This Is America 2008, Charlie Brown!
This is part of the 'Four on the Fourth' series of one shot fiction for this website. It is a unique combination of angst and humor as America's most loveable loser reflects on things that have occurred so far in the year, how they impact the lives of he and his friends and what lies ahead for the year 2008.
DISCLAIMER: 'Peanuts' and all of its related properties, characters and other material is not a property of this author. The late great comic artist Charles M. Schultz is the creator. United Features Syndicate and Disney currently hold all copyrights and trademarks. Please do not flame.
It's late. All of the news networks are declaring that the race amongst the blue candidates is over and a self-declared skinny kid with the funny name has pulled off perhaps one of the greatest political upsets of all time. I feel like I should be excited or happy or elated or a combination of the three that this happened in my lifetime and during my generation, but…something seems off. Maybe it's the fact that I really don't care anymore or that I've grown immune to all the back and forth fighting and bickering between Clinton and Obama or maybe it's something else, but this all seemed really anticlimactic looking back.
Despite these feelings, I do think I understand just what has taken place. The thought of two people in the roles and demographics of Hillary and Barack competing for the highest position in the land was crazy. Not too many people can actually claim to bear witness to true American history. The mere insinuation of a black man leading a political party to attempt to become President of the United States was likely deemed unfathomable by this nation's forefathers in the initial drafts of their great documents. I feel like giving my good friend Franklin a pat on the back when he looks at the television these days and tells his mom and dad that he'd like to be just like Obama when he grows up. I want to tell him stick with it, and it can happen for you. I can't tell him it'll never happen because it is happening. It's happening right here and right now.
Like I said, though, while I am watching this history, I can't help but feel like I'm being had in some strange way. This isn't the only historical thing that is going on at the moment. I need not look any further than my friends and my family to find this 'history', both in a positive or negative sense.
First off, there's Lucy. Ahh, Lucy van Pelt. If I said that she has changed over the years and gotten much better as time went on, I know her brother would chastise me from here to the cross for lying. More on Linus in just a bit, but Lucy like everyone else in this town has been wrapped up tightly in election fever. I can't say that I ever had a horse in the race but if you didn't already figure it out, Lucy has been pulling for the woman. As I look at Barack and his wife Michelle doing a fist pound on stage in Minnesota, I can already hear the griping that's sure to come from her tomorrow morning.
Lucy will probably decline to play right field during our ball game Wednesday afternoon arguing that women will never be equally respected in a world that's dominated by men. We'll then likely get into a back and forth argument about how we're only playing a baseball game and that she's being unreasonable referencing the race for the highest office in the land as a reason for her not participating in sport. Good grief. If she ever gets married to somebody, I will pray for that person because he is a braver soul than this world will ever know. In any event, wondering if that girl will ever find someone to put up with her is mere speculation.
So much is changing these days that it's difficult to even keep up with the change. If you're on vacation or out of the loop for any length of time, it may seem that more than a year's change has taken place in just a few weeks. The best example of this is at the gas pumps. The high prices at the pump are depressing, but anyone that watches the numbers while they fill up know this, so it's not my desire to conjure up any bad images. I'll just say that I find it interesting that for the last eight or nine years, I've heard nothing about gas other than prices always being on the rise. This was when gas was less than a third of what it is right now and people weren't spending ridiculous amounts of their paychecks to watch the meter go all the way to the triple digits just so they can fill their massive sports utility vehicles with fuel.
The price of gas as become great comedic fodder for sure, but spending all of this money when prices across the board are going up is no laughing matter. My dad has seriously considered shifting to a four-day work week because of this. I want to say that breaking down and selling the parts to your Hummer would be a better way to get money, but I'm no fool. Everyone is feeling the grind of high prices from top to bottom. People are getting laid off again for no reason other than the fact that businesses now can't afford to pay their own bills just like people. Unemployment has not had these types of numbers in several decades and stimulus checks just don't seem to cut it at this point. People need help, bottom line. Forgive me if I seem like I don't care about the fact that the race for the presidency is now set, I just don't see how one man (and yes, it will be a man) can fix all of this even if he does talk about change.
It's gonna take a great struggle and a grand effort in order for everything to come back to the way it was because as you probably noticed, this is a world issue, not an American issue. And we all know the saying; unless it hits home, these problems are not our problems. Well, just like 9/11, everything happening today will affect people in different ways.
The example that almost comes to my mind immediately is California.
Oh, you thought I wasn't going to bring that up? Heck, if you did, you don't know Charlie Brown. Yes, the Supreme Court ruling concerning the definition of marriage certainly got a…few people angry, and…maybe one or two rioting in the street and…some notable evangelists up in arms…I suppose. Yeah, more than the fact that the California Supreme court, which is in the majority of the Republicans, approved this ruling and deemed the old marriage laws unconstitutional was the real and apparent lack of response on a national basis. Yes, the opposing organizations filed grievance and will leave the decision to the people.
Meanwhile, don't forget that I said that some issues don't matter until they hit home. Recently, I found out that Peppermint Patty and Marcie will be going to California in about two weeks to get a license and wed with their parent's permission, though it did take a while for Patty to get the signature of her dad. Indeed, they will be pronounced 'Sir' and 'Ma'am' and since learning this, I've never seen Linus so fired up in his entire life. I've known him since we were toddlers, and he's more of a pacifist than I am and that's saying something. But this has pushed the buttons of my friend more than anything else I can remember. I shouldn't be surprised, though. For someone who has quoted scripture from the bible since preschool, you'd be surprised if he just seemed a little bit angry. The kid is incensed.
Me…I hate to sound like a broken record, but I really don't care. Forgive me if it really doesn't matter to me in the least bit. Yes, I wish Patty and Marcie nothing but the absolute best in their married life and when they come back, my sister Sally and I will work together to throw the newly wed pair a party. I'll even try to convince Linus to come, but we're not exactly on speaking terms right now because I told him I don't care if people of the same gender want to get married.
What I really care about are futures and when I see that prices of everything are going up at a rate not seen in several decades, my attention is grabbed by the neck. Of course, I'm going to college once I finish these last two years of high school that are left for me. It's important for me to be in a great position to be in school, but at the same time I don't want to get into huge debt trying to better my life, but it seems as if we are all heading in this direction if you're like me and my family doesn't have much of a plan.
As far as 'importance', though, I don't think this affects any of us more than it does Schroeder. What can I say about Schroeder that hasn't already been said? I think that ever since he was six he had his mind set on being a classically trained pianist who would study at Julliard's on a scholarship. Clearly, he has the talent to get it done, but he's admitted to me that he is very concerned about his chances. Scholarships at that noted institution come few and far between. As is said time and time again, only the best of the best are included within those scholar pianists or other musicians that make the trek to New York to become legends in their craft of the universal language all over the world. This is a change, but I do care about Schroeder in this instance. He could change the world with his music and I'd hate to think that like a lot of things in this world that it would come down to money, but that unfortunately seems to be where we are heading.
With everything I've just said, many people would claim that I'm indifferent to the many things going on in not just this country, but the world as well. I hate to disappoint people, but this is not true. I do not have this nihilistic view on life that many would assume I possess. This doesn't make me…an emo kid, which is a term I just can't stand, especially when Lucy teaches Rerun to use it against me. Did I mention someone needs to hurt Lucy very soon? I digress.
Like I said, although most of my concerns are deeply rooted in my life here in my town, this doesn't make me self-centered or local-centered at all. It doesn't mean that I just care about the things closest to me. I realize that the earthquakes in countries like Myanmar and China are tragic and have caused more deaths than the previously mentioned terrorist attacks against our country or the current War in Iraq. I have given to those efforts, even if all of the governments have policy that I do not agree with.
So, as you can tell, things are a big mess in this world. Things have been a big mess for a while. If we can't laugh at ourselves during this time, we're in big time trouble. If we can't just find time for ourselves for just fifteen minutes out of every day to think and let some things out that stress us, we will be better off for it. Just don't let them out the way Eliot Spitzer did, and we should all be fine.
As I laugh about his self-serving misfortune, I can hear the Hummer pull into the driveway of my house. It's my dad, but…he's earlier than I thought he would be. He turns off the vehicle, opens and shuts the doors and then comes to the front door of the house. He doesn't look that good. I guess he had a hard day at work. I get up from my seat to give him a hug and a handshake.
Asking how his day was I find out that my dad probably needs a good laugh at the moment, saying very little. "We're just gonna have to pray more," he tells me. "I've been laid off. It was part of company cutbacks," he explains.
I'm shocked but then again, I'm not shocked. Companies from top to bottom are doing the exact same thing. I say to my father that when one door closes, another door opens. I never thought that I would be here right now consoling my own father. I guess that it's only the right thing to do after the many times he's helped me.
Either because he didn't want to burden me with his problems or he wanted to look on the silver lining of this lingering cloud, he asked me, "So what's been on your mind as of late?" One thing comes to mind immediately. It's something that's never going to leave me no matter how far I go. I'm stuck with it like a tattoo.
The fact is that America has been on my mind and will stay on my mind until the day I die. Good grief! What a place! What a time! What in the world?
God bless her…indeed.