Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Too Big To Function

Bank of America Tower
Bank of America Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How did we get so big? When I was a kid there were local shops where I bought school clothes. Even the larger department stores were not in every city. You could tell an area by the uniqueness of its small businesses. Not every town or city looked the same, like it does now.

My mom knew the president at the bank. The company that delivered milk and eggs to our house was a local company. These days if you travel the country, you can see Wal-Mart everywhere. Bank of America is everywhere. McDonald’s and Starbucks are everywhere. Nothing distinguishes one place from another anymore. The local flavor of small business and small community has been stripped of individuality. What happened to the rules and regulation about monopoly? What happened to the rules and regulation about banks? Everything has become so big, and we blindly or impotently accept that too big means don’t fu*k with it, or something bad will happen.

Something bad has already happened and it is breaking the collective American heart. What has happened is that the greed of power and money has seeped into Washington like an innocuous gas and put our leaders (who used to be public servants, but aren’t anymore) to sleep. . . Asleep to the corporate-ization of America. We are a corporate-ocracy. We are no longer a democracy. The bi-partisan stand-off in Washington, where nothing gets done anymore, is the result of corporate money that speaks louder and stronger than the voice of the people. Look at what has just happened with Monsanto.  They were granted all kinds of leeway in spite of a huge outcry from the public.  The results could be harmful to our health and our land, but Monsanto’s profits became center stage for “importance.”  Too big” means “Big Bully.”

I read a lot of blogs, newspapers, and books and the prevailing theme of our current “too big to fail and too big to jail,” system is creating a terrible despair among the citizens of our country. It is a despair that is resigning and resolving itself to be voiceless and powerless, infecting the heart and soul of our citizenry.

We have become so “business/profit” oriented that we are forgetting that great nations take care of their own and work through and with government and leadership to make a country that works for everyone. There is a lot of rhetoric from big business these days about how government is bad, and while I agree that government can always improve, it is not really a bad thing—it is the thing that unites us a people and directs us to living a good life—it can be a protector and advocate for its people, but it has stopped being that. Now there is a war against the poor—those lazy losers; a disdain for the elderly and the sick—they should have made millions so that they could care for themselves, and a sickening attitude of intolerance when it comes to women’s reproductive health care and gay marriage. In other words, lets unravel the bad, bad government, but let’s make sure that we regulate people’s bodies and bedrooms. It all feels like Alice on acid, stuck in a rabbit hole from which there is no return.

The problem, so clearly defined, raises then the question of the hour: what can one ordinary citizen do? How can I as an individual who loves my country make a change in this horrid “too big” corporate-ocracy that is trying to pass itself off as America? How do we find our way again, shake off the despair and compel our leaders to lead? It’s a hard challenge. I cannot afford to make $10,000.00 donations to various members of congress, so why should anyone care what I think? Are we resigning ourselves to a truth that without money to control Washington, we ordinary citizens are powerless? Is there one thing that each one of us can do to turn this ship around, or is it too late?

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

A Seat At The Table

iStock_000010215203XSmallOur country is upside down and inside out!  Juxtapose the strong opposition to social welfare with rampant corporate welfare for starters.  The government gives billions in agricultural subsidies to huge corporations like Monsanto, but cuts food stamp programs that effect children.  There are 50 million “food insecure” people in our country—people who do not know where their next meal is coming from–and that is shameful.

I saw a film this weekend that was a real eye-opener—“A Place At the Table” is a documentary that sheds a light on hunger in America, its close link to obesity and why poverty is the underlying issue that needs addressing.  It’s in the theaters and you can also rent it on Amazon.com

While faith communities have done a good job of feeding the poor, charity is not what will end hunger.  Fair pay for a day’s work will feed the soul of a man as well as his belly. While the job deficit grows, so does the food deficit in many households across America, yet the safety net for helping and healing both is woefully inadequate.

What we are willing to subsidize in terms of feeding the poor is a mere $3.00 per day in Federal Assistance. Congress yells and screams, “How are we going to pay for more? These people just want a free hand out,”  all the while doling out corporate welfare to huge agricultural conglomerates and oil.  The myth, perpetuated by some of our leaders, is that somehow poverty is a choice.  I would really like to see where Paul Ryan wound up had he been born into the inner city of Philadelphia as opposed to his privileged home. Moreover, I don’t believe that any innocent child chooses to go to bed hungry. Most people who are hungry are experiencing embarrassment and not glee in applying for Federal Assistance like food stamps. We can bail out the banks, cut taxes and award money to big corporations but we cannot fund a decent program that keeps children from starving in this wealthy nation of ours?  There is something criminal about that.

“A Seat At the Table” both angered and inspired me.  It angered me because I see that so many of our problems, including this one, are easily fixable if we would just get the big money out of politics and force our leaders to be the public servants that they were intended to be instead of whores who jump into bed with whatever corporation is holding out the biggest check for their re-election.  Imagine a Washington where the leaders were responsible to the American people, addressed the problems of those people and not the almighty American corporation. Imagine a pool of political candidates reliant upon their wits and wisdom instead of the lobby whose money will get them elected or re-elected.

“A Seat At the Table” inspired me as I began to wonder what I as one person might do to alleviate the hunger of children.  I know that I can make donations to my local food bank, but I think that there may be other ways for me to advocate that food is a “right” for all people. You can live without a lot of things in life, but you cannot live without food.  No mother should ever have to send her child to bed hungry at night!

There are two tiers of food consumption in this country:  people who have the least are relegated to a steady diet of packaged, processed, junk food because it is the cheapest.  Calories are cheap and nutritious foods cost, thus the link between hunger and obesity.  There is not a “choice” to eat healthy when you are eating on $3.00 a day. The second tier is made up of those who have so much of a choice that they are the largest consumers of diet books, trying to put all that abundance into some sort of perspective.

I have never had to deal with not being able to concentrate or focus because I was hungry, the way that fifth-grader Rosie did in “A Seat At the Table.”  I don’t worry about food lasting throughout the week because I am able to shop for more if I need to.  Any challenge of my life that seemed harsh or insurmountable up until now seems greatly diminished in its importance after seeing this film.

Poverty is tied to education, is tied to food, is tied to the health of a nation.  There are simple things that we can do now to assure that children get enough nutrition to assure a chance at a getting an education; that they get enough nutrition to assure a life of good health that in turn assures opportunity for improvement of their lot.  It’s not rocket science to think that instead of giving farm subsidies to corporations like Monsanto we fund food programs for these struggling people. The cost of not doing anything to alleviate hunger in our own country  will not help to balance the budget and it is certain to bankrupt us morally and spiritually.  It is time to acknowledge the problem of hunger right here in the good ol’ US of A and ask ourselves if we want a class system that delineates the haves from the have-nots by virtue of who is rich enough to feed their family.  If the ramifications of that are too frightening to consider, then what one action can each of us take that cumulatively can make a difference?