The Broad is Back!

September 30, 2017

Heading for a Fall of Massive Proportions

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln quoted the synoptic Gospels when he stated, “A house divided against itself will fall”. At the time, the Abolitioist Movement was growing, Dred Scott had been implemented, and the nation faced a decision: would slavery be outlawed everywhere or nowhere? It had to be one or the other.

His contemporaries were not happy with the speech or him. It was too radical, not good politics. It lost him the election to the US Senate, too.

In hindsight we see the speech as political prophecy. Three years later, America was in the midst of a bitter, violent civil war, the repercussions of which are still being felt today. We like to pretend it’s all over, done, settled, but one look at America today, and I think we can see it’s not.

So here we are, 152 years after the end of that war, 151 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and pretty much we’re still seeing a house divided.

I have never seen the US this polarized in my entire life. Granted, I’m not ancient, but I remember my Republican grandfather swearing that Kennedy stole the election. I remember the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, assorted Clintongates, the GWB election, the start of the Iraqi War. Those were pretty rough times in the US.

Although I very much remember the anger and the hatred spewed by the non-Left members of my family and our neighbors, I don’t remember severed friendships, threats of violence. I heard about violence, but not around us.

Perhaps we were just as polarized, but the Internet and the 24/7 news cycle has changed the world. We hear about everything moments after it happens. It’s not that we’re more polarized; it’s just that we know how bad it is.

Forty years of poor education in large parts of the US has also lead to a nation that is unable to critically think. That’s not me being elitist (though when did elite become a bad word?). That’s from a career college professor. Much of my teaching has been in urban community or four year colleges. Currently, I’m teaching the exact same demographic I started teaching in 1988.

My students today are as bright, as talented, as lovely as the students I had then. Not all are wonderful to be around, but on the whole, I teach good people. But the students today are far less prepared to be in college. Their math, reading and writing skills are hovering somewhere between 8th grade and 10th grade. I’m a writing teacher, but if you need to figure out your grade, you need to know math.

They are ill prepared for college and ill prepared for life. And they know it after about the first three weeks of college. The plaintive cry of “why didn’t I learn this in high school” is heard almost every week. I tell them they might have just forgotten, but anyone in education can tell you just how poorly American secondary schools doing.

I don’t want to make this about education–it’s about polarization and our house being divided–but I also see daily proof that education is a major part of our problem. People can’t think. People won’t think.

They also have lost the ability to listen, to reason, and to have civil debates. This is also a topic I’ve written about in the past. Slap my face and call me Cassandra. No one listens to me.

The current president is not popular, especially here in New York City where I live. But it wasn’t too long ago that I was living in Tennessee, surrounded by his supporters. There are many who do not think his actions are racist or bad for America. We can say “that’s because they are racist” but that’s not the whole story.

He’s also called an illegitimate president because he lost the popular vote. He’s not the first, and until the Constitution is changed, he probably won’t be the last. To those who argue that he lost, I say, by three million votes. The final popular vote for the top two candidates was 62,980,160 to 65,845,063. But that translated into 304 electoral college votes to 227. We all know the numbers.

Three million sounds like a lot of votes, but according to the US Census Bureau, the US population in 2016 was 323.1 million, so that’s a less than 1% margin of the population. Of total votes cast it was about a 2.1% difference.

That’s almost half a nation’s voters supporting him. Sure, we can say sexism or Russian influence (and they are valid, Russia seeming more valid by the day), but we also have to address the fact that we are a nation ruled by fear mongering, hatred, and hysteria.

So right now, two sides of the country are at each other’s throat. I know young people who won’t even discuss politics anymore because it’s become dogmatic, intolerant, and personal.

Every day my twitter feed and even the news sources are full of ad hominem attacks against anyone who makes a point or an opinion known. If one of my freshmen tried that, I’d send the paper back with  “take this out–poor logic” in red letters. Actually, many of my freshmen do try this, because it’s what they see around them daily.

Many of the people I know are only able to do the same. I’m not claiming I’m better, but I do think I try harder to listen to people. When they spew hate, I’m more apt to ask why they think that then to spew back.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings are so deeply ingrained in me that I find it repulsive when I respond with hate. I’m human. I think bad things. I’ve said bad things. But at least I know what I’ve done.

Most people on earth are not horrible, soul less, evil, inhumane. In fact, they are very human. We’re not a very nice species. Racism is evil, but if they knew better, they’d do better. So let’s teach instead of firing back hate and insults. Education doesn’t always change minds, but hate doesn’t ever change a mind. Love can change minds. Love can open doors. Oh, I’ll just say it: love can move mountains.

I am, by nature, a Pollyanna, a Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, a person who is going to believe the best will happen. But I’m also a student of human nature and of history.

We are on a collision course in this country, and we’re pretty much split down the middle. There are nuances, of course, but the polarization is stretched pretty far and pretty tight. It is read to snap.

I do not want to see civil war, violent revolution, or an armed civil rights battle.

But I see it coming.

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January 27, 2017

Too Big to Fail

When the financial crisis of ’07-08 was addressed by incoming president Barack Obama, many Americans were unhappy with the resolution. Yes, we got “back on track,” and things did get better for many. But banks were declared “too big to fail” and were bailed out.  That, I think, was one of the seeds that led to our current president.

For good reason, people blamed the banks. When banks got help and no punishment, many Americans who had lost homes, cars, jobs, and even a lifetime’s work got rightfully angry. And for the next six years that anger brewed.

Sure we got the ACA, which to me will always be Romneycare as I first encountered in when I came back to the US in ’07 and lived in Massachusetts, but I know people who literally had to choose between insurance and food. Even the subsidies through the ACA were not enough. It depends, of course. When I came back to the US the second time, I used the ACA because I had no health care in my part time jobs. I paid a lot but got excellent coverage. My subsidy was about $500 a month, but since I literally paid more into the government in taxes than American Airlines, United Continental, and Hewlitt-Packard, and now it seems, President Trump, my conscience is clear. I have always paid every penny of taxes due, and I am willing to pay them to cover things like medical care and roads and so on.

So in spite of the ACA, we have millions of people who realized that they were unimportant to the government in spite of all its propaganda. Protecting the banks was protecting them, we were told, because if the big banks failed, the economy would suffer.

Well, you know what else is too big to fail? The United States of America. And failing we are.

We have a sitting president who is totally unfit for the job. Yes, he is a businessman who gets things done, (including bankrupting himself and many, many small businesses left in his wake) but countries are not businesses. It’s not about the bottom line. It’s about people’s lives. He has not divested himself from his businesses. He has named unfit people for almost every position in his Cabinet. Most are now in the position to make the very wealthy even wealthier. Many of them have outright conflicts of interest.

Many don’t know a thing about the departments they’ve been nominated to head. I could see Ben Carson as Attorney General. I wouldn’t like it, but the man is a physician. But as head of HHD? No experience. And don’t get me started on Betsy DeVos. As a career professor, I am appalled. I have been teaching students who have suffered at the hands of federal interference in education for decades. I’ve seen the steady decline in knowledge and skills. Not intelligence—preparedness. The thought of her policies literally makes me shudder. And I know the meaning of literal.

Ironically, in light of people’s growing fears of more wars, I think one of his best picks for a Cabinet position is Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense. While more hawkish than I’d like, he has the experience needed and is respected by folks in the Pentagon.

But the worst thing I see is the polarization between every day Americans. It’s been growing since the 2016 election cycle started, but instead of calming down, it’s getting worse. We are hating like we haven’t in a long while. We’re mean, petty, bitter, snide, personal, not only to people in government, but to one another.

We call each other names, generalize and stereotype. We’re more openly prejudiced than we have been in the past 50 years, not just against race but against one another based on political beliefs. I was never a fan of being “politically correct,” but I have always been a fan of trying not to offend people. I try to use non-gendered and people first language. I try to use the identifiers people prefer. To me, that’s just good manners and a fulfillment of the Golden Rule. Many quip that the new Golden Rule is “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Not a quip, the truth, and always has been the truth. But if we say we are the best country on earth, let’s treat each other with respect and humanity. Let’s act like the nicest people on earth. Bullying and hatred are not parts of greatness.

Don’t like someone’s choices? Think their life is a sin? Fine. But don’t curse them, threaten them, harm them or kill them. That’s not acceptable. And I’m not looking at one side or another or another here. I see people on ALL sides of the political spectrum acting unacceptably.

The true core values of our country, democracy, equality, and freedom, have eroded at a pace that frightens me. America is the only thing that’s too big to fail. And we are. America is an idea. And ideal, really. And because we are no longer living up to our ideals, because democracy was trampled on for decades, because corporations have the same rights as citizens, we’ve been a functional oligarchy for a long time. Equality in this country is a joke. Some lives are just worth less. Many see this on color lines, but I believe it’s more on wealth lines. The poor of this country have been abused, manipulated, lied to, and used as tools of the ruling powers since the beginning.

Race is also a problem. A middle class person of color does face stereotypes and prejudice. I am not unaware of the problem, and I’m not stupid. My own son identifies as “non-White” and has faced prejudice both from law enforcement and regular folks. But a poor white person has more problems and inherent difficulties than that middle class person of color. I live in a predominantly white place and the problems of poverty I see are only slightly different than the ones I saw in NYC. Drugs, poor education, lack of family structure (I’m not saying a traditional family is necessary, but when mom and dad are meth dealers, life is nowhere near normal), poor nutrition, poor medical care, and the list goes on.

This economic disparity, this racism, this throwback to “traditional Christian values” of intolerance and hatred for those who choose to live outside one’s ideas of Christianity, these are also seeds that led to Trump’s shocking victory.

Folks like to argue that race is the only reason he’s president, but that’s balderdash. Back in ’92, Bill Clinton’s famous campaign reminder was “it’s the economy, stupid” hasn’t changed these 24 years later. We allowed the oligarchy to grow, and now the White House has become the Palace of Versailles, especially the gilded New York White House in Trump Tower. Cronies and supporters are put into positions of power, regardless of ability, and dissent is harshly treated.

I’m not buying into Trump’s rhetoric of “make America great again.” It has needed work my entire life, but it’s always been a great country. Things are possible here. I am the daughter of a construction worker who earned a PhD. I have taught young people who have literally gone on to change the world, young people who grew up in poverty, or were immigrants, or were people of color, or all of the above. They are America. I love my country, and I love its people. We are what’s made America great, but America has failed too many because money rules.

Greed is not one of America’s values. We’re too great to fail, and this is something that needs to be addressed. I am not calling for communism. That was tried and failed in the USSR and China, among other places. I’m calling for competence in government, experts in charge of departments, not political cronies, corporations losing the rights of citizens, and support for measures that give a leg up. I’m calling for democracy to come back, unhindered by lobbyists, restrictive voting laws and outside manipulation, for freedom to come back through solid educations so that people can make good choices and for humans to live as they wish as long as they remember that their rights extend no further than the tip of their noses. That’s what I learned in 7th grade social studies. My rights are for me, and I can not force others to do what I think is right unless it’s something protected by the Constitution. And finally equality. No human being is born better than another. There is one race, the human race. Because of my personal beliefs, I believe we are all brothers and sisters, and I should treat you as I would a sibling. You may infuriate me, you may test me, but at the end of the day, I do love you. But you do not have to share my beliefs. Believe me, most people don’t as I don’t identify as any specific religion. But as members of the same race, we have to work together.

And that, my brothers and sisters, is my manifesto, I guess. We’re too big to fail. We’re an experiment in democracy that needs to backtrack a bit and see where we went wrong. I’m pretty sure I know where that was. Who will join me?

January 21, 2017

March on, Sisters and Brothers

I am not at one of today’s marches. I was invited by a niece to join her in DC, and I thought about it, but I’m doing a charity thing next weekend and taking time off work to do it, so two weekends off in a row wouldn’t work. She’s there, other nieces and my sister-in-law are there, and many former students are marching in NYC.

I’ve marched a lot in my time. I’ve been doing protest marches since the 70s, and have racked up marches in four countries. I’ve been out there for civil rights, police brutality, AIDS awareness, workers’ rights, anti-nukes, and I’m sure things I’ve forgotten. I’ve put in my time, and I’m frankly tired.

I also question the efficacy of marches. I think they had more impact in the 60s when they were something relatively new. But nowadays, I don’t think those in power pay attention to the “rabble.” It’s easy to say, “oh, Hollywood liberals spouting nonsense” or “That one’s always been an uppity troublemaker,” and ignore it. As for the rest, people who agree, agree. People who don’t, mock. I’ve not gone on much social media today other than Instagram, but I did see some “snowflake” comments last night and a wonderful “libtard crybabies” this afternoon.

But today I admit I was wrong about this one, and I wish I were there. This is massive, not only in America, but around the world. I think it would be very stupid and very dangerous to ignore this many women and men standing up for equality for women, for people of color, for LBGTQ+. But I think it was the pussy grab that really capped things.

Marchers today in their pink hats are calling for a stop to women being objectified and sexualized by men, especially men in power, who have a moral obligation to be role models, at least in public. While a reality TV star, Donald Trump said some things to women contestants that could have won him a lawsuit in the real world. Of course, in the real world, many women choose to ignore the overtly sexual comments and even aggressions in order to preserve their careers, though I am seeing a change in the behaviors of some people, which heartens me.

I am a very hard headed and realistic person as well as being the optimistic idealist. I revel in my duality most of the time. To those who say calling America a “rape culture” is hysteria, I say, oh really? I spend much of my professional life with women 18-26. I hear their stories of being groped, fondled, and even threatened and raped. I am 55, overweight and certainly nowhere near my prime, and I still get groped by men at work (not coworkers but customers) who think it’s all “a good joke”. Why do we get groped? Men think it’s their right.

When women use their voices on the internet, along with death threats come rape threats. We teach our young women how not to get raped. When I teach, I tell all my classes “don’t rape anyone. Now you can’t say no one ever told you don’t rape.” They laugh, but it’s uncomfortable laughter.

Young women on college campus and even in high school are raped every weekend. It’s called “date rape” but that’s just a pretty name for being raped by someone you know.

Most of these rapes are unreported. Why? Women have learned that they are the ones put on trial. What did they wear? What did they drink? Did they come on to him? If there is a conviction? Well, the Brock Turner case taught as to keep our mouths shut. It’s not worth the price. His future was considered more important that hers. And he was the rapist.

This is the 21st century. Back in the 1950s, my mother knew a NYC cop who made her go to a rape trial—one in which the rapist was caught “red handed”—and see how she was destroyed by the judge. That, for him, was a lesson she needed to see. That was over 60 years ago. Things haven’t changed and we’re still being shown that it’s best for us to keep quiet.

Sexual name calling, which can lead to sexual violence, is rampant.

Last semester there was a “Christian preacher” on my campus who called my students “whores” because they disagreed with him or wore what he termed revealing clothing. He called others “lesbians” because they wore pants. To him, that was an insult, to me, whatever. But that’s not protected speech under the law yet campus security did nothing about it. He told the young men they’d burn in hell, but he didn’t attack them sexually.

I’ve heard students I teach slut shame fellow students as well as celebrities. I’ve heard people trying to slut shame the new First Lady. I’m sorry. No. Double standards are not allowed.

There are very few sexual insults for men other than dick and maybe faggot, which are words that are also unacceptable.

Phew, I got angry there. I’ve had bad situations in my past, things I don’t talk in about in public not because I keep them bottled up, but because as I’ve seen over and over in society, when someone reveals rape, especially date rape, or sexual abuse, too many people see it as salacious gossip instead of someone’s personal pain. Or they see the person as a victim and pity them. I want no one’s pity. And I’m no victim. I was. But now I’m a warrior.

And hey, a message to a certain set of guys for whom the following shoe fits—think back to those incidents in college when you knew she didn’t want to, or she couldn’t speak for herself, but you did it  anyway. Know what? That was rape. Yes. Yes, it was. And she’s probably still really, really, angry with you. And she may just be ashamed. I remember having to physically bust in and save a friend who was passed out. Those guys who laughed at me trying to carry out the deadweight of a drunk and didn’t help me? I’m sorry, but you’re assholes.

Sorry, I went off on an angry rant there. And that just shows you how much anger is bottled up inside American women. The world’s women as we’re seeing today. I’ve worked very hard to purge the anger inside me, but every once in a while, it pops up and bites me in the ass like it just did now. I’m obviously still angry at those jerk fraternity brothers.

And now American women, at least, have a target for their anger. I hope someone in the government is paying attention. I hope these angry women go home and get to writing and working and watching their government. Maybe even running for office on the local, state or national level to more fully effect change. Politicians work for us, in theory anyway, and if we use our voices, some Congressional representatives might fear losing their jobs enough to challenge or do something positive to make America stronger and better.

To the women marching, I am there in spirit. To my bestie, sister-in-law, other friends and “nieces” and “kids,” you’re amazing, and I love you all. And to my blood nieces, especially, not only all of the above, but I am so proud of you, my darlings. Nana is up there singing and laughing and so proud that she passed on hell raiser genes.

October 3, 2013

Still Hoping for Power to the People

“We want to empower our people; we want to strengthen them; we want to provide them with the kind of qualifications that will enable them to build up their own country themselves.” ~ Aung San Suu Kyi

When Aung San Suu Kyi said these words, she was referring to the people of Burma, but I think this is what we should want for people in all places.  But instead of empowerment, much of American culture (and I’m speaking as an American–I know it’s similar in other places) sets out to disempower the people.

Yesterday I spoke of our broken educational system. I do often wonder quite seriously how much is done deliberately. We have a popular culture that glorifies ignorance, stupidity, vapidity and violence. We undermine authority figures in almost all genres of entertainment. Authority isn’t a bad word, but if we teach people it is, no one will want it or seek it other than those who turn it into a bad word through their actions.

This post started on my other blog, but as often happens when I’m thinking about things that are important to me, it spills onto this one.

I’m deeply disturbed by the state of America right now. Not just the current crisis, but by all the factors that brought us here: poor education, weapons of mass distraction, selfishness and even a sense of ennui in so many people. Working hard for too little money, scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck dulls the mind to other things.   According to a report released last year, over two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.  It’s hard to think about eroding freedoms when you’re worried about missing work and getting pay docked.

This is a trend that must be reversed.

I teach to empower people, but as much as I want to give my students the tools they need to take control of their own lives, true control, free from the overbearing corporate influences playing on people today, no one can be empowered with the desire to wield power.

So many people are perfectly willing to abdicate responsibility for their own lives. This is a sad way to live.

Actually, as I tell my students, this can be a fine way to live. Nothing is your fault when it fails and no hard decisions need to be made. Multitudes aer plenty happy in this kind of life.

Those who want to live freely know that they must have power over themselves. And as Francis Bacon famously wrote, “Knowledge is power.”

Societies have changed radically in the past. All things are cyclical. When I call for change, people tell me, “You can’t change anything. This is the way it is now. It is what it is.”

Lie. That’s a lie sold to us by people who don’t want change. We can turn this around, hopefully. It will not be easy, but it can be done, but only if people want to be empowered.

 

October 2, 2013

Another Fine Mess You’ve Gotten Us Into

Sequestration. That’s a rather benign sounding word, isn’t it? Doesn’t sound like it could hurt a fly. Automatic budget cuts that put some people temporarily out of work and cut services doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

And as everyone here in the US knows, we’re in day two of sequestration. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

On Tuesday morning, I found myself steaming mad. Why? Because a small, and I mean small, core of hard line Republicans are holding America hostage because they don’t like a law that was passed by both houses, signed by the president and decided upon by the Supreme Court of the United States. Welcome to democracy, folks. Welcome to the “three ringed circus” that is American federal government.  Checks and balances. Sometimes you don’t always get what you want.

Maybe it’s not a great law. It’s certainly not perfect. But bad laws have been passed before. Then even repealed sometimes. But the repeal didn’t come from playground level hissy fits. It came through getting out to the people and changing their minds. Engaging in discussion that leads to change. Instead of winning the people, theoretically the most powerful force in a democracy (but I’m not an idiot. I know the reality of that scenario), most Americans are now livid with all of the government.

Personally, I’m glad.  We need to be mad. We need to be hopping, spitting, crazy mad.  And we need to channel that anger, hone it to a fine point and use it to say “Enough! We the people are taking, no, wresting back our government!  Because obviously the people we’ve elected are not fit to lead.”

I pray that this comes to pass.

As Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, “Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.” The press is this country is freer than in many, I admit. But it’s tamed. My first career was as a reporter, a legislative correspondent in Albany, NY, to be precise. That was 30 years ago. A lifetime ago. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hirsh just wrote about the decline in the quality of the American press. He called it “pathetic,” which sums it up from my view. Very interesting reading, and you can find it here, ironically in The Guardian, a British paper!

The whole point of this blog is that I left America for 14 years, but now I’m back, so I comment on the changes. One of the huge changes is the quality of the news media. While I was gone 9/11 happened, and that event, terrible and evil, has done more to change American cultural values than I care to admit.  The Internet has changed people, as well. Because of it and jumps in technology, ideas about personal privacy are shifting at an alarming speed.

Whistle-blowers are vilified and praised. That’s a topic for another day, one I don’t find myself ready to discuss.  But we have truly undergone a cultural sea-change.

And then there’s education. This, as faithful readers know, is my personal bailiwick. I am a professor. I teach writing and literature, but mostly writing these days because few students can write well and even fewer can read. I teach college level students, but I’m teaching skills I learned in 6th-10th grade. If I had to guess, I would say the average reading level of my students is 8th-9th grade. They struggle to read The New York Times, a paper routinely read in American high schools. I do not teach stupid people. I teach bright people, lovely people, hardworking people. But they have been very poorly educated in New York City’s public schools.

When my parents attended New York City’s public schools, they were the finest in the nation. In fact, my mother remembers observers coming from all around the world to see how excellent public education was run. She graduated reading adult level works, in two languages, with a third language at conversational level. Sure, she was a smart cookie and worked at it, but she went to the neighborhood PS4 and Long Island City High School. Now I’m not saying New York City doesn’t still have some fine schools, some of the finest in the nation. But statistically speaking, over 50% of New York City high school graduates are not prepared for college level work or an entry level job when they leave school. And that comes from the city’s own reports.

Sure, there are a lot of challenges facing New York, and I’m not picking on New York, but I’d guess that about 80% of the students I teach are from New York City high schools, so it’s what I know best. About 5% are from other places in America and the rest are from foreign schools. I had a class last term with a student from Italy, one from France and one from Germany. I almost wept with joy as their academic skills were so strong. Until I wept with pain that their American peers were so weak.

And I do spend time from students from other places and even at other schools, good schools, Ivy Leagues, even. And I am amazed, constantly, at what they don’t know that I know I knew when I was their age. This is what happens when as a culture we glorify stupidity and are proud of ignorance.

And sometimes, in the dark recesses of my slightly Orwellian soul, I do hear whispers of “This is not a terrible mistake.” And Orwell’s whispers are joined by Huxley’s ruminations in Brave New World. There are times I think the brave new world is now. (Though to be perfectly honest, I do not believe in a huge government conspiracy. A huge corporate conspiracy is much more likely. As far as I can see Congress is the lap dog of corporate interest in this country. Corporations really don’t want you educated. Why educate a slave race? That was Hitler’s view. It’s rather pragmatic when striving for world domination.)

So, we live in a populace without a truly free press and with men, and women, since it’s the 21st century now, who are unable to read. We are not safe. We have much to fear.

If our government is so easily hijacked, it needs to be replaced. If the people ruling this country are so weak and ineffective that a tiny minority can close down government, well, I can’t see why they are staying in office. With pay yet.

Many have called for their pay to be docked. We the people are their employers. Fire them. And if we don’t do that, at least don’t pay them. Not that I think the predominantly wealthy people who run this country will suffer much with the loss of a month’s salary or so.  But how many of the federal workers who are now sitting home, effectively out of work, are living pay check to pay check? How much do support staff, park rangers, computer tech people make?

I realized yesterday that I had to do more than tweet my anger, that 140 characters weren’t enough. Well, I’m about to hit 1200 words, and all I can really say is please, Americans, let’s join together to stop the madness. Even if we’re of different parties we have to realize that what’s happening in America is a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. It’s stupid, pig headed stupid, and we deserve better than that!

 

September 2, 2013

A Call for Labor

Because today is Labor Day, I want to make a plea for those who would labor in this country but who can’t. I want to make a plea to bring manufacturing back to America.

We keep saying the jobs of the future are in technology. Many of them are. And factories don’t need as many people as they used to before robotics. But because Americans want to buy cheap, cheap, cheap, we’ve taken bread out of our neighbors’ mouths.  And hurt the country in the long run.

Why should a company pay a living American wage to a craftsman or a worker when work can be done in a developing country by someone with no union, no laws protecting workers? I may be thought naive because I’m going to answer, “it’s the right thing to do.”

Our country prospered when our working class prospered. When a “working man” or in many cases a working woman, could support a family with an honest wage. I hear many people blaming the unions. Hogwash. Unions got you a weekend and safe working conditions. Unions make sure you’re compensated if you’re injured at work.  Is there corruption in unions? Yes. Is there anywhere humans are that does not have corruption? No. Unions, churches, governments, corporations. It’s humans who are corrupt, not unions.

Since I’ve been back in America, I’ve gone through countless small appliances, clocks. chairs, the list can go on and on. Things break. They just stop working. I’m not saying one country or another is doing shoddy work, and I often think, in my paranoid moments, that companies do it on purpose to up their bottom line. But I know I would rather pay more for something that will last than keep throwing things in the trash. Living in a disposable world is wrong on so many levels.

But I’ve started to look at labels very carefully. I’m buying more things built in Germany, Switzerland and England because I want better quality. Yes, I’m paying more, but in the long run, I am sure I will save money.  I would rather buy things made in America in order to support my fellow Americans. But I can not find them!

I’ve said it before, more than once. If a clever person opened a factory here and made kitchen appliances, he or she would make a mint. Yes, I would pay twice as much for an American made toaster. I did it already for an English made one.

Not everybody wants to go to college.  Not everybody wants to work in an office. I’ve never worked in a factory, but I’ve worked in a factory lunch counter. It was not pleasant. It was hard work. But it was 9-5 with a regular and good paycheck.  The more skilled workers got paid more, which makes sense, but they had jobs. Now the jobs are gone.

Don’t tell me that working for a subpar wage with no health care or retirement benefits at a big box store is less stressful or easier on people.

My late father-in-law was a machinist in a mill. He and my mother-in-law raised nine kids on his paycheck. It was tight. Very tight. He supplemented his income with providing much of his own food with gardening, hunting and fishing, but his children were fed, educated and went on to good lives. But there’s no mill anymore for any of them to work in. The area they live in has been hit hard economically, and not just in this century. Things were getting bleak there in the 80s and they’ve never truly bounced back.

There are only so many tech jobs that can open up.

We’re being sold the story that we live in a service economy. That the jobs have moved overseas and there’s no getting them back. Why not? Prices will go up if people get paid a living wage. Americans have to say well, I will pay $6 for quality that will last instead of $1 at the dollar store. I’m no stranger to dollar stores. But how many times have I thrown out things in a matter of months and then had to replace it?  That’s false economy.

I feel like I’m on a soapbox right now. There are so many issues that are part of this problem. But I know there are people who want jobs and we keep telling them: “There are none. Learn a new skill.”  We have the factories, shuttered, many being turned into luxury housing for those in the professions. Housing is good. But so are jobs. Why repurpose a factory into housing when we could reopen it and start bringing in jobs?

I’m not an economist, so what the hell do I know? I read, though. I know history, though.  We see what happened to Detroit. We’re at a crossroads. Time to start a revolution in thinking about this country. Americans have to wrest America back from corporations and governments, local, state and federal, that pander to their needs.

July 14, 2013

National Anger

I’m watching the maelstrom of anger, sadness, disappointment and frustration on social media since last night’s verdict in the Zimmerman trial. The reaction was expected, of course, especially by anyone who remembers the response to the Rodney King beating trial verdict and the fear following the OJ Simpson verdict.

I’m glad to see that things are peaceful–well, perhaps peace isn’t the proper word, but non-violent.

My comment on Twitter last night was to repeat the old Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr quote, “this is a court of law…not a court of justice.”  In his address to the nation today, President Obama said something similar: “we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”

That’s what they do. Was it overt racism, bad prosecution, good defense? Who knows? I didn’t follow the trial testimony for the same reason I don’t follow many of the sensational trials splashed on television and the news outlets.  While the death of a teen is lamentable, while vigilante justice is wrong, in the big picture, the US has worse things to worry about. Teens get killed every day for stupid, stupid reasons. Most of the time, the rest of America doesn’t notice.  But every once in a while, a trial will catch the nation’s attention.

Deep in my heart, I believe that when this happens, corporations and government heave a sigh of relief. Another weapon of mass distraction to help keep people from paying attention.

It’s not that I’m callous. In fact, it might be a little too close to home. I deplore the entire situation, and as a mother, as someone who teaches and loves the many young black men (and Latino, and Asian, and White) I teach, my heart breaks.

In my own family I’ve seen the anguish of the mother, grandmothers and aunts when the woman who killed my cousin and damaged his brother so badly he lives with pain every day got off with a slap on the wrist. It broke their hearts once again.  His father, grandfathers, brother, and uncles were shattered as well, but it’s the mother love that speaks most closely to my heart.  But the entire family felt stripped of justice.  It’s been years and there’s still anger.

I pray that Trayvon Martin’s family will find peace in their hearts, because I have seen the damage done to a family like his up close.

George Zimmerman will have to live with his actions for the rest of his life. I also pray that he realizes the enormity of what he’s stolen from the world. I pray that he turns his evil to good somehow. But that’s for time to tell.

In the meantime, I just feel sad and hope is hard to find. The fact that the streets are not burning is a good sign, I think.

But perhaps this is one more straw in the camel’s basket.

 

May 24, 2013

Politics as Usual

“Politics has got so expensive that it takes lots of money to even get beat with nowadays.” ~ Will Rogers, June 27, 1931

Rogers has got to be one of my favorite commentators in American history.  The man was not only funny, he was dead on accurate in his comments. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. He said this over 80 years ago, and now it’s truer than ever.

Today I read an opinion piece by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, Where Money Talks,” about the power of money and the power of the monied in Washington. Depressing reading.  I like to believe I live in a meritocracy. I also like to believe in fairies. But no, I live in a plutocracy as the statistics in Milbank’s piece amply demonstrate.

And as that 80 year old comment shows, it’s been like this for a long time. It’s been like this from the beginning: Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton–not exactly paupers.

I also like to believe that the Founding Fathers were a tad more idealistic than the current crop. Of course, they all literally put their lives on the line for treason, so they had to believe in something strongly enough to risk their necks.

Being back in America for the past six years has been illuminating. Depressing, too. I honestly don’t recognize my country.  Even Jefferson warned that America shouldn’t allow the rise of an aristocracy of corporations, and the people who run them.

As an observer, I really do think the tipping point is approaching. Occupy Wall Street was an early shot across the bow, and I do think it will take a few more years before anything more organized happens. But the unrest and anger is palpable to anyone paying attention.

As usual, Washington is not.

November 3, 2008

One day and counting

Is it me or has this been the longest election season in the history of the world?  And it all ends tomorrow.  I hope.  Please, no 2000 election redux.

There has been much going on, and unfortunately, this has been a crazy time for me at work, so I’ve had little time to write lately.  There’s certainly been a lot happening that has been blog-worthy.  One thing that has been exciting me is the level of interest I’ve been seeing in my students, most of whom are young people who have never voted, either because they were underage or because they just didn’t care.  A number of them are having their first visit to the polls this year.  Yes, there’s been a lot of excitement, but will it last?

This year’s election has raised many questions and has gotten people talking, but will the conversation, will the action, still happen after November 10th?  I give us a week to calm down after the hoopla and then what?

Will we still discuss things like the electoral college?  Every presidential election people complain about it, and then nothing is done for another four years.

Will the politicians keep a focus on the young people in this country?  They’ve certainly courted them in record number, but will they drop  interest in them once the election is over?

Will the young people keep pressure on their elected officials?  Yes, they will do as we say, but only as long as we keep saying it.  Make them keep the promises.

Will the media ever give up control of the elections?  When will we have truly open debates?  In a land that cherishes freedom of speech and freedom of choice, why do we limit which candidates get to participate?  Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, and Bob Barr are among the candidates shunted aside.  This isn’t fair to the candidates, but more, it’s not fair to the American people.

One message that has been repeated time after time in this election is the power of the Internet.  Obama’s campaign has taken the lead on this issue, but with the Internet giving access to so many, why does television news have a stranglehold on people’s minds?  Why are people allowing themselves to be muzzled?  Tell the  television stations what you think about their decisions about limiting coverage.

And will the people harness the power of the internet?  Things are changing, but we must embrace the change.

I think that for the first time, my students are feeling the possibility that they can have some measure of power in their society.  Hopefully it will not all  be illusion.  Hopefully a wellspring will bubble up that the conventional powers that be will not be able to stop.

After tomorrow, will things really change?  Both sides have promised change, but will it happen?  We can only hope.

October 12, 2008

Palin for Alaskan Independence? Tell me more!

Filed under: media,New Broads,Palin,politics,protest,Voting — by maggiec @ 1:03 pm
Tags: ,

As the election comes closer, the dirt gets nastier and nastier.  Palin has accused Senator Obama of being a friend of terrorists because someone he knows casually was a member of the group The Weather Underground back when the senator was a child of eight.  Oh my!  Of course, this is something that Hillary Clinton brought up back during the primaries.  It was laid to rest then, so why should Palin bring it back up?

Does the phrase “desperate times call for desparate measures” come to mind for any one else?

The Washington Post has a great fact checking section on the Obama-Weatherman connection, finding it specious.  Just another time waster, to distract us from the real issues.

But someone just called my attention to a blog by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr that was originally on the Huffington Post but is now on Truthout.org.  It is political dynamite, and I’m trying to spread the word as best I can.

In a nutshell, Todd Palin was a member of the Alaskan Indepence Party from 1995 – 2002.  OK, husband and wives don’t have to agree.  But, Sarah Palin attended the party’s 1994 convention, its 2000 convention, gave a keynote speech at its 2006 convention and sent a taped greeting  to the 2008 convention.

I can understand the desire for succession.  I can understand exploring the option.  But, let me quote Kennedy here:

AIP’s charter commits the party “to the ultimate independence of Alaska,” from the United States which it refers to as “the colonial bureaucracy in Washington.” It proclaims Alaska’s 1959 induction as a state “as illegal and in violation of the United Nations charter and international law.”

AIP’s creation was inspired by the rabidly violent anti-Americanism of its founding father Joe Vogler, “I’m an Alaskan, not an American,” reads a favorite Vogler quote on AIP’s current website, “I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.” According to Vogler AIP’s central purpose was to drive Alaska’s secession from the United States. Alaska, says current Chairwoman Lynette Clark, “should be an independent nation.”

Vogler was murdered in 1993 during an illegal sale of plastic explosives that went bad. The prior year, he had renounced his allegiance to the United States explaining that, “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government.” He cursed the stars and stripes, promising, “I won’t be buried under their damned flag…when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home.” Palin has never denounced Vogler or his detestable anti-Americanism.

As Kennedy goes on to say, ” this is not something that happened when she was eight”

According to posters on both blogs, this is “old news” to many people.  I consider myself relatively aware, and I didn’t hear about it till now.

On the one hand, I realize that this is just more mud slinging.  But on the other hand, this is a matter of Constitutional issues.  I already have concerns about Palin’s ability to uphold the Constitution.  Didn’t we fight a Civil War on the issue of succession once before?  Isn’t that considered one of the darkest periods of our history?  A woman one heart beat away from the presidency who is willing to ignore the Constitution scares me more than the economic crisis.  Economies can be fixed with work and sacrifice.  So can democracies, but in most cases, the sacrifice to fix them includes lives.

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