Sunday, August 30, 2009

Protecting Our Stuff

Did you hear that the "Today Show" has hired Jenna Bush? What a pitiful, miserable, gilt-laden, zirconium studded, steaming pile of crap. Glenn Greenwald has a great, great piece about it on Salon. Read it.

Why are American conservatives so vicious? Were they all born into the kind of red-dirt poverty that made them determined never to be tainted with the scent of poor people ever again in this lifetime? Are they all closet bubbas, are all conservatives to poverty what a closet queer is to homosexuality--so ingrained with it, so permeated by it, so deathly afraid of it, so hideously ignorantly persuaded of its moral depravity that they will do anything, anything to distance themselves from it, including deny the very fundamental values of common decency and civilization?

I have in mind their psychotic displays of outrage over the mere suggestion that we are our brothers' [and sisters'] keepers. (Um, that's from the Bible, you know. Gen 4:9.)

All this reminds me of a dream I had many years ago. Both my grandfathers were ministers, so when I tell you that I dreamed that my mother's mother was a Socialist, and this was in the 1960s, maybe you'll understand how unlikely a dream it was. Only, in my dream, my grandmother came to me and said that the ideals of Socialism are much closer to the ideals espoused by Jesus (and the ancient oral tradition represented in Genesis) than the ideals espoused in capitalism. No kidding. Gee. Go figure. Put THAT in the face of the next GOP thumper son-of-a-bitch you run into.

(I have some distance to go to before I learn to love my enemies.)

Speaking of a good take on all this, here's a short essay by my buddy, Pamela Penman, reprinted here with permission.

We're Only Borrowing
Monday, August 17, 2009 at 12:59pm

You know the old adage, "you can't take it with you?"

Why do we read this once in awhile, agree heartily, yet fall back into the same routine--making money and stuff the center of our world?

My 3 year old asked me why I had to go to work yesterday.

"Do you like sleeping inside?" I asked her.

"Yes..." she tenatively replied.

"Mommy goes to work to get the money to pay for the house, and to buy the food that we need to eat." That was a bit too much for her, but it satisfied her for the moment.

I didn't tell her that I also work so that we can travel, so that I can give her the experiences which will be so central to the big kid and adult I want her to become, so that she can have not only shoes on her feet--but the really good kind which will support her growth. I didn't tell her that I have a Louis Vuitton fettish, or that I like to eat meat at every meal, or that I like to be surrounded by comfort and beauty.

Stuff. There's a certain contentment to having it.

Not that I've got a lot of it. But I like to be able to get it.

Every now and then something happens, though, which causes me to ask my self--why the hell do I do it? Why do I work my backside off? I watched the death of Edward Kennedy, I feel the seasons changing even today--another summer lost to the digital photographs which I took in vain to attempt to stop time. The ache in my throat and the sting in my eyes as I hold my daughter on my lap--her body stretched out now nearly to my feet, yet her hand still wrapped around my fingers. I reevaluate the cost of working and missing every single moment and breath that she takes.

Why do you work? For some of us, it's a question of just surviving, for others it's about status and feeling good about ourselves, and for others it's about more stuff--better cars, being more financially secure, better neighborhoods, better schools. But are we ever really more financially secure? Do we ever get "there?"

The answer might have been less obvious 10 years ago, but now we know, that no, we are never financially secure. That is because our spending tends to run parallel with our income and because tomorrow, God forbid, something could happen that could wipe all of that security away. Forever. Far fetched? Look around. Homes are foreclosing, folks are losing their jobs, savings accounts have been cut in half or more.

Everytime I go through this exercise, this soul searching, this regret over how fast time passes, I find myself coming to the same conclusion. I have to work, there is no choice, and I must love every day I have with my daughter. But I am ever so grateful that I have never felt the need to work for more "stuff."

The truth is, the stuff we have is borrowed; it doesn't really belong to us. It's on temporary loan. We can't take it with us.

So why do we get so protective of our stuff? Why does the very notion of helping others who have less than us enrage us to the point where we want to see proof that those who have less have worked just as hard as we have before we bend down to offer them a kind word or a bite to eat? Why must we insist on making sure that we're not being tricked by someone who might just be looking for a free ride?

I ask these questions in the heat of the current debate on healthcare, and the innuendos about socialism and the end of the American Dream.

And then I'll ask one more question--what is the American Dream?

Is it the ability to take advantage of those less fortunate on whose backs we build our wealth? Is it the false notion that "if you just work hard enough, you too can build your own wealth?" Is it the notion of once you get there, you don't look back and don't help others less fortunate than you because you mistakenly believe that the only reason they're down there and you're up here has all to do with you and your work ethic?

Isn't the American Dream the idea that given the proper tools, we can live independently? So how can those who don't have the tools (sound mind, education, inner drive to succeed instilled by parents or caregivers who valued this) even possibly aspire to the American Dream?

And if everyone cannot live the American Dream, perhaps we should rename this concept. Maybe we should call it, "the American Dream for Those Lucky Enough to Have been Born into the Right Circumstances."

Protecting our stuff is the single most critical reason for the mess we're in today.
Pamela Penman

It's very much worth a thought.


Anonymous said...

Great job!!!