Essays on the, less visible, but contemporary challenges to our way of life.
Written by Janr Ssor, 11-1-2011
THE GIFT OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY
We have all heard a story that begins like this: “When they came for the Jews, I stood silent, When they came for the Gypsy’s, I said nothing, Now their coming for me; who will stand up for me?”
In very few words this historical reminder of Germany’s greatest failure, reminds us of one of the reasons our founding fathers formed America. Our nation was to be a cohesive nation made strong, not weak, by our differences! We would respect the minorities and treat them as equals. We chose to do this for selfish reasons as well as idealistic ones. One of these selfish being our own protection, as the German story reminds us. Of course we, in our great experiment with democracy, have learned of many more reasons to be diverse.
In the poem, “I hear America Singing,” by Walt Whitman, we discover some of the magic that professional diversity affords us. Each industrious worker is seen doing his job. As Americans we should remember the different nations that joined us each bringing their unique skill. This is the key to our longevity and what has made us greater than any other nation on Earth!
Since I was a little kid, I heard stories of the Mohawks who helped build skyscrapers. In 1886, a Canadian company, building a bridge over the St. Lawrence river discovered the Mohawk’s fearless nature, when they hired them to help build the bridge. The Mohawks climbed steel like it was second nature. When a span collapsed killing 30 of their tribesmen, they came greater numbers seeing it as a challenge not a failure.
About half of the 19th century Italian immigrants were laborers, compared to 1/3 of the Irish and Germans. Contracted out by professional labor brokers known as “Padrones” they dug tunnels, built bridges, laid tracks and helped build skyscrapers. In Chicago over 90% of the steel workers were Italians.
Each nation brought its skills and the blessings of its unique gene pool and culture. The Jews became lawyers, doctors and business owners. The Irish made our cities save as, policemen, firemen and other city workers. The list goes on and on…
But back to the story of “When they came for the Jews…” President Eisenhower warned us to beware of the “Military Industrial Complex.” He was waring us of the dangerous political influence that corporate America had discovered was within its grasp. He was warning us that we needed to stay true to our principles by keeping the values of our founding fathers, our Judeo-Christian values.
Now nearly a quarter of a century back, corporate America was noting that it could not balance its books, when it kept its contractual obligations to its employees. For example, GM had promised to be the healthcare “God” to its workers and this expenditure was now causing them to pass along too much of this financial burden to car buyers. Many corporations were guilty of this as well, as in promising retirement plans they could not afford later. Our Government was one of the very worst of those in promising both to its employees and then passing along this unearned expense to taxpayers.
In the Clinton era, an unholy alliance was forming. Corporate money for elections, if you take the burden off the corporate books and put it on the taxpayers! Hillary could now smell election victory as the first female president; all she needed was healthcare reform.
Government should be about doing the right thing for the people but, it has become about getting re-elected and serving whatever master has the most money. This it turns out, is the corporate alliance that Ike warned us about. As a result, the medical profession, then made of loosely knit organizations of individual entrepreneurs became their target. The real issues of health care reform and efficiency were never tackled because it dealt with death and dying. Death and dying means dealing with religious values as well as philosophical ones, which are hard to face and too easy to skirt. A huge majority of healthcare expenses comes from what we call “heroic” efforts to keep the sick and dying very old alive. This effort often ends in their suffering a degrading death at the hands of too many technicians and doctors. Witness to this is in the form of Living Wills, Do Not Resuscitate Agreements and Health Care Proxys.
The doctors of America were the ideal target for corporate savings; they were small business owners and had no unions to defend them.. Over the next quarter century doctors were then bled into bankruptcy. As a result, individual doctors, practicing privately, are now a rarity. Doctor’s incomes have dropped so significantly, thanks to corporate run manage care, that the majority of doctors are part time mom’s or foreigners from impoverished nations such as India.
In every song we need a refrain, so here it comes again. “When they came for the Jews…” Are you beginning to see that pattern of history?
The corporations next discovered that they could make more money if they hired foreigners from third world nations and yet still claimed to be American companies. They claimed to be American companies to keep all the benefits of your paying for their defense with your life should they be threatened. Of course your life would not matter as they fired you and hired the workers overseas. Oh yes, they would bribe you with the short sighted benefit of low cost Chinese products until your bank account ran out. Soon you and your neighbors lost their jobs and were forced into low paying service jobs at Home Depot or WallMart to sell the foreign products that were putting you out of work.
More recently the government has decided that the taxpayers should pay for corporate failures by being obligated to pay for corporate financial losses and fraud.
Lets try the refrain again with a little update, “When they came for the Doctors, I stood silent, When they came for the Employees, I said nothing, Now their coming for me; who will stand up for me?”
When you laugh at the disorganized rag tag protestors of “Wall Street.” Remember you are part of America and their concerns are at least in some ways yours. If you are an aging Hippy or a proud Viet Nam era vet note that you are not dead yet. America is not dead yet. America gains its power from diversity not homogeneity. Before corporations take America, take it back for all of us! Overcome the illusions of disagreement and remember that we are all in this together and for Each Other. Corporations and Governments are soul-less institutions that have taken over the rights of God’s children. At one time kings and dictators were sovereign. Our founders made America’s people sovereign; if they could keep and maintain that right!
Our founding fathers would revolt against what has become of our government, what about you?