07 July 2010

A 'Frustrated' American Speaks Out

Two days ago, the Troy Record gave two columns of its "Pulse of the People" section to a long letter from Hank Treggat, a resident of the Collar City. I suspect his comments represent the mood of many Americans, whether we like them or not.
I'm frustrated. I don't own a gun. I support gay marriage. Religious zealots drive me nuts, though I do consider myself a Christian. I'm white, which must mean I am racist. I love the notion of the Tea Party, and I hate the flippant responses from the left concerning it. I am first a fiscal conservative and general believer that the founding fathers of this country understood a whole lot more than most today give them credit for. Sarah Palin makes me want to jump off a building, but Nancy Pelosi is twice as bad. I believe this country is in a free fall, and it's not the fault of Barack Obama or George W. Bush. It's the fault of the people that refuse to stand up to the oppression that inches closer each day.

Treggat doesn't detail the oppression he sees coming, but he sees plenty wrong with the country right now. He traces the trouble to the New Deal, "a wonderful utopian idea that fails on every level." FDR's program set the nation on "an unsustainable path that has resulted in an "apathy" that "will be the downfall of this great society." It snuffed out the "American Dream ... achieved through calculated risk, hard work, and a willingness to believe anything is possible" and replaced it with a lower-case "american dream" of "free-dumb," described thusly: "Why work, when the government will pay you not to? Why bother to achieve when speed bumps along the way will make it difficult?"

"The massive government programs, created and continued so that the poor and needy have a voice, will never raise the people up," Treggat writes, "Each entitlement dissuades [sic?] growth. It will however drag the rest of us down." He believes that our political leaders know this fact, "but they continue to fight using the high moral ground. They will tell you that their beliefs are what are best for mankind, best for the welfare of our friends, families and neighbors. They tug at the heartstrings of people that are naturally good. They play well at emotional games. They use success and achievement as vessels of guilt." Worse, "they resort to the political games, tried and true, and aim to disfigure their perceived enemy."

What does Treggat propose to do? He says he loves the notion of the Tea Party, but doesn't claim membership. In many ways his ideas sound libertarian, but he never uses that particular L-word himself. He opposes the traditional Democratic agenda but doesn't seem to identify with the Republican party or conservative poster-kids like Bush and Palin. If he identifies with anything, it is, predictably enough, with "the men and women in the middle [who] must fight for the change." For Treggat, "change" means "fighting generations of unearned privilege," and it's up to "those of us that could benefit from the short-term 'heaven on earth' ease that [politicians] promise, who must fight back."

At his most provocative, Treggat vows to "take away your false hope, and instead shine fresh light upon the results of your efforts. If you find this notion to be offensive, you are part of the problem." He closes with a churchillian promise to "fight them on the battlefield of logic" and predicts eventual victory. What he means to do, I infer, is to argue on a factual basis that the welfare state is "unsustainable," and that there is no alternative to "hard work" and "calculated risk" on the part of every American. He anticipates a hard time trying to break down Americans' entitlement mentality, and he expects to be vilified. For the second time in his letter he assumes that he will be denounced personally as a racist, though that assumption may be the only evidence in the document that he is one. In general, he expects that anyone who tells hard truths will be slandered, and he appears in no mood to sugarcoat his message.

There's something breathtaking in Treggat's intention to "take away false hope," but also, perhaps, something inconsistent with his presumed desire to replace "false hope" with the reinstated belief that "anything is possible" to those who work hard. It may be simply a distinction between the possibility inherent in freedom and the "unsustainable" guarantees he identifies as "false hope." In any event, Treggat seems more comfortable with "I think I can," without questioning its realism in any given case, than with "the government will provide." Logic, he appears to believe, dictates that "anything is possible" is the only hope permissible, and then only at the individual level. His professed dedication to "common sense and reason" as well as logic leaves him no other course than ...what, exactly?

All we know from what Treggat writes is that he believes that the U.S. has been on the wrong path for nearly eighty years, and that many Americans enjoy "unearned privilege." He invites us to join him in a struggle, I presume, to undo that privilege. Then what? He complains that today "we no longer produce in our lives, we merely consume." I presume further that he wants to get Americans producing again. Maybe he thinks it will happen once Americans realize, once stripped of "unearned privilege," that they have no other choice. Would such shock therapy work? "Anything is possible" is probably all the answer Treggat deems necessary. If some sink while others swim, who does what is probably a matter of principled indifference to him. After all, "entitlement" and "unearned privilege" will "drag the rest of us down" if things stay as they are. It's "the rest of us" with whom Treggat is really concerned. I might be more sympathetic with his frustration and his determination to do something about it if he showed more concern for all of us, but I fear that he'd find my objection "part of the problem."


Anonymous said...

Again, the argument from the left is simple: "Where are the opportunities?!!!" The private sector that men like Taggert ideolize has been pretty scrooge-like in creating opportunities for people to work. What people like this REFUSE to acknowledge is that, because of the power of corporate America within our government, what he envisions as a "better America" will not happen. The capitalist ideals that he holds so dear are, in fact, what is strangling the American economy. Add to that the fact that these people also simply won't accept the globalization that is upon us. We can not return to this "golden age" that these ancient hasbeens dream of, simply because it never really existed. It was an economic bubble, based on the fact that the rest of the world, after WW2, was economically on life support. We are no longer the dominant economy and, in all probability, we will never own that claim again.

Maybe if people like ultimately realize that the bipolarchy is what allows the entrenchment of special and corporate interests within the halls of power, they might finally move in the right direction. If not, then expect a whole lot more whining in your local paper.

hobbyfan said...

I didn't read Mr. Treggat's initial missive on Monday, but your summation of him, Sammy, reads like something from Alanis Morrisette some 15 years ago. He's frustrated, but doesn't own a gun (which is actually a good thing if it happens that he also has psych issues). He supports same-sex unions like so many trendy sheep. He says he's a Christian, but the overzealous types drive him nuts? To borrow from Ms. Morrisette, Treggat's probably got one hand in his pocket, and the other has a pocket bible.

Sarah Palin makes him want to jump? Like, she let herself become a character because the GOP decided she was worthy of being a vice-president. She saved Tina Fey's career more than her own, you see. Treggat likes the idea of the Tea Party, but can't stand the criticism of it? Fair enough, but if the tea partiers' motivations were a little clearer, there might not be so much hand-wringing on either side.

Special interests and big business have seen to it that any independent party worth its salt can't be entrenched because it upsets the status quo they're so comfortable with. If you take the special interests out of the equation, then maybe there's room for a true democracy.

Anonymous said...

I am just so sick of these idiots who want to blame everything on an administration from 80 years ago.

The FACT is, this economy is tanking because of the greed of corporate America that has taken hundreds of thousands of decent paying jobs out of this country and relocated them to the third world where they are paid far less. Idiots like this just don't get and never will get it because they have concretized their ideology in their minds, so if something goes wrong, it has to be someone else's fault, not because their ideology is based on false premises to begin with. I am frustrated to the point of wanting to just take a baseball bat to these idiots just to see if that could possibly knock some freaking sense into them.