Am unsure just when the following was written. Had to be on a 2012 trip “through the ‘Red States’”, but am unclear about where, or even circumstances. That it appears now, is simply a realization that, in a small way, was observing what seemed to be a small illness which metastasized by Nov/2016.
THE SUMMER OF OUR MALCONTENT
With “this is the Winter of our discontent” Will Shakespeare introduces us to physically & psychologically deformed “Richard III”, as he embarks upon his reign of terror.
After two months along our West Coast & now just below our Canadian border, get a distinct feeling an awful lot of Americans are dissatisfied with their lot. (Admittedly, this is NOT a scientific experiment, It’s just listening & watching as people interact in grocery stores, gas stations, bars/restaurants, parks, campgrounds and tourist attractions.)
Start this journey carrying along “The Question”, that is “If you could sit down with each Presidential candidate, for just 15 minutes, what goals would you ask them to accomplish at a conclusion of their Administration?”
Over time, get a few “original” ideas, but most just regurgitate Liberal or Conservative rhetoric. (To what degree this rhetoric influences “action” remains open to conjecture, but, it certainly influences “speech”).
Curiously, it’s not “classical” politics. Yeah, there’s SOME (much of it “local”), but, more often, it seems a sense of “persistent dissatisfaction”.
Not too surprisingly, age/generation “frame” conversations.
Young people, married or single, seem unhappy with their “relationships”… whether emotional or financial. Many reasons emerge: but a common denominator is a sense of a future without sustaining “commitment”, supplemented with a sense “there’s not enough time to be ME”. Families with young children feel an additional burden: whether they will be able to provide adequately until their youngsters are self-sufficient.
To listen to them talk, no one likes their job/boss/pay/prospects, or whatever.
Older people indicate concerns about health (“slowing down”) & whether savings will be enough to maintain a sense of physical & financial independence.
(Now, an admitted disclosure – in homes, schools, offices, churches, etc., there may be a lot of happy, contented folks who do not grumble – at least, not publicly)
Part of what make this discourse dispiriting is the affluence which surrounds it: homes large enough to house princes; RVs the size of sailing ships; pick-up trucks as big as buses; sleek SUVs; shopping carts heaped high (a $240-ish grocery bill which would stop my heart in its tracks). Kids have braces on their teeth, signature footwear, and EVERYONE’S got a cellphone. Little League-rs sport pro-looking uniforms & gloves large enough to camp in. Fishermen have half-a-dozen fancy poles lined up. Campers grapple with Webers large enough to roast a lamb. (This is not just a “Land of Plenty”… it’s a land of PLENTY of plenty.)
So… why practice “malcontent” so aggressively? Dunno! Dunno!
But, failing to look beyond the local (e. g., urban homelessness; international terrorism) it seems a sad testament indeed. It seems Will may have been wrong… perhaps there is no single season for “discontent”.