Privilege

There is that fizzy sensation when one opens a can of soda, it gently pops around the nostrils as a drink is taken.  The CO2 slides down the throat with sugar and gives opportunity for spectacular burps.  I don’t usually drink soda.  At restaurants it is usually very flat, and I don’t particularly like the taste.  But the re-release of “throw-back” products (Pepsi, Dr. Pepper come to mind) made with real sugar (not corn syrup) got me to try soda again, if just for a moment.

The pop of the can and the fizz took me back, and gave me a very strong sense memory of Pepsi in odd green plastic glasses at my great-grandfathers house.  I smiled.   I recalled when soda was a treat on a hot day, a cold fizzy thrill to a small child. 

It’s strange the things we take for granted.  This fizz, this tickle of the nose is a privilege in a country that takes so much for granted.  To have the cash to buy a box of throw back soda cans, stick them into a refrigerator that will reliably keep everything cold, and then grab ice from the freezer icemaker to pour it over is truly a privilege I take for granted most days. 

We do not own a large house, and the mess that accumulates so fast from toys, dirty laundry, clean laundry, papers, and dishes overwhelms me.  But I forget that the lights turn on when I need them, the washing and drying machines have worked for a long time, the water out of the tap goes through a filter and is as clean as we can ask for.  The toilet flushes; the shower provides enough hot water for us all to shower (if we don’t stall!).  We have a large yard, several garden areas, fully grown shade trees, a play-tower and privacy fence around it all.  We truly live here and we take for granted the infrastructure that makes all of this possible.

I have gotten annoyed lately at all the vague grousing about government.  The lack of civics courses in schools seems to have lead to a general stupidity about what government does and what we take for granted.  I watched our local city council meeting last night on the local government access channel.  It was both boring and fascinating.  The minutia, the need to consider several different points of view, just to get a visionary plan for roads on paper is amazing.  There are people who go to work everyday to make sure our garbage is picked up, our roads fixed, policed; our children schooled, firefighters, water plant persons, electric commission folks, the list goes on and on.  Is there corruption?  Sure.  From my time spent in Chicago I learned that the machine that makes a complex city possible is also a self-aware machine; there is an unspoken cap on what greed can take place.  Step out of line and the machine will slap you down.  In well functioning bureaucracies, there is a larger measure of working for the greater good than greed, and the baseline for what is acceptable is low and functional.  I understand the massive anger at the out of control greed easily observable to the citizenry, but in our anger let us not forget that most of our civil service workers are just people who do a job the best they can, and make our infrastructure possible. 

I lobbied in state government for several years and saw many things.  Most of what I observed I was surprised and depressed about.  The I grew up a bit and merged that experience with living in urban areas; I took a longer view of what is possible, necessary, and what is a privilege as a citizen.  I keep at arms length from politics now, but still vote.  I give credit to those who are willing to be representatives at the local level, the least glamorous of political levels.

Do I expect better? Sure.  Am I aware of how lucky we are, in the smallest of ways?  Yep.  I didn’t say there were no incompatible ideas in my head, or anyone’s for that matter.  To be an adult is to live with paradox, and make peace with it as best we can.  When I was out in L.A. recently everyone I talked to was annoyed at the cell phone service breaks that are constant in the area.  One can not reliably make a call and expect it to go through, or stay connected when it does.  It is incredibly annoying, disruptive, and dangerous.  It is an infrastructure issue.  We are at a point where we must, I believe, take measure of what we need- what infrastructure means- and apply our governmental power to that with vision and speed.  No more bridges falling down (think Wisconsin), no more abuse of our water sources.  As a citizenry, we must collectively recognize what the baseline for a civil, functioning society means and pursue it with our taxes and voices.

The fizz is slowly dying in my glass.  What a treat today, to have a soda.  No food to complicate the experience, no noise or competing activity.  Sun, a break for a soda, and some tunes on the stereo.  It is a privilege.  Cheers.

Leave a Reply