December 26th, 2009 13:40 EST
A Small-Town Shop Window Raises Questions about America in 2010
It`s Christmas night. A frosty Enlightenment gentleman pours out lumps of coal from a white Christmas stocking in a window on Warren Street in Hudson, New York. This ingenious window display prompts me to think what Americans have received in their stockings this year.
Among our lumps of coal:
"a bankrupting and open-ended war in Afghanistan
"an overstretched military
"a general in Afghanistan bullying an appeasing president in contravention of our honored tradition of civilian leadership
"a half-hearted attempt at health care reform courtesy of a bribed Congress
"a sputtering economy
"a job market that runs the gamut from shaky and abusive to non-existent
"unaffordable housing, health care and education
"corporate shysters in $2,000 suits who dodge our questions and screw us at every turn
"a Congress that would rather bicker than lead
"professional millionaire politicians instead of the citizen legislators our forefathers envisioned
"a misguided tendency to blame Washington for problems that begin at home, such as too much government, waste, patronage and gerrymandering
"rising poverty and homelessness
"our government`s criminal neglect and outright cheating of Native Americans
"a tottering infrastructure of bridges, sewer plants, water systems, railroads, dams, tunnels, highways and other public works
"a huge volume of television pharmaceutical ads with scary warnings against the very products they promote
"misleading TV ads warning us against the dangers of universal health care
And the gifts in our stockings:
"our renowned common sense
"our generosity and decency as a people
"our honor and sense of nationhood
"our artists, writers, performers
"our cultural institutions
"a glorious land, however much greed tries to despoil it
"the human resources to overcome every challenge
"our unpredictability, a marvelous facet of the American character that politicians and blow-dried crooks keep forgetting
"a baby step towards health care for all
Admittedly the coal in our stockings is weighty, but nowhere equal to our gifts as a people.
The sheer volume of the scare ads on television in both heft and sound testify to the big shots` fear of Americans` common sense. What if Americans decided they deserve universal health care, affordable education and housing, fair wages and pensions? Oh heavens, that would be socialism, wouldn`t it? Or would it be the fulfillment of our forefathers` hopes for us, those forefathers who never envisioned a political class? They also never envisioned lobbyists who would bribe Congress with billions of dollars to serve corporations instead of the people, and thereby polarize the nation until now we are unable to legislate for our own good.
Our greatest gift this Christmas night is the American people, and that is what the predator and political classes most fear.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.