My name is Michael Libbie and welcome to Sunday Morning Coffee a look at some of the news stories you've seen and/or perhaps missed all laced with my commentary. It's what I get to do early on Sunday Morning. I've been writing this piece for well over 12 years. This morning I sat down to write one of the most painful blogs I've ever authored. Read on and, nope, no snark from me today. This stuff is deadly serious.
A Nation In Turmoil
There are so many aspects to this. The pain of people in social and economic misery. A president who is AWOL from his duty. Cities on fire. Police out of control. Families of police officers fearing for their safety. Agitators who use unrest to incite violence.
It's a mess.
And we have a choice.
We can work for purpose and change or we can turn out backs and say "This isn't about me." Oh, but it is.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "A riot is the language of the unheard." For generations the majority culture in this nation has not been listening and, today, we are all witnesses to what that sin has wrought.
The murder of a black man in Minneapolis in broad daylight at the hands of police officers who have had numerous complaints lodged against them is nothing...new. It is the same footage we've seen played out time after time in great cities and in small towns.
I get to live in the Greater Des Moines Metro (Polk County, Iowa). It has been well documented how blatant the economic injustice is here. Prior to the pandemic this region boasted the nation's lowest unemployment rate. If you were white and/or privileged. Meanwhile at the same time the unemployment rate among African Americans stood at 16.9%. Not my numbers but those from a study done in 2017 and highlighted here in Bleeding Heartland. And here is the full study.
Meanwhile, those folks who had jobs were spending up to 50% of their income on housing. Throw in transportation and food you don't have much left for the enjoyment of life. And it's worse when you are working not one but two jobs leaving little time for any sort of "family life".
So, yeah, we knew and we made the choice to remain silent.
And Then The Pandemic
While nothing has changed since 2017 one thing did lay bare the economic injustice of the United States, COVID19. Only the blind fail to see what is playing out in front of each of us. Workers forced to exist in dangerous conditions. A nation/state unwilling to adhere to some basic protective responses. Workers in nursing homes, celebrated by the many, working for low wages because we have decided that "essential workers" are not valued workers.
Because the coronavirus does not care if you are young, old, black, brown or white it is stunning that the vast majority of people dying, now over 100,000 Americans, come from already economically disadvantaged households. It is these people who can not "work from home" but must report for duty that continue to suffer in greater numbers.
Are you seeing a pattern?
It all comes down to, dare I say it, economics.
While people are dying executives at J.C. Penny racked up $10 million in bonuses before declaring bankruptcy. The executives at Hertz just collected $16.2 million before filing for Chapter 11. The new CEO of Hertz, Paul Stone, got his $700,000 bonus three days after getting the top job.
Our nation is morally bankrupt.
What Is The Answer?
Look, I don't have all the answers but I think we have some tools to unlock the change we need. Perhaps it will come too late for some but not too late for the future. Let's tick down some potential answers:
- You Must Vote - While there are some who will continue to attempt to rob you of this privilege you must make the decision to vote them and their kind out of office. And, this is not a partisan issue. Both parties are guilty of messing with you and your vote. Big money and big politics are in play right now, today, in the Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate seat in Iowa.
- Work Must Be Valued - Work is done by workers and not the executives cloistered in their C-Suites. What part of that do you fail to understand? That corporate CEO's make 300% more then their average employee is criminal. CEO pay has increased 1,008% between 1978 and 2018, while typical worker pay has edged up 12%. Know why? Because here in Iowa and across the nation you have been fooled into believing that unions are bad and corporations are good. Hell, we even make judgements that corporations are people.
- Unionize My Friends - Even as the State of Iowa enacts new laws making it more difficult to join and stay a union member you must resist. Collectively we will gain more power over the economics of our lives. This isn't easy and it will take mountains of work and you will make powerful enemies along the way. Demand livable wages and benefits for all workers. We have the history that proves this point. When unions were powerful wages and benefits increased. It isn't rocket science.
- Treasure Empathy Over Callous Disregard - Who is standing with you and who speaks to your heart? At the outset of this piece I mentioned that we have a president who is AWOL from his duty as "Comforter in Chief". In our recent memory we have had presidents who are true leaders, no matter their politics. President Bush who stood on a burned out hulk of a police car after 9/11 and called on us to come together. President Obama at a church singing Amazing Grace following a mass shooting. We have seen the best and the worst in our leadership and it all flows downhill.
- Don't Tell, Do Show - I have so had it with the self identified righteous people who point to their faith for some rational in doing evil. This isn't difficult. If you are a person of faith you know what is right and wrong. You know, by reading your Holy Book what is called for. If you don't then you are a fraud. The work of righteous people is to care for others not to marginalize them. We, in this nation, have plenty of places in which to worship but once we walk out of the building what are we doing to embrace those teachings?
So, what are you going to do? Will you continue to "sit it out" or become engaged?
You do have a choice.
Take care and be well.