Gratitude Sunday: Independence? It’s All Political

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political, and religious. All act and react upon one another.” Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday Haiku
Unstable weather:
extreme summers and winters,
blighted climate change.

Sunday Musings
I was beyond middle age before I realized the significance of the personal being political. I dislike politics; all kinds of promises, so little action. Seeing activism produce little change for the last fifty years is distressing. As I got older and the small amount of money I earned flew out of my hands no matter how hard I worked or how much I budgeted, no matter what corners I cut, or how low I chose to live so I could stay within my budget, I started looking at what my money paid for. If you say you are not political your eyes are closed and democracy will die with you. Money makes us political by default, and everybody uses money. So far I still get to refuse to choose to live under a bridge.

Do you pay rent or own a mortgage? You pay additional tax (beyond income tax) because of housing called property tax; if you rent, property tax is included in your rent amount. Do you purchase groceries, gasoline, or use a phone? You pay additional tax for these items. Do you own a car, an RV, a boat? You pay an additional tax to use these items. Do you go fishing, camping, or travel by plane? You pay an additional tax to participate in these activities. Does your community enjoy public parks, a lending library, or an aquatic center? You pay for these community amenities with your additional property tax, and likely you still have to pay a fee to use the facilities. Do you live in a state that charges you a sales tax just for shopping? Sales tax is not much incentive to be a “good” consumer.

Everything we do is not only taxed, it’s connected, interdependent. That’s the price of living in a society. The myth of self-sufficiency fails us as it denies that connection. Nobody makes it on their own; even entrepreneurs use tax-paid streets, bridges, schools, banks, water, and sewer systems. Taxes are physical proof in the USA we are already in this together. The challenge is how society works for some of us and fails for others. It’s not about a level playing field; I doubt this can ever be effected. We can, however, be supportive of the ones for whom the system doesn’t quite work so well.

We are beginning the 2020 round of presidential candidates. For the next year and a half most of the news will be political. In my personal life, I get jealous when I hear Elizabeth Warren’s life story, about a working class family and a girl with a dream, how she made that dream happen and though there were bumps along the way, with some help she made that dream succeed in America and today she stands on a stage as a presidential candidate for 2020. Perhaps jealous isn’t exactly the right word; I’m not jealous she succeeded, I’m jealous because I didn’t, or in other words, I’m happy for her success, and sad for my failure. We are both fairly smart women, so why did the system work for her and not for me? Don’t tell me about the myth called choices; we are two different persons who did not have the same choices, abilities, intelligence, geographic location, and the few years age difference between us are enough to make a cohort difference as well. We’re not supposed to do it, but it is really hard not to compare oneself with others. How else do we know if we are succeeding? I don’t have to have the same or be the same, I just want a certain (comparable?) level of comfort. I’m greedy enough to want similar comforts for other people as well.

My ambitions have never been as big nor as clearly defined as Warren’s, but that doesn’t matter. I’m glad our system worked for her; it does for some people. I’m one of those who despite hard work, time, and money invested, constant curiosity and research notwithstanding, the abysses and mountains in the way have made it insufferably difficult to make this capitalistic system work successfully. Even into retirement, for which I planned, all those feeble plans flew out the window, and a new tentative plan has been implemented, with limited success. I have learned lessons along the way. One of my lessons: if you have to have mental health counseling to remain in a job, likely that job, no matter how much you like the job, is the wrong job for you. It might not be about you. Which is an even more disturbing thing to say about the job (or the state of the working world in the United States of America, as this happens more than we want to think) than if it was you.

I bear the weight of my own choices, but I didn’t have great choices. I own the burden of my own behavior, but do not claim the guilt of lies about me. I am responsible for my own actions, but I cannot control the actions of others. I don’t read minds, and in trying to be my most authentic self, I often don’t read people well, or present myself well; in fact, I understand my intensity is off-putting. It also aids in societal failure. How does my intensity differ from Elizabeth Warren? We are both passionate about helping others, but my words and actions seem crankier than hers, could be the tone of my voice, the burn in my eyes, the twist of my mouth.

I got caught in the poverty trap. As I read and research I suspect I might have been in the sexist trap as well, but I don’t know enough about that detail yet, only that I was a woman supporting a disabled husband who never qualified for Social Security assistance trying to raise a child on a low income. I just never made enough money to keep up let alone get ahead, and now I’m aging out; nobody wants to hire old, fat women who walk with canes. I’m like so many of my neighbors and family and friends who aren’t able to earn more than they earned forty years ago. One has only to drive through any town in America, whether large or small, to see whom the system has worked for and whom it has not. When people are not able to care for their homes and property or afford help to care for them, the physical evidence is clearly in front of us, but debt is not a sustainable way to keep up with the Joneses, either.

We throw money at the problems, but often they are the wrong solutions. Instead of building modest affordable single or two-family homes we build huge ugly fishbowls called public housing, shove hundreds of bodies into spaces meant for dozens with no green space for children to play, charge almost as much as the regular market, and we call that public assistance. While speculators build mini-McMansions on the cheap and market them at exorbitant rates throwing the whole real estate market kay-wonky.

Capitalism has only worked for a few people, the ones who own the corporations. There is nothing inherently wrong with capitalism, but it is a two-way street and requires consumers who can afford the goods to make capitalism work in a society. Capitalists and corporation owners shoot their own feet off if they rig the economy through low wages so consumers can’t afford what they produce. Corporations have forgotten the principles of Henry Ford who believed you have to pay workers enough to afford to buy what they are making, that means a living wage plus enough extra financial fluidity to be an active consumer as well. Can today’s construction worker afford the house he is building, or wiring, or plumbing? Can today’s technology manufacturing worker afford the technology she is making? Can today’s nurses afford the health care services they are providing? Can today’s teachers afford the education they are giving our youth? Can today’s artists afford anything? Do we even have any car manufacturers left in the USA?

I don’t know the answers. I know we are better than the lies and atrocities taking place in the USA in 2019. I know our tax dollars are being mismanaged and stolen from us. I know no one person can “fix” all this. I know it’s all political because many people of my generation have been working all our lives to make life better for decent, honest, hardworking, accountable American workers, as did the generations who came before us. We are all connected, person to person, generation to generation.

Since politics are personal, think about where you live. Do you love your bed, your home, your neighborhood, you community, your family, any of these? Think about what you have. Do you have enough, too much, too little? Think about why you have what you do, if you need or want it, how you take care of what you have, and what value it has to you. Think about how other people might think about owning the same kinds of stuff, or better. Don’t think about doing anything with your stuff or doing anything differently, just think about your stuff. Some of us are comfortable with more or less stuff and that’s OK, but greed at the expense of others is unjust; a rigged economy is greed at the highest level.

I’m not implying a guilt trip here, unless you want to take that on. I used to feel guilty about what I had or what I did or didn’t do. A friend kindly cued me in to the definition of guilt. She said guilt is avoiding responsibility. That’s the gauge. If you did the responsible thing, you should not take on guilt. I’ve done plenty of things in my lifetime for which I still carry guilt and regret, and I’m trying to not beat myself up for those past mistakes, which is hard for the truly responsible person. Other things I did let go of my guilt because I had done the responsible thing, but still felt bad about the situation. If you are not paying your share as a wealthy American or corporation you should be taking on guilt or pay your share. Gavel tap times three. So say I.

I am saying if you enjoy your home, your work/job, your stuff, your ways of relaxing, other people might as well. I don’t mean other people want your stuff, they want similar stuff. Most people enjoy working and like to pay their way; they might be doing jobs you would prefer not to do, but their work has value just the same. American needs to work both ways, it needs to work for those who succeed easily and well with only a few bumps in the road, and it needs to work for those who struggle with challenges like generational poverty, lack of job skills, mental or physical health, unique personality, or people who have been marginalized for any reason.

We can do this. We have to redefine the value of work, define new kinds of jobs and new ways to pay workers understanding there are all kinds of work and all kinds of jobs and all kinds of people who might like those jobs, we need to open our minds to the future to make sure this planet can still exist for our grandchildren’s great-grandchildren. It takes work and because we are a society who shares the same physical space it’s all political. We gotta be political.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – The neighborhood’s 4th of July house with blue hydrangeas and red door. It was mostly a purple week. Three clematis varieties in shade of purple owned and photographed by Mary Drew. A neighbor’s pile of wild vetch, invasive, but forgiven because it is some much like sweet peas. A mass of lavender. I still do not know what this vibrant yellow spike of flowers is. Vermilion crocosmia makes me think of the work of van Gogh.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} At Eternity’s Gate (2018, rated PG – 13), with Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh, his struggles with his art and his mental health, and his death at a young age. Slow moving, arty movie. * Re-viewing the Showtime series Shameless (2011 – present, rated TV – MA), in preparation for the latest season. To remind myself I live a fairly quiet and routine life. Comparatively.

Currently ReadingDangerous Minds (2018, mystery fiction) by Janet Evanovich (American author). I’ve long enjoyed her Stephanie Plum series starting with One for the Money (1994, mystery fiction), but I find all the other series she has written are some version of Stephanie 2.0 with different names and sometimes genders. I still admire her writing and she’s always good for a light summer read or two especially if you like a series. * Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2017, African-American feminism) by Brittney Cooper (American author, associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University). She comes by her black feminism by way of other women, especially white women. Her connecting with other women have made her the strong intelligent voice she is today. It’s a good thing. Also I am naïve about how much more violence women of color experience in their lives than white women. I understand self-defense, but I generally fail to understand violence at all.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The one take-away I got from the tidying up book: how to fold clothes to save space.
  • Winning the prize for week two of Summer Reading at my local lending library. A new book bag and a new drinking glass. My entry prize was a new book, now I can relax with a glass of iced tea while reading it. Maybe your local lending library has a Summer Reading Program. Not only is it fun to encourage people of all ages to read, you can win prizes. So much abundance!
  • Little birds singing, singing, singing, sounding so bright and happy when the rain stopped. Maybe their favorite bugs come out after the rain and they were singing their “Yums!” out loud.
  • Getting a couple more corners cleaned out.
  • Random and irregular OCD.
  • Five minute work windows, both a blessing and a curse.
  • The little things that make my small town a community. We have so many informed and involved local citizens.
  • Listening carefully.
  • People who take the time to answer as thoughtfully as my questions are. That sentence is poor grammar but you know what I mean.
  • How delightfully messy and crazy people’s lives are. You gotta either laugh or cry.
  • Recently having my first experience with Lebanese food. Loved the saffron rice and tzatziki sauce, which may become my new addictions. I’ve made my own kabobs with different spices.
  • Finding a tzatziki sauce at the local farmers market and how it has inspired me to make my own to get closer to that first heavenly experience.
  • Zucchini, carrots, and sugar snap peas dipped in tzatziki with a little hummus on the side.
  • Fresh Oregon strawberries. Edible sweet/tart sunshine.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Careers, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics, Work and Labor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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