Upstate Roundtable

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Is America coming apart at the seams?

By Kimberlee Leto

Is America coming apart at the seams? If I sat down to write a list of questions, looked on Facebook to see what people were posting about the Government Shutdown, Obamacare, Immigration and Welfare, that one question pops out at me. Is America coming apart at the seams? Out of all the issues that remain unanswered and underserved, what really remains clear in the chaos; have we lost sight of what America stands for? Have we lost our way only to have everything unfurl and collapse at our feet?

Coming apart at the seams means there is a lack of control, weakness and accountability missing. Not just financially but the government being closed means a lack of leadership and a threat to our personal security. Am I the only one worried that with so many government employees furloughed at half-wage, yet expected to protect and defend our nation, that maybe we will get what we paid for? Would not our enemies see this as weakness and a way to infiltrate our borders, take down our way of life? Yes, why not, we have already invited them here for a better life? Many of the businesses that grace 2nd Avenue in Troy are not owned by Americans. Put the melting pot ideology aside, there is something wrong here and a deep-seated resentment exists.

While we wait to see if politicians can reach a compromise before America defaults on Thursday, there is tension and ignorance. Many Americans, at least in Troy and the Capital Region, are dissatisfied with the performance of our politicians. Many people I have spoken with are very disappointed in President Obama and his health care reform, mainly because they feel they are being forced into something they don’t want and don’t understand. Many people who are struggling to make ends meet are appalled and bewildered that we live in a “welfare state of decline”, where many people get paid more to be on assistance programs and much prefer that way of life than to work hard at a job that pays $8 an hour. But still, who can blame them, where are the jobs? In upstate New York, where the economy is just now bouncing back from the Great Recession and jobs remain more prevalent for the blue collar, working class and service industry, where are the well-paying professional jobs for the educated? They simply do not exist because the market can only tolerate what it can sustain. Professional jobs means working in the medical field or becoming a sales rep. The upstate way of life is changing slowly to take on new avenues that mean growth but this is very slow to transition. So many want to hold onto the upstate charm but also know that upstate life may come to an end as they know it without embracing change, innovative spirit and looking to the small businessperson as a catalyst.  We’ve seen this in Troy, but don’t tell anyone. There is a cultural renaissance taking place here. Once again, slow waves of change are hitting us but it feels like there are so many obstacles. We see big problems in government hindering these waves of change. Unless we take the country back, stand up by our bootstraps, we are only following a losing battle.

Many people are fed up with the process and feel their views, values and rights are not being addressed by those we have elected to represent us. Many people question the agenda taking place in Washington, the desire to see change but to the same token, also fear change. The Government Shutdown is a sure sign of weakness. Where is our leadership? Where is the passion that our Founding Fathers represented? Where is leadership, sulking in the corner like a five-year-old  because they didn’t get their way? Is it completely unreliable because they did not address the issues with better solutions? And yet, they still get paid. I know for certain, if I didn’t do my job right, I would be fired. So why aren’t more dissatisfied Americans marching on the Capitol to remind the men and women of Congress that we are pissed off and not going to take it anymore? Granted, so many of us are overwhelmed by survival, by just trying to fix the problems at home but what is not seen is how problems in Washington impact New York and upstate which, in turn, also impacts 2nd Avenue in Troy.

And by the way, you’re fired! Empty your desk! Maybe the government should stay closed and put the power back in the hands of people. After all, it was a great president, Abraham Lincoln, who once said at his first inaugural speech in 1861, “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it”.

But this begs a bigger question. Who are Americans? Who is entitled to the pursuit of happiness? Many people I have spoken with would say that the pursuit of happiness is dead. Many of our inalienable rights are dead, gone because we are being overpowered by big business, internationalization, corruption and fraud. So much is wrong in America right now, it is sickening. Most of our rights, rights many have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect, like my nephew and brothers(all military), have been simply given away.  Given away to people who are not from this country but come here to make a better life for themselves and people who need to go home. After all, we are closed for business, right?

This issue of rights and the American Melting Pot, as it stands, is in need of further review, as I think about the issues Congress must somehow come to resolve. What does it mean to be an American in 2013? These are real issues, “can’t sleep at night” issues. So many people I have talked with want change, want to say more  than what they believe politicians can give them. I say government is too broken to be fixed, but it needs to be reinvented. So instead of remaining complacent and unaware, it is time to speak up, stand up and fight.

Clearly, at this moment in time, America is at a standstill, its people are overwhelmed by the broken record. They are confused about Obamacare; they are worried about the fairness of welfare and immigration. These are subjects I will be exploring in the coming weeks. To examine what makes us American, hopefully not trapped in a broken dream.

Still, many remain blissful in the knowledge of just simply going about their day. Wake up America! Wake up New Yorkers! Wake up Upstaters! While we agree to disagree, maybe the fault is not in the politicians but ourselves! To create awareness may start at Facebook or any social media but to take back the country, to set it on the right course, means taking Lincoln’s words to heart and remembering freedom is not free. It is paid for in blood, sweat and tears.  The revolution starts today.

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