Living large in the U.S. of A.

I am continuing my reading of Gregg Easterbrook's book, The Paradox of Progress, and continue to find out amazing things about our American way of life that I was not aware of before. For example, did you know that since 1995 Americans have purchased more than 3 million all terrain vehicles, which are used almost exclusively for recreation, and continue to buy about 750,000 per year?

According to the 2000 United States census, almost 23% of American households had incomes of at least $75,000.00 per year. Easterbrook points out that in terms of "work hours", of important goods and services, only health care and college education cost more than they did in the 1950s.

Most Americans are rich beyond their wildest dreams only two generations ago. The middle class now lives like the upper class then with air conditioning in their homes, eating out 3 or 4 times per week, taking vacations in resort areas in the U.S. and abroad, owning a couple of homes, multiple cars, recreational vehicles, with the best health care in the world.

Most of us have come to take all this for granted even if we are up to debt to our eyeballs. So why aren't we more happy? Or are you happy with all this stuff?

Mother Teresa made a comment one time that Americans are the richest country on earth when it comes to money and material things, but the poorest when it comes to love. Whatever did she mean? And is she right?

I am reminded of the cynical but witty statement that money can't buy you happiness, but it helps.

Black kids living in two parent families is up and the black teen birth rate is down.

Black_family Good news.

The census bureau reports that more black kids are growing up in two parent families than since the 1960s from 35% of kids to 39% as compared to about 56% for the U.S. as a whole.

One reason for this increase in kids being raised in two parents families is the fact that the teen birth rate has dropped to the lowest level since World War II with the largest drop among black teens by 32% in the last 15 years. The reason for the drop is not abortion as some might expect but rather the use of contraception and the delay in age of first sexual activity.

"The Census Bureau reports that between 1996 and 2002, the number of black children living in two-parent families increased for the first time since the 1960s, from 35 to 39 percent. Black teen pregnancy rates have plummeted 32 percent in the last 15 years, well surpassing the decline among white and Hispanic adolescents."

I do believe that the good prevention/education and human service programs have something to do with it as well.

Kay Kymowitz, the author of "Dads in the Hood" in the Autumn, 2004 issue of City Journal has this to say,

"But the grim fact is that bringing a reliable dad into the home of the 80 percent or so of inner-city children growing up with a single mother is a task of such psychological and sociological complexity as to rival democracy-building in Iraq."

While Ms. Hymowitz may be exaggerating, she makes an excellent point that the emotional, social, and political forces that gravitate against the stability of two parent families at times seem overwhelming especially for lower class blacks. It is inspiring to see that good things are happening for kids as well as the adults.

Link: City Journal Autumn 2004 | Dads in the ‘Hood by Kay S. Hymowitz.

Philip Berrigan

Phil_berrigan Philip Berrigan was Dan's younger brother born in 1923 and he died on December 6, 2002 from cancer.

Phil was a Josephite Priest until he was excommunciated when he married a former nun, Elizabeth McAlister. They had three children.

Phil said "Dan and I went to prison because we believe that Christianity and revolution are synonymous."

I first became aware of Father Berrigan when he and three of his friends walked into the selective service office in Baltimore in October of 1967 and poured a vial of his blood on the selective service records to protest the draft of young American men into the Army to serve in the immoral war in Viet Nam. Following that protest, Phil enlisted the help of his brother, Daniel, a Jesuit priest, into another protest with 7 other people where they went into the selective service office in Catonsville, Maryland removed selective service records, took them into the parking lot and burned them with a Napalm like substance. Both Berrigans were sentenced to over 3 years in a Federal prison for this action.

Phil and Daniel have twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize, the fist time in 1973 when they lost to Henry Kissinger of all people, and again in 1998 by Irish laureate, Mairead Maguire, but they didn't win.

"In 2001 at age 78, Philip Berrigan - who had been characterized as a 'terrorist' by half a dozen federal prosecutors and J. Edgar Hoover himself in the previous 30 - odd years- marked a decade spent behind bars for his acts of civil disobedience." Brave Hearts and Rebel Spirits p. 24

In 1980, Phil and his wife, Elizabeth founded Plowshares, an organization opposing nuclear weapons and the U.S. Military-Industrial complex.

Unlike the religious toadies of today and yesterday who supported the government's policy of military aggression, Phil Berrigan stood strong for gospel values of nonviolence and love of one's neighbor. He put his life on the line and suffered immensely for his prophetic voice.

Jesus said, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11

As the United States perpetrates another immoral war in Iraq, I wish for the voice of conscience and witness that was Phil Berrigan. Will there be any other prophets to take his place?

May he rest in peace, a peace he richly deserves and did not achieve here on earth.

The mental health of nations like the mental health of individuals involves the practice of virtue and right values. Killing other human beings to resolve conflict and to obtain resources is not healthy for the victims or the perpetrators. Building up arms to coerce others to our will is not in keeping with healthy human relations, and it takes individuals with conscience, wisdom, courage, and determination to promote more mentally healthy policies.

Phil Berrigan saw 58,000 Americans killed in Viet Nam as well as millions of Asians, and for what? He was called a terrorist when he was a prophet. He was reviled and ridiculed when he should have been listened to. He was imprisoned when his intention was to set us free.

Link: Thank You, Philip Berrigan.

Mysterious benefactor gives $100.00 bills to shelter residents

This comes from an article on December 26, 2004 Denver Post.

The cynical comment "If it bleeds, it leads" seems all too true as Americans love bad news. It paradoxically makes them feel better.

How about some good news once in awhile? This is the first article of many I will be posting in the New Year, 2005 on good news.

"Samaritan House managers on Saturday still didn't know the identity of the stranger who strolled into the Denver shelter Christmas Eve and handed out $100 bills to most of the 250 residents.

All they knew was that he personified the Christmas spirit.

"He told us that he had been down in the past and he had some hard times and he wanted to give something back," said Brian Jones, a shelter residential coordinator on duty Christmas Eve. "But that's as much as he would say."

By the time the stranger was done, shelter managers estimate he had doled out $20,000 to $25,000 to the shelter's residents.

He gave one family of six, who had recently lost their home, $5,000 and encouraged them to start over, shelter residents said."

Did you ever think of just giving some of your money away? Maybe you can't give away $100.00 bills, but supposing you took $100.00 bucks and broke it into 20 $5.00s and gave those away to some people in need? Is this a new way to have fun?