The TroubleWith These Troubled Times

© David Chartrand

     These must be troubled times. At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me.

Hardly a politician or preacher opens his or her mouth without prefacing that he is opening it, “In these troubled times . . .” Or, “In these changing times. . .”

     What comes next is some course of action that you and I should abide, owing to these troubled times. Or maybe it’s the changing times. I always get those two confused.

     There are also “uncertain” times, but I will deal with those later. I have my hands full with trouble and change.

     “In these changing times,” said a county commissioner seeking re-electtion in my home town, “the public needs experienced leadership.”  Her point was that since times are changing, we should make no change in leadership — or else we’d be in trouble. You following me here? If there is anything more entertaining than local politics, I cannot imagine what it is.

     For as long as I can remember, which dates back to April 20 or 21 in 1955, it has gone without saying that my times were troubled or uncertain. Not that this has kept people from saying it over and over again. Do I recall any times that were not considered troubled?  I do not. 

     Certain times have seen trouble, to be sure. Consider the Punic Wars of the third century, or the fall of Rome, or Genghis Khan’s “Bloody Terror” in the 13thcentury. Consider the Black Death of the 14thCentury or our own American Civil War. Now those were troubled times. When the dinosaurs were facing extinction from global climate changes 65 million years ago, a pessimistic pterodactylprobably landed on a treetop and warned about “…these troubled times, these changing times.” He would have been right.

      These times seem less troubled in comparison (assuming no one minds being compared to a pterodactyl). There is no famine in our nation and no government tyranny to speak of. Our children attend schools with salad bars in the lunchroom and, according to Centers for Disease Control, fewer than 40 or 50 million Americans were exposed to last year’s Miley Cyrus video. It’s time to count a few blessings.

     Some might say that Americans are such spoiled, whining, unappreciative brats that we haven’t a clue what it means to live in tough times.  What we know about trouble is that many folks make a living talking about it. Pessimists see the worst and want money to ward it off. Fanatics and agitators amass flocks and fortunes peddling gloom and doom. Pessimism breeds fanaticism, or maybe it’s the other way around.

     If there were fewer fanatics and opportunists maybe these times wouldn’t seem so troubled. At least we wouldn’t be hearing about it all the time. Instead, we’d attend Sunday service and hear the pastor say: “My friends, these are good times. What makes these times good is because, well, nothing has changed lately. Everything is pretty much the same as it was a month ago. God bless you and now let us sing Hymn Number 453.”

     No one would believe it, of course.  There is no constituency for optimism. Persons of good cheer do not get elected, or hired as a newspaper columnists. Without bad news and woe, no one needs you. There is little enough fun in the world as it is.

     Without trouble — without trumpeteers of trouble— there would be nothing to fix; nothing would be broken. There would be no Congress, no lawyers, no cable television, no Super Glue, no Twitter, no Glenn Beck, no Ted Nugent.  It makes a fellow stop and think, I can tell you.

     And this is as it should be. Lacking any familiarity with good fortune, and little reason to trust it, few of us would take comfort in untroubled times. Worse yet, we might confuse bad times with good times — or vice-versa — and all hell would break loose. With only blurred lines betwee feast and famine the world as we know it would come loose from its moorings.

     One solution, I suppose, would be a renewed worldwide enthusiasm for cheerful thinking. That seems a little drastic so forget I brought it up.  In times like these perhaps it’s best to recall, as the late Paul Harvey once said, that there have always been times like these.