Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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How Americans Treat Each Other

Today, let's take a look at some news articles and think about how we treat each other in America today.

It is accepted to pick on someone who is not like you. Pretty much any difference will suffice, but race and socioeconomic class are really popular ones. The problem with this is that, in a diverse country like America, it means you feel surrounded by enemies. Nobody feels comfortable that way, so it makes people aggressive. That raises the chance of somebody getting hurt. It also undermines our ability to use our diversity as an asset to solve problems creatively. So hatemongering is generally a bad idea.

There's No Denying Obama's Race Plays a Role in Protests
Tony Pugh, McClatchy Newspapers: "The collapse of the housing market, the government bailout of Wall Street, record job losses, long-term unemployment, trillion-dollar deficits, shrinking retirement funds, growing government intervention, foreign economic competition and America's changing demographic landscape left many Americans angry at the direction of the country, confused about the source of their problems and fearful about the future."

It's accepted to treat human beings as replacable cogs in the corporate machine. Companies are not expected to have loyalty or responsibility to employees. But somehow, individuals are expected to pay all their bills, buy food, buy their own health care and insurance, pay for a place to live -- whether or not there are jobs where they can earn enough to meet all those expenses. Somehow it is always the individual's fault if they are poor, not the fault of the company that fires them so as to hire someone else at half the price, not the fault of the company that drops health coverage or diddles the hours so nobody qualifies, or whatever other idea they come up with next. The problem with this is that people aren't gears; people have feelings and needs. When people are abused, they become hurt and angry. That either turns inward, crushing them down towards failure and illness and death; or it lashes outward in violence. That violence rarely strikes the real target, but instead impacts family members or innocent bystanders. And when millions of people are routinely abused, and this is considered a laudable way of doing business, the country fills up with hurt angry people who hate their lives, hate each other, and generally feel like the world is a horrid place. They may not have the energy or the will to fix it anymore. So then when a disaster strikes that we didn't actually create ourselves, people are less able and willing to respond and help others, because nobody helped them and they can't spare the energy and they feel like people aren't worth saving anyhow. That's not a very good way for a country to survive, let alone thrive.

Connie Schultz | Outsourcing Hotel Housekeepers Creates a Real Mess
Connie Schultz, Truthout: "Recently, housekeepers at three Hyatt hotels in Boston thought they were training new workers for vacationing staff. Unfortunately, the housekeepers didn't know they were taking a high road thick with weeds."

It's accepted to break people on the job, then discard them and replace them with someone else. A person whose health is destroyed by their work may or may not have any recourse, and often winds up with neither job nor health care because they are unable to work and therefore considered worthless. The problem with this is that not only is it morally degrading for everyone, it is also impractical -- when jobs frequently damage people's health because considerations are not made for safe working conditions, then the workforce as a whole gets less and less healthy. The sparse availability of health care compounds this problem. So then there are hordes of people who can't work very well, or can't work at all, which makes it ever harder to get things done.

"We Made Them Millions, and They Complain About Insurance"
Lupe Chavez, a housekeeper at the San Francisco Hilton, tells her story to David Bacon: "My hands tingle and ache, and my fingers go numb. Sometimes, my arms start to hurt during the night and I can't sleep. The pain starts about 3 AM and I can't stand it. The doctor said I have carpal tunnel syndrome and gave me two braces, one for each hand. My hands now feel better, but I still use them during the day. I take a Motrin pill before leaving for work in the morning and another one in the afternoon and before going to bed. I don't want to be dependent on them, but it's hard. My doctor told me many housekeepers have the same problem. It's very difficult to work in pain. It's something I cannot get used to. I have to continue working because I need the insurance."

It's accepted for rich, powerful people to use their money and influence to evade the consequences of their actions. They may not always be above the law, but often they are. It's a probability thing -- they are less likely to be caught, less likely to be charged, less likely to be convicted. They do terrible things with impunity. The problem with this is that it diminishes people's respect for the law -- if they're privileged, they think it doesn't apply to them; and if they're unprivileged, they know it's stacked against them. And everybody knows that none of that is really justice. Well, a nation short on justice runs into a lot of stumbling blocks whatever it tries to do.

Why Haven't Any Wall Street Tycoons Been Sent to the Slammer?
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: "More than a year into the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression, millions of Americans have seen their home values and retirement savings plunge and their jobs evaporate. What they haven't seen are any Wall Street tycoons forced to swap their multi-million dollar jobs and custom-made suits for dishwashing and prison stripes. There are plenty of civil and class-action lawsuits from aggrieved investors angered by the losses in their mortgage bonds, hedge funds or pensions. Regulators have stepped up their vigilance after the fact. But to date, no captain of finance tied to the crisis has walked the plank."

I don't think any of that is a good idea. That's not the kind of country I want to live in. If we don't take care of each other, and respect each other, then we create a very nasty environment for ourselves. I don't want people to call each other names and talk like killing people is a good solution for disagreements. I've stayed in many hotel rooms; I want a room to be clean and tidy, but I don't want somebody to destroy their body to make it that way. I don't want to stay in a place where my money will go to some corporation that abuses its employees. I don't want a legal system where rich, powerful people get away with atrocities and poor, powerless people get jailed for annoying someone rich and powerful. This kind of nonsense makes other countries lose respect for America, and with good reason. These are horrid ways to behave, and we should not be doing them.
Tags: news, politics

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