Thursday, September 20, 2012

Keeping Down with the Joneses was Never Going to Work Anyway

Months before the Republican and Democratic Conventions in the summer of 2012, when politicians fell all over each other trying to out-Poor-Me-Before-the-Bootstrap-Thing, Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate, had already had enough of pretending he was one of the little people.  (Did you notice it was Ann Romney and not Mitt who told the tale about having to live in a ceement basement when they were in college, poor as church-mice except for those stocks they could cash in whenever they ran out of Ramen Noodles?)

In the merry month of May, Mitt went for the gold at a $50,000-a-plate dinner, raising a haughty middle finger to the riff-raff, the losers, the leeches--the only Americans so useless they would actually vote for  Barack Obama.

He laid it all out there, and--you have to give it to him--he seemed pretty comfortable up there.  He hardly stuttered at all :
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
Ouch!  You talking 'bout me? (Water off my back, pal, water off my back.)  But did you see how the Republicans took it?  Man, you would think they didn't actually believe any of it themselves.  The thing is, you never, ever say such things out loud! (Rove Playbook, page 3, paragraph 1, or thereabouts)

You almost have to feel sorry for Mitt.  He was born rich and got even richer, which should be the American Dream, shouldn't it?  So why is everybody making fun of his richness?  Haven't we had rich presidents before?

Well, yes we have.  Almost every president came from backgrounds most of us couldn't even begin to hope for.  At least two of them, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, were so whopping wealthy it was almost other-worldly.  The thing is (Mitt, I'm talking to you), it didn't matter.  Once they became public servants (Yes, Mitt, I said public servants) they took their obligations seriously.

FDR and JFK didn't exploit their wealth; neither did they hide it.  They came from families whose wealth was unimaginable to the rest of us, but it didn't matter because they were both presidents who didn't talk down to the middle-class and the poor, who didn't propose cutting social programs in times of need, who didn't cater to the rich simply because the rich expected it from them.

Picture this:  FDR with a pince nez and a mile-long cigarette holder--not often seen in most neighborhoods. His speech patterns were decidedly (and sometimes hilariously) patrician.  He was elected in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, by voters who often didn't know where their next meal was coming from.  It should have been a squeaker of an election, considering how he must have looked to the masses, but he won in a landslide.  It wasn't how he spoke but what he said.  He built up their hopes without ever talking down to them.  They trusted him.  He understood that the depression they were suffering through wasn't their fault, and when he talked about "victims", it wasn't to blame them but to assure them that he was there to do something about it.

The Kennedys played football on lawns the size of small states at the family compound.  They sailed the blue waters off Hyannis Port in yachts fit for potentates. Jackie wore gorgeous clothes designed by Adrian and was often seen at Paris runways rooting for high fashion couturiers.  And American manufacturing output was the envy of the world, the majority of the country counted themselves as middle class, health costs were reasonable, and children were being educated without fear of failure or budget cuts.  We woke up to the need for civil rights, we established the Peace Corps, and we took giant steps toward space travel.

FDR and JFK didn't exactly become one of us, and they didn't even try, but we all knew they were our champions. That's the difference.
Mitt?  You listening?  That's the difference.

Kevin Siers - Charlotte Observer

Monday, September 17, 2012

On Waking Up to Seventy Five

So yes, it has happened:  I am 75 years old today.  Don't worry, I feel fine.  I'm still the same person, but one now saddled with the realization that I have lived three quarters of a century.  My God. How does a thing like that happen?

I'm planning a big day in which I'll be pondering some burning questions:  How the hell could three quarters of a century have sailed by so fast?  If I had been paying attention, could I have done something to slow it down?  And any chance I'm only half way to the end?

But it's not just my big day, it's a big day for you, too.  You probably don't often get a chance to sit by the side of a septuagenarian, gleaning words of wisdom.  I've always wanted to do this and now I think I've earned the right.

So here they are.

Ramona's Words of Wisdom.

Five things I've learned along the way:

1. I don't know everything and it's beginning to look like I never will.

2. 75 feels just like 74, only older.

3. Laugh lines look no better than frown lines, but you have a lot more fun getting them. (I may have stolen that one, but it was probably from some old broad, so who cares?)

4. Life is good when life is good but it really sucks when it's not.

5. . . . . . . . (Apparently there were only four.)

So off I go, trying to get used to the idea that, as long as I keep breathing in and out and can still hop on one foot, this three-quarter-century thing might be okay.  (But if something happens to change that I'm going to be pissed.)

Me at 12, Highland Park, MI - Not a thought in the world about ever being 75

Me yesterday -- Trying to remember what it felt like to be that girl

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stop the Madness! Sign this Petition!!

Hello, fellow outraged citizen.  Are you as outraged as I am we are?  Have you had enough?  Are you one of those astute, sentient, breathing persons who has noticed that things are all topsey-turvey and upside down and going over a cliff and getting really bad? 

They would like you to think that they've won and there is no hope and you're just a little pea in a pumpkin patch, but you're not!  NO, YOU'RE NOT!! You can do something about it!!  Yes, you!

You can join us in signing this petition to let everybody know you've we've had enough!!  This kind of thing can't go on!!!  Together we can make this happen!!!!  We can slap the snot out of those monsters!!! Maybe not literally, but by tapping the keyboard really hard RIGHT NOW, we can get ourselves all het up and--who knows?--maybe even virtually yell loud enough to get through to those crazy characters, who will (don't you just know it!) pretend they can't hear us and will virtually yell back, "I can't hear you!"

After you've typed your name and have checked to make sure it has magically appeared on a line provided for just that purpose, you'll be directed to another page where you can cement your outrage for all time by putting your money where your mouth is.

Here, even though you don't know us from a hill of beans, you will give us your real name, your real address, your real phone number, your real credit card number, the amount you would like to donate to our cause (don't be chintzy now, we know who you are), and proof of citizenship (See Below).

(Below) Proof of citizenship requires these three things:  An apple pie recipe (no strudel!), a notarized letter from your particular Man of God stating he/she has seen you in a place of worship at least 52 times in the past year, and John Wayne's real name, place of birth, and secret location of body mole.

***Sign here if you agree that things can't go on this way and firmly believe in your heart of hearts that you can actually change those things that can't go on by signing your name to an internet petition and giving us money so we can serve you even better by creating more petitions.  (Be assured that we will save your name, address, phone number and credit card information for future petitions, saving you all kinds of time when you come back.  You're welcome.)

X___________________________________________________  (Your honest and true signature, right?)

Reader, please note:  I've signed many petitions I truly believe are worthwhile, and I'll keep doing it.  Some really do get results.  But dozens of them appear in my mailbox nearly every day and too many of them are not what I would call "urgent" (or even necessary).  Many of them are obviously out there to do a little fund-raising, and, again, more power to them.  But sometimes enough is enough. 

And come on, that poster is funny--right?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Connie Schultz on What it Means for Women to Vote

Connie Schultz is one of my favorite writers and it pains me that so few women know who she is or have read her masterful, often poignant columns.

In 2004, in her Cleveland Plain Dealer column, she wrote a piece for women called,"And You Think It's a Pain to Vote".  It went viral, but Connie didn't always get the credit for it.  It traveled far and wide via emails and blogs and comments, credited to "Anonymous", if at all. 

Connie herself often got her own piece in emails from other women who found it compelling enough to send along but who had no idea that the person they were sending it to was also the person who wrote it.

The article was reprinted in 2007, in her book, "Life Happens: And other Unavoidable Truths".

In September, 2008, she put it out there again, prefacing it, not with a lament that it hadn't always been attributed to her, but with a call for bloggers to spread it far and wide.

Yesterday, she repeated it on her Facebook page and now I'm repeating it here.  With attribution:

 And You Think It's a Pain to Vote
By Connie Schultz

The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. 

Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 helpless women convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic." 

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. 

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, twisting and kicking the women. 

Thus unfolded the "Night of Terror" on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. 

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop -- was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press. 

So, refresh my memory.

Some women won't vote this year because, why exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining? 

HBO's "Iron Jawed Angels" is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could have my say at the polling booth. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

There was a time when I knew these women well. I met them in college -- not in my required American history courses, which barely mentioned them, but in women's history class. 

That's where I found the irrepressibly brave Alice Paul. Her large, brooding eyes seemed fixed on my own as she stared out from the page. 

Remember, she silently beckoned. Remember. 

The HBO movie is now available on DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. 

I want it shown on Bunko night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and a little shock therapy is in order. It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. 

And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy. 

The doctor admonished the men: "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."


My own mother was one of those women who believed her one little vote wouldn't count, so why bother?  My mother was a woman who believed with her whole heart and soul that women should be equal to men, that women should have all the workplace rights as men, that women should go for the gold if that's what they chose to do, that women's reproductive rights were nobody's business but their own--but she could not be budged from her notion that one vote didn't matter.  I wonder if this would have convinced her?  Nobody talked much about the suffragist movement back then, and we weren't faced with a concerted effort--as we are now--to take us back to those days, so I would like to believe she would feel differently about her vote today.

I would like to believe that all women would recognize what's happening today and get out there and make their voices heard, in their communities, in the media, in the halls of government, and in the voting booth.

(In case you didn't know, Connie Schultz is married to Sherrod Brown, Democratic senator from Ohio.  I love them both for their large hearts.  I'm glad they found each other.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Problem with Unions? They're not Corporations

WARNING: It's Labor Day and I'm feeling the love for labor, so what follows will be totally biased and in no way fair or balanced.  (If you've been wondering what fair and balanced really means, go ask your two-year-old.  It'll make as much sense as any other definition you've ever heard, but it'll sound so much better coming from the mouths of babes.)

Way back in 2010 when the Supreme Court said yes, indeedy, corporations are people, too, it started a whole new revolution in this country.  If corporations are people then a government of the people, by the people, and for the people takes on a whole new meaning.

It turns everything we thought about our government, our constitution, and our rights as citizens upside down.  It's as if that one edict from the highest court in the land didn't just water down the rights of actual human individuals, it gave permission to get really creative with applications of that wacky whopper.

If the most important court in the land could have the last word on the cockamamie notion that corporations could be seen as people, rumor has it that the Republicans, through their surrogates the Koch Brothers, the U.S Chamber of Commerce, FreedomWorks, the Tea Party, and--why not?--the Religious Right, are thinking, Okay! Let's turn that around and push the equally nutty notion that unions aren't people. See how that plays.

 And as we've seen, it plays the way it has always played.  There is a move out there to blame unions for everything Big Business did to the workers in this country. Depressions are notorious for throwing huge segments of a country's population out of work (so too, outsourcing) but somehow, in this depression, the unions--those organizations in business to represent workers--are blamed for everything from mass unemployment to higher health costs to gas rising over $4 a gallon.  They've painted union members as an uppity class with the nerve to think $8.50 an hour is demeaning.  They ought to be happy they even have jobs....

It's the 1800s to the 1980s all over again. (In 1835, mill kids from 8 to 18 in Paterson, NJ  went on strike for a shortening of their work day from 13 hours to 11, six days a week. They made anywhere from 45 cents to $2 a week, depending on their ages. (They ended up getting 11 1/2 hours, with a cut in pay.)  The papers of the day blamed everyone but the factory owners, from the greedy parents of the little workers, to outside agitators looking for trouble, to the kids themselves, who were "well taken care of and happy" and had nothing to complain about.  Sound familiar?)

Girl working in textile mill

For every successful strike (See Bread and Roses), there were hundreds that sucked the blood out of the workers, their families and their communities, with nothing gained in the end.  We've been there, we've done that; the struggle for recognition was necessary, it was painful, it was over.  And now it's back.

(See US labor history timeline here.  It's not complete (they missed the 1913 Upper Peninsula copper mine strike, for example) but if you can skim it and still manage to miss how unions have changed the lives of workers for the better, there's probably a re-run of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" somewhere on TV.  Go for it.)

The most effective way to vanquish an enemy is to render them less than human.  If the powermongers can convince the armies of the night that the people they're destroying are at the bottom of the humanity pit they're on their way to winning the battle.

1913 Copper Mine Strike, Calumet, Michigan.  The One Man Machine was a mine drill dubbed "The Widowmaker".

 It used to be the factory rats who got the brunt of it (they, the lazy drunken union-protected potheads), but since our factories have virtually disappeared, the union-busters had to go elsewhere.  No surprise, they went to the last bastion of organized labor, the public service sector.  (An effort already started in 1981, when Ronald Reagan fired nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers belonging to the union known as Patco for striking illegally.)
What's unprecedented today is the realization that an entire political party has joined the battle against unions.

What's baffling is the wrath against teachers and the neglect of the needs of cops and firefighters.

What's frightening is the near-death of collective bargaining, the only working class safety net.

What's needed again is the passion of our predecessors for enforcing the wants, needs and rights of the laborers in this country  Without that passion the power-mongers win.  We've fought too hard and given up too much to watch the gains we've made just dry up and blow away, disappearing into the air as if they never happened.

If corporations are people, the workers are not the parasites, but the heart, sinew and bones. If our government is the people, ditto: Heart, sinew, bones.  Never let them forget that.


Had to share this. I'll bet there's not a Republican today who'll own this.  Talk about shameful!