“Once upon a time, a couple of children died playing in abandoned refrigerators.
So laws were passed requiring manufacturers to make safer refrigerators.
And laws were passed requiring consumers to safely dispose of their refrigerators.
At no point did the National Refrigerator Association step in and try to stop this.
And now refrigerator death isn’t a problem any more.”
The United States has become a nation of angry people. Everywhere we look, there’s anger. It has happened because, at a very basic level, we’re afraid. We’re afraid because we’re observing an uncontrollable erosion of our lifestyle, and we have little control over it.
When a person is frightened their first reaction is anger. Think about the last time you were frightened. Most likely, you can remember a flash of anger which immediately followed. Someone cut you off in traffic, and you narrowly avoided an accident. You had a flash of anger. Your child escaped your grasp and dashed onto the street. You became angry. That anger was a vestige of the basic fight-or- flight response which was intended to protect us.
Today, the fear is less immediate and obvious, but it’s a constant in our lives. We work hard and each year that hard work is less rewarding. The bills get bigger and the paycheck no longer keeps up.
In the past, we expected our children to accomplish greater things than we did. My grandfather quit going to school in the seventh grade and became a bank vice-president. My grandmother was the child of a poor factory worker in Richmond, Virginia and plucked (literally) from the street by a group of well-meaning wealthy matrons and subsequently given up by that same group for adoption. My mother graduated from nursing school. I graduated from college and eventually got a Master’s degree. This wasn’t unusual. People expected more opportunities for their children and grandchildren than were available to them.
This has changed radically. Rather than offering a ladder to success, a college degree burdens young people with crippling debt. It’s impossible to save enough money to ensure a comfortable retirement, and there’s great doubt whether Social Security will benefit those who are currently middle-aged.
Now, a minimum wage job neither supports a family nor leaves anything for savings. Company pensions are a thing of the past and good-paying factory jobs are rare.
Our lives are characterized by uncertainty–not optimism.
In the midst of this, we hear of a small minority of individuals and families who are so incredibly wealthy that they have enough “left over” to literally buy national elections.
What’s our reaction to the fear? Anger. What indicators do we see of this anger? In my small city, grown men toting pistols in restaurants. People so deeply divided over political ideologies that civil discourse is rarely possible. Young men with easy access to deadly weapons seeking fame by taking innocent lives. Governing bodies believing the message of heavily-edited video tapes defunding Planned Parenthood, the only easy access to healthcare for millions of struggling women.
This isn’t the America we envisioned fifty, twenty or even ten years ago. I’m not sure I want to live here anymore.
Today as I headed to my car to offload items needed for work (I do my professional canning in the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries’ commercial kitchen) I stopped to chat with a guy in a car going out of the entrance into the parking lot. I wanted to ask him if he had ever read (in the late 60’s) Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman, but he started the conversation in a different frame of mind.
“Do you see all the homeless sleeping here?” he asked, aggravation in his voice.
“Sure do,” I answered, “and I feel bad for them. It’s forty-three degrees now at 8 a.m. No one chooses to sleep out in cold weather if they have an opportunity for a warm and dry bed.”
“Well, it’s a damn shame. I see them smoking. If they quit smoking they could save their money and get a place to live.”
I told him how our experience just two years ago cost us almost $2,500 in first and last month rent and a security deposit. “That’s a lot of time not smoking to save that up.”
He countered, “Someone needs to do something about it.”
“Who do you think should do something and what should they do?” I asked, keeping my voice as neutral as possible.
His agitation increased. “I don’t know but someone needs to! I’ve lived here for fifty years and it wasn’t always like this!”
“I know,” I muttered, “There are lots of problems now that didn’t exist fifty years ago…even five years ago.”
“Yeah!” He was urgent. “There weren’t all these Hispanics. All these gay people. They stayed hiding then. No Blacks either. No druggies.”
Okay, it was apparent he believed that the people who were suffering were at fault, but if I hadn’t realized it before, it was clear now that he was a bigot. I kept my voice calm. “We here at the Co-op do what we can to help them and there are others in town who also are working hard to try to get them off the street. But,” I added, “I also agree things are not what they used to be. I wonder why their families are not helping them.”
Oh, I got an earful then. His own daughter, age 35, is living on the street. He won’t let her come home because she has a Latino boyfriend and if “he came over I would have to shoot him. So she chooses to live her way.”
No wonder, I thought. So I added some fuel to give him a few more thoughts.
I asked him, “I wonder why children, like your daughter, don’t learn good work ethic from their parents…like you.”
Ahhh, turned out although he had worked some in his adult life he had been an alcoholic, and his life had not taken a smooth path. His wife left him and she was a fool with the next man, according to his judgement. He said he had another daughter in prison.
I pushed my point, “So perhaps you did not quite show them the kind of way to be a productive member of society, to learn how to nurture relationships to help the people close to you through hard times?”
He glared at me (perhaps I was lucky he only glared) and suggested “Someone needs to do something!” and he drove out…the entrance. Apparently, rules do not apply to him.
I hear and read a lot of comments from the conservative people on my Facebook feed that we need to return to the way America was the 1950s and early 1960s. I remind them, first of all, we were pretty young then and our viewpoint of the way society was then was not an adult perspective. Any analysis read now that puts it all in a golden, perfect society seems to forget that women were considered to need to be at home and let their husbands tell them what to think, that Jim Crow laws existed throughout the South and in many other areas, the Cold War provided pretty constant fear of annihilation, the McCarthy hearings in Congress served as a Communist witch hunt, that Jews and other minorities were restricted from country clubs, some schools and some neighborhoods. It was NOT a golden time for most, just white Protestant men!
So now, who is leading the charge to bring America back to those days? White men!
And they complain…and blame the victims. They have no ideas for solutions, but say “SOMEONE” needs to do “SOMETHING” but not with their tax money, and since they do not participate in civic volunteer activities of that sort, not with their personal effort.
I did not get to ask him my punchline, “Do you consider yourself a Christian?” Most bigots do. Rather amazing. Maybe they read a different Bible than I do. They certainly do not follow the teachings of Jesus.
What’s your passion? What gets you fired up enough to get involved?
Me? I have several now. Have had many over my life, but right now there are two that capture my attention.
Awareness of our food and how full of chemicals much of it is and unhealthy results of conventional farming practices can affect health. I learned this only 5 years ago and I am a strong advocate to Know Your Farmer. By eating locally you not only can chose food sourced at places where you support the growing practice, but by supporting a local farmer, you are contributing to a healthier local economy.
But right now, it appears the Presidential campaign season has started and is full swing. Like Christmas advertising that starts the day after Halloween, we Americans are in for lots and lots and lots and lots and lots (ad nauseum) of campaign propaganda. Get ready for the roller coaster for the next 15 months.
My political leaning is liberal but I read a lot of information from and about all the candidates. I want to know as much as I can about each of them in the hope that any discussion will be intelligent.
I ran into a problem already though. One friend of mine took me to task because he felt I had made a negative comment about Donald Trump and was concerned I was going to get nasty in loading Facebook with negatives.
The issue I made was that when the two (expletive deleted) guys beat up the homeless Latino man and attributed their actions to Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants being bad, I reported what Trump’s comment was. And I offered one question.
As you probably know, all Trump had to say at the time was “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”
My comment was “No words about this action being wrong. No concern about the victim. Is this the kind of leadership our country needs?” My friend felt this was negative commenting on my part. I do not think so. I hope to make people think, not just have a emotional reaction.
Now I see several days after his comments, Trump has added “Boston incident is terrible. We need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect,” and “I would never condone violence.”
So NOW, after he gets backlash, he has changed his statement to one of more concern. This is the kind of action I have seen from Trump over the last month. He says a lot of things that have to be later amended. I think this is the way he is and I for one do not want him to be our nation’s leader. I do not think what I pointed out is bashing Trump. Bashing him would be saying he is an idiot. He’s clearly not an idiot. He just is not a man who considers all he needs to before opening his mouth.
But my point is NOT to point out concern about one candidate. Each gets equal treatment. If I see something that is inconsistent with helping the people of this nation, it needs to be considered.
Some people choose their Presidential candidate based on one issue and one issue alone. Women who claim they are Pro-Life thereby support candidates that are anti abortion without any consideration of other issues of health care, education programs, and job opportunities for the people who are not earning a living wage. Very narrowly defining what is right hides a lot of what is wrong.
Passion is great but it has to be able to expand to include all the influences to that issue. Just like I believe the problems in the food system relate to environmental concerns and thereby lend my support to movements to educate how fracking ruins our water supply, how coal mining and the toxic residue of its waste affects the land so things can no longer grow so areas like the coal counties in West Virginia need economic redevelopment, how not teaching our children methods of problem solving and how to handle responsibilities leads to increased escape into drugs….all these side issues are fueled because of my passion for healthy food.
So, my passion at this season is for education and clear thinking. Feel your passion but by all means, use your brain.