Sunday, July 8, 2018

Is The Melting Pot "Full" Now?

© Valley News,

The United States of America recently celebrated the 242nd anniversary of its Declaration of Independence from British colonialism. Since that time, our greatest assets have been the individuals and families from less fortunate nations that we continue to welcome, and a collective sense of empathy and compassion. The "rude" French even sent us a statue commemorating our ability to embrace everyone regardless of economic circumstance, religious belief, race, or gender. What happened to that?

We are suddenly a nation of intolerance, willing to literally wall ourselves off from the rest of the world, believing that what used to be our greatest strength is now our most pressing problem, our greatest weakness. We have already built walls around our hearts, hardened ourselves to misery greater than we will ever experience. We look around us and no longer see people who look like us. We no longer understand the words in conversations carried out around us. We feel eerily isolated in neighborhoods that have become unrecognizable. The houses look the same, but the occupants are different. It does not compute. Our accustomed level of comfort is becoming highly unstable, even if none of "them" are terrorists.

The extremely wealthy and powerful have taken note of our unease and amplified it into irrational fears as a way to manufacture an unnecessary political divide. This wedge being driven between us allows the continued redistribution of wealth to the very top of our economic food chain. We are told there is not enough to go around, and the problem is "those people" streaming across our border and "stealing your jobs."

No, the problem is in your corporate boardroom where you draw up plans to lay off your workforce if not take away their benefits, raid their pensions, and otherwise make the lives of labor intolerable such that your shareholders and executive officers reap obscene profits.

Those of us whole toil away at unpaid overtime, without union representation, doing the jobs of three other people whose positions were not renewed, are now left to our own devices. We are told we should get a second job, sell some of our belongings, continue to sacrifice for the good of the company. That is, after all, the kind of loyalty that built our most esteemed companies.

No, it is not. Henry Ford is widely acclaimed for having paid his employees enough that they could own the vehicles they were building. Loyalty is a two-way street. There is a reason there is an annual best-companies-to-work-for list.

So, given our personal economic woes, it is no wonder we are falling into a Kick the Dog Syndrome. Men, especially, want to express the pain and angst they feel, and do so inappropriately by inflicting pain on someone else. Maybe it is their spouse. Maybe it is their kids. Maybe it is the Mexican neighbors or those "uppity" Blacks down the street. We want to make tangible the intangible emotional pain that we carry hidden. How is anyone else to know our inner turmoil, our guilt at being unable to provide for our families, our utter failure to advance to the American Dream?

The answer, of course, is that the American Dream created unrealistic, if not outright false, expectations. The melting pot is only full if you believe that you are entitled to the spacious house, the white picket fence, the two-car garage, and all the other material amenities we were promised in the 1950s. We now have a segment of our population that believes they are entitled to mansions (several, in fact), private jets, private banking, and luxury at every turn. They "earned" that, naturally, from your labor, your blood, sweat, and tears. They hardened their hearts to you long before you hardened yours to today's brand of immigrants. Remember that. Stop participating, as much as possible, in the system that is disempowering you. Look for employers who are interested in seeing all of their employees prosper, not just the ones at the top. Become your own employer. Drop your bank for a credit union. Stop aspiring to excessive affluence and invest in organizations that help the less fortunate, protect consumers, the environment, and all of those things we hold valuable above money.

We need all the allies we can get to improve our collective society and culture, and those fellow soldiers are the new immigrants you want to blame for everything. Recognize your misplaced resentment and hostility. Channel it into something better for yourself and the other downtrodden.

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