By Louis Avallone
Do you remember this? In July 2008, former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, who was co-chairman of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said, “We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.” Well, what followed those comments was a media hailstorm of criticism, in one report after another, all seemingly intent on using Gramm’s comments as evidence that presidential candidate John McCain was insensitive and out of touch with the American people. So powerful were these reports that, less than one week later, Gramm resigned as co-chairman of McCain’s campaign.
Then, just earlier this month, outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (brother of Obama chief of staff Bill Daley), summarily said the same, “We have become a country of whiners,” adding that Americans can compete with any nation, if we have the confidence to take action.
Of course, Jimmy Carter knows also about the crisis of American confidence. He said the same as well, in 1979, during his so-called “malaise” speech to the nation, calling lack of confidence as “a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.” Amidst 21% interest rates, 13.5% inflation, the overthrowing of the Shah of Iran by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution, and 66 American hostages being held in Tehran, one voter said it this way in 1979, to President Carter: “We’ve got to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying. The strength we need will not come from the White House, but from every house in America.”
Amen. Amen. Amen. But is that what we do, though? Whine? The dictionary defines “whining” as, “To complain or protest in a childish fashion.” Well, consider the following.
The iPhone was named invention of the year in 2007 by Time magazine. It revolutionized mobile phone technology, allowing you to combine a computer, telephone, camera, clock, radio, DVD player, CD player, photo album, video conferencing, and television all into a single device that you can fit into your shirt pocket. But when some iPhones, earlier this month, didn’t quite make the transition seamless to daylight savings time, news reports quickly examined this debilitating debacle, and the whining began.
One newspaper reporter whined how thousands of iPhone users in the U.S. were “left two hours adrift” when their phones did not transition automatically to daylight savings time. And whether you were watching KTBS or KSLA, every 30 minutes the story rotated on the morning news shows about the helpless folks, who missed church because of the glitch, or “almost” missed yoga (oh goodness).
In fact, one woman went so far as to blame Steve Jobs for being late to work, and subsequently being fired. She whined, “If you had warned me about the glitch, I could have at least picked up a $5, battery-operated alarm clock that would have saved my job.” That’s so sad, isn’t it?
Hey, lady…here’s one for you: Have a back-up system. Borrowing from the popular GEICO Insurance commercial, “Maybe we should chug on over to mamby-pamby land where maybe we can find some confidence for you…” And while we are there, you can trade in that tired iPhone technology for the world’s first commercial handheld cellular phone which cost $3,995 (in 1983 dollars), measuring 13” x 1-3/4” x 3-1/2” inches in dimension, boasted eight hours of standby time, took 10 hours to recharge, and an LED display and memory to store thirty “dialing locations.” Quit whining already, please.
And maybe whining is more prevalent than we might realize. After all, as Phil Gramm had noted during his controversial remarks in 2008, “misery sells newspapers.” This is certainly true in Wisconsin, isn’t it? The average Milwaukee Public School teacher will be receiving $100,005 in compensation this year – $56,500 of that is in salary, and a whopping $43,505 is in benefits. Yet when the new governor in Wisconsin wanted to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of the unions and make public workers pay for half of their pensions and a portion of their health care, teachers whined and refused to come to work, while Democrat state legislators left the state, rather than participate in the democratic process necessary to balance their state’s budget.
One teacher in Wisconsin explained to a reporter about how difficult it is to explain, “to an 8-and 10-year old that the governor of your state basically wants to take money away from dad and mom.” For this teacher, and his wife, who is also a teacher, they earn a household income of $137,052 annually, between the two of them.
You understand the injustice here, right? I mean, according to a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, real median household income in the United States is $50,221, and this ranged from $69,272 in Maryland to $36,646 in Mississippi. So, it stands to reason, these Wisconsin teachers are getting the short end of the proverbial stick?
Yes, there is a certain population of Americans that are whiners. But in our culture’s worship of the trivial, the whiners are given a platform, and their whining amplified, by the media. Most Americans, however, “do” something, they don’t merely whine. That means they do more than just “hope” something, or “blame” something. It’s what millions of us do every day when we go to work early, stay late, take a second job, go to school, volunteer at our church, participate in civic organizations, and exercise our right to vote.
Most of us don’t whine. We recognize, instead, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” And, for you whiners, there’s not an app for that.