Affectations of Angst

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I have a muted, love filled roar on this Valentine’s Day, a day set aside to tell people you love them, as if you shouldn’t show that every day of your life and theirs. But this celebration does make my spirits rise just because it is fun, which is the reason I enjoy this and many other holidays we celebrate. I enjoy giving at Christmas, and acknowledging the pagan roots of our celebrations of light and harvest…all the mythologies that have made us who we are as a culture. But I do think it’s important to recognize the roots of our celebrations as well as what they have become to us…profit centers for merchants and card companies.

That said, I have been storing up some loud roars for a time, and if I hold them in much longer, we may all be in trouble. One of them comes from my husband. My dear second husband, to whom I’ve been married for fifteen years. He has never been as political as me, I knew that going in, but he has always been a democrat (mostly because that’s what his parents were, but he has become more politically aware and involved just by evolutionary pressure.) But he has not registered to vote since we bought our house in the new town, and he says he does not plan on voting ever again. On the one hand, I kind of understand how he feels, since we will never approach the number of dollars that certain groups and wealthy individuals have to give in order to affect the process. It occurred to me when he said this that he is not the first I’ve heard say the same thing. If my roar can be heard anywhere in this country, please let it be now…in the 2014 election only thirty-six percent of eligible voters turned out. This is not unusual in mid-term elections, but it is a very, very bad sign. Many people said it wouldn’t matter the turnout because gerrymandering had made it impossible for their votes to matter. But if sixty-four percent more voters had turned out, the left would have cleaned up. The majority of Americans do not believe the things that the far-right preach. But the right is much, much better at getting their voters to the polls. I could go on and on about this, but the main point is that when people say they won’t vote anymore, the ONE percent have succeeded and will win, taking this country from democracy to oligarchy in a hurry. All they need to do is convince people that they needn’t vote because our votes don’t matter. If we believe they have it all sewn up, they will have it all sewn up.

Speaking of the wealthy, I have loved the lower gas prices the last few months, but we’ve also been hearing about how these low prices are hurting some sectors of the economy-a neighbor whose husband got a job with a fracking company told me he would be laid off if these low prices continued, and oil company profits are so far down that one company has frozen salaries. Excuse this very sarcastic roar, “Waahhhh.” When millions of people were out of work from 2008 to now, oil companies were making record profits and their executives making obscene salaries and bonuses. So now their profits have dropped-from what to what? From seventeen-billion to nine-billion? Remember, profits are what is left over after the bills and salaries are paid. Now that gas prices are taking less of a bite out of the normal household income, we have money to spend on some other things, benefiting the entire US economy. What on earth could be bad about that? And now we are expected to feel bad for oil companies? Puh-leez!

Oh, and here’s another idea that might help businesses increase profits: give your employees a reason to work harder for you. Take care of the people who make your money for you. Yeah, I’m kind of speaking to Walmart, but there are so many others. I have had the experience of shopping in some of those soul-stealing stores, and the staffs are so obviously unhappy, don’t really care about customers or the profits of the super-billionaires who own them, and make millions in corporate welfare by paying their staffs so little that they must get food stamps and spend them in these discount stores because food stamps don’t spend well at Whole Foods Market.

Alright, I’ll get off the bad rich, which I know are not all rich, and I have no problem with people getting rich. In fact, I’m all for it. I just don’t think it has to be done by ignoring environmental impact and being cruel to workers. Moving on; I have been struggling with the whole vaccine argument, as have many people in this country recently. Whether or not to vaccinate has become a big thing since a measles outbreak began at California Disneyland. I was vaccinated against polio and small pox as a child…it was required before I could start school. I had measles and chicken pox as a child, and survived, though many children don’t. I’m sure the death rate of any of those diseases would be much lower now that we have such excellent medical care in this country, though some would surely die. Some deaths have already occurred from measles, and thousands die every year of complications from the flu. I resisted for YEARS having a flu shot, but last year I took a part time job in a retail store, and finally took the flu shot because, A. My doctor had a real conversation with me and convinced me of the scientific efficacy of the vaccination, and B. Working in retail would expose me to more people, and I didn’t want a part time job to interfere with my ability to make it to my real job. So I took it. I did it again this year, even though my exposure has gone back down, because it seems (and I know that anecdotes are not science) that it boosted my entire immune system and I haven’t caught colds the past two years either, despite working with sick people coughing nearby. So technically, I am pro-vaccination. That said, I did see a panel discussion on TV recently, on a new program called The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore with Wilmore hosting an anti-vaccine parent. Her complete argument was so illogical that I wasn’t sure why she should be taken seriously, until she mentioned that one particular company in the “Big Pharma” tent sponsored the safety studies on vaccines that they make, and stand to make MILLIONS of dollars from as children are vaccinated by them. Her best quote was “I should be able to make health decisions for my children, not Merck.” That line hit me pretty hard, since I’ve been hating on big pharma for many years. But then, the stories of children with cancer, whose immune systems are compromised by chemotherapy, and if a child with anti-vaccine parents exposes them to measles, they would surely be stricken grievously by the disease. There can be no world in which that is fair. That sick child is already experiencing something that is patently unfair, to be killed by a preventable disease…perhaps that anti-vaccine parent whose child kills that cancer stricken baby should be charged with manslaughter? One anti-vaxxer was quoted as saying, “My choice affects your child? So what?” If that is the direction we want to go now, I want the guy who said that to be seated next to a smoker at the next restaurant he goes to.

Race has been an important issue for me my whole life. I’m from the south, and come from a family that not only lived Jim Crow, they liked it. I have struggled with that history for as long as I remember. For example, when I was in the second grade and moved to an integrated school for the first time in all my family history. I will never forget what my mother said as we got ready for school, “If the teacher tells you to hold hands with a negro, do what the teacher says, but don’t touch their hair, and don’t let them touch yours.” Always the rebel, I noticed from the beginning that the “negro” children weren’t that different from me. So I turned on the family history, and had black best friends (though my mother would not allow them to spend the night at our house,) and I grew up to be a subversive, liberal, anti-racist whitey. I will never, ever forget how my mother’s mother hated Martin Luther King, and blamed him for the violence that happened to the black people who marched with him. After she died I was talking to an aunt on the phone on MLK Day, and my aunt said to me, “Nanny (what we called our maternal grandmother) always said we should celebrate the day he died instead of his birthday.” I replied that just because Nanny said it doesn’t make it right. She hung up on me. I have always been sensitive to how black people want to be described, knowing since childhood that “the N word,” as used by my family on both sides, was wrong, wrong, wrong coming out of the mouths of white people. I have noticed the use of the term “people of color,” in blacks and Latinos for the last several years. But recently a British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, got into hot water for using the term “colored people,” and had to issue an apology. I couldn’t help feeling for him, as I have also struggled recently with thinking that in many cases that ‘political correctness’ has gone too far in trying to limit language, and I am forced to ask, “What, exactly, is the difference between ‘colored people’ and ‘people of color?’

My last roar of the morning could be applied to racists and climate change deniers and many others because I realized recently that these are the same people who hated and imprisoned Galileo, not because he discovered that our universe is heliocentric and not earth-centered. Yes, the Catholic church has recently forgiven him (woo-hoo.) But the same narrow world view, which is only about not wanting to give up the complacent view that “as long as it works for me, why change it?” How many white people have said that things for black people are so good, as if they have any point of reference for knowing? How many legislators, particularly, but not exclusively, from oil producing states, have said that climate change is a hoax (just like the earth revolving around the sun) because the current dependency on fossil fuels has made some people very rich and has helped us all live very comfortable lives with cars and air conditioning and many other comforts. Changing the way we live our lives will create discomfort, and therefore we will deny that there is any reason to do so. Changing the way we see race would require honest behavior changes, so it is more comfortable to blame the victim for whining than the see with open minds the way white people really treat “people of color.” Or colored people, as the case may be. Complacency kills.