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O'er the land of the 'me'

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By Steve Roush
HCP columnist

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll never forget the time I was sitting in a night class at grad school more than a decade ago. It was the first evening of class, and the instructor was doing what many an instructor do on the first day of the quarter – he had everyone in the room introduce themselves and say a little bit about themselves as a getting-to-know-you kind of deal.

I honestly can’t remember what I told the class, other than my name was (and still is) Steve Roush and I had a background in newspapers; but what a fellow from India pontificated caught my attention and has stuck in my mind for nearly a dozen years now.

“My name is Arjun (it may or may not be his real name),” he said quietly with a fairly thick accent. “I looked forward to coming to America because I watch the movies and see all the beautiful American people. … Then I get here and find you are all ugly…”

I recall some in the class chuckling somewhat uneasily, and others just looking at each other in disbelief. You could pretty much read their minds: “Did he just say that?!?” or “That guy’s got a lot of nerve…” or “What a (bleep).”

Turns out, he was (and probably still is) pretty much a bleep, but that’s not germane to this week’s offering.

My wife and I don’t watch a ton of television, but when we do watch TV, and there is “nothing on TV,” we sometimes watch the show where a couple of folks are “house hunting” and look at three abodes and choose one.



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I find the show particularly amusing because of its predictability. A couple strolls into a house with a Realtor, and when I spy carpeting in the family room (or formal living area, as some call it), I’ll turn to my wife and inform her that one or both of the house hunters will … uh, bicker about the carpeted floor.

“Eh, I don’t know about all this carpet. I want hardwoods. We’ll have to tear all of this out,” one house hunter says. “I don’t like carpet.”

“But this house is already at the top end of our budget,” the other responds, then sternly looks to the realtor. “We were hoping for a house that is move-in ready (or turn-key, as some say).”

Move-in ready?!? Just because a place has carpeting instead of hardwood floors, it’s not move-in ready? You can’t live there?

They migrate to the kitchen, and I know exactly what they are going to complain about next.

“Oh, these aren’t stainless steel (and I swear most call it Stanley steel) appliances, and these aren’t granite countertops, and I don’t like these cabinets. They’ll all have to go and we’ll have to buy all new,” one will say, as the other quickly chimes in, “And look at these floors, I don’t like the color of the tile, so we’ll have to replace that. And the kitchen’s a little small; we might have to knock out a wall. Is this wall load-bearing?”

Yep, unless there is stainless steel, granite, hardwoods and tile, a place is not, apparently, “turn-key.”

After that, the bellyaching proceeds to the bathrooms, the bedrooms, the yard, etc., etc., etc.

“This place is too far from the city, it’s too close to the neighbors, I can’t see the ocean well enough from here, there’s no Jack-and-Jill vanity in the bathroom, I don’t like the color of the walls, there’s no privacy fence, this looks like it was built in the ’90s…” yadda, yadda, yadda. Grumble, groan, growl.

I can only watch about two shows in a row before I begin to grouse. By that time, I want to jump through the TV and tell these bickering house hunters, “Don’t you think Realtors want to sell houses? Don’t you think they can show you a home that has everything you want? You’re the ones who set the parameters here (budget, location, etc.), you bellyachers.”

It appears so many these days want it all, and they want it all right now, or yesterday, if possible.

On Sunday morning, Helen and I heard a message from a missionary who is a native of North Korea. He spoke of how so many of his people are persecuted, sold as slaves, are starving, are told what to believe and are often killed if their beliefs differ from the country and society “norm.”

He spoke of how all of this is going on right now. Meanwhile, across the pond, so many continue to bicker and moan that they don’t have absolutely everything they desire.

Maybe that’s why so many foreigners despise Americans. Perhaps that’s why they think we’re “ugly.”

Now, of course, this isn’t a referendum or a generality that encompasses everyone. On the contrary, I know so many good, hard-working, patient folks who will go out of their way to help their neighbor, to assist their fellow man. But this me-first, I-want-it-all-right-now mentality does seems to be a growing and troubling trend.

Maybe that’s why so many don’t seem to care that our government keeps piling up the debt – it’s not their problem at the moment.

Maybe that’s why so many don’t mind that our freedoms are slowly getting stripped away – it doesn’t really affect them too much at the moment.

Maybe that’s why so many simply don’t care. As long as it doesn’t affect their comfy, cozy lives, it just doesn’t matter. At all.

I’ve spoken with so many veterans over the years who have fought to help preserve the freedoms we enjoy and sometimes take for granted. I’ve seen their tears, I can only imagine what some have witnessed as I looked into their eyes.

I’ve never seen any of them bicker about trivial things, about what they don’t have. I’ve never seen a missionary bicker about granite countertops or large, turn-key homes with oceanfront views.

I could be totally wrong, but I fear if the land of the free keeps morphing into the land of the “me,” it won’t be long before the America of tomorrow looks nothing like the America of today or yesterday.

Steve Roush is a publisher and editor and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press.

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