Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Things We Leave Undone While We Sweat The Small Stuff

Photo: tavisalks.com/Remaking America
In this country millions of children are going hungry.  There are as many reasons as there are hungry children, but not a single one of them is the fault of the child.

This year's count puts the homeless at nearly 600,000. Many of them are our veterans, come home from wars with wounds that won't heal.  Nearly a third of them live on the streets.  Some cities work diligently to keep them off the streets, not by sheltering them but by making their attempts to sleep outdoors more difficult.

Our public schools are barely holding together, as funding, along with creativity and our ability to see our children as our future, declines.  The future of our public learning institutions is in jeopardy, and there are some who see that as a good thing.

Men and women in their middle years are now taking jobs normally held by teens or retirees.  $20 and $30 an hour jobs are long gone for the masses.  A $15-an-hour job is now classified as a goal to reach instead of a hurdle to jump over.

People who were promised adequate retirements are finding, 30 years after the pact, that nothing was written in blood.  The money they worked for and counted on has been stolen away and they have no choice but to accept it.  As criminal as it seems, it's just the way it is when times are bad and we all (well, almost all)  have to tighten our belts.

Our need to keep health care obscenely profitable is responsible for shortening lives and causing needless pain.  We seem not to be able to make the connection when ad campaigns by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and hospital chains bombard our airwaves.  Someone is paying for those ads.  We try not to think about who that might be.

Our roads and bridges and buildings are crumbling and we're supposed to believe there is no money to fix them.  We wait for the inevitable disaster that will open the vault to the funds hiding there all along.  Large numbers of people will have to die as a sacrifice before more can live.

Private interests are carpet-bombing the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We say we don't know how to stop them, apparently not even noticing that we've made a habit of nurturing and promoting politicians who make no secret of their allegiance to them.

But I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know.

So why aren't we talking about these things all day every day until something gets done about them? Why aren't we seeing periodic updates on these insults to the human spirit on the news?

A hungry child wonders where she'll be sleeping tonight.

A good person working hard to build a safe future suddenly finds herself jobless with no comparable employment in sight.

A man nearing retirement age finds that the equity in his house is worth a third of what it was 10 years ago, and his retirement package is worth even less.

A person gets sick.  The illness becomes chronic.  Work is out of the question, but the costs to stay stable have risen and are now beyond reach.  Next step: bankruptcy.

Tent cities are springing up, then being torn down.

And so on.

These stories get published and most of us react the way the writer intended, but the big news takes over and the stories, sad as they are, get lost.

Big news like (you knew this was coming) sports world scandals, Sarah Palin doing anything, God's personal messages to certain GOP leaders, the hurtful words one public person used against someone else, and the interminable, advertiser-driven, celebrity happenings.

When was the last time the news media was so captivated by a story about any of the abuses I've listed, they made it "Breaking News" and stayed on it for days on end, without regard for regular programming?

When was the last time the public went on a rampage against those abuses, protesting in numbers so powerful they couldn't be ignored until change finally came?

Never.  It has never happened.  Which is why we're still where we are, and the perpetrators are still where they are--growing stronger in a place where they need not be afraid.

There are powerful factions out there working to build our country to their liking.  They welcome the distractions, and often manufacture them in order to divert our attention away from their efforts to take us down.  After decades of practice, the demagogues have fear-mongering down to an art form.  It's no accident, for example, that Ted Cruz looks, acts and sounds like Sen. Joseph McCarthy.  Or that Rand Paul confuses libertarianism with liberty.  Or that a vengeful, gun-toting God has suddenly become the Right's co-pilot.

They understand the media better than we do.  They know that religion, bigotry, and misogyny push the right buttons and keep the noise going.  They know enough of us are easily distracted and will believe anything but the truth.  Those people are their ace in the hole.  They couldn't win without them.

Our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to bring the dialogue back to the bigger issues and keep them front and center.  Our story is the story of the masses.   We owe it to ourselves to get it right.

(Cross-posted at dagblog, Daily Kos, and Freak Out Nation.  Featured on Crooks & Liars MBRU)


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. All the mainstream media does is keep people diverted with Grade B Fertilizer -- no it isn't EVEN Grade A these days.

    Mind you they bring the "pain" when it is any OTHER nation or group doing it --and like stabs in the eye those stories are; but the lies, the lies here at home.

  2. I wish I knew how to build the legions I know it will take to fight against this cruel oligarchy. It's going to take huge numbers, as I said, but I lose confidence when I think of last November's election. A different outcome would have changed everything.

  3. Wow. That was as powerful as Howard Beale, but much more eloquent.

    It also reminded me of something that Richard Wolff was talking about regarding foreclosures. We have a system that throws millions of people out of their homes and lefts those homes sit empty while people are homeless. And we do this in the name of, "Efficiency!"

    Great article!

  4. We're a crazy bunch, Frank. Someday we'll come to our senses. I hope I'm still alive when it happens but somehow I doubt it. Some cities are beginning to build housing for the homeless and I'm hoping it'll shame the rest of them into recognizing that the word "homeless" means "without homes" and do something about it.

    And by the way, thanks for catching that typo! I hate when that happens but I love when THAT happens.

  5. Yeah, I read about a program in Utah of all places. It's very encouraging. I'm reminded of something that Matt Yglesias used to write all the time, "If you want to help poor people, give them money." Primarily, I think it is pushing back against all this neoliberal policy. But certainly, there is an obvious answer to homelessness, as long as people can remember, as you said, that it just means people without homes. This really isn't rocket science.

  6. What bugs me are all the intellectual tricks that are pushed on us to justify this. You know: if we care for the poor, then the economy will be terrible. Bread lines! Communism! I don't know how long they will use Stalin as an excuse to cut food stamps.

  7. Yeah, I've finally had enough of that. Cutting through the crap from now on.

  8. We ought to be ashamed that even one person has to spend the night on the streets. We have the resources and we have the empty buildings.

    Many, many homeless people have mental problems and should either be institutionalized or helped on an out-patient basis. Again, we have the resources and the buildings. But we're painted ourselves into such a corner by building this notion that big government is bad for us, now we have to figure out a way to turn that around.

    As I keep saying, we're a crazy bunch.

  9. We have met the enemy and he is us. Look around you. Do you see anyone reading anything of import? Everyone is consumed by the salacious and the trivial. We are watching our planet self-destruct and we buy bigger SUVs. I'm sorry but I do not think humanity is worth saving. Most human beings are greedy, self-absorbed, venal, religious (yes, a bad thing) and absolutely indifferent to anything that doesn't provide instant gratification. The race is fatally flawed and the sooner Earth is rid of it the better

  10. Sorry, I'm not so ready to give up. I have grandchildren who deserve better than this and as long as I'm alive I'll be fighting for it--for them and for generations to come.

    I'm not ready to write off the whole human race. We're still capable of doing good things, and I don't believe for a minute that the greedy and/or immoral outnumber the rest of us. It'll take some effort but we will get it done. It could be that our own self-absorbance might do it: We think too highly of ourselves to just let ourselves die off.

    We'll wake up. It might not be in my lifetime, but we WILL wake up. The oligarchs and war-mongers will not win.

  11. I think it is important to keep issues separate here. The only reason there is money is because there is commerce. If you think commerce is bad, go visit a third world country where corruption makes business impossible and see the results. We as individuals have the responsibility to take care of others, and of course there are enough resources in this country to feed and shelter those in need. As you said, time to demand it of our government and ourselves.

  12. The idea of commerce isn't bad, it's the people who get off on making such huge profits from it they forget they're dealing with human beings along the way. Commerce couldn't function without workers and it's time we shove that fact down their greedy throats.

    We have to quit pretending the corporate world will regulate itself and will eventually do the right thing. They've proven beyond any question of a doubt that they'll eat us alive if given the chance. Now it'll take big government to get them under control, so the first thing we peons have to do is rid the country of the corporate-fueled notion that we don't need no big government. If they can keep getting us to buy that crazy idea they'll keep on keeping on.


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