Priorities~ A Rant

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but it seems that every time something important is happening in Washington DC, most corporate and social media outlets re-direct our attention to scandals and frivolous details instead of the main story.  This week, 3 main stories are happening, but only one is flooding social media and consistently mentioned in the news.  First, Hurricane Maria is no less devastating than the recent Harvey and Irma, but because it hasn’t hit the US Mainland (just one of those pesky territories), it’s not at the top of anyone’s list.  Second, the current ACA Repeal bill, the Graham-Cassidy bill, will be put to a vote within the next few days, and if passed, will deny millions of Americans basic health care and strip some of the protections for women’s health care.  And third, many NFL players are joining Colin Kaepernick in silent protest of police brutality against African Americans.  All three are life threatening, but only one is receiving major attention by our president and media, and that one, though no less devastating or important than the other two, is the one that has been twisted into a free-for-all debate over free speech rather than honoring the actual intent of the protest, and which overshadows the immediate threats to millions of American lives (including Puerto Ricans and American Citizens living on the island in the case of Irma and the millions who will not be able to get healthcare without the ACA).

This morning, I’m truly ashamed of our national priorities.  Ok, so I’ve been ashamed of them since the 2016 Election, but that’s another story.  I think that the question is, Where do we go from here?  Perhaps it’s time that we stop fighting each other over the details of who is more important and which threat is more immediate and what constitutes free-speech vs dissent vs disrespect, and focus on the fact that all of these are important.  All of these point to a system that is inherently racist, sexist, ableist and cares nothing for the working poor without whom our economy wouldn’t exist.  They also point to the fact that our infrastructure cannot support the sheer numbers of people affected by natural disasters, which are increasingly more dangerous and more devastating due to climate change.  Additionally, they show how unsustainable our system is when it’s workers cannot take care of their basic health and work, and those who do not work will not be able to afford the goods or services being produced.

Perhaps it’s time that we focus on the reality that we have so many systematic failures in our current government, lifestyles, economy and priorities that no one will be unscathed in the end, and that unifying for solutions is a necessity if we give a damn about our future as a nation, and even as a species.  There are solutions out there, and many people are doing what they can to be a part of it.  However, the energy that we are wasting over every little distraction and scandal that comes down the line could be better put to civic and civil engagement.

I may be wrong.  I may not have all the answers…  but I’m not giving in to the latest sensationalism and I’m not giving up on our potential to create a sustainable and equitable solution.

From Paradox to Paradigm Shift

Letting go, I relax and observe the things in my life that I blame for distracting me from fully experiencing it, yet I find that the only way out is to dig deeper in myself and find a few of the paradoxes that identify me as an individual and us as a society.  When I look at the paradoxes within myself, I see a reflection of the world around me.  That reflection is telling me what I need to change about myself, because we cannot change anything in our society without first being clear about our needs and desires, and understanding their implications on those around us who are different.  No one is exempt from such paradox… but it can be transformed into a paradigm shift one awakening at a time.

I actually wrote the following list as a series of poem prompts that never panned out a few years ago, and held onto it as a draft to re-work.  Today, I find these things even more relevant to our society than ever, and personally find them to be perfect in their raw and undeveloped state.  I present them not as statements against any particular group, but as points to ponder within our own framework of personal ideology.  The trick is to ask ourselves not how they relate to others around us, but to our own experience as humans…  identification of specific groups is not meant as a judgement or indictment of hypocrisy, but as a reflection of how we, as humans, face a disconnect between our ideals and our actions regardless of the groups or ideologies with which we identify.  Take what you like, and leave the rest for someone else to ponder, or better yet, come up with your own… but please, take the time to think about the one that grabs your attention the most.  It will reflect either something within you that you dislike or something in society that you fear…

Artists attempt to bring tangibility to the realm of the spirit while intellectuals seek to find spirituality through science

The meek endure horrific circumstances while the strong live lives of ill-gotten luxury

Ambivalence becomes a refuge when one feels threatened, but is a liability when subjected to determination

Conservatives create huge amounts of waste, proclaim themselves pro-life while waging war, and adulterate nearly everything they touch as scripture pours from their tongues while Liberals cry for human rights under the guise of equality but turn their heads to exploiting those same people to support the free market, decry violence while allowing their children to wage war on their tv’s, computers and music in the name of free speech, and run toward the middle when threatened by dissidence

The mad ramblings and bitter truths of a tormented soul are celebrated by pop culture yet their message goes unheard by the masses 

The institutions of religion that promise freedom or salvation suppress the potential of the human spirit through proscription and subjugation

Allegiance and freedom have a price, and justice is blind while many go their whole lives enslaved by an artificial system of manufacture and consumption

Sanity is found in the whimsical and arbitrary while excess order leads to compulsive attempts to escape its own self perpetuation…

And a tired soul finds relief in the simple acknowledgement of the true paradox of being human.

Occupy this…

On a warm October afternoon, I joined 250+ of my neighbors in supporting the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest in my own small town.  My sign said “Capitalism isn’t wrong, Greed is”, which sums up my feelings about the corporate takeover of our government to further Wall St. profits.  It has been a long time since I was in a demonstration of any kind.  I used to join peace marches, annual LGBT pride/rights and Martin Luther King marches, and protest cuts to low income housing.  Later on, when I was managing low income apartments, I discovered direct action and joined the city’s neighborhood redevelopment committee for my neighborhood and started a neighborhood watch.  After moving and taking a job in county government, my political activities halted.  However, this demonstration was one that I couldn’t pass up.  I needed to once again hear my own voice, as well as feel as though it had been heard by others. 

When I arrived, I found people from all walks of life, including some self-described conservatives who understand that current Wall St and Congressional practices are the cause of our current economic stratification.   They understood that we have come to a point that the rich will no longer be able to maintain their wealth on the backs of the rest of the population because the rest of the population has been drained.  They understood that many of the people who are demonstrating in cities across the nation have the time to do so because they are unemployed with little to no job prospects.  Although I believe in reaching across parties, boundaries and labels  to communicate, I found myself stunned that self-described republicans could understand the depths of the economic crisis the way they did.  This led to a conversation about the things that could revitalize the economy.  The ideas that were put on the table were 1.  buying only American-made items, 2. bringing manufacturing jobs back to American shores, 3. reinvestment in infrastructure instead of corporate tax breaks to create real jobs, 4. ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 5. an equal percentage based tax across the board, 6. returning congressional jobs to part-time service with a small stipend instead of 1st class jobs, and 7.  getting rid of all lobbyists that have corporate ties and making lobby “perks” a federal felony for both parties involved. 

We agreed on about half of these ideas, which I believe is a pretty good start.  I am hoping that these conversations continue as the OWS movement continues, and that people start to find ways to take direct action in instituting such ideas.  But more than that, I hope that this nation rediscovers it’s pride in itself both individually and collectively, much as I did when I made my voice heard.

A Reflection on Labor Day

Ten years ago, I didn’t know what Labor Day was for.  At that time, it meant that I got paid an extra $2.50/hr if I volunteered to work that day.  It wasn’t until I took American History in College that I began to understand the struggles that people went through to put an end to child labor, to get an eight hour work day, to get lunch breaks, to get a weekend, and later to get paid leave, benefits, pensions, worker’s compensation and representation in disputes.

I’d read about the Haymarket Riots of 1886, the Railroad Riots of 1877, the Flour Riot of 1837, and the large numbers of people who died for worker’s rights.  Even after learning about this other “civil war”, I didn’t fully understand what these things meant for me.  I had worked jobs that didn’t offer full time positions, didn’t have benefits or paid leave, and didn’t close on holidays.  I vaguely remembered a teacher’s strike when I was in the fourth grade.  I went to the union meeting with my grandmother, and I walked the picket lines with her one day.  She kept me out of school that week except for one day that I insisted I needed to attend for some assignment.  She was angry that I broke the picket lines, but she allowed me to go.  I had little understanding of what any of this meant then.

Once I started my current job, I learned quickly how the machines of commerce and government can abandon it’s workforce.  I became even more grateful for the state medical benefits that I had once relied on, and was now administering.  I was grateful for the benefits that my job offered, and a wage that I could actually live on.  I signed up for Union membership as soon as I was able, and today, am even more grateful for it.

Unfortunately, Unions have become a scapegoat for the G.O.P.  They blame Unions for the high cost of conducting business to justify outsourcing jobs to other countries without looking at the compensation and bonus packages of management and stockholder dividends.  They cry that Unions are killing Small Business while Big Business undercuts Ma and Pa at every corner.  The same people that want to cut health, food and cash benefits for the under- and un-employed are the same people that want to prevent Employers from being responsible for providing these things.  Their interests lie solely in maximum profit rather than the welfare of the people who create that profit.

In today’s society, where soundbytes have replaced rational thought and common sense, where personal responsibility is a foriegn concept, debt is the only way to get ahead, education is wrote memorization of carefully constructed curriculi, and fear is force fed to us via the sense of lack created by mass marketing- in this society, people feel helpless to stand up for what they really need.  Most people in this society have a false sense of entitlement without understanding the history and true sense of need that led to the benefits that some enjoy today.  This sense of entitlement and fear have become Big Business’ weapon against the working class.  Unions are but one tool for the masses to take responsibility for their needs.

This Labor day, my hope is that people will reflect on what is truly important to them.  I hope that all who are lucky enough to be employed, or to have a pension will share this information with others, and be grateful for the individuals and organizations that make this possible.