So Cynical!

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Patrik Hamberg

Way back when I used to go out to poetry every Sunday night, an 18 year old friend had a performance piece called “You’re too young to be so cynical”. The poem itself is lost to me, but the title has stuck in my mind- and I find myself thinking it far far too often these days.

We have become a nation of cynics – worse, a cynical nation. Like a sulky teen who has only recently realized that mom and pop sometimes lie to him, who has trusted in his own invincibility only to get smacked upside the head by his vulnerability, we have decided that no one is to be trusted, not even ourselves.

We are so convinced that everyone is out to screw us that we can’t recognize good news when we hear it. At one and the same time, we demand that the government FIX THIS MESS and decry every effort made to do so. We chant, “I’ll believe it when I see it”, but when we’re shown, we insist that it’s just smoke and mirrors.

The danger to this unbridled cynicism is that we fail to recognize when something is in our best interests. We let ourselves be confused by counterclaims and words and numbers taken out of context. For example:

Taxes – How often have you heard that the top 1% of income earners in the country pay 33% of all taxes? A tidbit you don’t hear as often – in 2004, they owned 33.4% of the wealth and assets in the U.S. The top 1% also received 57.5% of capital gains income and 17% of earned income.

More on that top 1% – inheritance taxes. Usually called “death taxes” by opponents, inheritance taxes are a huge hot-button issue. Ask most people why they oppose the estate tax, and they’ll tell you that they don’t want to end up owing money because their parent died. Most of them couldn’t tell you how much they’d owe in estate taxes if they inherited their parents’ estate tommorw – but I can. Once you take the deduction from anything inherited by the decedent’s spouse and exempt the $2 million that is exempt from being taxed, most Americans will not pay anything at all in estate taxes.

The Recovery has been in the news, usually accompanied with the words “failed” or “jobless”. The media – who give a lot of airtime to controversy because people are, yes, cynical, and don’t trust good news – focus on letting people go on and on about no jobs, not fast enough, not hard enough, no money going out – and they do it despite the absolute FACTS that show a different story.

The facts: hundreds of contracts approved for millions of dollars in infrastructure repair and improvements. Thousands of jobs saved that would have been lost. Millions of people getting assistance with daily needs while the jobs efforts ramp up. Thousands of workers in communities that will NOT see the return of their old factories entering into training programs to learn new skills for jobs that will fill those contracts, skills that will translate in a new economy.

In global warming, too many are so distrustful of government edicts that they’d rather listen to studies being funded by a handful of coal and oil industry shills than the literally hundreds of sources that show how damaging carbon emissions are to our environment.

Cynicism is dangerous. It stands in the way of our progress as a country. We don’t have to be naive. We don’t have to be fools drinking the Koolaid. We just have to step back and let a little reality in – and we might find that just like the sunshine, it brightens up the whole world.


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