Friday, July 04, 2008

Patriotic Fervor Day in a Depressed Economy

Around this time of year, my neighborhood is usually awash in illegal fireworks. At any time of day or night, series of loud pops will stop us from whatever we are doing to play the time honored game of Firecrackers or Bullets.

It's annoying, and it terrifies the kid. We spend the week before and the week after July 4th all tense and cranky. Shoulders get stiff from tensing repeatedly throughout the day and I usually spend a good chunk of time hiding under a hot water bottle because of stress induced migraines.

But this year, it's quieter. There have only been a few games of Firecrackers or Bullets. People can't afford their annual explosives splurge when the price of gas to go out and buy them is painful. And there isn't any spending money anyways. Food prices are climbing while package sizes are shrinking. It may be the beginning of the month when even welfare recipients have some cash, but we've all been suffering through those last weeks of the month where we find a thousand and one creative ways to eat ramen noodles. Spending 20 bucks on fireworks means 2 days of hungry for a family (if that family can eat cheap).

They say it is going to get much worse here before it gets better. We already have Hoovervilles (some groups has started call them Nicklesville after our mayor) and the food banks have had to cut back because they can't afford the gas to go pick up supplies. More people are hungry and there are fewer programs to help that. So few that our governor just raised the income limits on the state food stamp program so more people will be fed. But they will end up in the same boat with the rest of us. A couple of flush weeks per month where you eat like normal people, and a couple where you spend your days dreaming of meals with all the food groups. And we haven't even hit the subprime bubble here yet. Oh it's coming, but not just yet. And when all those people lose their homes to foreclosure, those of us who could never afford to buy are going to see the all ready high rents skyrocket.

This year, I don't even want to waste the $3.00 in bus fare it would cost to drag the kid out to see fireworks. I don't want to sit on a muddy blanket and oh and ahh over the pretty colors while internally wondering how the fuck I am going to pay rent this month. I'm skipping it. It's hard to feel love for a country when you aren't sure how you're gonna feed and house your kid.

This year, Firecrackers or Bullets is more likely to be bullets. And this year, 4th of July tense and cranky isn't from over excited kids trying to blow off their own hands. It's from fear and struggle and worry.

So I am spending the night in. I am curling up with a trashy British spy show and hiding from the reckless drunk and revelry. I don't see a lot to celebrate in this country right now.

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