I've been thinking about what got our country into such a mess. I've read several interesting articles about the rise and fall of the sub-prime mortgage (and more importantly of the sub-prime mortgage-backed security) and I've found them useful. My husband is a great source of information as his market-color has come to be read and praised by traders all over the country. (Sorry to embarrass you honey, but it's true.) So, I feel that I'm probably more educated on the matter than the average aspiring English professor. Which is to say, not very. Nevertheless, I think the media has taken a complex soul-issue and boiled it down to WALL STREET VERSUS MAIN STREET binary with a great color graphic and a few choice soundbites.
What we have here is not as much a tale of corporate greed and Wall Street traders gone amok (Because corporations and Wall Street traders have always been greedy. Seriously, that's their JOB.) as it is a tale of the average American and his and her feelings of insecurity and entitlement. What we have here is a bad case of use-my-house-as-a-piggy-bank to fund the lifestyle I can't afford. People got ARMs without considering what would happen if their rates reset before they got better jobs and used their HELOCs to fund their vacations. And it doesn't take an economist to deduce that when you spend money you don't have in the hopes that an investment you made will pay off at a rate of 20%, you run into trouble. And then, when the real estate market Fairy Godmother didn't come through, these people felt owed something. By the government, by the Wall Street folks who thought up those crappy securities, and by those people who paid their mortgages and didn't try and go to the Bahamas on HELOC money. This is overly simple, and David is probably going to find all kinds of problems with it. Maybe I'll let him amend and correct.
But my point, and the really sad thing about all of this is that people all over the country are busting their guts to make an extra $30K on their houses. They're pulling teeth (sometimes each other's) over that extra $300 a month they got from their ARMs that they needed so desperately to construct the veil of prosperity over a false face of debt. And don't get me wrong, $30K is a lot of money to me, too. A LOT of money. But I'm thinking, even as our little cottage is on the market, about the value of an extra bedroom and an extra 300 square feet. And you know, the conclusion I come to is that it just doesn't matter. It doesn't really matter at all.
What does seem to matter to me increasingly are the sweet faces of my children (the tiny little baby who I've seen only once and the little bigger baby) and my husband. What matters to me is that spring is here and summer is coming and my roses are blooming. I care that the broad fields spread out along the banks of the Tennessee River are plowed and black and ready to plant. I remember seeing acres of dead corn because of the drought, but God sent the rain and this summer there will be corn and tomatoes and peaches and okra and watermelon for everyone. And this is important to me.
I care that my parents are strong and in their right minds. I care that my nieces and nephews are all growing up in to the people God made them to be. I care that my priest notices when I don't come to church and writes to ask how I am. I care that Jesus has called me by my name.
It matters that when my head hits the pillow, I sleep with a clear conscience. It matters to me that when my baby is hungry, I have enough for her to eat and when she is dirty, I have clean water in which to wash her.
And what does it matter in the end if you or someone else judges me by what I have or don't have? I have everything. So, I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time trying to impress those people who I don't really like anyway. I'm not going to talk about whose house sold for what and how mad I am that I didn't get more. I'm not going to lose my temper over money I never really had in the first place. I'm not going to scramble to cover the nakedness of an impoverished soul with clothes I don't like. It's time to loosen the burden of the phony baloney suburban-urban, housewife-corporate wife, spend-the-money-you-don't-have-on-stuff-you-don't-need-to-impress-your-neighbor-who-you-really-hate culture we've grown here. I'm sick to death of it. Literally, to death because it's a pernicious little grub in otherwise fertile ground. If that makes any sense at all.