A Day in the Life of a 21st Century American


Woke up. Fell out of bed.

On the drive to work, the news concerned a 16-year-old Swedish girl with a developmental disorder called Asperger syndrome. She’s pleading with world leaders to try to understand science and act accordingly so our planet and its inhabitants might remain healthy.

One of the most powerful of the world leaders—democratically elected—completely ignored her as he walked past her. He later mocked her on something called “Twitter” that spreads words, frequently opinions, to many people at the drop of a hat.

His example was emulated by others, some of whom are professional “journalists.” One of the “journalists,” a man, suggested the Swedish girl with Asperger syndrome might need a “spanking.”

Another professional “journalist,” who apparently had some insight the rest of the world lacks, explained she was mentally ill and was being manipulated by her parents.

The news described other instances of adults employing insults against the Swedish girl.

Arriving at work, I received an electronic letter known as an “email.” This email requested all employees respond to a meeting invitation. The “meeting” is actually a gathering of all employees for something called “active shooter response training.” The electronic letter explained that this training is a safety measure to protect employees in case a person or persons tries to murder the office employees.

I declined the meeting invitation. I then received a thing called a “Skype,” which is a way of immediately conversing with someone electronically. The Skype message I received was from my department manager, who wanted to see me in his office.

I entered my manager’s office. He lifted his head up from a small communication and entertainment device called an “iPhone.” He began talking about the uncharacteristically hot weather. He then asked me why I declined the meeting invitation for “active shooter response training.” I asked him if I could shut his door, and he said “Please do.”

I explained to him that, while I understand his reasons for conducting this training, I couldn’t in good conscience participate. He asked me why. I told him that I feel that businesses, schools, and churches in America shouldn’t be compelled to play “duck and cover” when our own government refuses to take adequate action. I also told him that these “duck and cover” exercises will merely encourage our government to be even more complacent.

He told me that he respected my views, but didn’t necessarily agree with them. I asked him if that meant he thought that our government was doing enough. He said “No, that’s not it,” then began talking about guns in his basement, and how his wife didn’t like the all the spiders around the vault where he kept his guns.

My department manager didn’t explain why he didn’t agree with my views.

My department manager thanked me, excused me from the “active shooter response training,” and I left his office. I walked past the five American flags that hung outside the cubicles of two of my workmates, and the TRUMP: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN bumper sticker that is taped atop a cubicle wall near one of the flags.

I rounded the corner and returned to my cubicle, placed headphones on my head to drown out nearby conversations, finished my workday, then began my drive home.

The news on the drive home concerned a Wall Street Journal report about a transcript that revealed the American president requested the president of Ukraine “look into” a former U.S. vice-president and his son. The Ukrainian president evidently declined. The news story added that the American president will possibly be facing the former vice-president in the 2020 election. He may also be facing impeachment, according to a related story.

I noticed that the light changed, and entered my neighborhood. I passed the three homes across the street that had American flags dangling over their front porches. Two of the homes had other flags in addition to their American flags. These other flags were small white flags planted in the corners of the yards, indicating recent toxic chemical application. So I rolled up my car window to block the smell of 2,4-D herbicide, which the science has shown to be carcinogenic.

I pulled into my driveway to hear the final news story on my car radio. It was related to the Swedish girl. But it didn’t concern her pleas to world leaders, or whether or not the world leaders would be responding to her pleas with greater action to combat climate change, which the science has shown to be related to man-made greenhouse gases.

The news story didn’t deal with the girl’s message. It dealt with the girl. Specifically, her Asperger syndrome. With gravitas in his voice, the commentator speculated that her disorder might be related to chemicals in the environment.

I moved the gear lever to PARK, turned the car key, removed my sunglasses, and gazed at the steering wheel a long while.

I didn’t blow my mind out.

15 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a 21st Century American

  1. I feel your emotions.
    I mean I REALLY feel your emotions. And just by reading these words you wrote. This is some powerful mojo, Pedro!
    Wouldn’t you think that a civilization could put all their mojo together and do anything – even curb global climate change or stem the rising tide of out-of-control gun violence? Yeah, I would too.
    Glad you didn’t “blow your mind out”.

  2. Hi Peter!
    You beat me to the punch. As I read your analysis of the past waking day, by the end of the post I was ready to suggest that you go shoot yourself, but you beat me to the conclusion, and in a better way. I will admit that we are beset with many ironic, troubling, maddening and blasphemous problems. It reminds me of a good friend of mine who used to nod thoughtfully that we should return to “the old ways”. Guess that’s not happening except on Survivor. Anyway, I am tired of small pox, polio, cholera and rickets.

    What the 21st century seems to also deliver with its many challenges, including the occasional impeachment urges, is quite profound, and most of it based on technology which you refer to patiently for the Martians reading this post. We have a communications web that did not exist 30 years ago. We have a daily view of the planet, from outer space that is consulted every second for current status. We have eyes in every conceivable orifice watching. We have medical technology and food supply chains that are delivering adult children larger and healthier than us. We have the sense to understand the limits of democracy and the opportunities to improve it, and the choice to navigate against authoritarian, totalitarian governments in the world. We have a legacy to protect that our parents handed to us, and as long as we are thinking about it, we won’t lose our way.

    So, cheer up. There are solutions at hand, and when the time is right, and the full weight of public interest supports it, those pains and aches that get to you will be resolved. Your post is a good starting point.

    By the way, how did those Martians get here?

    • [Technological advances can, and have, improved civilization, and I’m especially grateful for medical technologies. Certain other technologies (fossil fuels?) are a mixed bag, however. Not many people would disagree that nuclear weaponry was a bad idea. I feel the same way about some digital communication technologies. They have their pluses, but they also have many minuses.]

      And optimism has its place, Phil, I agree. I like optimists. They’re warm, kind, and humorous. I even married one. But optimism without realism and constructive action is fairly useless. To continue my Beatles reference, I guess I’ve always been more Lennon than McCartney. Breezy love songs for the fawning masses are fine, but it’s important to point out the shitty things in society, and try to make them less shitty. My “day in the life” is my own shout from the mountaintop, as it were (or squeak from the molehill). And on some days, like the day I wrote about, it feels like a cry in a hostile wilderness.

      • I especially like John Lennon. If Paul McCartney is a warm and fuzzy lyricist, he still does not have the sense of music and melody that Lennon possessed. We lost a precious talent. As for optimism, I prefer it for its inspiration. Anger is good but best with a slice of confidence that you can make things better. Get to work!

      • Thanks Phil. For the record, I am working (in my way). I went on strike last Friday. I sign petitions, donate money, write congressmen, go door-to-door during elections, and vote. And I applaud your activism regarding local environmental issues, which you’ve written about.

  3. “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” — H.L. Mencken

  4. That is a heartfelt and thoughtful post. I was a kid in the 1950s, and I guess that would be considered “the good old days.” But were they? The cold war, Polio, diseases that are now eradicated. Lacking the technology we have today, we were blissfully unaware of most of the problems of the world. This young Swedish girl may have been a bit over the top, but she is sincere, either by her own doing or her parents, it matters not. She spoke to the UN and the largest polluting countries in the world were there. China, India, Mexico, and Russia. And yet, Russia seems to be the only one trying. I fear her speech was not taken seriously. The US pollutes too, but nowhere near what we did 60 years ago. I too agree that John Lennon was a better lyricist than McCartney. He possessed a better knowledge of our language and used words that would grab you. I have also sat in my car, in front of my home for a while, wondering what the hell is happening now.

    • Hi Phil, I liked your post, and feel your thoughts resonated with mine. See above, or below, wherever WordPress placed us. The young girl, who actually looks younger than her 16 years, is what we today call an influencer, and she has fully leveraged the web and the UN to get her plea, and scorn, heard around the world. I truly hope and believe that her forecasts are over estimated, and have a little concern that she was cultivated and promoted to gain her audience in New York. You might sit at the wheel of your car and wonder about the back story on this young lady. She is a good example of the tech advances we have achieved today, and give her full credit for using them.
      BTW, kudos to Peter who skipped the duck and cover drill. I think his employer could have asked the local U.S. and State Reps plus media to attend. That would send a message.

  5. Our country is a mess. We have been here before or we never left—not totally sure. I was doing some research for the museum I work at and reading about 1919: mass deportations, racial clashes, major strikes, political upheaval. They say you learn from history or keep repeating it. I hear a lot of echoes. Very sad. But this next generation, Greta and company, might be the ones who learn. Let’s all try to be inspiring teachers!

    • As far as the U.S. goes, the Sixties were a violent, divided time. Our Civil War speaks for itself. Jim Crow, slavery, Indian removals and extermination….We’ve had leaders who lied and covered up crimes (Nixon), were corrupt or made terrible policy decisions (you name it), stupid (Bush 2), and violated civil rights and tried to pack the courts (FDR, for all his virtues). And this is just the Executive branch.

      So, yeah, we’ve had our down moments. But I keep coming back to Trump. Never before have we had a “leader” who was so unqualified, so absolutely clueless, whose moral character is so repulsive yet wears it like a badge of honor, and who is so beholden to narrow, extremist ideological groups. And never before has such a person actually been rewarded (elected and defended) for bad behavior, suffering minimal consequence. When bad is now good, and when children like Greta and those courageous Parkland students are targets of a vicious Trump-supporting right wing (mainly, I hate to say it, white men)…we’re in a very, very bad place.

      Our money-grubbing, ratings-hungry news media, loaded with sycophantic chipmunks, only make matters worse.

      We’ve also had some recent Supreme Court and legislature decisions that are real doozies, but I’d better cease before I explode!

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