Sunday, July 24, 2016

House Building

Black people dying in the streets.
Police officers in riot gear.

The Klan passing out recruiting materials in Indiana.

Refugees. Bombings.

10 civilians dead in Cincinnati today. 9 in Munich.
1,271 in Syria this month.

1,063 people shot and killed by the police in the US last year, more than British police have killed in the last 95 years.

The US is now 17th out of the 40 worldwide nations ranked for education.

We are 85th out of 172 countries in terms of violent death rates, in the same band as nations like Iraq, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Chad, Liberia, Ghana, and India.

Nations like Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and Japan are ranked far away, in the peaceful 160s and 170s.

In 2010 the Citizens United ruling meant that corporations and labor unions could now use money as a form of protected political speech, removing much of the security against election buying and allowing wealthy individuals, businesses, and other groups to use money to influence elections with more freedom than anyone had seen since the days of Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall machine.

Our military is over 1,000 times stronger than any other country's armed forces. Our homeless veterans sleep on the streets while the Veterans Hospitals are woefully underfunded.

Fast food is cheaper than buying vegetables, and obesity is endemic. Heroin and methamphetamine are found in every county of every state.

In 1969, when I was born, the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $10.30 or so in today's dollars.

In 2016 the minimum wage is $7.25. Taking buying power into consideration we've gone backwards. If you don't take buying power into consideration, the minimum wage has gone up $5.65- in 47 years.

That's 450%

College tuition has gone up over 1,120% since 1978 alone. Medical expenses have climbed over 601%, and food over 244%.

If you put a frog in a pot of cool water, the story goes, and turn up the stove burner slowly, it will swim about happily as it is cooked alive.

Beloved friends, the water is boiling.

People working two full time jobs cannot feed their families.

Young people take on college debt, for jobs that are not waiting. A 27 year old with a Master's degree may amass $120,000 in debt, and be asked to repay $987 a month. Deferments mean they will pay until they are middle-aged or later.

Dental and eye care are still not covered well by medical insurance, and oral surgery is often not covered at all. Major work can cost $7,000-$30,000, payable in advance.

Those who cannot pay use emergency rooms as clinics, costing everyone.

It is possible to be driven to bankruptcy by medical bills.
It is possible to die because you cannot afford prescriptions or co-pays at the doctor's office.

We are tired.
We are scared.

And we live in a multi-story house, with a crumbling foundation and cracks in the walls.

Now, please, understand me. I know what some of you will say.

Not me.

Not my walls.

My walls are still painted in beautiful red, white, and blue. My roof is whole, and my windows let in the sunshine. I have guns for defense and I've stocked the shelves with food.

And maybe, just maybe, your walls are whole. And your roof. And maybe you have a lovely stained glass window, letting in the light in glorious jewel-tone colors.

But you only live in a few rooms of this aging mansion we call America. Maybe you live in the penthouse, or maybe on an upper floor.

Maybe it is amazing, up where you are.

But your room is built on top of that same crumbling stone. Your uncracked walls will not stand if the floors below you give way.

It is all one house.

And it must be rebuilt.

Someone once said a house built on shifting sand will not stand. I say that you cannot build a marble penthouse on top of a double wide trailer.

We have to begin again.

We are a young country, and it's time to grow up. It's time to demolish this starter home, time to gather our supplies and hire our crew and to start again on solid ground

Time to build strong foundations of workers and industry. Time to create supportive walls of healthcare and education, and to decorate with the bright lights of human rights and equal justice. It's time to stop saying that the blue wall on the left and the pink wall on the right are worth more than the brown wall in front, or the tan wall in back. They all hold the house up, just the same.

It's time to add pathways, large and paved in stone, so that visitors can come. It's time to add bigger doors, and to widen the windows on the first and second floors, and to remove the bars from those windows while we are at it.

It's time to remove the fence, and to add flowers and trees instead.

And we can do it.

We can be the country we have always claimed to be.

Land of the free. Home of the brave. Land where the flag is still flying because we have managed to turn aside destruction before it is too late.

We can make it true, true for all, not just a few. We can build a house that will shelter our children, and our children's children. A house of many stories, all built level, and firm.

All sharing the load in the sun and the wind and the rain.


I don't know about you, but it sounds awfully good to me.

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