Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Our Brother's and Sisters Keeper: Peace is Patriotic

by Praetor One, SweetPea, BibleBelted, and Matthew5

"Just a minute.  Now hold on Mister Potter.  You're right when you say my father was no business man, I know that.  Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan I'll never know.  But neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character because his whole life was...Why in twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing he never once thought of himself.  Isn't that right Uncle Billy?  He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me, but he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mister Potter.  And what's wrong with that?  Why...Here, you're all businessmen here.  Doesn't it make them better citizens?  Doesn't it make them better customers?  You...you said that uh...What'd you say just a minute ago?  They, they had to wait and save money before they even thought of a decent home.  Wait?  Wait for what?  Until their children grow up and leave them?  Until they're so old and broken down that they...Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars?  Just remember this, Mister Potter, that this rabble you're talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.  Well is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?  Anyway, my father didn't think so.  People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be."

From the Frank Capra Film, It's A Wonderful Life
Written by  Philip Va Doren Stern (story) and Frances Goodrich (screenplay).

In a slight change of pace we've decided to write about another kind of peace.  The kind of peace that comes from knowing you live in a sane, prosperous society where the middle class is valued and treasured, not undermined at every turn by conservative leaders who are terrified of and perhaps even jealous of a prosperous middle class.  The dirty little secret in Republican Administrations from Reagen onwards, has been the disturbing fact that right wingers aren't only fearful of gays, lesbians, and minorities.  They are also frightened by the idea of a prosperous middle class, disturbed by the idea that people might actually have leisure time in which they can think about their condition and take steps to improve their lot in life. 

This may come as a surprise to corporate America and its theocratic allies; and it may even come as a bigger supply to the burdened middle class, but in many ways the most politically productive times in this country are those in which large numbers of Americans have disposable income and leisure time to think about the important issues of the day.  It is no coincidence that one of our greatest eras of change, the 1960s, was a prosperous era in which Americans enjoyed little things like decent health care and a relatively rational health care system; when workers stood up for workers rights, and when employees were more cooperative with their workers and more willing to make concessions than they are in today's economy.  It is not a coincidence that the Civil Rights movement, which had been slowly building in previous decades, began to bear fruit in the 1960s and 1970s when Americans still enjoyed little things like pensions, vacation time, an eight hour day, and safe working places.  With extra time and extra income the American people were more willing to think about the critical issues of the day.  Not threatened by an ever increasingly competitive workplace and a limited number of jobs, the American people were more willing to share slices of the political and economic pies with those who differed from them. 

By the same standard, it is no coincidence that the women's movement came to the forefront during the early 1970s, again a time of relative prosperity when people had the time and resources to consider the great issues of the day.

Unfortunately for us, for the American worker, taxpayer, and middle class citizen, the Powers That Be, the corporate overlords and aristocrats, discovered, during he late 70s and especially during the 1980s, the era of Reaganomics, that there were ways to curtail thoughts about freedom and reform, and the primary way in which this could be achieved was through the weakening and virtual destruction of the Middle Class.  And the best way to do that was through the dismantling of the reforms that were set down by Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats during the 1930s.  Mind you, this is not a debate as to whether or not the New Deal was a successful remedy to the Republicans' Great Depression.  This is a discussion about the protections that were set in place during the Roosevelt era which were designed to protect the rights of he American worker and to limit the power of and ability of corporate America to exploit the American worker. This is not a a discussion as to whether or not the New Deal was Socialistic.  The primary topic of discussion here is one of whether we want efficiently regulated capitalism or the kind of cutthroat highway robbery which is passed off as capitalism in the modern era of Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II.

You just have to give the Republicans' credit.  In their modest opinion (and they have a lot to be modest about) Ronald Reagen is a bona fide political saint; a modern day reformer who arrived just in time to defeat the forces of communism and socialism.   But when Ronald Reagan denigrated the words "I'm from the Federal Government and I am here to help," he was in fact announcing his intention to deregulate big business (read " to encourage corporate corruption) at the expense of the America worker and middle class.  Or, as we are so fond of saying, "When Democrats wage a war against poverty they wage a war against social, political, and economic injustice, against social problems; when Republicans wage a war against poverty they wage a war against the weak, the ill, the poor, and the middle class."  In other words, Reaganomics (and the current economic/financial policies of the present Bush Administration, are based primarily upon Social Darwinism and totalitarian values, not values such as freedom, democracy, and Constitutional liberties.

The first indications to exactly how ruthless the far right could be was when Ronald Reagan placed our air traffic by summarily firing the air traffic controllers.  Not only did this create a situation in which countless lives might have been put in danger (a condition which seldom bothers Republicans if there is a profit be made), it also sent a signal that the new (Reagan) Administration would be more than willing to side with the few and the powerful and against millions of hard working American taxpayers. 

Reagen's tax cuts were a joke as well.  Why?  Because they weren't really tax cuts.  Each time Reagan cut taxes at the Federal level the states and local governments were forced to increase state and local taxes to make up the difference. And who were the ultimate victims?  You guessed it.  The average taxpayer and home owner who paid the difference in state,county, local, and real estate taxes. moreover, there wasn't even that much cutting at the Federal level.  Orwellian to the very end, the Reagan Administration merely made up the difference by increasing fees and plugging loopholes.  In the crazy, inverted world of Reaganomics, terms such as "tightening IRS enforcement," "Revenue enhancements," ad nauseam were all synonymous with the term "raising taxes," although the Administration in Washington would never admit as much. 

The Tax "Reform" Act of 1986 offered more in the way of imbecility.  Only this time the act was so convoluted and so confusing that the only people who could even vaguely understand it were accountants and tax lawyers.  Indeed, the Reagan class warriors had finally succeeded in creating a tax code that was so confusing and so bizarre that he IRS didn't even understand it.  At the same time the various loophole closings resulted in another burden on most of the middle and even some of the upper class.  According to a study conducted by Hausman and Poterba, the 196 Tax Reform translated into a marginal tax increase for more than 40 percent of the nation's tax payers, while a majority of those who did see a reduction only 11 percent saw an reduction of 10 percent or more.  Translated into modern English from the Orwellian Double Speak the end result of the 1986 ax Reform Bill was negligible. 

And while we're at it, let's not forget that the Reagan Administration's remedy to inflation was so shocking that it threw the United States economy into not one, but at least w steep recessions, leading many unemployed Americans to quip at the time that "at least under Carter I at least had a job." 

But the worst thing that the Corporate dominated right wingers have discovered is the fact that if you can limit the supply of jobs, that if you encourage the importation of illegal workers (although we suspect there is no such thing as an illegal worker, only illegal employers), and ship American jobs, both blue, and white collar, overseas, you can efficiently dry up the labor pool at home and set the American worker against both, immigrant labor and his fellow Americans.   This of course is not an accident.  It is not a coincidence that George W. Bush has continued the policies of Ronald Reagan.  It is no accident that this Administration has done everything in its power to further dismantle labor, to undermine worker safety legislation, and to strengthen the hand of big employers, while reducing the constitutional and worker place liberties of the American worker.  Like the Reagan Administration before it, the Bush Administration is using a divide and conquer strategy.  Continuing deregulation, encouraging tax loopholes for American headquarters that operate over seas, and openly encouraging American jobs to fly East and South to China, India, and Mexico, etc.  Again the tactic is obvious.   The Bush administration like the Reagan Administration before it, understands that a prosperous middle class will only encourage instability by daring to think about freedom, liberty, reform, and the rights and well being of others.  To prevent this and to maintain strict political and economic order (some might call it fascism) the Powers that Be in Washington and Corporate America have decided that Peace of mind is the last thing that Americans should enjoy.   Instead, they have decided to institute a policy in which the American worker is over-stressed, over-tired, and always willing to find someone else to blame for his or her financial status.  The Powers that Be would rather see the typical American take out his frustrations on the people he or she considers below him or herself.  Whether it be the poor who are almost invariably blamed for their own poverty, or the immigrant worker, who is scapegoated as a brown-skinned subhuman, or gays and women who are denigrated as perverted or disobedient, the Powers That Be are thrilled to see Americans backstabbing one another instead of taking out their frustrations the leaders and corporate fascists who have created the situation in the first place.

Heaven forbid that we might actually experience a period of domestic and overseas prosperity and tranquility.  God forbid that we might actually take all the time, energy, and resources which are currently being used for destructive purposes and use them to create a new Golden Age in America.  We wouldn't, after all, want to encourage little tings like education, thinking, reasoning, compassion, and benevolence towards ones fellow man or woman.   Noooo.   We wouldn't want to do that.  No.  we would much rather declare peace unpatriotic.  We would rather promote war and hatred as American values as opposed to true American values such as tolerance, acceptance, and liberty.  We wouldn't want to build new schools, new museums, and new libraries, or new theaters and concert halls.   Why would we want to do that when Corporate America would rather build bombs, tanks, and weapons of mass destruction?

It seems to us that we are paying an incredibly high price for allowing the Powers that be to turn us against our fellow human beings.   It seems to us that the price is too high.  Too high in waste, to high in blood, too high in death, and too high in the destruction of the human soul.  All this because we have been indoctrinated into taking out our hostilities on the other, on those who are weaker or different from us.   In the end we may just realize that we are indeed our brother's and sister's keeper.

"They've started a lot of talk about free people going soft, that we can't take it.  That's a lot of hooey.  A free people can beat the world at anything, from war to tiddle-de-winks if we all pull in the same direction.  I know a lot of you are saying "what can I do?  I'm just a little punk.  I don't count.  We;, you're dead wrong!  The little punks have always counted because in the long run the character of a country is the sum total of the character of it's little punks.

But we've all got to get in there and pitch.  We can't win the old ball game unless we have team work.  And that's where every John Doe comes in.  It's up to him to get together with his teammate.

And your teammates, my friends, is the guy next door to you.  Your neighbor!  He's a terribly important guy, the guy next door.  You're gonna need him and he's gonna need you, so look him up!  If he's sick, call on him!  If he's hungry, feed him!  If he's out of a job, find him one.  To most of you your neighbor is a stranger, a guy with a barking dog and a high fence around him.

Now you can't be a stranger to any guy that's on your own team.  So tear down the fence that separates you, tear down the fence and you'll tear down a lot of hates and prejudices!  Tear down all the fences in the country and you'll really have teamwork.

I know a lot of you are saying to yourselves:  "He's asking for a miracle to happen.  He's expecting people to change all of a sudden.  Well, you're wrong.  It's no miracle.  It's no miracle because I see it happen once every year.  And so do you.  At Christmas time.  There's something swell about the spirit of Christmas to see what it dos to people, all kinds of people.

Now why can't that spirit last the whole year round?  Gosh, if it ever did, if each and every John Doe would make that spirit last three hundred and sixty-five days out of the year, we'd develop such a strength, we'd create such a tidal wave of good will, that no human force could stand against it.

Yes sir, my friends, the meek can only inherit the earth when the John Does start loving their neighbors.  You'd better start now.  Don't wait till the game is called on account of darkness!  Wake up, John Doe!  You're the hope of the world!"

From the Frank Capra Film Meet John Doe
Written by Richard Connell and Robert Presnell (story) and Robert Riskin (screenplay)

Have a Happy Fourth of July
From the Cast and Crew at

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