Friday, December 25, 2009
They live near Detroit and have heard enough stories on the news and in their own schools to recognize that there are a lot of kids nearby who are a lot worse off than they are. There are kids who woke up afraid this morning, and will wake up afraid tomorrow morning, too. There are some things that just should not be.
Last night we drove around the neighborhood after dark to look at the Christmas lights. This is a neighborhood just 20 minutes from the center of Detroit where most of the residents are or were car company employees. This is a neighborhood that has been hit hard. I've talked about this place before, about the growing numbers of empty houses, red and green tags slapped on the doors--foreclosure notices dressed up in Christmas colors. The lights are out for them.
Last Christmas season was already a hard one for some but there was still hope, and, though some of the usual Festive homes had dimmed, there were still enough to keep the sky above the neighborhood glowing. This year there was no more pretending. It takes a lot of power to keep the strings of lights on, to keep those puffy santas and snowmen inflated. When times are tough, you have to weigh the luxuries. In times like these, even electricity becomes a luxury.
No reminders needed around here about how the neighborhood is struggling, but last night it hit home with a punch. We rolled past rows of dark houses, seeking out the few with doors and windows and roofs outlined with sparkling lights, the huge pine trees festooned with garlands of bright stars, the happy santas in their sleighs, signaling normality, hope, good cheer. They were like oases on a barren landscape, and they were few and far between.
We are a country in need this Christmas day. There are too many people going into the new year so much worse off than they were last year at this time. If the true spirit of Christmas is giving, it makes it easy for those of us who still have something left to give. We can give of our hearts, if nothing else. We can do what we can to bring hope to people who can't see the light in front of them. We can feed them, clothe them, house them; help them without judgment or pity but simply as one friend, one citizen to another, and be the better for it.
As the New Year arrives, we can resolve to use our strength to defeat the forces that keep our people down. We can make that promise because it's in us to recognize that the power of our country is in its people. If we let them down, we've let our country down. It's the message, the spirit of Christmas--the one we've heard before, but worth repeating:
Peace on earth, good will toward all.
And remember the children, please, for they shall lead us.
(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)
Sunday, December 13, 2009
"Most of the people I met [at the Kansas City Free Health Clinic] were working people. Eighty-three percent of the people who come to these clinics are employed. But over and over and over, I heard about unaffordable junk insurance, unaffordable premiums, obscene co-pays. During these very difficult economic times, the choice always comes down to food, clothing, and heat or insurance and health care. I also repeatedly heard people say that when they had insurance, they still got stuck with the bills, so what's the point of having insurance? Yes, we all know about that scam."
Eve "nyceve" Gittelson, Huffington Post, 12/12/09
There is something horribly wrong when a country claiming to be the Leader of Democracy in the Free World turns its back, shuts its eyes, blocks its ears, and cries "Poor" when it is faced with a shameful, outrageous truth: That there are citizens of this country--working citizens--who can't afford health care and are turned away from free health clinics held in venues as large as 120,000 sq. ft. because the volunteer staffers are overwhelmed with unbelievable numbers of people seeking medical help.
SHAME on the White House, SHAME on Congress, and SHAME on any person with the ability to do something about it who hasn't.
Read this, please. Watch Gittelson's videos. Then take an hour or so to bombard the White House, every member of Congress, the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and every other media outlet that could do something about this abominable health care debacle and hasn't.
You'll note I've left MSNBC off of this list. That's because they've done remarkable work promoting the efforts of the National Association of Free Clinics. Ed Schultz has actually gone to the clinics and if you click on the link, you'll see the kind of outrage I'm feeling right now. It's the admirable truth, but who is listening? Apparently nobody.)
Keith Olbermann has raised well over a million dollars for them, and literally got the ball rolling enough so that they could rent larger buildings and care for more patients in more cities. But no matter how large the operation, they inevitably have to turn people away. They do it with heavy hearts, with tears in their eyes.
Meanwhile the Obama administration and the Congress of the United States bog themselves down in speechifying and face-saving pissing matches. They've made closed door promises to the perpetrators of all that misery, the so-called Health Care "providers", and now have the nerve to mask their perfidy as sudden concern for our economic well-being. I've heard enough of their unctuous speeches, their phony concern, their whistling Dixie off-key.
I'm off now to give 'em hell. I hope I'm not alone.
(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here)
Thursday, December 10, 2009
[A] just peace includes not only civil and political rights — it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.
It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.
President Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize speech, Oslo, Norway, 12/10/09
As I listened to Barack Obama speak those words midway through his speech in Oslo this morning, they hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know if he planned it, or even realized it, but he was talking as much about the plight of Americans as he was of any other citizens of the world.
We are at war here, and we're losing the battle to save ourselves. The Barbarians are living among us (though not beside us, since their communities are gated fortresses), using innocuous, often American-sounding names in order to hide the fact that they are busily working from within to destroy the very fabric of our lives.
They go by many monikers -- plutocrats, Fat Cats, moguls, tycoons, Big Cheeses, Moneybags, Wheeler-dealers, Head Honchos. . .and those are just the nice terms. (Some of them used to be called "Captains of Industry" but since that ship has sailed, they don't answer to that anymore.)
You really have to hand it to them--they vanquished us with nothing more than obfuscation and clever lies--that and vaults overflowing with ill-gotten gains.
They used the tactics of every enemy worth its stripe--first the stroking ("Let us make as much as we can and we'll make sure it trickles down to you."), then the cajoling ("We're a capitalistic country. You understand about free markets, don't you?"), then the intimidating ("The government will turn us all into Socialists. Communism won't be far behind."), and finally the outright war ("If you don't let us have our way, we will destroy you--we have the Chamber of Commerce and the entire Republican Party on our side. You have only what we've allowed you to have. Chew on that for a while.")
So consequently we have the sort of country that Obama decried in his Oslo speech: Citizens without access to enough food or medicine, reports of dirty water, an educational system ranking lower than some third world countries, capable men and women rooting around for jobs that will keep their families intact.
We are those people. The people that other, richer countries are either pitying or trying to ignore. The people who had it all and gave it away. The people who can't muster up the will to fight the enemy within our own borders. The people who may ultimately lose it all.
As Obama said this morning, "An absence of hope can rot a society from within". He was the champion of hope and we bought it to such a delirious degree, we lifted him into the White House and took to the streets wildly cheering our good fortune.
Our hope, if not absent now, is at least preoccupied. We need it back if we're ever going to take care of our own business again. We need the man who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize today to come home and lead us out of this. We'll fight as hard as we can, but we can't do it without a leader. He is it, and it's time he took a good, long look at the one country whose problems he can actually do something about.
(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)