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Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Interesting Ten Days

The last two weeks have been interesting to say the least. Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the New York City area, especially coastal areas. The images and lives lost is nothing short of a shock. I faired very well. Truth be told, I abandoned ship and headed east and north. I stayed with a close friend for a week. I returned home to no power and luckily no damage to my home. I did lose many trees and consider myself extremely lucky. In my area Sandy was much worse than last year's freak Halloween snowstorm. We lost power for about the same length of time but the number of trees that came down last week was nothing short of amazing. I can only imagine what the storm sounded like when huge trees were ripped from their roots and came down with great force.

With my power restored I was able to watch the election. I was fascinated and nervous. I was deeply concerned Romney might win. I will confess when I saw the early results with Romney ahead I was freaking out. By midnight it was clear Obama had won and I went to bed a happy man. I was happy not just because Obama won but rather that the extremists that dominate Republican and conservative politics lost. We need conservatives in this nation; I do not question this fact. But conservatives today are frightening people. As I see it, conservatives want to undermine the separation of Church and State. They want to ban abortion and set back women's rights sixty years. They are anti-science, anti-education, anti-health care reform, anti-gay…Many do not believe global warming exists. Conservatives, as I perceive them, are punitive. The sort of rugged individualism they try to sell is grossly misleading and caters to the lowest common denominator. As I wrote in my last post, none of us are ever truly independent. There are times when a person will need social supports. There is a reason we have a social safety net designed to protect people when they are vulnerable. Conservatives want to destroy that social safety net. Conservatives decry "big government". And in part they have a point--our Federal government is indeed a giant bureaucracy and far from efficient. Despite its flaws, and there are many, we need a Federal government. We need FEMA for instance. Consider what Sandy did last week. NYSEG, my local power utility, has had three extended outages in the last 18 months. Do not tell me NYSEG, owned by global energy corporation Iberdola, and serves 2.4 million customers in New York could not do a better job at restoring power. Corporations are designed to do one thing well, make money. Corporations may be made up of hard working and good people but corporations exist to make a profit. Given this indisputable fact, we need the Federal government to establish regulations that will force a company like NYSEG to have the ability to restore power in a timely manner. We need a Federal Government to force corporations to look past profit margins.  We also need a Federal Government to protect our civil rights. Hence I was struck by the closing of Obama's speech when he said:

I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try. I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests.
I take exception to just one line above. We are in fact divided as a nation. The extreme disparity in the distribution of wealth nation wide is disturbing. Fewer and fewer realize their dreams no matter how hard they work. The great divide between rich and poor plays out in a myriad of ways. For example, years ago I saw an eye doctor I liked very much. Nan Hayworth was a good doctor and treated me with the utmost respect when I had my yearly examination. I suspected we got along because we had children similar ages and lived near one another. Hayworth retired at some point and life moved on. Fast forward to 2010 and I saw her name the local newspaper described as a “moderate Republican”. Hayworth was one of 41 conservative Republicans swept into Congress (she was embraced by the Tea Party). I read about her views and was appalled. How I wondered could she have treated me with such respect in her office yet hold views I found repugnant. Hayworth was no “moderate” Republican. She is a radical conservative in bed with Tea Party extremists. In Congress she tried to cut Amtrak funding by 50% She wanted to end Federal regulation of big business and supported fracking. She was staunchly opposed to health care reform. While I could go on suffice it to say Hayworth’s views are appalling to me. I suppose this is what happens when one loses touch with what ordinary lives are like. This can happen when one has amassed individual wealth in the range of $10 to $20 million dollars. More to the point however electing a class of people to Congress, the wealthy upper class, has consequences. Dissecting Hayworth’s positions is beyond the scope of this post. What is of interest to me is the ideology behind her views.  Simply put, we do not exist on the same economic plane. Hayworth’s daily life is grossly distant from mine. The same can be said for most people elected to Congress and the Senate. These elected officials are a class apart. They do not represent their constituents. Until this changes I see no reason why the divide between rich and poor will narrow.
Rather than end on a gloomy note, I find it delightful that the election was profoundly influenced by black, Hispanic, and women voters. Polling data reveals Obama got 75% of the Latino vote, 73% of the Asian American vote, and 93% of the black vote, and 66% of the women vote. I hope conservative Republicans note this demographic shift. I will confess to feeling more than a little happy Nan Hayworth lost. Better yet she lost to an openly gay man, Sean Patrick Maloney, who she accused of being a carpetbagger. Hayworth lost because her ideology failed to resonate and I hope is the start of a national trend.


Elizabeth said...

Yes, yes, yes. Amen.

Eric Fischer said...

I certainly hope things will look up for you in your country Bill. I have known a number of multi millionaires personally, no matter how kind or considerate, left wing or right wing, they have all shared one thing in common: they have no idea what the value of money is. Old money is perhaps the worst, they don't understand that not everyone lives like them, don't understand the advantages they have.
When you believe that everyone gets a fair shake in life, because that's what your world shows you, there can be no true understanding of hardship nor true misfortune.
Carl Jung, when asked what form of government would be ideal responded, "an elected aristocracy".

Matthew Smith said...

Over here, there has been a steady rise in the number of old Etonians and other 'public' school products trickling into public life - Cameron and Blair are both from elite schools; George Osborne and Boris Johnson (present Tory Mayor of London) are both Old Etonians. None of them have significant experience of ordinary people's lives. I think they gain influence because they can be quite charming, and they don't come across as old Tory country squires and don't openly display their contempt for ordinary people. They only display their true colours once in power.

That wasn't always so - both Thatcher and Major (both Tories) went to state schools. I think Thatcher had some sense of ordinary people's aspirations, although she used that to divide them against each other. In the case of the Republicans over there, it seems that their trick is to fake a common touch and play to the belief that anyone can become a multi-millionaire if they work hard enough, so if you're poor it's your fault. That doctrine sometimes appears in British politics as well (often in the form of attacks on the "politics of envy") but I think it's less powerful here.

Phil Dzialo said...

Could not agree with you more...I am hoping that this is a harbinger of better times for all people. Imagine that I hopeful?

william Peace said...

Eric, If Obama is smart he will capitalize on the election results and push hard to marginalize extreme Republican conservatives. He has the social mandate to do so. I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed watching conservative political pundits freak out.
Matthew, Very interesting comments on the UK. I agree only once elected politicians show their talons. Power is a dangerous thing to have. One needs to be humble to wield it compassionately.
Phil, Time will tell if we should be helpful.
Elizabeth, You are too kind.

Melanie Suzanne Gerber said...

Hi Bill,
I have been silently admiring your blog for some time now. We went to Hofstra together. We met at freshman orientation and also lived in Tower A. After graduation, I visited you when you lived in NYC.

I too am delighted that Obama won and was backed by a very diverse group.

Like you, I still live in Westchester and Hurricane Sandy has been on all of our minds. I certainly hope that we can all work together...Republican or Democrat, Straight or Gay, Catholic (you) or Jewish (me) and work together as a nation.

Keep up the great fight. Your blog speaks for all of us!!

william Peace said...

Melanie, Great to hear from you. Once in a while I hear from Hofstra people. Yikes, that was a long time ago. My son Tom is a student at Hofstra. He is a junior. This makes me feel old. I always recall you were a kind and gentle person. I was far more rough around the edges!!