Starbuck's Seven discuss the State of the Union
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          Dick, as usual, had sent out the e-mail notices about the meeting of the Starbuck’s Seven.
          Mary was the first to arrive at the local Starbuck’s. She asked one of the baristas to help her slide two of the outdoor tables together and move seven chairs around the newly formed rectangle of tables. Mary was thirty nine years old, pretty and charming. Men gravitated to her.
          Soon after Mary’s arrival, Dick, the sixty five year old self-appointed leader of the Seven, walked up to Mary and said, “Hi, there, thanks for positioning the tables for us.”
          Within two minutes Steve, the forty three year old black man, Aimee, the thirty four year old Asian and Helen, the fifty two year old arrived and ordered their drinks at the counter.
          A few minutes later I walked in with Helaine, who I had met in the shopping center’s parking area.
          We ordered our drinks and joined the others around the tables in the patio area of Starbuck’s.
          Dick, again, as usual, opened the informal session. “Well, folks, there’s been a lot happening lately and much of it isn’t something that Americans can be proud of. That debacle with the debt limit, the ferocious bickering between Democrats and Republicans, with the Tea Party people joining in to make the whole thing even more riotous. And during the whole affair the President stood aside as though trying to avoid getting hit by verbal shrapnel. Not a pretty picture, is it?”
          Helen, the fifty-two year old executive vice president of a large advertising agency, sipped on her steaming hot cup of caffe mocha and replied to Dick’s comments.
          “Dick, I know how you like to complain about the government, but this time you’re right about what’s happening in Washington. Things are even more serious than you’ve outlined. We have some somber unemployment statistics and there’s no reason to think the figures are going to change for the better anytime soon.”
          Steve, the handsome black man, stood. It was clear that he felt strongly about the subject. “Look, I don’t know how these unemployment figures are going to improve in the near future. The economy isn’t rising much at all. We’ve shipped our factories to China, India, Pakistan and Malaysia. Even if we built a thousand factories in America the owners wouldn’t want to hire Americans and pay them $40.00 and hour when they can continue paying the overseas workers $4.00 a day. We’ve priced ourselves right out of the market. Talking about lowering the unemployment roles is one thing. Actually doing it is another.”
          Aimee, whose father is one of the richest men in Hong Kong, added, “I agree with Steve, I just don’t see where the millions of our unemployed are going to get jobs. There are people in America and overseas that will do those jobs for a tenth of what they’d have to pay an American citizen. Who are we kidding? Those millions of unemployed are receiving unemployment benefits and I don’t see those payments ending soon. There are just so many computer techie and low paying jobs at places like Walmart around. You tell me where all those people are going to find work.”
          Helaine, the senior female member of the Seven at fifty years old, took a long sip of her cappuccino and said, “You know, I voted for President Obama and I’ve been a big supporter of his, but I’d like to see him take a more active role in pushing for things he wants. He’s very logical and very smart, but he needs to get tougher to get things done. I’m all for compromises, but there comes a time when the president needs to use the bully pulpit and fight for what he wants – politics be damned – and reelection be damned. The American public needs to see its leader get tough and enter the fray. In fact, the first thing I’d like to see him do is go after the guys on Wall Street and the big bankers that helped cause the recession we’re still in. I think the American public would like to see the president stand up to those big money guys – re-election be damned. Millions of Americans are losing their homes and so far nobody has taken a fall for the shady greed.”
          I felt strongly about what was happening in Washington. I said, “The terribly long debate over the raising of the nation’s debt level was an illustration of the malfunction of our elected officials in Washington. The Senators and Representatives, even the president, hemmed and hawed and did everything possible not to lose a single vote in the next election. They finally came to a compromise that was weak and will prove to be ineffective. The past few weeks have been an embarrassment for Americans. Our politicians have one thing on their minds – getting re-elected.”
          Dick, partially reacting to his second cup of strong coffee, spoke out, “I know what you’re talking about. I think it’s time for America to bite the bullet and do the right thing – like get the hell out of Afghanistan and completely out of Iraq. We’re not going to win wars in those countries. And our young people are still dying on the sands of those countries. I say the hell with what anyone thinks, just march out bring our youngsters home. We don’t understand their tribal ways and we’re never going to change their beliefs and no matter how much money we pour into those places they’re still not going to love us – in fact, the don’t even like us and don’t want us there.”
          Steve joined in emphatically. “I agree with Dick. It’s time for Americans to realize that we don’t belong in Afghanistan or in Iraq. All we’re doing is dying for people who don’t like us and don’t want us in their countries.”
          Mary pointed her right index finger in the air, as if to make one more point. “I’m all for getting out of those countries, but I want to see our military stay, by far, the strongest in the world. We must be strong so any nation would think twice before messing with the United States.”
          “Let’s face it.” Aimee reported, “There is a lot going on with our government that we don’t know about. There are deals being made that we don’t know about. Obama ran on the basis of things being different in Washington – but nothing’s changed. We’re still in the dark. The president said things would change if he was president, but I don’t think anything has changed.”
          As Helen finished the last few drops of her caffe mocha she placed her cup on the table and said, “I’ll tell you what scares me more than anything. That’s the rise and attitude of Islam. Yes, I know that there are countless millions of peace-loving Muslims around the world. I know that. But I’m worried about what’s happening in England and France – and other European countries. Right here, in the United States, some Muslims are pushing to have their Shia laws used in our courts. Some Muslims want their dress codes brought into our schools. If you don’t think this is a growing problem then check out what’s happening today in France and England. We are facing a serious international problem. There have been religious wars in the past and there is a possibility that there will be more in the future.”
          Helaine, fifty years old, but still a hippie at heart, added, “I know that everyone is blaming President Obama for everything, but to be accurate, a lot of our problems started a few decades ago. The debt, our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the housing mortgage problem, the recession – they all started before he took office. I admit he hasn’t sparked a strong resurgence, but he’s trying.”
          “Dick stood, pushed his chair to the table, and said, “Folks, our meeting is just about over. We’ve covered a lot of ground and most of it is negative and serious. It seems that our country is facing some enormous problems that will have repercussions long into our future. Let’s meet again soon and see if anything’s improved or changed. Okay?”
          The Seven of us stood, pushed our chairs under the tables and said our goodbyes to each other. I think we were all anxious to meet again. We had discussed some serious problems our country was facing. We each had some thinking to do.
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