Sure, America has problems — but what country doesn’t?

My favorite Kurt Vonnegut quote is from “Sirens of Titan.” It goes: “I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”

Except for the word “victim.” I see myself as the beneficiary of a series of series of accidents. My grandparents were all born in “the old country,” which is what my family called the Czar’s empire of the 19th century, where Jews faced little opportunity and much oppression. My grandparents made it to America, which has led to me having a life so great it would make them happy they emigrated. I give them, and my first-generation-American parents, much more credit than I could ever give myself for my wonderful life. And I am grateful, to them and for that life, every day.

Nicholas Kristof travels the world for The New York Times, often to places where the odds of having a wonderful life are very poor. This is from his recent column, from South Sudan:

I came across a group of homeless women and girls in the South Sudan swamps, hiding from soldiers who would have killed or raped them. One teenager was wearing a castoff T-shirt that read “Obama Girl,” so I asked her if she knew who Barack Obama was.

She was confused; there are no functioning schools in the area, so she can’t read and didn’t know what her shirt said. But I explained. That didn’t help, for she had never heard of Obama. I asked her friends if they knew, and finally I found one woman who did. She said shyly that Obama is president of the United States.

Those girls deserve no more blame for their problems than I deserve credit for my great life. They are the victims of a different series of accidents that has left them in a much worse place than my series of accidents have placed me.

Apparently, a lot of Americans are not so grateful for the life that is possible here. They are angry. They are so angry that they want Donald Trump for president because, although he was born rich and has grown richer, he has found a way to connect with that anger and channel it to his political benefit and the benefit of his enormous ego.

I cannot truly understand the anger, although I keep trying. My gratitude for my great life gets in the way. I guess America has some problems; no, I’m sure it does. What country doesn’t? I think we should keep trying to make life better here, especially for those who have the biggest problems.

I’m going to take a break from blogging for a few days, and count my blessings.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 03/18/2016 - 12:03 pm.

    Thanks for Topical Climes, Eric

    I just submitted a post advocating for the new administration to immediately give us straight talk about everything nationally troubling citizens, in order to restore some proper perspective of fundamental optimism.

    You have closed your laptop this Friday with exactly the piece toward that purpose.

    Thanks, Eric

  2. Submitted by C.S. Senne on 03/18/2016 - 12:10 pm.


    Thanks, Eric, for your writing. Enjoy your time away from all the chaos!

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/18/2016 - 02:34 pm.

    Blessings, Eric! You Deserve a Break!

    I hope this one is for reasons of R&R and not because of “accidents” involving your own health or that of a family member.

    It’s a great time to take a break considering that both parties seem to be settling in on their nominees.

    Once they do, of course, we’ll need you back to help manage the craziness that ensues.

    Speaking of accidents of fate, I once preached something that’s worth sharing on the subject Mr. Kristof’s piece raises,…

    “Imagine you are a soul about to be born into the world. You are gathered with nine others in a place where souls wait until the moment arrives when they enter into the bodies which will carry them throughout their lives in the earthly realm.

    Imagine all ten of you are looking with total awareness at the places and events of the world you are about to enter in the full knowledge that any one of you could find yourself growing up in any of the circumstances you observe so clearly from your current vantage point.

    From this perspective, with the full knowledge that you could end up anywhere in the world, what would justice be?

    It’s an interesting question. Those among us with vivid imaginations are already well aware that where and how we grow up, the general wealth and power of our nation, the status of our state and city within that nation, the status of people having our race and nationality, even the language or languages we use to consider and discuss the world have a powerful impact on what justice and even reality itself seems to be.

    But if, before you were born, you could look at the world and know that you might end up anywhere, in any nation, as part of any majority or minority group, speaking any language, with any sexual orientation, in any family from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor. What would you wish the world you were about to enter might be like when you got there?”

    I know it’s a vain wish,

    but I can’t help but hope and pray that someday humanity will build a world in which, no matter where any of us land when we’re born,…

    we will not find ourselves in a place such as the one in which the girls and women of South Sudan suffer,…

    men as well, though they tend to suffer in different ways,…

    because there will BE no such place on this planet.

  4. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 03/21/2016 - 08:34 am.

    I ran into K.V. the other day

    …He was resting his words on an old scrap of paper in my files on a clean-out Saturday:

    “I want to stand as close to the edge without out going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things one can’t see from the center.”

    …always good to be reminded why one headed down this fork in the road maybe…either way, have a good hiatus from the daily pattern , yes indeed.

  5. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 03/21/2016 - 10:07 pm.

    Agree but…

    I am so much in agreement with Eric. I just wonder why he had to bring up Trump without bringing up Black Lives Matter and Occupy…

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