As a child growing up in America, the only time I heard about vampires was once every 10 years or so with the inevitable Dracula movie remake. Today, however, vampires and flesh-eating zombies dominate movies, television, and books, especially those aimed at teenagers. You see, we – with our predictable, monotonous, suburban lives – have become the undead. We may not dig our teeth into each other’s necks to draw blood, or suck an eyeball out of a friend’s socket. We are, however, consciously aware that we as a nation have reached a point of inertia and stagnation. This is most acutely felt by the young, who look upon the passionless, consumer-oriented world of their parents and fear that they, too, will be transformed into lifeless androids.
Our politicians seem intent on blaming all that is wrong with America on the other party when, in truth, we are all stuck. We have a broken economy that bedevils the experts. We have tried Keynesian intervention and massive bailouts, and now we will try Draconian austerity measures, all in an effort to fix the unfixable. No matter what we throw at the Taliban in Afghanistan, they bounce right back – Road Runners all, but without the cartoonish humor. We pour money into “allies” who aren’t, discovering much too late that they collude with those who would kill us.
Truth regardless off consequences On the political front, we jump from personality to personality, seeking a modern Prometheus to reignite a flickering American flame. A few months ago, Rick Perry was the Republican savior, then came Herman Cain’s turn. A gaffe here, a scandal there, and both are falling while Newt’s star rises.
As we stagnate, one American sector continues to benefit: the entertainment industry. It provides us with mind-numbing escapes, all the better to forget our troubles even as a couch-potato existence causes us to vegetate.
As it enters the holiday season, America as a whole can find enrichment. We can awaken from our lethargy and stagnation. Unlike the secular new year, which involves public celebrations fueled with alcohol and fireworks, Rosh Hashanah is a serious day on which the call of the shofar pulls us out of our stupor and forces us to confront the stationary nature of our lives. The biblical reading on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah finds Moses declaring to the Israelites on the very last day of his life, “I have set before you today life and death, a blessing and a curseâ€¦.Choose life.”
Unlike the secular new year, where our goal is to blot out our cares and woes, the Jewish new year forces us to take stock of our lives and to categorize our lives into two piles: life and death – that which animates us and must be nurtured, and that which stifles us and must be purged.
The loving part of you that offers compliments rather than criticizes your spouse needs to be retained, for it is the lifeblood of your relationship. The part of you that comes home tired from work and retreats into four hours of television and Internet surfing must be eliminated, for it spells the nadir of love. The part of your married sex life that is goal-oriented and rushes to the climactic finish will destroy any erotic connection with your spouse; it must be replaced by an intimate soul-connection expressed through the flesh.
A similar accounting is made of our intellectual life. There is the mind-death of idle Hollywood chatter and celebrity conversation versus a life of learning and stimulating ideas, journals, and books. There is the death of husbands and wives discussing only practical matters pertaining to children’s after-school activities and picking up the dry-cleaning, versus a life of soulful conversation in which life-partners find healing in the revelation of fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams.
On a national level, there is the death of endless and silly partisan bickering where the body politic becomes dismissive of politicians as hopeless narcissists out to score points, versus the constructive work of elected officials who, like the right and left wing of a bird, cause the nation to soar specifically through antithetical propulsion.
Our economy will only be rehabilitated once we separate life from death. Let us get rid of expensive social programs that have created a deadening dependency of men and women who yearn not to be wards of the state but clamor instead for lives of dignity, self-sufficiency, and purpose. Let us urge our teachers unions to stop protecting the few dead-beat teachers who too quickly gain tenure without talent, and bring enlivened educators to the classroom who invigorate young minds.
America must drop allies who are dead weight and duplicitously deadly.
Mahmoud Abbas thinks he can create a living, functioning Palestinian state by United Nations fiat. He fails to realize that a nation first requires a living infrastructure. This is something that the Israeli chalutzim, the country’s pioneers, understood. On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations merely confirmed what was already a fact: A living Jewish state had emerged from the ashes of the Shoah because decades of life already had been breathed into it.
Our leaders must choose policies that embolden life and deny death. They must inspire us as citizens to reconnect to the American values of personal accountability and collective excellence that made us great in the first place. They must stop believing that spending money we do not have will make our problems go away. Debt is death, and we have enough of it already.
As America begins the countdown toward the secular new year, let us be a nation of innovation, creativity, and imagination – as Henry David Thoreau said, one that “suck[s] out all the marrow of life” – rather than a nation of the undead that sucks the last few drops of blood out of an exhausted and burned-out economy.