Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Back Pages: It's Time For Cooperation and Compromise

My Back Pages: It's Time For Cooperation and Compromise: What has happened this country? Where did the dynamic, can-do, American Spirit go? I'm talking about the United States of America that my f...

It's Time For Cooperation and Compromise

 What has happened this country? Where did the dynamic, can-do, American Spirit go? I'm talking about the United States of America that my father and my friends fathers handed over to us for safe keeping. The USA that was self-sufficient and able to grow enough to share with the rest of the world. The USA that was the greatest manufacturing force in the history of the world. Where did it all go? And who's fault is it that it has declined? Our two major political parties stand and point the fingers at each other, "It's their fault...." is the cry that you hear from both. Yet, this country thrived under our current system until the last 15 years or so. There was a thing called 'Compromise for the Greater Good'. Where did it go? When did it become 'My way or the highway?'. Well, you know folks, that is an impossible thing these days. One party may have a slight edge on the other at any given time, but things change rapidly. We cannot continue on the road that we are going down. There has to be a sea change, and the Party's have to realize it, and become a part of it. We are all Americans, regardless of political party, religious beliefs, or anything else that might distinguish us as 'Different'. All that must be put aside for the nation to survive and thrive as it once did.
 I remember an America that had a can-do attitude, where people worked in manufacturing and service and had steady, reliable work. None of us were rich in those days; at least not in my neighborhood. Hell, many of us would be considered poor today, but our fathers  all had jobs that paid enough to put food on the table. In Washington, they argued and debated the direction in which the country would to, but they got things done. Eisenhower wanted and interstate highways system? It got done. Kennedy wanted a moon program? It got done. These things added jobs to the economy all around the country. Manufacturing and construction. Now, the highways are falling apart and inadequate, the space program is all but dead. Factories have closed down and moved to places like Indonesia and China. And I am left  standing here, shell shocked, wondering where it all went.
 It's not too late to turn the tide. We must cooperate with each other and make things change for the better. We need to take back all that has been taken from us. It's time for Americans of all political persuasions to stop the bickering, shake hands, and find a solution to the problems that are plaguing us. It won't be easy, but it can be done. All it takes is a little cooperation and a lot of mutual respect. Lets get to it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Back Pages: Not My Brother's Keeper? If Not, Then Who Is?

My Back Pages: Not My Brother's Keeper? If Not, Then Who Is?: You should never talk politics or religion with friends. Let me put that right out there. I have always said this but, occasionally I do not...

Not My Brother's Keeper? If Not, Then Who Is?

        Not My Brother's Keeper? If Not, Then Who Is?

September 19, 2011

You should never talk politics or religion with friends. Let me put that right out there. I have always said this but, occasionally I do not follow my own advice and, invariably, I end up losing a friend. I am not a Democrat or a Republican, or a Tea Party lunatic, or a Communist. I am a mixture. There are certain aspects of all things that I believe in. I do believe that when a person get’s into trouble in this country, it is the moral responsibility of his friends and neighbors to help him or her out. This is not a socialist doctrine, unless you consider the Marine Corps a Socialist organization. This is the way things are done in  a civilized society. If we lose our compassion and the ability to help each other, then we lose our humanity. Animals do this for the injured or hurt in their packs. This is what I was brought up to do. This is what was taught to me when I was in the Marine Corps. This is what being a good Union member taught me during my career. Always support a union brother or sister. We not only talked this; we practiced it when one of our brothers or sisters were wrongfully suspended or terminated. Every union member gave cash each week to support those who had no income. This is what we did for each other in the Marine Corps. We supported each other. No Marine was ever broke as long as one of his comrades had cash. No Marine was left on a battlefield alone. No one was ever left behind.
  I am telling you all this because I had a friend who I recently found out would not lift a finger for another human being. Not even a friend. We were discussing the fires in Texas and how Governor Perry had cut funding to volunteer firefighters in the state. This ‘friend’ said “Who are you going to vote for then? Who? There’s no more Free Money.” I mentioned that Perry had stated that he would do away with Social Security, which he called a big Ponzi scheme, and do away with Medicare. This friend went into a lecture on how social security was not meant to be a retirement fund and why was it his responsibility to pay for people who had not planned properly. I countered with how it is not always planning, but circumstances such as injuries or illness that causes people to fall into hard times. This friend then said “Why is is my responsibility to support you if you get hurt?” I asked him why he was making this personal, and he replied that he would not help fund anyone who had not planned properly, it didn’t matter if it meant that the person would not survive. He said that he could see that I was getting upset, and that we would discuss it at our next get together.  We have not exchanged a word or an email since, and as far as I am concerned, it will stay that way. 
  I didn’t write anything, or make a big deal about it at the time. I wanted to cool off, let things settle down, and look at it again when I could be less emotional. So, I have given it a few weeks. I did some thinking.. mostly about the way that I was raised, and how I have treated people through the years, and I will tell you this: If I had a friend who was in trouble, I would do anything in my power to help them. If I had a friend who was in a financial bind, I would do what I could to try to ease his problems, even if I had no hard cash to give him or her, there would always be a place at my table for them. As long as I have a roof over my head, I would see that they had one over theirs as well.
Who will help him, if we falter?
 This is not hollow talk. I practice what I preach. I had a neighbor  who was very ill. On top of it, he lost his wife, and along with it, her pension and insurance. Suddenly, he was in danger of losing his house. I invited him to have dinner with us for as long as it took to get himself on his feet again. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to get him through the tough times. He managed to re-do the mortgage on his house and, after a few months, he thanked us and was on his own again. He’s OK now, and we are still friends and from time to time he brings us a bottle of home made wine, in appreciation for helping him. This is what friends and neighbors do for each other... they help each other through the hard times, and they celebrate the good times. What they do not do is turn their backs on each other and say “it’s not my problem.” This is where society starts to break down.
After all, if we don’t help our neighbors when they stumble, who will pick us up when we fall?
  Be good to each other, take care of each other, we are all we’ve got! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Back Pages: September 11th And The Politics Of Fear

My Back Pages: September 11th And The Politics Of Fear: So we are have reached the ten year mark since the events of September 11, 2001, and it seems to me that nothing has changed. The politici...

September 11th And The Politics Of Fear

                 September 11, and the Politics of Fear



September 10, 2011

So we are have reached the ten year mark since the events of September 11, 2001, and it seems to me that nothing has changed. The politicians and the builders are still arguing over what will go up at the old World Trade Center site. The shadowy Al Qaeda  group is still out there, somewhere, plotting to pull off another spectacular attack. The world, it seems, is at constant war with itself. One group wants to commit genocide on another. There are revolutions going on across the globe, all with one thing in common: They call for the United States and her Allies to “Help Us”. If we don’t go, they curse us. If we give them support, they complain bitterly that we are not doing enough, and the offended regimes curse us and scream about interfering in an internal affair. If we go all out and help them, then you can rest assured that when the dust settles we will be reviled and vilified  as a war like nation that fosters instability.  We cannot win, folks, and the time has come to stop being the ready reserves for the whole world. I cannot remember one day of peace in my entire 64+ years of existence. I am tired of seeing our young men sent out to fight for people who, after a couple of years, hate us and hold up the US as what is wrong with the world. We cannot afford it. We cannot afford to keep spilling American blood, or the blood of others, for that matter. We cannot afford to keep sending increasingly more and more expensive armaments overseas.. the costs are in the trillions, a figure I did not even hear growing up. It’s time to tell the UN and the rest of the world that, except for humanitarian acts, the United States no longer will be the beat cop for the rest of the world.
  While I’m on the subject of  September 11, I need to say this to anyone who will listen: I am tired of being told that I need to live my life in fear of anything and everything in this crazy world. This is not who I am, this is not what the America I grew up in is about. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center, we have had to endure news commentators, politicians and numerous and sundry ‘Experts’ going on and on about how we must be constantly vigilant, that we must scurry about like so many rats,  casting our eyes from side to side, looking out for the next group of crazies that want’s to blow us all to hell. Well, I for one, refuse to live my life in a constant state of terror. This is exactly what the crazies want to do: To instill us all with terror.. that’s why they are called TERRORISTS! We need news networks and the politicians to stop feeding into their agenda. Report the news, do your damned jobs, but stop trying to instill fear in the entire population. If you want to mark September 11th every year, thats fine, but I don’t believe (and this is just my opinion, so don’t send me hate mail) that we need a countdown from three months out, every day on the news, and follow ups for a week afterward. It has already become a highly politicized event, with the very people who gave their all to try to save people in those buildings barred from attending the ceremonies so that more politicians and family members of some that died could attend.  I have had it with their ceremony when there is no place on the dais for the firefighters, the police and the transit police, not to mention all of the emergency medical personnel, the very people who wanted to help and ran into the doomed buildings. Some of these men and women are suffering today from the effects of inhaling the smoke and ash, after being told it was safe to breathe. It really sickens me.
 So friends, be careful, always be safe, but don’t live your lives in fear. Be yourselves. Be Americans. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day, The American Worker, And The Legacy Of Unions

    Labor Day, The American Worker, and the Legacy of Unions


September 5, 2011

Today is Labor Day, 2011. It’s supposed to be a day that is dedicated to this country’s labor force, a force that brought us through wars and good times. A force that has struggled through one Depression and countless recessions. It was a once booming, vital force throughout this country, at one time making it the greatest manufacturing country in the world.
 These days, having been undercut by third world countries that pay their laborers less for a weeks wage than most of our workers make in a single hour. They work under unsafe conditions, for incredibly long hours. If they dare complain, they are fired, if they live in a ‘free’ country, imprisoned if they live in a totalitarian society. Some of them are working as slave laborers. Yet, they produce items for our country and countries throughout the world. Electronics, clothing, tires... you name it. Meanwhile, these corporations that buy from these factories continue to close factories in the USA, saying that they cannot compete if they continue to manufacture here.
  There are no labor unions to protect those workers in those countries. They don’t have OSHA to see that they are working under safe conditions. They don’t have child labor laws to protect the young from being exploited. They have nothing to protect the workers at all. And yet, you hear no words of protest from the congress loud enough to get the attention of these corporations. Republicans in the congress are glad to see the demise of big labor in the US. Corporate profits are at a record high, and will continue to go higher with every factory that is shut, every union contract that is violated, or worse not negotiated. Over the last few decades, Unions have been relentlessly painted as the cause of everything is wrong with America. The corporations, and many Pols, accuse the unions of being greedy and corrupt. They say that contracts that were negotiated in good faith are dragging corporations down. In the ‘90s, the corporations successfully lobbied for NAFTA and other free trade agreements, arguing that it would benefit not only Corporate America, but the American Worker too. This was an out and out lie, as factory after factory shut it’s doors, leaving the workers and their unions powerless to do anything about it. The day of the American Worker as a force to be reckoned with are gone. Corporations are paying their executives ridiculous amounts of cash and other compensations, but they claim that they cannot pay for the workers health insurance.  They claim that they cannot pay a living wage, yet they continue to rake in record profits. They want Labor Day taken away as a national holiday. They say that Veterans Day and Martin Luther King’s birthday are not legitimate holidays. They say Americans Workers are greedy. They say that we are lazy. It’s time for this talk to end.
  Back in 1970, when I was  released from active duty, a Marine Veteran, there were plenty of jobs to pick from. Most were good, union jobs, that paid well and offered medical benefits. This was a good time to be a veteran. Even the Republican President, Richard  Nixon, supported the unions. He formed OSHA, and the Unions, for the most part, supported him.
 Things started to go bad after the war was over, as they often do. The mood started to shift a bit against the Unions. Veterans no longer had good jobs to go to as they were discharged, and unemployment and inflation raged through the country. But the unions stood strong, for the most part, until the end of the decade. Once the jobs started to trickle overseas, things started to get hard for the American worker and the Unions. It continues to get worse with each passing year.
 To those of you who applaud the continued shrinking of Unions, I say that if it were not for unions, the conditions that you work under would not be as good as they are today. You certainly would not be making a decent wage if you are a worker, that would be reserved for company officers and very rich stockholders.
  I saw one post the other day that said “Did you ever notice that anything that goes against Unions is a win for citizens?” To you, my misinformed friend, I say “Think again”. This country is a better, more civilized place to work, thanks to unions.
  So, as you enjoy your final barbecue of the summer and your last gasp of summer fun, remember: You would not be living a life as good as it is, if not for the blood, sweat, and tears of Union Workers that fought to improve conditions and wages for it’s members, and ultimately for all workers in the country. Take a moment to remember, and thank those who fought for you.