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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

A letter to Mr. Bush & Co:

This letter is meant, first of all to thank you for clarifying my position on so many issues. It is as a direct result of your careful planning and forthright policy decisions that I have made the decision to change political parties. While I have lived most of my life in traditionally Southern Democratic areas, my party affiliation was always a little shaky. Stands taken by both parties often made sense despite their opposition to each other and I found myself at times “feeling” one way but “thinking” another. Those days are over and I now feel free to strongly express my views knowing that both my mind and heart are in line. I am now proud to announce that I am switching my registration to the Democratic Party.

For so many years, I have trusted and believed that this country has both the ability and mandate to save the world. As the world’s richest nation, it was our duty to protect the unprotected, democtratize the socialists, and save the heathen. Regardless of the problem, we had the answer. If a ruthless dictator appeared to threaten our borders, it was our right to remove him – even at the expense of thousands of lives. If a small country rich in a very desirable natural resource needed assistance in capitalizing upon that resource, it was our duty to help them – even at the expense of a democratically elected government. If a heathen group of people lived in a foreign land that was not their own, it was our responsibility to assist the home government in ousting them from land that was not theirs – even at the expense of global reputation. Everything seemed to come down to “rights”. It was our right as the global power to police the world at any cost. We knew best and we were going to mandate and implement our way – regardless.

Now that I have more clarity in my heart and mind, I can’t help but ask a few questions. These things used to make sense to me, but now they scare me. The audacity of them all causes me to fear for the future of our country – if it isn’t already too late.

First of all, why are you building your own private army? Which provision of our constitution gives you that right? You are using American taxpayer money – billions – to build and fund an army of mercenaries, many of whom aren’t even American citizens. You are paying them a lot of money, not to mention the on-the-job training in Iraq. What are your plans for them after the war? I get very nervous when I think about a private army returning to the US looking for work as “private security contractors”. I can’t help but be very skeptical of “privatization” arguments that claim cost-savings and efficiencies when the result is the best-trained, most advanced and heavily armed force in the country. To whom do they pledge allegiance? Don’t we all truly work for the person who signs our paycheck? Who is signing their checks? For that matter, who is signing yours?

Second question, how can a family of four – two parents and two children – live on $20,000 a year? Or more accurately, how does a family of three – one parent and two children – live on $10,000 a year? Have you done the math? The minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. If they are lucky enough to get 40 hours a week, that adds up to $10,629 a year. That assumes, of course, that they are never sick and never take vacation. Yes, they may be eligible for food stamps, which may raise their paltry income to $15,525. Think about it, a family of three or four living on less than $1,000 a month plus $400 for groceries. Have you checked rental rates lately? Do you know what kind of house or apartment is available for less than $500 a month? Have you ever tried to feed three people on $400 a month? I’m guessing not. If you had a heart, it would make you cry – and perhaps even do something about it.

Third question, you seem to be coming around on the issue of global warming. Don’t you think that it’s time to do something about it? The twin towers in New York are destroyed in one day and you respond by conquering and occupying two countries in less than two years. Could you take some of that energy and ingenuity and apply it toward a problem that threatens to impact the entire planet? Even if your sole concern is self-preservation, wouldn’t you want to do something about this issue?

I actually have a few more questions, but as I think about all of this, I may have just answered the first question for myself, which would, in turn, resolve the second question on its own. If this letter sounds negative and pessimistic, that is only half my intent. I still believe that we can save the world. I just no longer believe we can do it on our own. I also believe that none of this gets resolved via mercenary armies and war. It’s time for a new approach, some new answers, and a truly global view. It’s time for a new version of “globalization” – not the kind where we outsource our manufacturing jobs to third world countries who have no apprehension over keeping their poor in slums by paying them worthless amounts of worthless currency for no other reason than to maintain our American lifestyle. It’s time to recognize the global right to sovereignty, freedom, justice, and equality. It’s time to recognize that the greater good may require that we accept the worlds’ religious freedom, and not just our own; the worlds’ freedom of speech, justice, and equality, and not just the American version. Here at home it is time to recognize that allowing the richest of the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor and middle-class is not providing an incentive for the poor and middle class to “work harder”. Reading news stories about CEO’s of bankrupt companies earning – strike that – receiving millions of dollars in pay packages while their employees receive pink slips only begets frustration and anger. Free enterprise should be free to everyone, not solely the Yale and Harvard graduates. There are a lot of people in this nation who aren’t the brightest, strongest, and best-educated; but like the George Bailey said,"Just remember this, Mr. 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." Now that I think about it, Mr. Potter realized that he couldn’t drive the Building and Loan out of business so he decided to try and buy it out. I think George Bailey’s response to that was equally appropriate, "I don't need 24 hours. I don't have to talk to anybody. I know right now, and the answer's no. No! Doggone it! You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money! Well, it doesn't, Mister Potter! In the— in the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say, you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!"I certainly don’t intend on resorting to name calling, but I think the spider comparison is relevant here. Our government seems to have created a nice little web for itself with great assistance from corporate America. Our greatest industries, oil, banking, and defense, have found marvelous ways of enriching themselves with little regard for us “rabble”.

Mr. Bush & Co., it is time for change. God expects more from us than blind enrichment of our own country at the expense of the helpless. For a country supposedly built upon Judeo-Christian values, I am amazed at how far we have moved away from that faith’s basic tenets such as being peacemakers, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and taking care of the sick. What is the greater good? What is our true purpose, not as fellow country-men, but as human beings? Isn’t it time we sacrificed our wealth rather than the lives of the poor?

People must have hope. Without it they either quit or fight. You want neither – especially if you are the one who took away their hope.

James M Watson

Greensboro, NC

Apr 12 2007 - 4:25pm

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