I’ve decided that the biggest problem in America isn’t the stock market decline or the housing crisis. Nor is it the high gas prices that no one will acknowledge as the pin that burst the housing bubble and blew up the economy. Nor is it out-of-control spending. Nor is it a decline of moral values, politics as usual, drugs or peanuts.
No, the biggest problem in America is that there are no more people.
Of course, I don’t mean we now have a population of 0. That’s ridiculous because if that were the case, home prices would be even lower than they are now.
What I mean is that instead of people, we have taxpayers. Customers. FTEs. Uninsured. Jobless claims. Homeless. Stockholders. Constituents. Parishioners. Viewers. Households. Dependents. Elderly. Teenagers. Baby Boomers. Users. Subscribers. Recipients. Personnel. Executives. Buyers. Sellers.
What’s missing from that list? Bob. Ethel. Gene. Fred. Jennifer. Earl. Samantha. Ed. Louise. Tony. Wanda. Jimmy. Mary Lou. Dave. Laurie Ann.
We now live in a society that — with the exception of celebrities — deals with people as groups, not individuals. It’s why such wellmeaning concepts as No Child Left Behind, No Pass/No Play or Three Strikes are so flawed. Because actual people are no longer part of the formula.
Everybody on welfare is lazy. Every corporate executive is greedy. Everybody who is foreclosed upon bought a house they couldn’t afford. Every Muslim is dangerous. Everybody who works for AIG is a crook. Every journalist is a liberal. And white men can’t jump.
But it’s not so much the stereotypes that bother me. It’s that too many schools, businesses, banks and governmental institutions aren’t aware that no two people are alike.
My wife encountered this recently when going to work before daylight and stopping at a convenience store. She accidentally parked in a dimly lit handicapped spot that was marked only by a small sign on the store. A police officer reprimanded her, and she profusely apologized and promptly moved her vehicle. But her apology was met with “that’s what they all say” and “use some common sense” and on and on and on. At least we now know what happened to that annoying hall monitor from junior high school.
But recently while purchasing a home from a real estate service in Utah that behaved like an entire group of former hall monitors, we were able to lean on several people who knew we were good folks trying our best to play by the rules. All we were doing was trying to buy a house. It must be really tough for decent folks facing foreclosure or job loss who don’t have people who will see them as individuals.
And at the very end, we sat in a small lawyer’s office in Ellaville, Ga., just a few normal folks acting like reasonable people. We all were the kind of folks who could still do business with a handshake — if institutions would let us.
Too bad those days are gone.
Contact Chris Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-320-4403.