The French are protesting, why aren't we?

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The other day, someone — and I'm sorry, I can't remember who — described Americans as "pacified." I've been thinking about that while watching and reading the news coming out of France. The people there have taken to the streets to protest the country's planned pension reforms.

From The New York Times:

Mr. Sarkozy said strikers and demonstrators blocking fuel depots did not have the right to “take hostage people who have nothing to do with it.” He was referring to 10 straight days of strikes at refineries and blockades of fuel depots that have left motorists struggling to find fuel. While the authorities said Tuesday there had been a “slow improvement” in fuel supplies with only 14 out of more than 200 depots still blockaded, service station operators said about a half of the country’s 13,000 gas stations were experiencing supply problems.

The crisis shows little immediate sign of ending and a final parliamentary vote on Mr. Sarkozy’s plan to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 seemed unlikely until the middle of next week.

Read the entire article, by Steven Erlanger, here.

Did you get that? The French government is trying to raise the retirement age by two years and the country's people have not only taken to the streets, they're shutting down businesses. Though, retiring a couple years later may not seem like a huge deal here, where people are praised for being workaholics and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average retirement age is 62 — if we retire at all.

But what about all of the other things going down in our country? There is plenty to be outraged about if you'd only pay attention. We've got corporations trying to buy elections, with the Supreme Court's blessing. We've got giant polluters shrugging their shoulders as their customers succumb to cancer. We've got openly bigoted politicians. We've got an election coming up and voters are yawning. The gap between the extremely wealthy and what used to be the middle class is widening by the second. Our schools need money, and so do their teachers. The same banks that once pushed people into loans are now pushing people out of their homes. Our military is struggling in a 10-year-old war, but no one's being killed by drone attacks here so ... so what?

Meanwhile, if you check in with your social media accounts and your friends, you're likely to hear about what's shakin' on a reality TV show, the latest electronic gadget or some over-paid sports star or starlet falling from grace (if only temporarily).

I think the case can be made, while our citizenry was once known for standing up to the powers that be, that we have become a pacified people easily distracted by salacious celebrity news and sparkly stuff in stores. We're more concerned with what we want and gossip than we are about shaping a positive world for future generations.

My feeling is people feel their opinions don't count for much, or that if they voice them, people will shoot them down. I've had conversations with people about a number of issues where they suggest there's nothing we can do about things, so we should all just go about our lives until the world falls down around our feet. We'll deal with it then. That's no way to be.

What's wrong with us? This is a Democracy for the people, by the people — is this ringing any bells? Our country was created when ordinary, everyday people stood up to those in power and said, "Enough already! Let's start over." It was our country's revolution that inspired France's revolution.

When did our spirit get crushed? For chrissake, we're living in Mecklenburg County, home of the "hornets nest." We got that label during the Revolutionary War because the people who lived here were so fired up and outspoken. Heck, we even created our own Declaration of Independence.

The time to speak out is now. The issue to speak out on is the one that's nearest and dearest to your heart. So put your gadgets down, educate yourself and get on your soapbox. The future needs you. Oh, and don't forget to vote. It's important.

The History Channel recently ran a series called, "The Story of Us." Here's a segment about the Revolutionary War:


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