year old came next, followed by Helen, the logical business woman and Mary the quietest of the group. I was five minutes late. The customary two tables were aligned to accommodate the seven of us.
          I ordered my small decaf and sat down between Helen and Steve. Dick got his large black coffee, Helaine sipped on a cappuccino, Aimee on a caff’e Americano. The others placed their coffees in front of them and waited for Dick, who usually initiated the discussions.
          Dick sipped on his strong, black coffee, swallowed and began. “So, today we’re here to talk about what’s happening in America. That’s a large order, folks. Who wants to start?”
          Helaine, raised her hand slightly and said, “I will, Dick. I’m concerned about what’s happening in the country. Unemployment is still high, no new jobs are being created. They’re talking about repealing the new health care program. Surveys are showing that Americans are miserably unhappy with the government. We just aren’t hearing any good news. What the heck is going on?”
          Aimee could barely contain herself. “It’s worse than that. You know that damn health care law. The newest survey reported that only one in five Americans think that the new law will help them. One in five! The vast majority of Americans don’t think Obama’s health care law will help them at all. It’s frustrating to hear that there are still millions of Americans who are faced with losing their homes because the value of their homes is less than their mortgages. The big stuff hasn’t hit the fan – wait ‘til it does.”
          “Our problems are even greater than the health care plan.” Mary had a picture in her mind of the major problems facing the President and the country. “Look, we are fighting a war we can’t win in Afghanistan and that isn’t our biggest problem. Pakistan is far more dangerous than either Iraq or Afghanistan. Those guys have nuclear capabilities and their crazy enough to use them. My guess is that before five years go by we will have an enormous problem, most likely a war, with Pakistan.”
          Steve listened and added, “Americans are disappointed. They voted for President Obama because they thought he would fulfill his promise to do things differently: To get rid of the same old political stuff. The majority of Americans thought that Obama would be different. Americans thought that he would bring the country together. He’s tried, but in reality, he hasn’t done it. I like the guy and I voted for him, but he hasn’t been able to connect with most Americans. Americans don’t feel that we’re going to win the war in Afghanistan. They don’t feel that we’re putting people back to work. Americans are angry and they want to see some positive action.”
          Helen, smart, reserved and only speaks when she feels she has something cogent to add to the conversation, explained, “What’s bothering me the most is that recent surveys indicate that only three in ten Americans think that things are going well in the country. People are plain and simply worried about the future. Everyone knows of someone who is out of work. Everyone knows of someone who had to sell their home. Everyone knows of a family having a difficult time making ends meet.”
          We had gone around the table, except for me. I added, “President Obama took over a mess. There’s no doubt about that: Unemployment, wars, the financial crisis, the housing debacle, banks and car companies going broke and don’t forget the illegal immigrant problem and the terrible division between Republicans and Democrats. Yes, he did step into a godforsaken mess. But the reason we all voted for him was the promise that he could bring us together, and, over time, we would return to the America of great national health, wealth and optimism. Perhaps the greatest failure so far is the lack of creating optimism among the millions of Americans. Americans need hope. We need to dream of better days. We will have patience if we believe that things will be better tomorrow. We’re all tired of the bickering and the battles between the Democrats and Republicans. I don’t think the American people believe that the Republicans could do much better than the Democrats. If America is to survive we need the two parties to work for the betterment of the country – not just their own parties,”
          Dick wasn’t one to hold back his thoughts. “Look, I don’t care what anyone says, Obama said he could fix things and so far he hasn’t. Yes, he took over a country in disorder, but many things have gotten worse. He shouldn’t have made the promises he did. Even devoted Obama supporters are frustrated. He’s a smart guy. Didn’t he understand what he was facing? That “Tea Party” thing started because Americans are tired of promises. They want action.”
          Steve checked his watch. He had listened closely to the group’s comments. He had thought about their fears. “What worries me the most is that people are wishing for anything different. This is a time for intelligent, rational action. We must be careful not to empower arrogant, despots who expound reckless radical actions that are exciting, but would undermine the very principles that built our great nation. Being anti-establishment is not enough to turn things around. We must be wary of those who shout and march, but offer no solutions.”
          Helen, took one last drink of her carmel macchiato, looked around the table to her six friends and said, “We’ve never had a discussion this big, this serious. It could be that our country’s future is at stake. Maybe each of us should pay more attention to our government. Maybe we should do all we can to tell our friends and neighbors to get out and vote. This is too big to leave it to somebody else. Maybe the country got this way because not enough of us paid attention to what was going on."
          With that the “Starbuck’s 7” rose from their chairs, bid good bye to each other and went their individual ways. Each thought of the problems facing the country. Each was worried.