Every decision my parents ever made was influenced by the Depression. What we ate, what we wore, where we shopped, when and how we took vacations, what we "needed" vs what we "wanted" and, in their own lives, what careers they followed and where we all lived. They had been teenagers in the Depression, and although both went to college (on scholarships and several jobs at once) neither studied what they'd wanted to. I've talked about all this before - my mother refusing even to talk about her life then, my dad so concerned when any of us made a job change or took any professional risk.
I felt it too. I still read menus from the price to the item, skipping the ones that are too expensive. Ditto with price tags on clothes. I've always clipped coupons and bought things on sale, shopped at big box stores and always, always read the unit prices of things. And, as an American Studies major I took several courses dealing with the Depression. I needed to know more about it not only as a student but as a daughter.
I know that this is not the Great Depression. I know that there are more protections in place, even if too many of them have been removed in the past eight years. But the economic chaos of the past week has been scary on more than one level. Of course I worry about us, getting near retirement age. But my bigger worry is the impact such a colossal change will have on the lives of the younger people we love. Our sons, first of all, at the beginning of their careers. And all the families in this community who mean so much to us - just starting families and facing years of tuitions and outgrown winter coats and activity fees. I also think about just-retired or nearly retired "elders" so well represented by Ronni Bennett's blog, and all the people living from paycheck to paycheck -- who will be endangered by cuts in hours and devastated by the loss of their jobs.
And this is where Sarah Palin comes in. And John McCain. Because every day the level of negative language rises, the indulgent response to enraged constituents yelling things that should not be spoken in an American election or any other time: threats and bigoted characterizations and more. This kind of language is far more dangerous in a bad economy. Hitler was successful partially because the German economy had so badly frightened people, men like "Father Coughlin" (that's his picture) preached racism and anti-Semitism on the radio during the Depression with substantial response. There other, less prominent hate-mongers too - and they had a real following. People needed someone to be angry at and were vulnerable to that sort of demagogery. It's a very scary shadow over the economic crisis, the campaign, and the souls of the American people. NOW, go read Josh Marshall on why the ghost of Father Coughlin haunts him, too. And read this very thoughtful post about a tough electoral decision.
The consider what sort of leader allows such things - and doesn't stand up and tell his/her supporters to cut it out? What does that say about their leadership once they're in office?