If All Liberals Thought Like This……..

Steven Van Zandt.

The problem with Facebook is that I get so caught up in some great onversations over there that I find no time to keep this blog going. Not that that is such a big deal, but I do still like keeping this blog going, and from time to time we get some good conversations going over her as well.

One of the great recent conversations on Facebook is in regards to this great piece from the Huffington Post that I posted on Facebook last week. I’m not going to give a lot of opinion here, I think this piece stands well on it’s own. Enjoy:

There Is Only One Issue In America by Steven Van Zandt.

I was obsessed with politics in the ’80s. I’ve recovered and I’m feeling much better now thank you.

By the time I realized, as interesting as it was, I’d better stop this stuff and try to earn a living, I had discovered many of our social problems and quality of life issues could be traced to the same political source: our corrupt-by-definition electoral system. The solution to the problem was as easy to discover as the cause: The elimination of all private finance in the electoral process.

I was working doing most of my research in the area of our foreign policy since WWll, whatever fell under the umbrella of international liberation politics, but I examined and analyzed a fair amount of local issues as well.

I wanted to know how things work? Where’s the power? Who’s pulling the strings?

The economy of the world came down to the unholy trinity of guns, drugs and gasoline — military industry, drugs (legal and illegal), and energy — and now I would add agribusiness as the fourth controlling commodity, and always with the enabling bankers never too far out of sight making their profits far too often from wars and slave labor.

While that readily explained the suffering of the Third World, it didn’t immediately answer why in America it was possible for so many people to be unhappy with our government’s decisions, both foreign and domestic, when we’re supposedly living in a democracy.

A quick analysis of our electoral process revealed the obvious answer. The simple fact is we do not live in a democracy. Certainly not the kind our Founding Fathers intended. We live in a corporate dictatorship represented by, and beholden to, no single human being you can reason with or hold responsible for anything.

The corporation has but one obligation, which is to increase profits for its shareholders by any legal means necessary by the next fiscal quarter.

They have no moral, patriotic, social, environmental, generational or even sustainable responsibility. They have only a short-term economic mandate and their only responsibility to society is to stay within the law to accomplish it.

This doesn’t mean corporations shouldn’t exist or even that their directors are evil by their very DNA. It has been a legally acceptable basic flaw in the form of our capitalist system that allows corporations to operate without a moral compass or obligation to society — but that’s a discussion for another day.

The law is rarely a problem because the corporations’ legal obligations are pretty much designed first and foremost for their maximum profit by the legislation created by the legislators belonging to our two national political parties, both of which are wholly bought, sold and controlled by Wall Street. The banks and the corporations. In other words the game is rigged. Feel like a sucker? We all do because we all are.

The manipulation, aided by a very willing media also owned by the corporations, has made things easier beginning with what has become the amazing Orwellian staple of every newscast, selling the public on the lie that the Dow has somehow become America’s scoreboard!

We’re all hypnotized, rooting for them like they’re our home team at a football game, cheering for THEIR scoreboard mindlessly forgetting WE’RE THE AWAY TEAM!!

You think your congressman is working all day to get you a job? He may want to. He or she is probably not a bad person. They probably want to do the right thing. But they can’t. Long-time Capitol Hill staff and campaign strategists tell me the average legislator spends one-third of their time (or more) every day raising money or on activities related to raising money.

Yes, they are “elected” which creates the mass delusion of democracy to keep the masses from rioting, but congressional races are costing millions of dollars and some Senate seats are going for tens of millions each, and they’re predicting well over one billion dollars for the next presidency.

That’s some democracy we’ve created there, isn’t it?

Of the people?

By the people?

For the people?

What people?

Democracy in America is a sick joke and the masses aren’t laughing anymore.

Yes, we can demonstrate. We can march. We can write and sign petitions to our Representatives. We can occupy.

And we should because it’s healthy to vent, and we don’t feel so all alone. But the truth is, other than the value of venting, we’re wasting our time. It is naïve to expect political results from any of these activities.

Our representative can give us lip service. A lot of sympathy. Empathy even. But we don’t pay their media bills, gabeesh?

We need to eliminate all private finance from the electoral process.

And let’s not be distracted by “reforms.” Let’s spare ourselves the unnecessary discussions about transparent disclosure, or the conflict of interest of foreign countries buying favorable treatment, or protection after protection being gutted by dangerously diluted regulations, or trying to impose this limit or that limit, etc., etc., etc.

Campaign finance doesn’t need reform. It needs elimination.

To accomplish this we must overturn Buckley v. Valeo, one of the two or three worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court.

The ruling makes the extraordinary decision that money is protected by the First Amendment.

Presumably Chief Justice Gordon Gekko presiding!

These smartest guys in the room actually decided that spending money is the equivalent of free speech. You might wonder why no one in that smart room stood up and said wait a minute, if money is speech, isn’t lack of money lack of speech?

You know, as in the rich get to talk, and the poor don’t? How are the non-moneyed classes represented by this decision?

I guess nobody stood up then, but it’s time to stand up now.

In fact, I am now introducing a new pledge to be signed by our legislators. Of both parties. Indies too. Everybody’s welcome.

THE PLEDGE FOR A DEMOCRATIC AMERICA

(We’ll need someone more educated than me to draw it up, or we can copy Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, but it would go something like this.)

I, The Undersigned, pledge to overturn Buckley v. Valeo and eliminate all private finance from the electoral process, thusly restoring America to its democratic principles. I may take corporate, PAC, SuperPAC, or Chinese money to get elected or reelected (martyrdom accomplishes nothing), but upon my election I will make campaign finance elimination one of my immediate top priorities.

Now somebody should be starting a new Third Party whose platform is dedicated to this one idea. Twenty-five years ago that’s what I’d be doing right now.

But the need for a Third Party aside, this idea applies for everyone. Just as much for the Tea Party on the right as the 99 Percenters on the left (the corporate oligarchy actually has no Party affiliation, it just looks Republican).

Both groups should adopt this issue. The Occupiers need not agree on anything else, because frankly nothing else matters, and a bit more focus on the root of our problems for the Tea Party certainly wouldn’t hurt them either.

Let’s see who’s serious about representing the “people.”

And you know what?

We might be pleasantly surprised at how many congressmen and senators sign this thing who would rather be doing something more dignified with their lives than spending half their time begging for money.

 

Folks, I would love your feedback on this piece….

It’s A Government Life

Have you ever seen that e-mail going around, the one titled “Bar Stool Economics” Well, it’s an interesting analogy, showing how the progressive tax system works, using ten drinking buddies at a bar, each one representing 1/10th of the population’s earners, by percentage.

Now I’m not writing about that particular story, or even about taxes in general. I bring this up because one of my liberal friends on his blog – garyhasissues.com – discussed this piece, and put his own typical liberal spin on it. And by “typical liberal spin” I mean that is was based on assumptions and emotions, but not at all grounded in reality.

Some of you may know Gary. As a matter of fact, those of you reading this blog that have no connection to me or my hometown may still know Gary from his time as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1982 to 1985, or perhaps in his Emmy-winning role as Reggie in 1990’s “Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again”. Okay, he didn’t win the Emmy, but damn it, he deserved it.

Anyhow, Gary and I grew up in the same town, we both have blogs, he loves his two kids, and…. well, that’s probably where the similarities end. He’s a hell of a lot better looking than I am, and politically we are pretty opposite, but Gary is one of my more liberal friends on Facebook that I really like, because he doesn’t always just follow The Media Matters Handbook, like so many on the left do, but occasionally… well, maybe “rarely” is better word… but from time to time Gary does try to see the other side, or at least understand why conservatives think like they do.

But let’s get back to Gary and the Bar Stool Economics discussion. What Gary did was take a popular story and spin it to fit his ideology. Now I’m not going to claim Gary was messing with something sacred, this analogy is not that groundbreaking, but he did take a story that – while simplistic and “homey” – was rooted in actual mathematical data, and add some sob story elements that, well, weren’t rooted in anything factual. If interested, you can view that article here:

http://garyhasissues.com/?p=1688

So, if I’m not going to discuss the Bar Stool Economics story, or taxation in general, why bring it up? Because ever since I read Gary’s article, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of presenting a story that we all know was meant to express one thing, and telling it in a way that represents something completely different. It isn’t just about taking a liberal idea and putting a conservative spin on it, because ultimately it needs to make sense, not just a partisan spin.

So I’ve been thinking about that for a few days, and the other day I heard an old joke/story that I thought might be a perfect opportunity for me to try my…. Oops, I mean Gary’s concept out on. You may have heard this joke before (I’m kind of hesitant to call it a joke, because to some it may and can be a true message), and the truth is, this is neither liberal or conservative in nature, but, if it has any ideological slant to it, it would be religious. Here it is:

At one time there was a man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town. The report said that the whole town should evacuate immediately. But the man said, “I’m religious, I pray. God loves me. God will save me.”

But the waters began to rise. A man in a rowing boat came along and he shouted. ‘Hey! Hey you! You up there. The town is flooding. I can take you to safety.‘ But the man shouted back: “I’m religious, I pray. God loves me. God will save me.”

A helicopter came hovering overhead. A guy with a megaphone shouted. ‘Hey! You there! The town is fully flooded. Let me drop down a ladder and I will help you to safety.’ But the men shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God would take him to safety.

The man drowned.

When he got to the pearly gates of St Peter, he demanded an audience with God. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘I’m a religious man, I pray. I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?‘ God said, ‘I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowing boat. What on earth are you doing here?

Cute story huh? Well, okay, maybe not BUT I do believe that there is a message in this story, a message that we can all learn from. Actually, I think the author actually meant for there to be a message, and that message is that God speaks to us in many ways. Not being a particularly religious man, let me expand on that to make the message “Life speaks to us in many ways.

And with that, I give you my take on the story. Like I said, I’m not a particularly religious person, but I am going to somewhat stick to the religious theme here, although to be honest, I think I probably borrow as much if not more from Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” than I do from the actual Bible. Here we go:

Jerry had had a rough life. Born to a single parent, Jerry and his mother moved around often, and he never seemed to be able to put down roots anywhere. Even as an adult Jerry never seemed to have many opportunities, and his life continued to slide away. Jerry felt let down by those around him, by his government, and by himself, until one day Jerry decided he could take it no more, and decided to take his own life.

After reviewing the options available to him, Jerry decided to go downtown to Washington Plaza, the tallest building in town, and jump from the 21st floor. He figured that not only was this likely to be the quickest option, but one that even he was not likely to screw up.

As Jerry reached the roof of the plaza, he began to walk towards the railing, surveying the street below and looking for the place to jump where he was least likely to land on some poor slob. Jerry had screwed up so often in life that he sure didn’t want to end with causing death or injury to someone else.

Jerry found what he thought was an ideal spot, that is if you can use the word “ideal” for what he was about to do, when the voice behind him startled him.

“Hello Jerry”

Jerry turned to see an elderly gentleman standing behind him. “Who the hell are you….. and how the hell do you know my name?”

“Jerry,” the elderly man replied, “who I am doesn’t matter. What’s really important here is that I’m here to stop you from making a terrible mistake.”

“Mistake? You think I’m making a mistake? Listen old man, the only mistake I’m making is in waiting as long as I did to do this. My whole life has been a mistake.”

“But that’s where you’re wrong Jerry” the old man said. “It’s true that you’ve made a lot of mistakes in your life, heck so does everyone, but your life is not a mistake. No human life is ever a mistake, because it’s God that gives you life Jerry, and he doesn’t make mistakes.”

Jerry was starting to get the picture now. This was some old do-gooder, nearing the end of his own life who now apparently gets off on telling other people how to live their lives. “Okay”, Jerry thought, “Let’s show this geezer just how wrong he is.”

“Well you’re wrong old man, my life WAS a mistake, and I can prove it. Say, what did you say your name was again… and how the hell do you know who I am”

“Well Jerry, I didn’t, but it’s Martin” the elderly man answered, “and I doubt that you’d even believe me if I told you, but I know who you are because I am your Guardian Angel.”

Now Jerry was convinced the old man was bonkers, but he was also intrigued. Heck, it’s not like he couldn’t toy with this old man for a few minutes and then kill himself, right? I mean, it’s not like he was on a schedule.

“Alright old ma…, I mean, Martin, if you’re my guardian angel, let me ask you something. Why do I even have a guardian angel, assuming of course that’s what you really are? I mean, it’s not like I even believe in God. Heck, I can’t remember a time in my life when I ever did. So if you’re one of his angels, shouldn’t you be watching over someone that actually believes in him?”

Martin replied “That’s true Jerry, you never have believed in God, but he certainly believes in you. Everyone has a guardian angel, and I happen to be yours Jerry. Oh, and I can answer your next question as well: The reason that you feel your life was so bad has nothing to do with me not watching over you as closely as I should. Most people never see or feel the influence of their Guardian Angel. We only appear whenever someone is going to make a huge, huge mistake. The kind of mistake that you’re thinking of now.”

Hold it, how the hell did you know what I was going to say next?” Oh, I get it, it just makes sense that a man that was going to end his life would ask that of someone claiming to be an angel. Good one Martin, you almost had me fooled. So I suppose this is the part where you take me and show me how the world would have been different if I had never lived, right.”

“No,” said Martin, “that old bit has been done to death. No Jerry, we’re just going to sit here for a few minutes, and I’m going to answer any questions that you might have. And when we’re done, if you want to jump, then go ahead. It would be a huge mistake, but I can’t stop you.”

“All right old man, I’ll play along. Let’s see how good you really are at this parlor game of yours. Okay, like I said earlier, my whole life has been a mistake. Heck, my birth was a mistake. My Mom got knocked up at 17 by some loser, and boom, here comes Jerry the Mistake. So if god is really watching over me, how did he let that happen.”

“Good,” said Martin, “lets start at the very beginning. But first, let me tell you how God actually works. God does not make things happen. He gave humans a little something called “free will”, and Jerry that means that everything you do or say you have 100% control over. But, with that being said, God does plant opportunities in everyone’s lives, but it’s up to the individual to actually seize upon that opportunity.”

“What are you talking about” Jerry asked, confused.

“Okay Jerry” Martin could see that he might have caught Jer’s attention. “Lets talk about your birth. I know you don’t know anything about your father, so let me fill you in. His name was Harry Weller. Harry wasn’t a bad man, kind of a “smooth operator”, although I’m not sure you’d find to many folks to sing Harry’s praises either. Harry was 21 when he got your mom pregnant. Oh, he told her all the right things, told her that he loved her, told her that he wanted to be with her forever, and you’re mom bought it, hook, line and sinker.”

“Okay” Jerry interrupted, “so where were those “opportunities” that you were talking about? You said yourself Harry was a smooth operator. How was a naive 17 year old girl suppose to resist a guy like that? If you’re going to tell me that “she should have said ‘No’”, that that was her opportunity, then I have to call bullshit on you Martin.”

“Well Jerry, you are right that she should have said ‘no’, but it’s more than that. It was obvious you’re mom couldn’t see the kind of guy Harry was, so god sent several of  your mothers friends, friends who could actually see the kind of guy Harry was, to try to talk her out of it. But, like I said, ultimately she had free will, and she choose to sleep with Harry. But that’s not the end of the story Jerry. Even though the big guy is not what you would call the #1 fan of birth control, he gave both your mom and harry several opportunities to obtain some, but they didn’t. Free will Jerry, free will.”

Okay, so you’re saying that ‘God’ gave my mom an opportunity to not have a baby at 17. And I’m assuming that he wasn’t going to keep Harry in the picture – free will and all – but let me ask you this then about your God: Why would he allow me, an innocent life, to suffer such a ball of crap life. Sure, Mom & Harry made a mistake, and I was the result of that mistake, but it wasn’t my fault. After all, isn’t our entire system of government set up to correct the kind of mistakes my mom made?

“AH HAH!” Martin bellowed. “You Jerry, are a very sharp man.” Most people don’t get right to the point like you do, but whether you know it or not, you’ve gotten right to the point.”

Jerry looked at Martin with a confused expression. “Martin, what the hell are you talking about?”

Remember when you said that you didn’t believe in God Jerry?” Martin replied. “Well, that’s not exactly true. You have been following religion all of your life Jerry, it’s just that your God, the God who was tasked with looking over you and taking care of you, was the U.S. Government.”

“Oh that’s ridiculous.”

“Is it Jerry? Look, you feel that your life has been a mistake, that both God and the government have let you down. Truth is Jerry, it’s you who have had the power all along, you just kept giving that power to others. To others that really don’t have the ability to do near as much as you do in controlling your life.”

“Jerry, let’s look at your early life. We’ve already determined that you got a hard start by being born to an unwed 17 year old mother, but at least you were born Jerry. That’s one strike that’s actually in your favor. I wish I could say the same about your brother and sister.”

“Hah” Jerry chimed in, “that PROVES that you’re not my guardian angel, because I don’t even have a brother and sister. Face it Martin, you’re full of crap.”

No Jerry, I’m not. You see Jerry, you were born in 1972, one year before the Supreme Court made abortion legal. That was your saving grace. Sadly, your twin brother and sister were born…. I mean would have been born two years later. But, thanks to Roe V. Wade, they never got a shot. Too bad too. Your brother, he was gonna be a real nice kid, have a real shot, but it’s your sister that would have been given the chance to really change the world. She was going to have been a real brain, and been given the opportunity to discover advances in alternative energy that would have put us years ahead of where we are now, but…..”

“Well,” Jerry replied, “I don’t buy it” (although deep down Jerry was beginning to wonder if this Martin was the real deal). “But forget this supposed brother and sister. Isn’t it the responsibility for the federal government to provide me with a good education and a real chance at life?”

No Jerry, not exactly. Do you remember what I told you about God, that God doesn’t personally interfere in people’s lives, but that instead he provides all of us with opportunities? Well, the government’s role is similar. It’s not the government’s responsibility, or for that matter even their ability, to provide you with a good education. No Jerry, government provides you with AN OPPORTUNITY for a good education, and Jerry you were given that opportunity. No one can force you to take it.”

“Bullshit” Jerry blurted. “I went to a horrible school. Thanks to my mom getting pregnant in high school, she was forced to raise me alone while working two crappy jobs. We lived in a slummy part of town, and that so-called ‘school’ I went to was horrible. There were gangs, there were drugs, and I’m sorry, but I didn’t see one damn ‘opportunity’ at all.”

“But Jerry, there’s a lot more to the story. Look, I know that you don’t know your grandparents well, because your mom didn’t want them to be part of your life, but your mom did not have to face the tough life that she did. Your grandparents were very disappointed when your mom got pregnant, and while there were several fights about it, your grandparents offered to help your mom out, to have her continue to live with them and raise you, and to continue in her schooling. But your mom, she thought that they were making too many demands of her, so she decided to leave, even before you were born.”

“As for that crappy school, you’re right. You were educated in probably one of the worst school districts in the state, but that didn’t have to be the choice either. You see, just as you were entering kindergarten, there was a bill going through the state legislature, a bill that would have allowed underprivileged at-risk kids like yourself to obtain a voucher, a voucher that would have allowed you to go to a private school and have an opportunity – there’s that word again Jerry, ‘opportunity’ – to go to a better school. As a matter of fact, you’re mom had already made arrangements for you to go to St. Josephs once the bill passed.”

“But I didn’t go to St. Josephs” Jerry replied.

“No,” Martin responded, “You didn’t go to St. Josephs, because sadly the bill didn’t pass. Despite overwhelming public support for the bill, not to mention tons of data that showed that at-risk students really benefited from such an opportunity, the teachers union used their influence and shot the bill down, claiming that it violated the so-called ‘separation of church and state’, because it would allow government money to be funneled to religious schools. I think the real embarrassment for the teachers union didn’t have anything to do with religion, but rather the fact that these schools generally turn out students with much higher grades than their public school counterparts, at about ½ the cost.

“So you see Jerry, the ‘government’ that you relied on to make sure that you had a shot at life, more often than not is the one that put up your roadblocks. Perhaps if you had been given the opportunity for a good education you would have actually graduated from high school”

“Yeah, and maybe then I wouldn’t have had to take all of those crap jobs. Hey Martin”, Jerry piped up, as if he had found a loophole, “what  about all of those crap jobs. Where was the opportunity there?”

“Jerry, do you remember that job that you had at the lumberyard?”

“Yeah”, Jerry said, almost smiling. The lumberyard job was the one job in Jerry’s long line of jobs that he actually enjoyed. Heck, the lumberyard was union, and Jerry was almost through his six month probationary period when he was laid off. Just another example of ‘the man’ screwing Jerry.

“So are you telling me that the lumberyard job was my shot at a good life? Because if that’s the case, why the hell was a laid off. I was damn good at that job, and  I didn’t deserve to lose that job. There was a hell of a lot of dead weight losers working at that yard that should have been let go before I was.”

“You’re right Jerry, there were quite a few people working at that yard that didn’t do half the job that you did. But do you know WHY you were laid off Jerry?”

You know, it had been so long ago, and Jerry had been pissed off about it for so many years that he couldn’t even remember the circumstances that lead to his termination.

“No Martin, I have no idea. Why don’t you enlighten me.”

“Alright. Jerry, you had the unfortunate fate of getting that job right as the housing boom was becoming the housing bust, and by the time six months had past, the construction industry was in a full blown recession. And as you might guess, when construction is hurting, lumberyards are as well.”

“And the truth is, the Abraham brothers, the men that owned that lumberyard, they felt that the bust would be short lived, and that six months to a year later they would be right back in the thick of things. But like you said, the shop was union, and the Abrahams wanted it that way. But they knew that, to survive, they were going to have to ask the union for concessions. They knew if they could get the union to agree to a wage freeze, as well as postpone the new vacation and health care increases for year, that they could probably ride this storm out without having to lose a single person. They knew that if the union disagreed, they would have to lay off at least 25% of their force. Well, you can guess what happened. The union voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with their increase in benefits, despite the fact that a quarter of their ranks lost their jobs because of it, including you Jerry.”

“And you know the rest. Because of these concessions, or more precisely the fact that there were no concessions, Abraham Lumber suffered, and despite an increase in construction 18 months later, they were never able to regain their former greatness. In fact, only three years later the doors were closed for good. And if you choose to take comfort in the fact that the brothers went bankrupt and lost everything they had, don’t forget Jerry that 81 other fine folks lost their jobs as well. All because the union convinced them that the Abrahams were only looking out for themselves. Of course, we all know now that wasn’t the case, but what’s done is done.”

Jerry thought about this for a minute. “So what your saying is that, if the union had voted for the concessions, that I would still be working at the lumberyard, and making a good living.”

“No” Martin replied. Martin could see the puzzle that Jerry’s face had become. “No Jerry, the opportunity that God gave you came after the lumberyard. Do you remember when you were laid off, and looking for work?”

“Damn right” Jerry said, felling bad for cursing in front of an angel. “I must have applied for 100 jobs, and the only offer I got was for that McDonalds job.”

“And how did that McDonalds job work out for you Jerry?”

“It didn’t, I never took the job. Thank god the government voted to extend unemployment benefits that week, or else I might have actually had to take that crappy job.”

“So what great job did you find during that extended period?”

“You know damn well Martin that I didn’t find a job. It was almost three months after my unemployment and welfare ran out before I got another job, and it’s been one loser job after another. Which is why I’m here today. And that reminds me, I’ve got some jumping to do.”

“Wait Jerry, please wait. What would have happened if the government hadn’t passed the extension.”

“Well,” Jerry replied, I guess I would have taken that crappy McDonalds job.”

“Right. Jerry, do you know who Ernie Jamison is?”

“No”

“Well, Ernie is the gentleman that DID take that job, after you turned it down. Ernie is the gentleman who got YOUR opportunity.”

“Big deal”. Jerry was getting a little tired of this game. “So I gave up some great opportunity, and know Ernie is flipping burgers instead of me.”

“Oh, Ernie’s not flipping burgers. Nope, Jim and Melinda Carter, the people that own the McDonalds – you know, the people that wanted to hire you – well Jim and Melinda saw something special in Ernie, just like they were going to see something special in you. Ernie didn’t stay on the fryer too long, no, he impressed them and quickly was promoted to supervisor, and then assistant manager.”

“Big whoop” came Jerry’s response. No, he was definitely tiring of Martin’s game. “So because the government extended my unemployment, I missed the opportunity to be an assistant manager of a McDonalds. My heart is really breaking here.”

Martin smiled. “Oh Ernie’s not an assistant manager. No, last year Jim and Melinda opened their 14th store on the west side of town. You know the one, just off University. And since Jim and Melinda have always believed in promoting from within, Ernie is now the manager of that store. And doing pretty good for himself too, pulled down just over 80k last year. Oh, and remember that cute little redhead that was working the day you filled out that application? You remember, she was the reason that you filled out the ap in the first place. Well, she and Ernie married two years ago, and they are expecting their first child in September.”

Jerry jumped to his feet and ran towards Martin. To anyone watching, it might have looked like Jerry was going to strike the old man. “Damn It old man, you really suck at this angel thing, do you know that? I mean, if I wasn’t depressed before, I sure as hell am now. Give me one damn reason not to through myself over railing right now?”

“Don’t you see Jerry? Yes, you have wasted a lot of opportunities in your life, and you have been the one who has suffered because others have wasted a number of opportunities in their lives. But here’s the great thing about opportunities: We don’t just get a limited number of them in our lives. If you choose to jump Jerry, then that’s it. Your life is over, and you will get no more opportunities. BUT, if you instead walk down those stairs, and open yourself up to the possibilities that are all around you, then you will be amazed at the opportunities that await you.”

Jerry was calming down, but still not convinced. “So what you’re saying is, I have to put my faith in God?”

“No Jerry, that’s not at all what I’m saying, although I’m sure the boss wouldn’t mind if you did. Look Jerry, there are three types of people in this world. Those that put their faith in God, those that put their faith in the government, and those that put their faith in themselves.”

Now putting your faith in God is good, but doing so is not enough. Like I said, God doesn’t guide our lives, he doesn’t make decisions for us. He just provides the opportunities, and even those who have the greatest belief in God will not succeed if they don’t believe in themselves.”

“And government? Jerry, never put your faith in government, because all it will do is let you down. As much as many misguided folks want to believe, government does not possess the ability to give you a good life. They do have the ability to give you opportunities, and that is a very good thing, but again, just like with God, those opportunities mean nothing if the people don’t believe in themselves first.”

“No Jerry, the answer is simple. Whether you succeed or fail, you do so based on your own decisions, and the actions that you take. It’s all about personal responsibility Jerry. Now, can I guarantee that if you focus on making the right decisions, that if you look for and take the opportunities that you are given, that then you will be a wealthy, happy person? No Jerry, I can’t. But I can tell you that the chances that you will succeed will become immensely better than if you sit around waiting for either God or the Government to solve your problems.”

Jerry sat back down and thought about what Martin had just said. He wasn’t sure that he was convinced that Martins advice was true, but it did kind of feel right. “Okay Martin, I’ll make you a deal. I’m not going to jump, at least not yet, but I’m going to give this “opportunity” thing a shot. But if I’m not on the path to happiness in a year, I’m coming right back to finish what I started,”

“Sorry Jerry, it doesn’t work that way” Martin said. “Look, I have no idea where your next opportunity is going to come from, but the beautiful thing is you don’t have to wait for the Lord – and you sure as heck don’t have to wait for the government – to place that opportunity in your path. You have the ability to create opportunities for yourself, each and every day.”

Jerry still wasn’t 100% convinced, but at least he had hope, which was something he hadn’t had for a long time. “Alright Martin, I’ll give it a shot. I’m not making any promises, but I will give it a shot. I do have one question though.”

“Anything my friend” came Martins response.

“Okay, you say that having faith in God isn’t enough. Now I’ve never been a religious person, but I know a lot of folks that are, and it seems to me that they put a heck of a lot of stock in their faith in God. Why isn’t that enough?”

“Well,” Martin said, pausing for a moment, “Let me tell you a little story. At one time there was a man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town. The report……..”