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Ron Cruger
The Starbuck's Seven meet on what's wrong with America
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            It’s usually Dick that calls the members of the Starbuck’s Seven, but this time it was Aimee. On Thursday she phoned and e-mailed the other six and asked if we could meet two days hence, on Saturday, at our local Starbuck’s. Aimee said the topic of our gathering would be, “What’s wrong with America today.”
          Saturday came and one by one the members arrived. It was ten a.m. and the sun had just started warming the small patio just outside the Starbuck’s store.
          The eldest among us, Dick, ordered his large, black coffee, walked to the patio and pulled two square tables together and positioned seven chairs around the new rectangle.
          Helen, Mary and I arrived together. Helen ordered a Cappuccino, Mary a Caffe Americano. I ordered my usual small decaf and added three Splendas and some light cream.
          Next arrived Steve. Followed by Helaine and Aimee. All of us had a drink of some coffee concoction.
          Aimee sipped at her Carmel Macchiato. It was obvious she had a lot on her mind. She leaned forward in her chair and said, “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the hell’s going on in this country and I’ve come to the conclusion that the America we once knew is rapidly changing. For example, the President wanted to create a new finance and investment law that would change and protect all of us from another terrible banking and investment crisis. It included the Volcker rule that would prohibit our nation’s banks from being investment houses. It started out as a firm bill that would work, but by the time the banks and investment houses sent in their thousands of lobbyists the bill became a watered down version that barely resembles what it started out to be. It seems that money won over the interests of the average American. And that’s just one example.”
          Steve, in his middle forties, black, athletic, smart, a graduate of Harvard, replied, “Aimee, I know exactly where you’re coming from. It’s more than just money, the way I see it. It’s also power. The lobbyists come loaded with a heavy arsenal of persuasion. They can promise funding to the Senators and Representatives, but they can also threaten that if they don’t change or alter their thinking on a proposed bill that the lobbyists will withdraw their support and with that support goes votes. In short, Senators and Representatives too often cow-tow to the lobbyists and their money and power before they think of the little guy – us.”
          Mary, can be shy and quiet until she’s sparked to action. She heard Steve and she was sparked. “I’ll tell you what bothers me – a lot. It’s the totally negative way that the opposition party attempts to destroy the party in power. I know that politics has always been important right from the formation of our democracy, but I feel that it has turned into a sinister and malevolent contest where the winner wins or stays in office and the loser is booted out of office and writes a book and becomes a millionaire.”
          Dick, the senior member of our group had finished his large coffee and gone for a refill. When he returned to the table he remained standing and said, “Look, what our government has turned into is that the party out of office rants, raves, criticizes and bad-mouths the party in office. All hopes of reconciliation or working together are out the window. The party out of office does their best to destroy the opposition party. Sadly, these people, the out of power ones, actually wish for the current President to fail. They will do anything possible to bring a bad light to shine not only on the President, but on all members of his party. They go on radio, television and the internet and absolutely do their best to destroy the President.”
          I had to add, “What bothers me, more than anything, is that the constant berating, insulting and degrading of the President, day in and day out, creates the impression that our country, its leaders and the electorate are fools. I think that criticism, when earned, is beneficial and necessary, but the attempt to portray our leaders as inept, stupid and with a hidden agenda is nothing but destructive to our nation. I agree that the opposition party’s goal is complete failure on the part of our President. They wish for the President’s blunders and failure. They have no wish for the President to succeed. That is one reason that our country is floundering.”
          Helaine, smart, attractive and sometimes a challenger to the current course of conversation, offered, “I don’t see anything wrong with what’s happening in America. The President is awful and he’s bringing the nation closer and closer to socialism. He makes one bad decision after another. Look at what’s happening in Afghanistan. Look at Iraq. Look at the banking system that almost failed. Look at the new law in Arizona. Look at the racism that still exists in the country. Look at the housing and mortgage crisis that still exists. Look at the crookedness and graft that abounds in Congress. How can anyone look at the White House and say that our President is doing a good job and that he should stay in office.”
          Helen was itching to speak. In her mid-fifties, observant and able to clearly see the core of problems and arguments. “ The United States is still the greatest nation on Earth and we will be for years to come. However, I do believe that our strength, our power, our standing will slowly abate unless we make some significant and difficult changes. We cannot permit members of Congress to serve so many terms. There must be a limit to their power. Their decisions must be transparent and visible on the internet. We must construct more realistic and powerful laws that forbid lobbyists to control Senators and Representatives. We must eliminate the election of our officials based on the size of the contributions they receive. Our Congress is becoming a home for millionaires. It is made of people whose primary goal is their own re-election. At the moment of their election these people have a major goal – it is their re-election. Members of Congress must earn what the average man and woman in this country earn. And their benefits can be no greater than the average. But, perhaps the single most important change must be the good faith construction of laws and actions that will benefit the people of this great union. If this nation is to survive and prosper members of both parties must learn to work together. They must put their partisanship aside and do what is best for the citizenry. And finally, the citizens of every state must take a more profound interest in their government. An interested citizenry will be a major factor in the elimination of graft, corruption and inefficiency. The people of this great nation must re-capture the organization and operation of their own government.”
          There was a silence after Helen spoke. And then the other six slowly began to applaud. Two couples who were sitting nearby joined in the applause.
          Steve leaned over and whispered to Aimee. “Helluva meeting. One helluva meeting, Aimee. I think many Americans feel the way the way we do.”
          Dick turned towards Mary and said, “Maybe it’s not too late for America to wake up. Let’s hope.
Where are the cops?