Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Death of the Bishop

“Another One Bites The Dust.” The title of the email gave me pause.
It was from an old Wexford friend, Jack O’Leary and my heart sank. It’s a wonder anyone is still standing in my hometown such is the rate of deaths and suicides. Indeed, so many people have been hopping into the Slaney, the Gardai have been summonsing those lucky enough to be fished out.
Ah well, nothing for it but a double click.
“Oh no, not the Bishop Rossiter!”
No one knows exactly how Anthony Rossiter got the nickname; he certainly didn’t act like one of those grave men wielding a crosier. Always smiling, a scallywag glint in his eye, the Bishop was a dancer of renown with the combined moves of Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger and Delaney’s donkey.
To top it all, he ran five miles a day. In fact, the Bishop moved in such a blur, it was hard to figure just how Death The Leveler managed to get a decent skelp in at him.
The news put a considerable dent in my day. Rossiter had been one of the gang – cavorting around the streets, pubs and discos of the old Wexford, not a tosser to his name but full to the gills of auld chat, charm and life.
An hour later I was still conjuring up memories when another email from O’Leary hopped into my box bearing the title: “Hold The Obituaries!”
I double clicked with ferocity and read, “Anthony Rossiter deceased - but not our one! More to follow.”
Thrusting my fist in the air I bellowed, “YES!” Me auld segosha had hopped from the coffin, ripped off his shroud and done a victory lap around the statue of Commodore John Barry. Even now he was tossing back pints at his own wake.
It got me thinking though, no matter how bad things are, there’s nothing sweeter than life. You can keep your heavens, hells and nirvanas – I’ll trade them all for an extra twenty-four hours on this mortal coil.
Bad as these economic times are, they pale in comparison to an eternity spent squinting up at the daisies. Things have been bad before – in the end, what results from them is all that counts.
Take the Great Depression - the money invested back then in roads, bridges and dams laid the foundation for the relative prosperity of the last seventy years.
And how about Social Security introduced as a safety net in 1935? It may go kaput in the next couple of decades, despite the fact that it’s all many will have in their golden years to keep the wolf from the door.
Surely, it’s time to re-examine this great program? If there’s one thing we can learn from the current financial debacle it’s that you cannot depend on the stock market to keep rising – have you had nerve enough to check out your 401(k) lately?
Small wonder! At a time when we should have been shoring up the social safety net, we were wasting billions blowing up Fallujah while running up the national credit card with Chairman Mao’s children.
It’s not an ideal time to reform the health insurance system, but if we don’t employers cannot afford to create meaningful jobs.
Nor are these great days to edge social security towards a workable European style pension plan, still FDR faced an even more daunting task in daring to propose the original program. He was called a communist and a traitor to his class who would pulverize capitalism. Yet he persevered and set the stage for a fairer and more compassionate America.
Now it’s our turn. It won’t be easy with unemployment rising, but the system has been broken for a long time - almost 50 million citizens uninsured, the infrastructure collapsing, a college degree costing upwards of six figures, and on and on…
Meaningful change won’t happen overnight, but there is a time to sow and a time to reap. We’ve been reaping the hell out of the system for many years with scarcely a seed tossed into the earth.
But it’s spring again. The Mets are playing ball - this is our year! Hey you gotta believe! After all, who could have guessed that the Bishop Rossiter would be drinking pints at his own wake?

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