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new featureAn Out of Country Experience-Part 21
(Please check the archives if you've missed previous installments)

Rebecca L. Morgan
Copyright? I didn't see any..
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Tales From The Barstool By: Clint Lien
"When Worlds Collide."
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In My Opinion
By L.N.P.

From the Absurd to the Sublime

The total absurdity of everything each of us experiences these days is mind-boggling. Think about it. We have thousands of men and women, torn from their families and friends, poised for war with Iraq. In fact, it now seems almost inevitable that we'll soon be plunged into a full-scale, resource draining, collateral damaging, body bag counting, potentially horrifying-in-its-consequences War. A war that most of us will have absolutely no connection with other than hearing about it on the evening news. There, amidst the serial rapists, high-speed car chases, child kidnappings, drive-by shootings, and middle east suicide bombings, to which we have become immunized, will be added the agonizing sights and sounds of the war in Iraq. And soon, in order to go on living, we will be deadened to that horror too, until none of it seems real.

Besides, if we really crave reality, all we have to do is flip the channel and watch "Fear Factor," where real people face truly tough challenges, like eating worms and lying in a cage filled with rats. Now that takes courage. And for agony, we can listen to the wannabe singers on "American Idol," or empathize along with "Joe Millionaire" as he struggles with the painful decision over which woman he'll choose as his favorite, the one to whom he'll confess the huge lie upon which the show is based. For those who can't handle that much reality, we can still have our dose of killing, bombing, raping, and terrorism on "Law and Order," "24," "Kingpin" or any of a dozen other shows "ripped from the headlines," all the while taking comfort in the fact that they're only TV shows. None of it is real. The edges blur.

Reality, for the vast majority of us, begins when the television is off and we try to conduct the business of our lives. If my son or my husband were about to go to War, then that singular knowledge would indeed affect every aspect of my reality. Instead, reality is more like waiting on hold for fifteen minutes listening to a recorded message about how important my call is to whomever I called, only to discover that no one really cares about my problem, or if they care, they can't solve it, or if they say they can, they're probably lying. Reality is being subjected to a random audit of our tax returns, when our entire income was less than Shaq's pocket change. It's consoling a friend who's unemployed, while knowing that his chances (or the chances of anyone else over the age of fifty for that matter) of finding another job in this society, in this economy, are close to non-existent.

Our daily realities are too often our daily absurdities. Like paying almost one-fifth of our yearly income to a money-sucking HMO, even though we despise the fact that by doing so we're helping to perpetuate the corrupt and hopelessly screwed up healthcare system in this country. Like hearing the President talk of developing fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles while knowing that our tax code sanctions $30,000 plus write-offs for buyers of SUVs under the guise of stimulating the economy. Any idiot knows that the results of this "stimulus" are an even greater dependence on foreign oil, and an even more damaging impact on the environment. But fear not. There is a bill to extend a $4000 tax credit to fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles. It's just that it's stalled in Congress.

The fact is, in this wealthiest, most powerful, most compassionate country of ours, the very same country we hold up to the world as a paradigm, there are millions without housing, without jobs, without pensions, without healthcare. But that's O.K., because we have a broader mission. Even though we are a trillion or so dollars in the hole, the United States will NOT let down all those citizens of Iraq who are beseeching us to liberate them. And we can do it, thanks to having this incredible business strategy; it's called deficit spending! So, we'll find the money to finance a war because, in Bush's own words, his "budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades." And if the war makes you worry more about counter-attacks, rest assured, because we are also going to strengthen homeland security. That's right. The Bush budget "nearly doubles funding for a sustained strategy of homeland security."

Now, if all that spending makes you fear that our economy can only get worse, lighten up. Because Bush has also promised a tax cut for "all" Americans to kick-start our faltering economy. In fact, according to our President, 92 million taxpayers will benefit from the proposed tax cuts (based mainly on eliminating the taxation on dividend income) receiving an average reduction of $1,083. Now THAT might really help. Oh, but wait. Did he say "average?" Well, that could mean that if one millionaire gets $45,000 and 40 shlubs each get $50, the "average" of their combined tax breaks is approximately $1,000. So in a way, Bush is right. In fact, according to the calculations of the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group, people with incomes over $317,000 will save an average of $13,243 on their taxes, while people earning $21,350 will save an average of less than $5 a year.

The overwhelming absurdity of it all tends to narrow our focus down to the immediate reality of our own lives: our family, our friends, our co-workers. Perhaps that's because it seems to be the only realm in which our reality is actually affected by the choices we make.

So, when we choose to behave with integrity and always keep our word, it has a direct impact on our business. Mostly, it helps encourage our clients to refer us to others based on their satisfaction with our service. Sometimes, though, it backfires. When we play by the rules but the client has thrown out the rulebook, for example. When we provide a client with a detailed proposal, a client who has expressed their intention to work with us, we give them our best concepts and suggestions in good faith. Sometimes we'll even do several proposals for that same client when their budget or their goals change. Accepting the fact that there are times when that very same client takes our ideas and uses them to shop for a lower price is tough to take. But, these are choices we make that affect our reality; integrity doesn't pay the bills, but it feels better.

Often our choices involve friends or family. When we choose to take the time to listen to a loved one's problems or frustrations, even though we'd set that time aside for something else, it has an impact. When we stop work to counsel a friend who is begging for the truth, or when we choose to let go of a friend because she cannot bear to hear it, we are affecting our personal reality. When we choose to hug our spouse for no reason, or walk our dog when we'd rather take a nap, or comfort a child when we planned to watch "Friends," or turn to God for wisdom and courage, our choices have a ripple effect that enriches our own personal reality. And there's nothing absurd about that.

Send me your opinions at Lynn@netlistings.com

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