Post Memorial Day
I loved my country’s holidays. Memorial Day. Fourth of July. Bob Hope’s Troop Specials in the late 60s. I loved crying with pride and sadness over the sacrifices made by my fellow countrymen for the safety of our country’s citizens. I loved reminding friends and family to vote on Election Day. I loved the episode of The West Wing in which Crosby, Stills, and Nash sing My Country ‘Tis of Thee. I love my country. But Monday, Memorial Day 2022, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t feeling it. Not at all.
I’m ashamed of my country. And my countrymen. And, most of all, myself.
I read an article today that points out that many of those not living in America think we are nuts. Guns. Death. Abortion. And the alternative to a Trump America is? The Democrats are inept at best and I’m beginning to think possibly as corrupt as the Republicans. Either way, there is no one I am excited to vote for, just a ton of people I want to vote against. I’m ashamed. Embarrassed. Disheartened.
Our country has suffered from the loss of the middle class caused by that beloved President, Ronald Reagan, who relieved Corporate America of its responsibility for those who do the heavy lifting to earn their profits for them. So, over the next generation, those who worked hard for forty hours a week in the belief they could support families, send their kids to college, and enjoy weekend celebrations lost all the benefits that every hardworking American is entitled to. They lost insurance, they lost retirement benefits, and they lost hope. And, the corporation’s profits rose, and so then did their power in Washington. And, we are now doomed.
We know what happens to a hopeless society who has no representation. Just look at the West Bank in Israel. When you have nothing to lose, you are willing to lose it all.
So that group of Americans got lost to us. That large, very large, group of Americans lost representation. Our media, which represents only the highest paying advertisers, has stopped reporting on most of America, and the MSNBC Morning Joe type people (please spare me from Mika pretending she reads the paper each morning), focus on the politicians in Washington rather than on the people those ridiculous excuses for representatives represent. Phew. I’m exhausted.
But I’m not as exhausted as those who are now working two or three jobs and not even getting by. And the burning resentment that has been building up in these people for the last thirty-five years continues to grow, along with their anger toward others who seem to be (but aren’t) better off than them. So the poor or loser group gets everything for free and the rich can pay for whatever, and those that made our country great in the middle? Well, they get nothing. This is what causes racial hatred and hatred of immigrants, which makes them receptive to a Trump “I get you and I will fix it” message. And that is why they will follow the nut cases winning when they should be put in jail. They say what these disenfranchised people are thinking, and they makes them feel as if they can make it change, and so they follow. Like lambs to the slaughter, they will follow.
I believe that we should help elevate those fellow countrymen who are suffering. But to do that we have always built a stairway for such people to climb. It’s a harder climb than those of us have to make who were born to the manor, but it has always been climbable. And the stairs is there for those who want to climb somewhere, not those that are treading water to nowhere.
I have a cousin, an addict actually, who has used the system more times than you can count for free help, who gets jobs off Craigslist. He pays zero taxes on that money and makes $35 per hour. He is being chased by the IRS, but they just keep sending him notices that he doesn’t open. He uses a free clinic for health care and gets the same health care I pay $800 per month and a $25 co-pay to receive. Only he gets it for free. He has some real estate that his mother’s long-ago boyfriend gave him, and when he recently sold it, he used the profit he made to buy another piece of real estate in Florida that they can’t seize, (God bless Florida law) so he pays no taxes on that income either. He drives without insurance, so he drives really slowly in order to avoid getting pulled over. But if he gets into an accident, the other guy is not going to be covered by him. And yet he rails against the government and how bad it is. All the time. How they are out to screw him. Him? I once asked him whether he thought I should have to pay for all the services he refuses to pay for and gets for free from the government he seems to think is out to screw everyone, and he said that I was the jerk who was paying into the system, not him. Why didn’t I just stop paying like him? He watches Judge Judy every single day on television, which you can do if you don’t have a real job and live off the American taxpayer. And he loves how tough she is on everyone. He doesn’t even see that he is in the club they are in? And, someone should be tough on him. And he is the reason these horrible people can rise to power.
I had an uncle who watched Fox News all day long and hated – hated I tell you – Obama and anyone who vocalizes anything but his point of view. Rails against us all. He avoids all the tax paying he can; he feels he shouldn’t have to pay for anyone other than himself, and he thinks government should stop taxing him. He made tons of money in corporate management, and he spends maybe half his waking hours with this anger and rage. Watching the news. Anger rising. Nice life.
And this is from my family. I thought about taking out the cousin and uncle part, but this is no time to worry about people’s feelings. It’s a time to figure out what to do to make it right again.
I watch the movie Mississippi Burning every few years to remind myself of what is right and what is wrong with my country. There is a line in it that always sticks with me: Anderson, the guy investigating the cover up of the death of the civil rights workers, is talking about racial hatred, and he talks about how his father got very angry at a black man who was doing better than him financially, so he killed the guy’s cow to end his success. He says, “My old man was just so full of hate that he didn’t know that bein’ poor was what was killin’ him, not the black guy’s success down the road.”
I have a smart friend, a really good friend, whom I respect, who told me she was for Trump way back in 2016. I was speechless, which those of you who read my column know is not the norm. I asked her why, and she said because he is not any of the rest of them. She is over all politicians, and she believes electing Trump couldn’t have been worse than continuing with the status quo—like a Hillary Clinton. Did she mean she wanted to shake things up to the point that we would have to rebuild from the bottom up? Did she think that Trump’s kind of moral compass (which is no moral compass) is what was needed to fix a broken system? I have no idea, because we dropped the conversation and never spoke of it again. She passed away a year later and I never found out what she thought after he’d been in office for a year.
I was traveling in the Deep South during the 2016 campaign and spoke with a waitress at a diner. She was carrying three jobs as a single parent with four children.
“You think we are stupid, right?” she asked me when we were talking about her support of Donald.
“I don’t think you are stupid. I think you are ill informed.”
“We aren’t stupid, but no one else is getting us what we need. Why not try him? He says everything I was thinking and didn’t say. And, tell me how to be informed. I don’t have a smart phone or internet at home and I have three jobs and four children. Tell me how to get informed.”
I hung my head in shame having zero awareness of what her life was like until that conversation.
While I still think they are ill informed, I realized then that I was, too. I have no idea how many of my fellow Americans live, and shame on me. Shame on us all. That waitress never heard from those in America in power. She carried three jobs and barely made it. Barely.
So, when the have-nots really have not enough to enjoy a weekend with their families, then you get a Donald Trump. And, they don’t really hate anyone; they just need someone to blame their life’s losses on. And, on the other side, when the haves just want to keep it all for themselves and not share it, then you have a combination that spells our country today. Shame on us all. A pox on our house has happened.
So this Memorial Day 2022 I offer an apology. Those who fight for our freedom and have died for it have a right to expect the rest of us to take good care of it. But we’re not. I’m sorry. I will try to do better.