Maybe you have to know someone who died.

Hope. It’s an elusive concept, but you need it to survive. Not blind hope, but a belief based on facts, on odds, on the notion that if you do the right thing events will work out in your favor.

But not only your favor, but everybody’s favor.

But that’s not the way the world is going.

You grow up studying history, all the turf wars, you think it can’t happen now, but then it does. Why? Well, it’s got a lot to do with income inequality. When things are going badly, many abdicate their power to a strongman, who promises they’ll make everything right, and maybe they do for a while, make the trains run on time, but then you wake up with fewer rights as you’re lorded over by an omnipotent power. It’s happening in Eastern Europe. And Russia.

But we didn’t think it could happen here.

Timing is everything. There’s only so much you can control in life, luck plays a big part. And I was lucky enough to be born in the fifties. The fifties weren’t so great, but the sixties were. They started off with the election of JFK.

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

We live in bizarroland today. George Costanza rules, people do the opposite of this.

“My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

Together. An interesting concept. The U.K. breaks away from the EU. The U.S. pulls out of the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the W.H.O., as if we, and the world, can go it alone, when everybody knows you need a team to triumph.

So JFK said we were going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. We were torn, whether to put faith in the president’s proclamation or deem it a pipe dream. But then Americans rocketed into space, and despite setbacks like the Apollo 1 fire, in the summer of ’69 men walked on the moon, and we watched it all on television.

You might say we can Zoom around the world these days, but there’s no colony on Mars, we stopped exploring, because it was seen as too costly, but the truth is the space program paid dividends. Not only Tang, but computer development.

So JFK gets assassinated, but LBJ gets civil rights laws passed. The younger generation questions everybody and everything, and protests the war to the point that LBJ decides not to run in ’68. Sure, there was opposition, but both sides agreed on the facts, it was only a matter of spin, of opinion, what to do next.

But the sixties were thrilling. Kinda like seeing Prince. Or Freddie Mercury. You were either there or you weren’t. And you might be able to listen to recordings, watch videos, but they’re just facsimiles, you can’t feel it, you can’t live it, you’re at a distance, your heroes are dead.

And the truth is in 1970 a bunch of heroes died. Most notably Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison and Duane Allman in ’71. Suddenly, we were licking our wounds, we were living in a can’t do culture, and we’ve been living that way ever since, except for a brief period of internet excitement at the end of the nineties and the beginning of the twenty first century, before the techies became billionaires and we ended up with a Tower of Babel society, with no one taking responsibility.

Responsibility. Credibility. Morality. Honor. Important concepts in the sixties, irrelevant today. You’re just a person, equal to the billionaires and no better than those of color. But that is not the message you’re sent. You’re told you’re inadequate and if you don’t get in line, crawl for cash, you’ll fall through the cracks and no one will rescue you. We went from help your brother to put down your brother, and that had consequences.

So despite smartphones and flat screens, life is hard in today’s U.S.A. Both parents have to work and you can’t make it on minimum wage. Sure, you can save up for the front row for Drake, but then you can’t afford another show all year. Meanwhile, the banks and the corporations drink from the public trough and you’re parched, just waiting for a drop of water. Even worse, it’s deemed your fault. It’s your fault if you’re poor, if you get cancer, if you get Covid-19. Because the winners won’t succumb.

But they do.

I just got word a friend is in hospice for Covid-19.

It’s not like a car accident, it doesn’t happen suddenly. You get sick, then maybe you get a little better, and then maybe you get sicker and then, weeks after it all began, you pass.

How did he get it?

His granddaughter flew to a distant state to hang with a friend. If the states had been closed, if there wasn’t a quick reopening, he never would have gotten Covid-19, he would have lived.

This is not rocket science, you don’t need a genius to explain it. But somehow even if they can understand it, many won’t accept it. Why?

Because they believe it won’t happen to them.

But it always does, it’s just a matter of when.

Your kid gets cancer. You lose your job. Your wife leaves you. Life isn’t smooth sailing, the goal is to hang in there and survive.

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Now you piss on your brother. Raise your head and you will be attacked. Even worse, those who truly commit faux pas, even when they’re caught, they skate. They just ignore it. Or wait for the afternoon, when another story will replace it.

There are no consequences.

The worst thing that could happen when I grew up was to come home with a note that your parent had to see the principal.

Today, if a kid comes home with said note, the parent goes to the school and tears the principal a new one, after all, their progeny can’t be at fault.

No one can be at fault in America today, it’s always someone else’s problem.

And then the music stops, and there’s no chair left for you.

Even worse, no one cares, except for your family and friends.

That’s America today, no one cares and there’s not enough money to go around. You can’t get ahold of the unemployment office in California, if you’re poor, it’s your fault, find your own damn health insurance, borrow money from friends, assuming they’ve got any, sleep on a couch, or on the sidewalk, after all, you’re responsible.

But what if your birth circumstances were not privileged? What if you got the short end of the stick through no fault of your own?

Tough nuggies.

Recent news says if we all wore masks, Covid-19 would be harnessed in three weeks. Is this true? Maybe, maybe not, but we could at least try it.

But that would mean you’d be responsible, you’d have a duty, you’d have to care about others, and that’s just not today’s ethos.

It’s a free-for-all, and no one is in power.

They fine people for breaking the rules in foreign countries, in America even when there is a law, the governor might choose not to enforce it.

So who should you listen to, who should you believe?

And then there are the optimists, who believe a regime change will solve all our problems, when the truth is you can never catch up to the computer age if you’re using fax machines, you’ve got to tear down and start over, rebuild the infrastructure. But that costs money, and the government is the enemy, and therefore you should not pay taxes and the rich shouldn’t either because they are the job creators, wrong, and they know where the money should go, not those in power, so screw ’em.

But it’s all irrelevant until it hits home.

If it hasn’t already, it’s gonna. It’s just a matter of time. No one wins forever. And when things don’t go your way, good luck. Chances are the government won’t be there for you, and in a country of 300+ million people, a few can be lost. But what if it’s you?

None of the above can be debated, it’s written in stone. How you choose to live your life is up to you, but actions have consequences, and in the old days it was incumbent upon bad actors to take responsibility, today they deny and that’s all she wrote.

Black Lives Matter was an illustration that America doesn’t work for everybody, whether you stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” or not, that’s all show, it won’t put money in your bank account.

We’ve got a vacuum of leadership. We revere corporate titans, are beholden to their wares, but when it comes to what is between the ears, we get no food, no direction.

There are a lot of false prophets. Most especially religious ones. But if you believe prayer is the answer to all your issues, I hope you don’t get Covid-19.

We need someone to take control. Someone akin to JFK, or MLK, or even Mario Savio. Someone who’s driven by what’s right as opposed to what pays out.

While we’re waiting, there will be casualties.

Like my friend today.

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