Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bailout Bewilderment

The bailout plan has me bewildered. Do you remember back to last January there was a big debate about adding poor children to State Children's Health Insurance Program. Though it passed the House and Senate (don't forget, Democratically controlled), they couldn't muster enough votes to overcome George Bush's veto--- $12 billion dollars over 5 years was just too dang expensive to insure that kids could get to a doctor. (Never mind that "our representatives” and their families get full, free health coverage for their entire lives.) For years our public school teachers have paid out of their own pockets to provide supplies for their classrooms. Have you noticed- the poorer the neighborhoods, the more decrepit the schoolroom? i wonder why that is? Single mothers are told to "get a job" or go hungry- get off the dole we can’t afford to feed you. Old folks can't afford their medicine. Bridges are collapsing into the rivers of this country. Katrina refugees are placed in toxic trailers and left to fend for themselves. Yet when Wall Street banks face collapse due to their own greed, collusion, and immorality, hundreds of billions of dollars become available over night to shore up the financial system. Some decide to change the words- it’s not a bailout, it’s a rescue, but the actions remain the same. The bankers come to Capitol Hill in their limos and their thousand dollar suits, hand out and demanding the government act...do you remember when that kid (Graeme Frost) testified on the hill regarding the health insurance plan and our disgraceful leaders and members of the media claimed the kid wasn't poor at all- and his family was taking advantage of the system? Remind me- was he wearing a thousand dollar suit?

Why not rescue hungry kids, or rescue the homeless or keep people in their homes.... Over the last years we have created many first time homebuyers. Granted, the mortgages that were sold to them were faulty. Many were designed to fail. Millions of dollars of equity has been squeezed out of poor and middle class neighborhoods throughout America- another Katrina for certain- and the very folks we are now bailing out are the ones who benefited from this theft. But why not rescue the homeowners? After all, they believed in the American dream- were they merely rubes for the bankers and lenders?

And now the Presidential candidates are proclaiming they are going to "balance the budget" and "hard times are ahead"- code words to inform you and i that there will be even less money for your most urgent needs. i got news for them, hard times have been here for the majority of people in this country.... i'm just wondering when hard times will come to the Pentagon and the Defense Department- if the streets of NYC looked like Somalia do you think "our representatives” would feed us, or would they continue building bombs to protect the "American way of life"? When does freedom and the pursuit of happiness include all Americans- better yet, when does freedom and the pursuit of happiness include all beings? And why does the ”Love it or leave it crowd” so readily defend the swindlers and liars? And the major party candidates go on and on about who has your best interests in mind, desperately trying to convey they give a damn when all their actions prove otherwise.

So what to do? How does one confront the mendacity of our leaders and participate in our community in meaningful ways? It is quite easy to point out the hypocrisy of others because i divert my mind from the fact that we are partners in this dance. So i see the trap, i call it out, i fall in it anyway. It's like this- Each of us needs to stand up. Fear manifests in uncertainty and doubt. i stop. i acquiesce to the status quo- because it seems easier, and i like comfort, and spending beyond my means seems almost a necessity... Can i really drop out of the system that perpetuates the inequalities- or can i only talk about it? Standing up shifts everything- when i say "i can't do that"....where does it stop? i see it- but can i live it? Have i got the courage? i'm reminded of Mary Oliver's poem called "The Journey":

"One day you finally knew
what you had to do,
and began though
the voices around you
kept shouting their bad advice..."

These voices are my voices, and still they stop me. There is a zen koan, “How will you step forward from the top of a hundred foot pole?” i haven't yet stepped forward, though it beckons, no- it cries out, and i turn and fall back in the trap. Pressure builds as dissonance is swallowed. In this season, where the talk of hope and change is all the rage, let’s not forget that change only comes from within. And it begins with that first step.