Who’d have ever thought it would be the biggest corporations in America who were most supportive of the welfare state? That’s the only conclusion I can draw as I watch the raging debate over the minimum wage.
If we follow the issue logically, here’s how it plays out. Corporate America pays its workers less than a living wage. Their workers, in turn, use the social welfare system of food stamps and AFDC to enhance their meager pay so they can feed their families. This allows those in the boardrooms of corporate America to continue to bring home millions upon millions of dollars in compensation each year. In essence, our government welfare programs support the continued obscene wealth of the top one percent of this country. You and I, through out taxes, are supporting their second homes on the Riviera and third yachts in the Caribbean.
Quite frankly, given my annual income, I have no trouble with raising the minimum wage even if it takes a billion or two out of CEOs’ annual incomes. They can still afford it way more than I can afford the taxes I pay to keep them in third homes and fourth wives.
This time of year there is a lot of blather and bleating about the war on Christmas. This is usually because some people insist on saying Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas and some prefer their child not be expected to sing religious songs about the birth of a savior in whom they do not believe. This flies in the face of those who feel if you don’t want to be a Christian at Christmas, you should just leave the country.
I do think there is a war on Christmas. I just don’t think it’s being waged in quite those terms. Christmas celebrates the birth of a man who lived in poverty, sacrificed for others and cleansed the temple of moneylenders. Christmas celebrates the birth of a man who lived off the kindness of strangers once his ministry started, and walked in peace with prostitutes and the poor.
The real war on Christmas is being waged by those who make obscene profits off the celebration of this simple man’s birth. The real war is seen in the videos of people pepper spraying each other to get to the latest electronic geegaw being offered for sale at a time when people should be sitting around a dinner table with their families thanking God for their blessings. The real war on Christmas comes from those companies who look at this season and see nothing but profit at the expense of those workers who would like to be with their families but fear losing their less than living wage jobs if they object to spending the day amidst a horde of greed crazed consumers.
I have no problem with the idea of a mid-winter festival. Especially here in Alaska where it is dark and cold and often dreary in December, this kind of celebration brightens the long winter night. But let’s call it what it is and stop pretending it has anything to do with the birth of the Christ child. Call it Saturnalia, the feast the Christ child’s real birthday was moved to replace. Call it a winter festival of lights and gifts. Call it anything but what we now pretend it is.
Let’s end the war on Christmas by going back and re-examining what Christmas should really be about. If Christ walked this earth today, I don’t think he’d be found huddled in front of Best Buy waiting to mace his fellow man to get to the Play Station first. He would be standing with the strikers demanding they be paid a living wage. He’d be expressing his outrage at workers being told by their corporation to cut their food into smaller bites if there isn’t enough because that way it will seem like more (this from McDonald’s!). He’d be behind the counter carving the turkey at any soup kitchen in town. He’d be standing with the poor, not the rich.
Let’s end the war on Christmas and make it a true celebration of Christ by foregoing “things” and instead demanding the end of corporate welfare and the start of living wages for those with whom he walked. It’s the best present anyone could give the Christ child.
This year, my Christmas gift to me is a vow to not open the door or answer the phone on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Just me and my animals for two days of total peace and quiet… well, except for the dogs barking, the birds screeching and the peed and pooped on pads… hmmmm. Maybe I need to rethink this.
That is apparently the new spirit of Christmas as found in the shopping malls of America.
Once again my dead friend Grace advances another year into old age and I stay as young as ever. It’s so sad to see your friends age while you remain forever young. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Christmas carols in November.
Useless Board of Directors… you know who I mean.
The question is whether or not I risk the drive on icy roads to get to the only holiday event I really ever want to attend. The women who form this orchestra have little else going for them while in prison. This brings a ray of light into the darkness. And it’s all volunteer! Costs the taxpayer nothing. What a wonderful thing to do for these women.
Saw an ad on TV selling toothbrushes as great stocking stuffers. Really? Yeah, let’s see those kids eyes light up when they come down on Christmas morning and find toothbrushes in their stockings. That will make those eyes sparkle…
The stories could not have been better positioned on the front page of Sunday’s ADN to express what I think of as the yin and yang of life in Bush Alaska. The story of a tragic crash near St. Mary’s and the subsequent heroic efforts of village people to reach the crash and help the survivors, juxtaposed against the story of bootleggers and bootlegging in my old hometown. There you have in, in stark black and white, life in Alaska’s villages.
Living in a small Alaskan village is a window into both the best and the worse of human nature. Statistic after statistic shows the worse – the highest rates of violence, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, suicide. Based on that view of village life, many people question why anyone would want to live there. For some, the good of village life simply doesn’t outweigh the bad.
But there is another side to village life. It’s the side I find myself explaining over and over again when people ask how I could have lived in one for almost 30 years. You may find it annoying that everyone always knows your business, on the one hand, but on the other hand it sure comes in handy when life takes a rough turn and you find yourself surrounded by people offering to buffer you in every way possible from that roughness. When tragedy strikes in small villages, the villages respond as one with love, compassion and help. In the case of the recent plane crash near St. Mary’s, the response included courage and commitment to saving lives by venturing out in frightening winter weather to find the crash and save whoever they could.
No one asked if the people on board the plane were villagers. No one asked if they were Alaska Native, Caucasian, African American or Martian. It didn’t matter. They were human beings in trouble and village people responded from a sense of common humanity. Living in a remote village means knowing how often you are on your own to handle a tragedy while the outside world tries to reach you. So banding together to care for each other is second nature. It may be your neighbor’s turn today to need help but tomorrow may be your turn.
I’d guess that some of those rescuers are the same people who end up in articles about the prevalence of substance abuse and domestic violence in Alaska’s villages. Few of us are all hero or all villain. Most of us are an amalgamation of good and bad impulses and actions. The same man who may beat his wife when drunk is quite possibly the first person on his skidoo racing to the scene of a tragedy. The yin and yang of village life makes facile labels useless.
Ultimately you can’t tell the story of Alaska’s villages without recounting the heroism along with the horror. You can’t ignore the fact that the same people are often featured in both scenarios. So when people ask why we shouldn’t just jail the perpetrators of abuse and throw away the key, the answer is that life is not writ in big letters of black and white. Life is writ in shades of gray that just make it all the more difficult to deal with the problems besetting our villages.
I lived for almost thirty years in Barrow and during that time I saw both ends of the spectrum and all the spaces in-between. I stayed because ultimately I saw the strong core that is still the center of village life, the impulse to pull together when needed, to help your neighbor, to feed your people. I saw that in stark relief against the violence and abuse that all too often pervaded village homes. And I believed then, and still believe now, that the strength of the culture will eventually triumph.
The people from St. Mary’s who risked their own lives to find the crash site and help the victims were probably not all angels. Some probably had criminal records. But the human impulse to help when the need arises despite the personal risk is still inside them. That’s the part that needs to be tended, encouraged and grown. Once it blossoms fully again, the horrible statistics that seem to define Bush Alaska today will start to wither and, eventually, disappear.
And I already want to tear my ears off every time I hear another Christmas carol on the radio or in a store. I’ll be bleeding from the brain by the time Dec. 25 arrives.
Remember Bird TLC, Alaska’s pre-eminent wild bird rehab facility. Go to http://www.birdtlc.net to see how you can contribute to the continued health and presence of Alaska’s magnificent birds. It’s for the birds!
I"ll never understand Black Friday and whatever color today is considered in cyber shopping. Did you know that if, instead of getting more stuff, you simply donated to a charity to help those who have NO stuff, you wouldn’t have to wait in any lines, wouldn’t have to worry about getting trampled, could enjoy your Thanksgiving meal the way god intended with a three hour nap after it followed by sandwiches… seriously, what the hell is wrong with us?
Maybe if you didn’t all call me between Thanksgiving and Christmas I wouldn’t be so snarly on the phone. Oh yeah, and if you’re calling from an East Coast call center, check the time difference. I’m highly unlikely to give to a cause that calls me at 6 AM.
Our next generation gets to know each other over Thanksgiving dinner at grandpop and grandmom’s house. It’s the way Thanksgiving should be.
First of all, I never watch sports at all because ALL the ads are either for low T drugs or penile erection drugs. We can’t find the money to cover birth control for women but we insist insurance pay for men to get it up until they’re ninety. What is wrong with that picture?
As for the low T crap, it’s just another drug looking to solve a problem no one knew we even had three years ago. Too bad they haven’t come up with a drug to make old men with three hour hard-ons attractive to older women who actually have a life outside of the house now that the kids are gone and hubby listens to Rush.
Some years when Thanksgiving rolls around, I find myself at a loss for something new to be grateful for. Until this year I considered the continued health and good fortune that generally blesses my extended family and friends a given. But the past twelve months have changed my outlook. This year taught me just how fragile existence can be.
It started early in the year when my cousin found he had a significant aneurysm and valve problem that would require open heart surgery. This is the cousin who shared my youth and my college years, if not my college activities. This is the cousin that stands only slightly below my brother in my hierarchy of men I truly love and admire. And speaking of brothers, soon after my cousin’s diagnosis my brother went into the hospital for what was supposed to be a simple procedure endured by men of a certain age only to find that he too had an aneurysm and valve problem that would need open heart surgery.
So I spent a good deal of the spring and summer hanging by my phone and e-mail waiting for updates and sweating out the days of their surgeries while making all those promises to a deity that may or may not exist about how wonderfully I’d live my life if only She’d let them be ok. In the end, they were. Both came through with flying colors. I then promptly came down with shingles. I’m pretty convinced my illness was directly related to their surgeries as I was a stressed out mess before it was all over. Yep, I am so my mother’s child except for not taking the pills that helped her through each day.
Then, just when I thought I could take a deep breath, a dear friend who is an integral member of my Alaska family announced she had finally scheduled her double mastectomy. She’d already had one bout of breast cancer and had that gene that makes new cancers close to inevitable. As violent as the solution may seem, removing both breasts is the safest method we currently have for reducing that chance to close to zero.
All the pink ribbon runs and campaigns and celebrity spokespeople in the world cannot bring the reality of breast cancer and its devastation as close to home as the simple fact of someone you know having both breasts removed as a way to get ahead of the curve. Despite all attempts at humor at our lunch before the surgery – we called it the “Off With The Old, On With The New” luncheon in honor of her planned reconstructive surgery – nothing could disguise the fact that she was about to undergo something that we all secretly prayed we’d never have to face. That she could face it with such grace, dignity and, yes, humor is a testimony to her strength and the strength that all women facing this surgery must have to survive.
My friend came through her surgery ok, much as my brother and cousin did. She still has a long road to travel but she travels it without the constant fear of what will be found on her next mammogram. And my brother and cousin are both fully engaged with their lives again with not a lot to show for their ordeal but some very interesting scarring on their chests and a greater appreciation of each day’s pleasures – not that they’d ever admit that. In my family, sentimentality is viewed with the same suspicion with which you’d eye a mole on your skin that was changing color and growing.
So this Thanksgiving I find myself with a whole new appreciation of those things I have taken for granted before. I no longer just assume my family will always be whole and intact. I am now extremely grateful that it is and find myself hugging family members just a little closer each time I see them. I’m grateful that I have friends with the courage to face the future and do what has to be done in order for us to have many more summers of long walks and talks in which we solve the problems of the world.
I wish you and your families all a happy Thanksgiving full of turkey, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and friends and family who make your life complete.