Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The moral development of America. 

Here is my letter to Carol Norris, who wrote "The Moral Development of George Bush" for Counterpunch:

Ms. Carol Norris,

I very much enjoyed your treatise on the psychology of George Bush. While I agree with your conclusions on the man who is our president, I wish to take your observations a step further, and say that George Bush did not grow up in a vacuum.

He grew up privileged, yes, in the United States of America, in a country where anyone can be president. Just look at William Jefferson Clinton, the president who altered the decades old welfare program, and created a whole new underclass of working poor. Clinton was once poor, but this didn't seem to morally collide with his efforts to eliminate the rolls of welfare.

I'm not saying Clinton is a "bad man", he just ain't no progressive.

You probably already knew that. While thousands in this country prospered from the tech boom of the 90's, millions more fell further into the ranks of the working poor, with homelessness as their daily threat, as well as hunger. Yes, hunger. I recently read "Nickel and Dimed", by Barbara Ehrenreich, and the book is a masterpiece of undercover reporting.

Barbara never pretends to lose her upperclass origin of viewpoint, by the way; I don't find that she proselytizes, or preaches. Her conclusions seem to arise naturally, out of the experiences she has in low wage jobs. You have to read the book for yourself to understand what I mean. Perhaps you have already read the book.

What I am having trouble grasping right now is the morally incomprehensible realization that most Americans choose to ignore the plight of the working poor, homeless and hungry in this country. This is the type of over-all environment that George Bush grew up in, and I believe, why he came to power.

In other words, there is a relationship between George Bush, and the people he represents, as well as the people who claim to hate him and despise him. We are all purveyors of the system of broken dreams and lost promises.

By the way, I earn 8.50 per hour as a manager of a coffeeshop in New Orleans, plus about 25 dollars average in tips per shift. When I work as a manager, and am not working a shift, I don't earn the tips. My co-workers earn on average $5.75 per hour, plus the tips. They, we, work very hard during any given shift. We have no medical insurance. I am asked, as manager, to be on call seven days a week, though I am not paid to be on call. I have a college degree. Many of the people working under me have college degrees. What is wrong with this picture?

Believe me when I say I am fully aware I have chosen my path. I never cared for the idea of a desk job pushing paper with the focus on money as the bottom line. I am a cynical idealist at heart, who loves to write, poetry and essays. My passion is the expression of the human heart through words.

Right now I see a world in trouble because we have forgotten how to care for each other. We have forgotten to look in the mirror of the self, in each other. And yes, I am talking about the $5.15 per hour hamburger pusher in McDonald's, who lives in a two or three family home because he or she can't afford her own place, and we look the other way for the privilege of buying cheap fast food. Make no mistake, nothing, really is cheap. There is human sweat and labor on the other side of every cheap article of clothing we buy at Wal Mart. There is nothing cheap about it to the person on the other end of the chain, working low wages so that we can buy cheaply.

George Bush grew up in a world of privilege, but it seems many of us have forgotten the origin of the privilege we enjoy, on a daily basis, due to the "sacrifice" of the low wages of workers everywhere. Some of us are only now waking up to this because in the corporate drive to keep up profits, jobs are fleeing to lower wage workers overseas, and we are left with the "privilege" of serving each other "cheap" hamburgers and coffee.

I don't know the answer here, except to say that not only is the ousting of George Bush needed, but perhaps a fundamental shift in what we term as truly valuable. The wealthy are living on the sweat and labor of the working poor, who are barely making it, and it seems the value we place on money far outweighs the value we place on people. There is something, fundamentally wrong here. Like I said, George Bush didn't grow up in a vacuum.

elizabeth cook