Build-Up Economics

I’ve been a news junkie lately. I can’t help it. It’s the election, and the subsequent insecurity about what changes will take place in my beloved country. I live on the edge of fear and a feeling of being activated, and I have oh, so many questions.

Today, for example, I was watching a segment of Morning Joe in which they were discussing the future of manufacturing in America. They were talking about the loss of jobs to cheaper labor in Mexico and China, about how $35/hr wages were being replaced with $15/hr wages here in my country, and that was compared to $5/hr in Mexico and $2.5/hr in China. If you listen to the pundits, the vast midwest was a deciding force in our election, and it’s full of people who lost good-paying jobs due to trade deals. So what’s the solution?

On this segment of the program, they discussed the realities of these jobs returning. The prospect was bleak. Automation is geared to replace workers, despite a return of manufacturing. My husband is the warehouse manager of a seed production warehouse. Even here they have automated, increasing production and making a backbreaking job much easier. Fifty pound bags of seed travel by conveyor belt instead of being hoisted from seed filler to pallet, as was the case when he started working there. Still, when he comes home complaining about the attitudes of the guys who work for him, their complaints about the hard work and long hours, I hear in his voice the frustration of dealing with actual human beings. On occasion he’s expressed the desire to fully automate. So where does that leave the American worker?

The issues are real. I can’t imagine right now stressing about my family’s future, but I’ve been in that position. I understand the desire to change, to find something else, something that might work, anything that might work. I can even kind of understand the nostalgia of going back to a time of production and employment that benefitted everyone.

Then my scientific mind kicks into gear and I think of osmosis. For those of you who are not scientifically inclined, osmosis is the process in which a solution is striving for equilibrium. If you put water that has salt water next to fresh water, separated by a semi-permeable membrane that only lets water molecules through, the water will migrate to the salt water space seeking equilibrium. I’ve often thought of this with regard to Mexico and illegal immigration. I used to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to help Mexico improve its economy and standard of living for its own people. After all, who wants to uproot his or her life, travel to a country where you don’t speak the language, live in crowded conditions, and save as much as possible to send home? It’s a cost/benefit scenario. Osmosis. People who have little in the way of resources migrate to a place of greater resources because the resources can’t get through the membrane in the opposite direction. Societies, like solutions, striving for equilibrium.

Now we have an imbalance in economy. Wages in the U.S. are high, though still not a living wage for many. It’s still cheaper to ship supplies across the Pacific, assemble them, and ship them back than to make them locally.

I live in a small, conservative area that was hit hard by a decline in logging. People are budget minded, I get it. Still, the people of my town who probably voted for Donald Trump are the ones who support the king of low-cost shopping, Wal-Mart. They eat at Taco Bell and were excited when the new, expanded McDonald’s opened up. I know this because I watch it unfold on a daily basis over social media.

So here’s my question: Why do we look toward one person for solutions to this issue when there’s really a lot we can do for ourselves?

Personally, I choose not to shop at Wal-Mart if I can avoid it.If I do end up at Wal-Mart, I will stand in line and avoid the self-checker at all costs. I don’t want to see jobs replaced with automation. I don’t mind spending a little extra for human contact and the knowledge that people in my town have a chance to bring home a paycheck, however small it may be. I will buy the same products from employee-owned Bi-Mart, often for the same price or slightly cheaper. But those products are still mass produced overseas. Some things I have little control over. I’m hoping that my daily decisions have an impact, however small. I’ve heard that within a few years, most products will be distributed using self-driving trucks, putting many, many people out of work.

It’s all about choice. Do we want cheap and mass produced, or do we want a sense of community and national pride at being able to say we produced it ourselves? We live in the time of kickstarters, where a good idea and some people who believe enough in the idea to provide a little backing can transform the lives of whoever is associated with that supply chain. I’ve always thought that my little town could easily set up a small production of a specialized product, a quality apparel item, a craft food product, or sporting good. Small and specialized might be the way of the future. Of course you have to be in a good financial spot to even consider this, and that’s what many people in my country are struggling for right now.

We need to make some tough decisions. I realize that I’m at a good place in my life right now to be able to say I’d take quality over quantity or economy. It took time to get here. It took a vision of a scaled back life, where a smaller home and years of used cars allowed for freedom of financial choices. I think this is something to aspire to. We used to eat in all of the time. Now I’d rather pay a couple dollars more to eat at a local restaurant than to funnel my money up through a chain restaurant to an executive at the top. I’d rather buy my kids bottled soda on rare occasions than boxes of Coke that are on sale at the local Safeway. Even produce can be procured at local farmer’s markets, beautiful, sometimes unique foods that are fresh and support local people. (Though I noticed that local markets often buy local produce.) Those of us who can, should support this local economy.

Committing ourselves to each other needs to be a part of the national discussion. Billionaires are stingy folk. That’s how they got and kept their money. Trickle down economics don’t work. We need to take care of each other.


Photo credit: Tom Simpson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Look to our Leaders

Dear Middle America,

I know your heart. I live on an arteriole of your productive farming and logging community. I am surrounded by people whose families are still reeling from mill shutdowns and farmers who scoff at the idea of a 40 hour workweek. I feel your pain. My community has been hurt by changes in our world. Spotted owl stew is still being offered up on the metaphorical menu. I hear your voice. You feel drowned out. You want the country of your grandparents back. Nostalgia is a sweet feeling. It’s the feeling I get when I look back on pictures of my kids and smile at the good old day. But we can’t go back. What we had is gone, morphed, changed, and its up to us to morph and change with it.

Sincerely,
A Fellow American

Maybe in the America of today we identify with the wrong metaphor. The idea of our country being a melting pot originated with a play of the same name in 1908. But it’s a flawed metaphor. It creates the illusion that our identities can be melted down and fused with others. That doesn’t accurately define what this country is. Maybe our country could be better described as a tapestry of rich, intertwined threads. We should exercise care in tugging on those threads, lest the whole fabric of America unravel.

We are a country of immigrants. Some of us came here by choice, some by force. Some of us were original inhabitants of this land and must be wearing a very ironic smile at the talk of taking our country back. Yet here we are, all converging on this point in time together. In light of all of this, maybe it’s time for a little history lesson.

Throughout our short history we have accepted many to our shores. In the early days of our country, citizenship was granted to “free white people” of “good moral character” with a two year residency requirement. That was changed under Adams to fifteen years and back to five under Jefferson. It’s important to remember that during this time forced immigration was occurring due to the slave trade with no prospect of citizenship to this addition to the American population.

As the years passes, our United States was flooded with wave after wave of immigrants fleeing crop failures, social unrest, industrialization, religious intolerance, pogroms, and poverty. Laws were created to admit some and deny admittance to others. Fears that our country would be undermined and taken over by the Germans, the Catholics, and the Eastern Europeans were very real. But has this happened? Have we become an arm of Germany? Has the Pope wrested control of our nation? Or have we have taken these immigrants in and incorporated them into the tapestry of America? Today the descendents of such immigrants are our professors and policemen, judges and farmers, inventors and data entry clerks, though many of their grandparents and great-grandparents began as laborers and domestics who themselves endured the ire of the citizenry. Immigration laws have changed over the years, but what hasn’t changed is the vision of America as a place where people go to belong, where their thread can be woven into history, where their children have a chance to join the great American experiment. (And who among us in not included in the “they?”)

This election has brought a lot of ugliness to the surface. People who don’t look like that handful of pilgrims fleeing religious persecution who landed at Plymouth Rock so long ago, people who are second or third generation Americans are left reeling as they are told to go back where they came from. Even in my relatively sheltered existence, the truth of the Trump effect is hitting home. People who just days ago fit into the American tapestry are looking around, wondering just who they can trust, and it’s up to many of us to hold the fabric of our collective identity together with safety pins. Just try searching the hashtag #Trumpeffect on Twitter to see what many of the people who share this country are experiencing after this election. It’s vile. The KKK is having an outright victory parade. These are dark days. How far have we sunk as a country that any of this would be okay?

News outlets are reporting that this past election had the lowest voter turnout in two decades. The nature of the election may have caused some to sit it out thinking they couldn’t stomach their choices. I’ve heard people say they couldn’t vote for Hillary because she sounded shrill or because they didn’t want to see a woman in charge. This saddens me to no end. I cringe to think that Trump’s speeches inspired the hateful supporters who were shouting “lock her up” and who threatened to exercise their second amendment rights if their candidate was not elected. Some of those people are the ones decrying the current exercise of the first.

For those of you who are watching the #notmypresident protests unfold and are crying foul, those of you who, like me, believe in the peaceful transfer of power, look at who you’ve elected. Look closely. Play devil’s advocate for a moment and consider the arguments of the other side. Think of the possibility that you’ve been hoodwinked, that maybe the version of reality that’s been trotted out before you is not what you’re going to get.

If you are one of the many who wanted to be heard, to whom this was a protest vote in and of itself, we hear you. Let me offer this: Instead of a man who has a history of lies and evasion, who has manipulated the election, who will probably never again be seen wearing a baseball cap, who hasn’t released his tax returns… instead of this man, look to the true leaders of the common man. Bernie Sanders has a history of standing up for us, the people. Look it up. He’s still here, fighting for us. Look to Michael Moore, who predicted this win not because he supports Trump, but because he’s had his finger on the pulse of downtrodden middle America for a long, long time. I’m going to argue that we can’t have a top-down approach at this point in our country. The top has been compromised, including Donald Trump.

We are shaking the tapestry of America by exercising our first amendment right to protest. Like the flag unfurling in a tempest, it ripples and roils. When the storm dies down, we must ensure it remains intact.

I’ll leave you with the whole sonnet written by Emma Lazarus that graces the base of the Statue of Liberty:

New Colossus

statue of liberty poem

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Let’s not let it come to this:


Photo credit: On Location in Los Angeles via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Patriotism or Nationalism

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Wow. This has been quite a year, one that’s challenged my faith in my system of government, a beloved system created by brilliant men who thought out most what-if situations and installed checks and balances on absolute power. I love my country. I have never felt that flag-waving was a good expression of this patriotism. Instead, I read, I educate myself, and I vote. I claim my 1st amendment right to speak without fear of reprisal. I worship in a way that is true to my heart.

Like everyone else, I have my ideas about what makes this country great and what makes this country work best for the majority of people. I commit to respecting your difference of opinion and speaking out in a reasoned way against those who disagree with me, which is increasingly hard to do. Though soft in structure, the brain and heart can be incredibly rigid. I am aware that my voice is small in this echo chamber. My 1/325,000,000 of a say in the running of this great country is not worth losing friendships and family relationships over. Still…

I am reeling from the election of Donald Trump. I am flabbergasted by the response to the election by Paul Ryan, who claimed a mandate. I am worried because we have an obstructionist GOP who now have their hands on the reins and have spent the past 240 days not doing their job of even considering Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice. What we are witnessing right now is a party arguably at their worst in recent history making a huge power grab by co-0pting all of our checks and balances. Did the Founding Fathers anticipate this? Did they anticipate the GOP shutting off the security feature on voting machines that would record an image of each ballot as it went through? Did they anticipate the GOP purging the rolls of people they claim are double-registered, thereby depriving many fellow citizens of a voice? Did they anticipate the GOP gerrymandering or manipulating polling places to make it logistically difficult for certain populations of voters to cast a ballot?

There is much more going on in this country than the drama that has made headlines over the past few months. There is a more insidious movement to shut down dissenting voices and to grab power in a way that makes it more difficult for it to change hands again. This should worry us all. I contacted my senator this morning. I will continue to look into what I can do to preserve our democracy in the face of a Trump presidency. What will you do?

Democracy is not a spectator sport.


In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Or 

The Day After

Like many of you, I am waking up in shock. What happened? How could we have a reality TV star for president, a man who has admitted to a propensity for sexual assault, who readily sues anyone who comes in conflict with him, who lies and lies and lies and thinks his supporters are stupid. We have voted in a man who doesn’t understand science, who thinks if he sprays CFCs in a room, they will stay there, who has vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. We have voted a man into the highest office in the land who has said he would torture the families of the people who wish to do us harm, who wants to bomb the hell out of ISIS. We have voted in a man who has talked about using the nuclear option. We have voted in a man who was congratulated by Vladimir Putin.

I am astounded. I wasn’t excited about a Hillary Clinton presidency, and it has nothing at all to do with emails. She’s smug and has made it appear that she deserves this. She has ties to Wall St. She plays the political game too well. She morphs into what she thinks she needs to be to accede. Personally, I wished for a more deserving first woman president, but whatever. I could have lived with her with a modicum of grumbling.

But this?

I am a science-minded, liberal leaning moderate who appreciates the differences that make up the fabric of America. I vote for people who are inclusive to everyone. I vote for people who respect science, who listen to scientists, and unfortunately that does not include Republicans. I want a president who promotes science and engineering, a Congress that will fund space exploration. I want people in power who see the impact we have on our environment and don’t look at it with dollar signs in their eyes. I vote for people who believe in stewardship, in preservation of what we have for the benefit of future generations. Our new president has threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. God help us all.

I believe that the First Amendment of the Constitution, the right to free speech, free press, and freedom of and from religion, supersedes the Second. Religion has meddled way too much in politics. I know my fellow Christians have felt persecuted, and maybe that’s why they rationalize and justify voting for a man twice divorced who makes his living from casinos, a man who hosts beauty pageants of which he has bragged about walking in on contestants who are changing just to get a sophomoric glimpse at what a 10 looks like naked, a man who lies over and over again to suit his purposes. When I ask why, I hear “Pence” and  “Supreme Court.” Seems like a big gamble to me. Our new president elect has threatened to sue and silence the press.  People who are speaking out against him and his ideas are repeatedly harassed and sometimes threatened by his followers. How does that jive with 1A?

I believe in our system of government, and I stand behind the election process, though I couldn’t be more disappointed in the outcome. I think there are dark days ahead. The question is, where do we go from here?

Wordstock PDX

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Today I attended my first Wordstock PDX. I hear from others that it was the best.Despite the oil light in my car throwing my morning out of balance, I made it in plenty of time to get a good seat to hear Sherman Alexie. I’m a huge fan. His irreverent sense of humor is right up my alley. He mocks and laughs at everything. His reading of his new picture book was punctuated with stories and explanations of jokes and gestures for the radio audience. Look him up soon on OPB’s Think Out Loud. I bought his book to read to my classes.


Photo credit: ASU English Department via Foter.com / CC BY

The rest of the author talks were spread out within a few blocks, old churches and new theaters and the Portland Art Museum. The rainy day only added to the Portland dreary-weather-let’s-just-grab-a-book-and-read atmosphere. Throughout the festival, there were author pop up talks amid Andy Warhol prints in the modern art museum and book signings in the ballroom. My only complaints were that I’d left my umbrella at home and that I had to pick and choose authors to listen to.

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Oh, well. I’ll be back next year, and next time I’m bringing my book-loving friends.

My new reading list includes:

Chicago, by Brian Doyle
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, by Ramona Ausubel
Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub
People Like You, by Margaret Malone
The Folly of Loving Life, by Monica Drake
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Substitute, by Nicholas Baker
The Remnants, by Robert Hill

National Stress Awareness Day

I woke up this morning and checked my Twitter feed. A trending hashtag was for National Stress Awareness Day. I laughed. Oh, to have just one day dedicated to stress awareness.

I know I’m not alone in being aware of the day after day pressures in my life.

On the top of my list is parenting stress. Will my kids learn the basic human skills of communication, compassion and resilience? Will they do their best in school? What will I do when they falter? I do my best, but truth be told, there are plenty of subversive influences out there, from dramatic reality TV that feeds on the worst of human interactions to easy access to who-knows-what on the internet. My kids are of the age where I don’t sit over their shoulder any more trying to make sure they are making good choices. I trust, but I worry.

The two youngest, lovingly referred to as Goose and Maverick, are both adults now. They are watching their first presidential election unfold. Firsts should be better than this. Back in 2008, I took them to a small, local Obama rally. I was inspired by the message of hope, and I wanted them to be a part of that. They were 10 and 11. In this election, my young millennial, Goose, dove into an eager support of Bernie Sanders, even attending one of his rallies. He was inspired by Bernie’s integrity and commitment to social justice. He is now one of the disillusioned millennials. He has filled out his mail-in ballot, but refuses to vote for president. Maverick refuses to vote altogether, and no amount of motherly coaxing him to perform his civic duty will change his cynical young mind.

I have to wonder how this election will impact the already-there economic stress. I worry. I question. How can I stretch my paycheck? How will our older kids ever pay back their college loans? (How I wish we could help with that.) What will happen to my meager investments if Trump is elected president? Why is everything so expensive? Apples have always been my indicator, maybe because they are a local item. They used to be 39 cents a pound. Now you’re lucky to get them for $1.99 a pound. They have risen 410% over the past 20 years, a time frame when minimum wage only went up by 77%. And on that note, why aren’t groceries figured into the price of inflation?

Most of us worry about the financial impacts of political decisions on our lives and our children’s lives. Goose and Maverick (both employed but still living at home) haven’t committed themselves to college yet, despite being out of high school. They feel the burden of college debt and don’t want to have to deal with it. I tell them it’s worth the investment, that they will see a good return in the way of increased earnings, but I feel less and less sure about that myself. My recently-graduated daughter is saddled with a huge debt burden and has spent months searching in a job market that expects years of experience that she doesn’t yet have. My own financial worries are nothing compared to those my children will face if something is not done to equalize the economic imbalance in this country.

Then there’s societal stress. How is my country changing around me? How is the influx of people from other parts of the world contributing to that? What should my reaction be? My own husband is an immigrant. I have known many immigrants, not just from Mexico, but from Nepal and Chile. I am drawn to the stories and experiences, to seeing my country through the lens of others. I wonder at the ugliness this election has stirred up, the intolerance and willingness to make someone out as the “other.” The family from Chile escaped the dictatorship of Pinochet. One time the father recounted a story of fearing for his life as he was heading home from college in the midst of the coup and encountering armed men in the streets. I wonder if he ever thought it couldn’t happen there. The immigrants I know are good people, but I see how their arrival causes an imbalance in our society, and every imbalance seeks equilibrium. Though I lean left, I think this is a flexible issue and a necessary one to address. Maybe we need to time let the most recent additions settle, and settle in with them ourselves. We all get burned when the melting pot overflows.

If those things weren’t enough to worry about, there’s health care. I don’t know about you, but we are always one medical emergency away from having the rug pulled out from under us. In what is supposedly the model of democracy in the world, I find that unacceptable. We’ve personally been through medical issues that set us back significantly, and that was before the ballooning of health care costs. It took years to recover. Many of our elected officials are working hard to rectify the situation, but it’s a slow, hard-fought battle. Our own deductible has risen to $12,000 for our employer provided health care option. You may blame the ACA. I think it’s corporate greed. Wherever the fault lies, it doesn’t change the current reality. My husband recently tried to make an appointment with a doctor for an issue that included chest pain and was sent directly to the ER, only to be told after a battery of tests that it was probably esophageal spasms. I’m glad the services are there and I’m thankful it was not heart related, but I’m sure this visit might exceed our deductible. You tell me how I’m not supposed to stress.

And nobody is even discussing climate change.

Every day I turn on the T.V. or radio only to be bludgeoned by political ads of people who claim to have the answers telling me how they are going to finally fix these things. I know there are people who are trying. There are also the few who throw money at changing the whole system to suit their needs. (Oligarchy, here we come!)

I just want a little stress relief.

I made a snarky post with the hashtag National Stress Awareness Day then got up to have my coffee and face another day. What I really wanted to do was throw my smartphone against the wall, pull the covers over my head, and wake up on November 9th, hoping all of this was just a very bad dream.


If you made it through this whole thing, thanks so much for reading.

This was somehow, and I’ve forgotten how, inspired by The Daily Post’s prompt: Bludgeon

SYW #44

It’s time for another installment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you want to play along, click here. Here are my responses for this week:

What was your favorite subject in school?

My favorite subjects changed over the course of my education. When I was in elementary school, it was reading. Library days were my favorite, and I loved plowing right through the SRA reading kits. When I got to middle school, my favorite subjects became writing and art, partially thanks to a very creative teacher. In high school, I discovered that I loved biology. It was only in college, when I was taking a teaching math course, that I discovered a love for my previously hated subject, math, which goes to show you that anything is possible.

If you could have a servant come to your house every day for two hours, what would you have them do?

  1. Clean the bathrooms. Worst job ever.
  2. Pull the weeds. Seriously, how do they grow so fast? I don’t know if two hours a day would cover it on our little acre plot. (But it would beat the zero hours a day I’m spending on it right now.)
  3. If there is any time left, they could just straighten up, wash dishes, whatever would give me more time to research and write without the burden of these chores hanging over my head.

Where did you live when you were in the third grade of school?  Is it the same place or town you live now?

I lived in a newer suburb of a city. It was a safe place to explore, at least as far as we knew. Who knows what unknown dangers actually lurked around there? I’ve moved around a bit, but still live fairly close to where I grew up. It’s fun to drive back through the neighborhood sometimes and stir up old memories. I have a lot of acquaintances from those days who live mere blocks from where we all grew up. That seems strange to me.

In your opinion, list some places that are great for shopping?

I’m not much of a shopper anymore. My needs are small, and as long as I have coffee, chocolate, and a good book, I can procrastinate any shopping trip. When I go to the mall and don’t find what I like, it’s a frustrating waste of my time. The closest mall is 20 miles away and mostly caters to the high school crowd. I find myself shopping more and more online. That being said, if I’m anywhere near a T.J. Maxx/HomeGoods, you might not see me for a couple of hours. 😉

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I was grateful for a quiet week of my husband being gone hunting.

This week I look forward to seeing a zombie opera that my younger brother co-wrote. He’s now the artistic director of his town’s theater and is excited to be showing off his thus far magnum opus.


As always, thanks to Cee for this fun challenge.

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Lose the Labels

We in the United States are stuck in a word quagmire these days, a quicksand-like atmosphere where we can’t even slog along for all the mud on our boots. Everywhere you turn, people are talking, yelling actually, and yet what is actually being said? We slap a label on something and draw lines. Don’t you dare step on the other side. We have created otherness to the point that it’s like walking in a carnival funhouse, only without the fun.

And what about these labels? Where do you and I fit in? Are you a libtard or deplorable? Are you a nasty woman? Are you sexist, racist, and a xenophobe? Are you a poot, a faketriot, a conservative, a tea bagger? What exactly do these designations mean? What are they saying about us, both the speaker and the recipient of the label?

When we label someone, we don’t have to consider their ideas. We just summarily dismiss them. What about the kernel of truth in what the “other” is saying? You know there is one. By labeling and dismissing, we are missing out on a chance for dialogue and understanding. We can’t all know everything about the issues, and many of us don’t have time to delve deeply, so we respond off the cuff, reactionarily, to maintain our personal status quo. But who is that hurting?

Beyond the initial personal sting to the recipient, it’s hurting us as a country. It’s weakening our integrity. It’s the water in our joists that softens the stability, providing the perfect substrate for the ideological termites and divisive carpenter ants to eat away at it. One day soon we will look up to find the walls are caving in. Then will we stand back and try to figure out how to fix what we’ve destroyed?

This American experiment in democracy is a beautiful thing. We all have a chance to get involved, but we have to allow others their opinion and their right to vote. We must attempt to create understanding based on logic and empathy, not divide with fear, innuendo, and intimidation.

This election is nearly over. We are all dissatisfied. Can we at least agree on that? Let’s figure out why. We were given two candidates whose character has been called into question, affecting their ability to lead. We had other choices. Whether you agree with him or not, Bernie attracted a huge following, a groundswell of support from the people, similar to Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, however, his personal ethics were never called into question. His integrity was sound. This is the type of person we should look toward to lead us as a country. It’s too late for us this time, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have work to do.

How can we help good leaders rise to the top? First, get big money out of politics. The mostly unseen influence of just a few voices has given us legislators who work for them, not us. Groups like Represent Us are fighting this corporate corruption at the ground level. Second, step back and consider what people are saying, from those at the top to your neighbors and family members. Each of us has issues that are really important to us. We might need to just agree to disagree on some things because what’s really happening is that while we, the people, are distracted by our infighting, someone at the top is bankrolling lobbyists and influencing politicians, creating a country that benefits him, but not necessarily us. How do you think that will affect our future conversations?

In addition, a separation of church and state would be nice, not just from a constitutional standpoint, but from the view of those who don’t toe the line with the conservative right. Some of us who have been silenced by our own faith-based organizations really believe in the tenets of Christianity, especially that of loving our neighbor as ourselves, even if that neighbor is gay or Muslim or fears for their child’s safety when they walk out the door in the morning. Sticking fingers into politics sullies the message and highlights any and all hypocrisy. Is that the light you mean to shine?

This is our country. We are fellow Americans. Our citizenship, our day to day struggles define who we are. We are not more or less American based on the number of flags we wave or whether we kneel during the national anthem in quiet protest. We can fight injustices without fighting each other.

Let’s unite these United States.

Are you with me?


Side note: My son just informed me that John Cena scored a 36 on his ACT. Wow!

Share Your World – #43

It’s time for the latest installment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you would like to play along, click here. Here are my responses:

What are you really glad you did yesterday?

Yesterday I cooked. And cooked. And cooked.

My husband and father are going on their annual hunting trip to Eastern Oregon and my small contribution to their meals has transitioned into me being their main supplier of good eats. They like it and that makes me happy, but it is a lot of work.

When I opened my giant Mexican cookbook to search for a chile colorado recipe, I thought (again) how fun it would be to open a restaurant. By the end of the night reality had struck its familiar blow, reminding me that I probably didn’t have the stamina to do this day after day. Toward the end of my cooking marathon, my son reminded me of the Food Network show Restaurant Impossible and how brutally hard it is to be in the restaurant business. I guess I’ll settle for cooking for friends and family.

Would you prefer a one floor house or multiple levels?

I’d trade my one story for a two story in a heartbeat. I grew up in a house with a basement. As my kids have grown in our own small, one-story house, I’ve come to realize the advantage to having a separate floor for them to gather with their friends to play games and watch movies. There’s the added benefit of daily workouts as I’d travel up and down the stairs. (Thankfully, I’m in good health with no knee issues.)

Have you done something you truly want to do today?

The day is young! I’ll get back to you on that.

What plans did you have as a teenager that didn’t happen? Are you happy it didn’t work out that way?

I was a dreamer as a teen. I think my biggest goal was to move to Colorado and be the country girl John Denver made me believe I was. I was going to live a simple life and spend a lot of time skiing. Alas, my dreams didn’t come true, but the alternative with my husband and four kids has been pretty wonderful.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I was just grateful to get through last week. Sometimes that’s as good as it gets.

This week I look forward to spending some time on my writing.


As always, thanks to Cee for this fun opportunity to share our worlds.

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The American Dream

Let’s talk illegal immigration.

Last Saturday, I took the back roads on my way to my destination. I passed through the lands belonging to a farm I worked at during a summer in college. What used to be acres of berries and filberts has seen many improvements. There are now acres of nursery stock, windmills in the blueberries, ponds and sprinkler systems. There were posted notices where the plants had recently been sprayed, and there were a few people working in the field across the road.

I was transported back to those same fields over twenty years ago and my job as row boss/checker. Back then, I spoke a little Spanish, and I relished the chance to practice my skills. In the process, I got to know people, hard working people, old people and young parents who had their preschoolers in the field with them. I saw how they interacted with each other, joking, laughing, caring for one another. There were large extended families and neighbors from the same small town. I felt how kind they were toward me, “la güera.” I was invited to after hours get togethers with the other summer workers and the crew bosses, pizza dinners in town or sitting around a fire with the crew bosses singing Norteño music to the tune of a guitar and accordion. I greeted people with a smile and got a smile in return.

There were occasions where I had to visit the camps that housed the workers. One was newer, cinder block housing, camp style, nothing fancy. People who had been bent over strawberries all day, dusty and sweaty, had cleaned up for a foray into town for supplies or a trip to the bar. Little girls in spotless dresses with hair pulled back tightly into braids that didn’t allow for any flyaways played together while young boys kicked a soccer ball around. There was another housing unit, a derelict old building that many people were crammed into. These were the housing options for these workers. If they started seeing a decrease in income as the season progressed and the harvest declined, some of them sought work elsewhere. When the strawberries were on their way out, blueberries and caneberries were ripening. These folks had to move. The farmer wouldn’t house them if they weren’t working on his farm.

On certain occasions I was asked to go along with people as a translator. On one occasion, I translated for a couple with small children who were looking for an apartment. I called and the owners said they had an open apartment. When we arrived, they very quickly said they couldn’t rent to the couple, that they only rented to students. This was my first encounter with discrimination. Another time I accompanied a young mother to the public clinic to get to the bottom of intense abdominal pain. She expressed hesitation at gowning up for the exam and the doctor turned to me and exasperatedly said something about how she didn’t have a problem spreading her legs for her husband. My decision to open my mind to another person’s experience was enlightening me to the nasty undercurrent that existed in my own world.

There were bad things that went on. I heard about the prostitutes that went to the camps, American girls from the fringe of society. True free market. Supply and demand. Once, I was accosted in the fields by one young man and managed to slip through the bushes before he managed to kiss me. Overall, though, I felt as though I was surrounded by basically good people.

Were the people here illegally? We didn’t know, though it was assumed they were. Were they acting criminally while here? Not in my experience. I saw people who worked hard, who bought American clothes and American products, people who sent money home to take care of families who stayed behind. During that time, their help was needed, so the government and the farmers turned a blind eye. This was common knowledge at the time. In reality, if you had wanted to stem the tide of illegal immigration, placing a hefty fine on the employers might have been the best option. If there were no work to be had, people wouldn’t make the grueling journey. The reward has to outweigh the risk.

I have kept in contact with some of these people. The young man who wanted an apartment just became a citizen last month. I have a smiling picture of him at his citizenship ceremony. He and his family routinely spend their free time at Disneyland. Another woman who worked for years in the fields was recently had a late stage cancerous growth removed, and she had to travel to Mexico to have her health concerns taken seriously. (Some things have not improved.) One gentleman started his own business. Another works for the Department of Agriculture. At least half of their children are seeking military service or post-secondary education. (Many of these parents never attended high school.) All have benefitted from the 1990 Immigration Act introduced by Ted Kennedy and signed into law by the first President Bush.

As I drove by that old farm, I couldn’t help but feel the unfairness of it all. The improvements I saw were due to the backbreaking labor of ordinary people who are being villified today.  One of our candidates would have you think that this subset of our population consists of murderers and rapist sent here by Mexico. What a simplistic world view.

As you consider my words, please enjoy this Republican blast from the past: