Here's hoping that America's new president and the people he's picked to work in his Administration will have some success turning things around. But it's foolish to think that the rest of us should just sit around and wait for this to happen.
We did that right after 9/11. That's when the previous occupant of the White House told us to "go shopping" and leave all the worrying to him. Eight years later, thanks in large part to the greed, arrogance and ineptness of those who direct the course U.S. policy at home and abroad, most citizens have found themselves so deep in the hole that the grocery store is about the only place they can afford to go shopping any more.
But it's not just Washington, Wall Street and the Corporate America crowd that are responsible for the mess the country finds itself in today. We're all to blame, because about the only thing most of us ever do is cast our vote whenever the polls are open, which takes about 5 minutes out of our lives every two to four years — and a lot of us don't take the trouble to do even that.
Lately, a number of letter writers to this newspaper have complained about public aparthy, one recent case in point having to do with the city's extremely unpopular new curbside trash pickup policy.
Not only are a large number of people unhappy with Gloucester's mandatory new bags, their cost and relative small and awkward size, they're also plainly sick and tired of being "nickle-and-dimed" by City Hall.
Who can blame them? Gloucester residents already have been stuck with among the highest water and sewer rates in the country. Then there's the formula used by the state to fund our city's public schools. The geniuses who came up with that clearly skewered aid-to-education formula make The Three Stooges look like a trio of nuclear scientists.
Back in the day when people stood up for what they believed in, a few guys got together and threw boxes of tea into Boston Harbor. Maybe that's the kind of activism that's needed today to demonstrate citizen displeasure with injustices such as the two examples cited above.
Nobody is suggesting that people throw their trash in the harbor. But what if people refused to purchase and use the new, more expensive bags? What if people, instead, continued putting out their household rubbish using the barrels and bags that they've been using for years?
What would City Hall do, have everybody arrested? Sit back and let the garbage pile up for weeks? Impose fines and order the police to write out $15 trash tickets? Would that be the city's response to such democratic, grass-roots action?
One reason why our public schools have been so unfairly unfunded for so long is our failure to turn off "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars" long enough to get more personally involved in ending the state's unjust aid-to-education funding formula.
You think the commonwealth's elected officials wouldn't stop, look and listen were 500 parents, teachers, administrators and coaches of Gloucester Public School students to show up unannounced at the Statehouse, and then stage a sit-in, pledging not to move until the injustice that had brought them there had been resolved?
It's something to think about. But then I guess here I'm just showing my age, that core part of me still rooted in a time when people sat-in at lunch counters and took to the streets to bring change to those things that needed to be made right.
Jim Munn is a regular contributor to the Times.