The Summer of 2011
What will it be remembered for? I’m afraid that it will be remembered for the final revelation of all that is corrupt about us and in us. Bumper stickers and pale entreaties from people who can do much but do little more than talk will quietly run its course. Goldman Sachs cries foul and the SEC flounders with guppies chasing sharks as a corrupt government hides the massive decay in our banking system and our overall investment packages crumble like the sand castles that house them. The rich see the writing on the wall and abandon the stock market, Wall Street loses confidence and the general state of the economy is revealed for the ravaged condition it hides and we finally tip the scales.
The end? Hardly. It’s the beginning of a long, slow reconstruction. It is the day that America stops hiding behind its pomposity and decadence and gets down to the business of rebuilding this country. I have no doubt we will do just that. We have no worries of utter collapse and chaos – nor do we need to worry about some imminent invasion. As we go so goes the world. In some ways it is a sad epitaph but it is certainly no reflection on the great generations that built this country.
I remember the summer of 1963 when I was just 12 years old and Pope John XXIII died. That was huge to me and millions of Catholics who loved him as he brought us the Second Vatican Council and the beginning. His vision for the church maintained the dignity of the older generation’s piety, which I so loved as an altar boy and seminarian, but brought to the youth of the world a new evangelism. The population of the world was about half of what it is today at just over 3 billion and the United States had 189 million people. So when we said the world was smaller then, it was - smaller by size and by how far and just how much you could communicate with people further than a few miles away, never mind across the globe. The dreaded Dodgers beat the Yankees in just four games but our beloved Boston Celtics beat the newly California based L.A. Lakers. Late that same summer Martin Luther King Jr. marched on Washington and delivered his “I have a dream” speech.
On June 26th the President we all so loved, John F Kennedy, delivered his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in West Berlin during a 4-day visit to West Germany. Later that year, but not much later, in November in the far west city of Dallas, our President was shot and killed…by a lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald, who despite buying his Italian made rifle through the mail, shot to kill three times from six hundred feet away and six stories up. I’m a really good a shot and I couldn’t do that with my rifle and it’s got a five hundred dollar scope. The Beatles swept America, Doris Day stole my heart, “It’s My Party” by Leslie Gore hit number one on my birthday, June 1st, and the summer ended with “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels. I remember I had a crush on my babysitter – Denise Anazesky.
It was a great summer for horseback riding, sneaking into drive-in movies, swimming in the lake and the start of kissing girls. In reflection I guess we should have known the end was coming when it became unconstitutional and therefore against the law to say the Lord’s Prayer in school. Some people I know never lived to understand that…I have lived longer than I wish to see what the beginning of that meant in the way of losing our faith and our constitutional connection to God. I love my Lord and God…I love Jesus Christ and I know what that means and it doesn’t have anything to do with loving a guy who lived two thousand years ago – well, not in the way people who don’t love Him think. Anyway, 1963 was another summer in the endless days of glory post World War II.
I was born to a smaller world in a simpler America. In 1963 we were still an emerging power from World War II. We had converted 250 billion dollars in manufacturing assemblies of war into factories that produced refrigerators, cars, stereos and everything a rebuilding world needed. I was a young man during that summer when we were still trying to supply a consuming country and hungrier world. And, of course, I was a young man when that world hunger ran its course and America’s factories were all of sudden antiquated and Japan was beginning to dominate the market. I was a working man when America suddenly stopped competing and started hoarding, hating and mortgaging its future.
So I asked myself what it was like in the summer of 1869 when Goldman Sachs was founded. The population of the United States was only 38 million people, up 7 million from 1860 - mostly because of the influx of poor immigrants. But the population explosion corresponded with an economic boom not altogether like the boom of the 1990’s. Both booms were fueled largely by the government. Obviously the railroad boom f the 1860’s had significantly different consequences than the bust of the dot com. In 1869 a rail line from Sacramento, California crossed the Rockies and connected a rail line from Omaha, Nebraska at Promontory Point, Utah. This was the start of the Great Transcontinental Railway. The industrial revolution was underway; something historians mostly agree was one of the top ten events in the history of mankind.
Today I am standing on the edge of the end. Goldman Sachs was accused of fraud. Simply put, the SEC says they deliberately sold financial products (specifically bad mortgages) so that some people would profit and others would be left holding an empty bag. The government controls something like ninety percent of the banks and won’t divulge their business or the government’s business in the banks to the public. So, this thing with Goldman Sachs is either an anomaly or the tip of a very ugly iceberg. Which do you suppose it is?
I know it was a long time ago that this great society seemed to awake on the shores of the northeast but we were never anything more than what we are. The only color that matters is the color that profits the greater community. There are millions of people struggling on the fringe of our society (black – white - red - brown – grey – whatever) and just barely getting by with the help of thousands of good hearted and decent Americans. But there is a tidal wave coming and those on the fringe will not be able to get out of the way. Those people hanging on by their fingertips will be sucked under this great ugly end. We, the people, will be angry and outraged at all this screaming at one another - “how could such terrible avarice be tolerated for so long?” But, in the end, we will be so busy scooping water out of our own sinking dingy to do anything more than be aghast.
How I miss those misty hot summer days when a Coca Cola was a quarter and a Big Meal was when we all got together over Sunday dinner. I’m glad I have those memories though. I will need them soon. They will be much of what I and most Americans like myself will have little left of the great society. I feel sorry for those people who don’t have at least those memories. So here’s to the end my friend. At least the end of the way we have been living and the beginning of something altogether new. I’m not sure what it will look like in the next five years. but I can tell you this…if we don’t start learning to play together fairly and nicely it will get real ugly, real quick.
Frank Bosson, CEO The Bosson Group excerpt from his paper “I’m drowning…someone throw me a rock!”