Is Spam the Answer?
As I watched the morning news shows today, I came up with my idea for today’s post, but it was hard not to change my mind as I suffered through Senator Joe Lieberman’s appearance on Meet the Press. I was tempted to launch into at least three pages of smack down on the good Senator from Connecticut, but I have gotten past it, remembering to emulate the coolness of my leader, President-Elect Barack Obama. After all, if he feels that Lieberman is worth hanging onto, who am I to question his wisdom?
That off my chest, I wish to share three stories that I observed this morning that I think are a real testament to the times we find ourselves in.
For the fortunate majority who only know spam as something unpleasant and unwelcome invading your computers, I envy you. I, on the other hand, am of an advanced age and remember the original holder of that ignominious name, a canned meat product that is so odious that it still stirs unpleasant culinary memories. Or shall we call them scars? If my parents were the children of The Great Depression, then my generation comprises the grandchildren of The Great Depression. While many of my generation grew up in more prosperous areas of America in the 1950s, my family was hanging on to the remnants of depression-style economics and life in Oklahoma. While the level of my family’s poverty was head and shoulders above that of my parents’ childhoods, it still maintained some of the left-over vestiges. One of those vestiges brought forward by my migrant-worker Okie parents was Spam. This hideous concoction of mystery meat and enough salt to make it palatable, I guess, and enough fat to choke your arteries on the spot was a regular menu item in my mother’s kitchen.
Somehow, this invention of 1932 Depression Era America, has managed to survive into the 21st century. I suspect that it has a lot to do with the fact that Hawaiians find it to be delicious. I have seen several mystifying reports over the past several years about the affinity the Islanders have for Spam. There are even restaurants that specialize in fancy recipes utilizing the “meat product.” I’m sorry, but there’s not enough pineapple in the world to fool me into having one, single more bite of the most horrible thing my mother served up all too often during my childhood. I will admit that a few years ago, in an idiotic fit of nostalgia, I did bring a can of the “stuff” home and tried it to see if it was as bad as I remembered. The verdict? HELL, YES! It was horrible.
Today it was reported that, due to the deepening recession, the makers of Spam are being swamped with orders and looking to hire more workers. For those in need of a job, a move to Austin, Minnesota, or Fremont, Nebraska, will be in order because that’s where the plants are located. Now, while I’m all for the creation of more jobs for Americans, I do not see the pick-up of market share by Spam as a good sign for our economy. It only goes to illustrate how really bad things have become.
That early warning sign of doom and gloom was followed on CNN by two more stories that illustrated, in very human terms, the depth of our problems as a society. The first was about one of the unintended results of the Fannie Mae bailout. It concerned a charity in Virginia that provides housing for homeless single mothers and their children. It seems that the organization got most of its operating funds as a charitable grant from Fannie Mae. As a provision of the bailout package to bolster the failing mortgage program, all expenditures of every kind are on hold pending an investigation. This measure – while seeming perfectly necessary and called for – is having the unexpected result of possibly putting this charity out of business, thus forcing these mothers and their young children back out onto the streets. It is a tragedy in the making, and in an economically challenged time, other donations are also drying up, bringing the pending disaster for these poor unfortunates closer to reality.
Then there was another story. This one was just as sad, but had only a few players. I find it is important to see these kinds of stories depicting the very real problems facing very real people. This one was about a man in Phoenix, Arizona, who recently lost his job as a truck driver due to layoff. Not finding any other employment and his situation becoming dire, he took to the streets becoming a beggar. What he found was nothing but resentment. People were driving by and accusing him of being a drug addict or drunken bum and refusing to give him a helping hand.
Finally in desperation he did something I would never have even considered. But desperate times call for desperate measures. He says he was about to lose his family’s apartment and couldn’t allow that to happen. If he had, the family would have been forced onto the streets of Phoenix. So, weighing his options, he started taking his two sons, one 12, the other eight, along with him. The picture on television showed him standing there, sign in hand, and his two sons sitting in front of him on the ground. For most of us this seems outrageous. I can’t even begin to imagine the humiliation I would have felt at 12 years old if my father would have resorted to such a thing.
To me, it is sad to see a possible future that mirrors that of my parents and grandparents during The Great Depression, but the signs are starting to emerge around us. And before we rush to judge the father who exploited his children in such a way, let me say that my parents told stories of being put to work in the
cotton fields between Oklahoma and California picking at least 100 pounds of cotton per day each for ten cents, in order to help their families survive the turbulent era. My grandparents were good, God-fearing folks who were doing what they could to ensure the survival of their families, and somehow they succeeded without losing even one child to illness or accident. They did it by working hard themselves and forcing their children to forego an education and work hard, too. They also did it by eating Spam, something I refuse to do now. They were forced to do what they had to in order to survive until better times came along.
I am a product of those “better times.” I never went to bed hungry. I got a good public education. I grew up in a house with only an occasional leaky roof. Santa Claus came every year with gifts. And I didn’t really appreciate any of it. I took it all for granted. That’s why my parents were not impressed by my complaints about what I didn’t have. Whatever I had, it was so much more than their wildest dreams as children. To them, I was pampered and spoiled.
For almost 60 years we, the people of this nation, have been enjoying putting those memories farther and farther behind us. But today, they are beginning to re-emerge amongst us. Many wish to ignore them or concentrate on blaming those leaders who have foolishly stood by and allowed this to happen. But today, or should I say on January 20th, 2009, we will have a chance not to repeat one of the saddest chapters in our national history. Our hopes ride on the steady shoulders of a man named Barack Obama, and let me suggest that we must all be patient with him and support him as he does all he can to steer us in a better direction. If we don’t, we may find ourselves needing our children to help us survive. That is a tragedy that must be avoided. Let’s all do our parts to help write a happier future for our children and grand children and not let personalities and politics get in the way.
KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!