A gentle soul sounded off at coffee last Saturday

Published 2:12 pm Friday, October 3, 2008

Robert is a gentle person who masks his anger in humor. I think it was the presence of fear at the table that brought his anger to the forefront Saturday morning.

He sounded off at the coffee shop where several of us meet on Saturdays, and while his remark was humorous, it was obvious that he wasn’t entirely kidding.

We are a diverse group that meets for coffee Saturday mornings. Vocationally, there are a couple of teachers, an engineer, a lawyer, a newspaperman, a couple of nurses, a psychologist, two or three of us who do mysterious things on computers, a photographer, a librarian, a medical technician and one full-time retiree. We include Democrats, Republicans and independents, Catholics, members of various Protestant faiths and the unchurched.

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I say one full-time retiree because there are a two or three others who have retired from other jobs but who are still working. Donald, a World War II veteran, is retired and has no intentions of going back to work.

Robert is retired, also, but he still works.

The topic of conversation around the group of tables we pull together for our discussions naturally was about the financial markets and the then impending bailout. Normally, we either solve all the world’s problems, or we talk about what our kids are doing these days, but this time, the topic was singular. It was about the financial mess.

The opinions among us about whether to support a bailout for the financial markets or not were varied, but generally, the consensus was that some form of bailout had to take place, but that it had better not reward any who are responsible for the financial disaster in which we now find ourselves.

Fear had joined the coffee group Saturday, Fear and its companion, Anger.

There were many voices for Anger, but Robert’s was the most pithy. As always, his comments were tinged with humor, but the intent of what he said was real, and for such a gentle soul, that was telling about the depth of his anger.

Robert had what I thought was a really good suggestion about what to do with the CEOs and members of the boards of directors of these Wall Street companies and banks that have destroyed the nation’s, and the world’s, financial markets. Robert wants to empty the cells at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of their current occupants and replace them with the financiers.

I don’t know if it was Robert or another person at the table, but someone also suggested giving the financiers a daily water boarding, you know, that form of torture so enthusiastically promoted by George Bush, Dick Cheney and others who care little for this nation’s standing as the once moral leader of the Free World.

I mention Fear also as a member of the coffee group this Saturday because while we are a diverse group in many ways, in another way we are not all that diverse. All of us have money invested through 401ks, Individual Retirement Accounts and other savings funds all intended to help us with retirement. We have children out in the world trying to make their way and also saving and investing.

Now we are seeing those accounts plummet in value because of the excesses on Wall Street. We bought the American Dream, literally. Work hard, save and invest for your future and you will have the opportunity to enjoy your retirement years.

Now, many of us are wondering if, even with all our sacrifice to save for retirement, we will ever be able to retire. Those who have retired are wondering how long their savings will last.

We wonder if all the hard work of our children and the money they have been able to save and are still trying to save as they try to purchase their piece of the American Dream is now lost. Some so-called experts say the savings of the young will recover over time if it is left in the market. That is not true. The investments may begin growing again as the markets recover, but they will not become what they could have become if the market hadn’t crashed because of all the unchecked greed by Wall Street CEOs, bankers and other financiers.

Most of us that are part of this group that meets for coffee on Saturday mornings don’t have time for the markets to recover to replenish our savings.

Anger and Fear were unwelcome guests at our table Saturday morning, but they were there and we had to deal with them and listen to them.

Robert’s suggestion, as enhanced, for what to do with the Wall Street CEOs, bankers and other financiers suddenly doesn’t sound so outlandish.