Friday, November 18, 2011

Sharing Some Values

Two days ago Finley marked his second birthday (we celebrated with him last Sunday). Gilda and I are so proud of the way Allison and Dan are raising him, of the choices they make, of the values they are imparting (for an update on how Finley’s doing, here’s a link to his blog:

Values. It’s a word much in the news these days, what with the presidential election and the jousting between Barack Obama, Democrats, Republicans and the Occupy Wall Streeters being daily fare in the media. To me, it seems some of our public servants have forgotten the meaning of, or warped the meaning of, values in our society. Expediency and brazen political pandering have trumped reason, consistency and caring.

I’m forever amazed that even our most conservative politicians do not understand poverty is not a choice people opt for, that living in a state of need is not a life choice, that being unemployed, often despite higher education degrees, is not a consequence of their laziness but rather the result of an economy that has cratered because the 1% of the population that controls the financial system screwed up. Was it wrong for people to want a home, to want to live the American Dream they had been told they were entitled to all their lives, even if they knew in their guts they were getting in over their heads? Probably. But are they more or less culpable than the people, those one-percenters, who advanced them the monies to go deep into debt and who rigged the system to benefit themselves if the poor souls defaulted on their mortgages? Anyone with a decent sense of values would have no trouble answering that question.

How could anyone turn their backs on the hungry? Just come down and observe the needy, as I did today after dropping off our monthly donation to the White Plains Food Pantry. Her budgets have been cut, and more people are applying for relief, said Lorraine, the director of the food bank. As if oblivious to the plight of their fellow Americans, another civic group was spreading tablecloths for a nice luncheon in the same room where dozens of thankful recipients waited for their weekly bags of groceries. They couldn’t wait to move us out of the way, said Lorraine.

In what still might be the richest country on earth, more than one in five young Americans live in poverty, a million more than a year ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. How shameful.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has evoked many conflicting responses, but insensitivity to the economic polarization afflicting our society, and that of other countries, is among the most repugnant. Sure there are some who joined the demonstrations because they were looking for a good time. Or they were ”professional” protesters. But the vast majority were down on the luck Americans who either cannot get a job or are underpaid and cannot meet all their obligations.

Congress rightfully criticizes the exorbitant pay handed out to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac public service executives. But nary a word is expressed about the gazillions made on Wall Street. Virtually no one has been held accountable for the banking and mortgage debacles of the last few years.

Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R,C-NY) said Tuesday the OWS “people have overstayed their welcome and it’s time they get the heck out of New York City. Between the filth, the smell, the incessant noise, and threat to public safety, they have done nothing but cause a nuisance to the people who work and live in Lower Manhattan. They’ve cost the city and surrounding businesses millions of dollars, and it’s time these people find a more productive use of their time. New Yorkers have had ENOUGH!...It has been two months and now it’s time for the OWS protesters to pack up their tents, buy a bar of soap, and head home.”

No mistaking Grimm’s grim sentiments about the value of the OWS protest. I just wonder what he would have thought of the colonial protests against British rule. Does he think our forefathers were united from the get-go in their beliefs, that they were organized in their demands, that it was all kumbaya in Valley Forge and Philadelphia?

Perhaps Grimm would do well to study this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

A most interesting comment was aired during Wednesday’s Brian Lehrer show on NPR. “In 1998, capitalism defeated communism. In 2008, capitalism defeated democracy.”

On a Lighter Note: Am I the only person in America who never watched Regis Philbin with either Kathie Lee Gifford or Kelly Ripa? ... I’m not proud of it, but I admit to some schadenfreude after watching the NY Jets lose to the Denver Broncos last night. I really don’t like the Jets. Never have. Go Giants. ... I was never happier to gain 2-1/2 lbs. than I was this morning. When I first stepped on the scale I was lighter than a week ago, cause of alarm as I had not dieted and could think of no reason except unknown illness for the sudden loss of weight. After shifting the scale to a different spot on our tiled bathroom floor, my true weight reappeared. Phew.