America Has Lost Its Way

It still waves, but for how long?

It still waves, but for how long?

By Graciela Huth.  Introduction by Michael Murry.

Graciela (Grace) Huth calls herself “an old woman.” She says that she writes as a form of therapy, “to unload my anger and avoid having a stroke due to what is going on today in the USA.” Yet her long life of good citizenship and community activism testify to a youthful spirit that cannot rest content with mere complaint but must somehow find a way to change the world for the better. Her long years of down-to-earth experience infuse her writing with directness and simplicity. If this is “old,” then, indeed, “youth is wasted on the young.”  Michael Murry

America Has Lost Its Way

Graciela Huth

I am an old woman. Nowadays I feel that all my life I have been not a citizen but a serf of the USA. I worked all my life to pay taxes that came to me under logos like “federal,” “state,” and “local.” For a long time I believed that it was for my benefit.

Late in life, away from the frenzy of being a mother and a wife, working to be able to pay the mortgage on our house, put food on the table, pay for the education of our children, etc., I have had time to think and realize that I was no expense for the government. I paid my medical insurance, my homeowners insurance, my car insurance, my bills, never gave any trouble to the police, I always voted and did my civic duty. The only benefit I received was a light post in the street – which I also pay with a charge attached to my water bill. If I want to see my street clean I have to sweep it myself.  If I need the police they never come out, unless it is because my alarm goes off, and I pay every year the additional charge to get the license for the alarm system.

I have retirement benefits because I paid for them all my working life. I had to buy a car because there is no reasonable mass transportation system in my town. Just recently we voted and approved an added tax to build a rail that I will never use due to the time it is taking to be built. Are we living or just surviving to pay taxes?

The air and the water are polluted regardless that we have an EPA. Any moment somebody can come and knock on my door with an eviction notice because I live in an area that is old and greedy developers crave the plot of land under my home, which can be used by them to build a tall building that will give them lots of profit. They can easily find an excuse with eminent domain that will be approved by the City if it gives them more taxes to collect.

Let me give you some more examples.  We should have desalinization plants in California to help with the drought. I have been fighting for them since the 1980s.  The answer has always been “no.”  I tried to get the local government to help my community become independent from the electric grid by installing solar energy. We did all the calculations and we needed only two houses on which to install solar panels and tiles. It was 1994.  We could have been an example to be followed by other communities. This time we got a loud “no.”

We worked a lot in the 1980s because we realized the traffic mess the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) was creating in our Westchester streets. We fought and finally wrote a Proposition for an added tax to build a rail. It passed. Now LAX has decided to use our tax money “to beautify Century Boulevard,” i.e. to make various commercial hotels and their surroundings look prettier, and we the people who pay the tax have to beg them to build a rail station for Westchester, which will probably be named LAX station!

Yes, I’m angry.  Elected politicians fail to work for us and even when they try they lack the votes to push through their ideas.  So after 40+ years of activism I gave up going to meetings. I just can’t be politically correct anymore. I just can’t lie anymore.

In the 1970s I was a proud member of the OWLs (OLD WOMEN LEAGUE), one of the first organizations that fought for women’s rights. Everybody was older and they taught me how to fight for a better society. We had nuns, doctors, attorneys, artists and housewives in our group. We needed a place where we could meet and the Jewish Women’s Club allowed us to conduct our meetings in their hall.  Women of all beliefs, color and age got together in that hall. It was a wonderful time. And we achieved many goals. Now those laws have been erased and we are back at the beginning again.

Consider employment regulations today.  I cannot believe that in 2015 we are fighting again for the 5-day/40-hour work week! For paid overtime! For paid family leave! For mandatory paid vacations!  Labor’s powerlessness in American society today, as showcased by various trade agreements like the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), is a hard slap on our faces. The corporations made their money with our work, our creativity, our taxes, our consumerism and now they sit at the head of the table and give us orders!

After working all my life I cannot enjoy my old age in peace. This is not what our Founding Fathers planned. They looked for land in the middle of two oceans, far from the corrupt systems that ruled Europe. They created a beautiful nation in the new world and gave us the tools to keep it isolated, self-sufficient because of its natural resources, and independent. If anybody has the will and the time to read the ideas they expressed in their speeches, they clearly explained to us that if we broke the isolation, what we are witnessing now would happen.

Like loving parents our nation’s founders gave us a list of do and don’t. We ignored the list they created for us and now we have lost our way.

Graciela Huth is a fighter for justice in America.  Captain America has nothing on her.

16 thoughts on “America Has Lost Its Way

  1. My one minor objection to the article is the fuzzy view of “isolation[ism].” As the wealthiest–in aggregate, for I assure you this writer is but one of millions living below the official poverty level–nation in the history of civilization, the United States SHOULD feel a moral imperative to be deeply involved in the affairs of the world…in a BENIGN manner. Which would be quite the opposite of US foreign policy since 1898.

    As to the ever-dwindling power of organized labor, yes, that is a major tragedy. When the vise started to be applied to labor unions, under cover of the McCarthyite “red purge,” most of labor’s national leaders caved under pressure. Of course they had already greatly diluted union militancy, adopting the model called “business unionism.” When Nixon ascended to the throne, he had the Teamsters leadership in his pocket. So-called “hard hats” made headlines for attacking anti-war protesters and the media seized the opportunity to portray union members as pro-Republican “patriotic” flag wavers. The Reagan presidency ushered in a clear militancy on the part of Big Business to claw back every benefit afforded workers that they could. And that pressure has never let up. (Recent progress in raising minimum wages is a happy but glaring exception to the trend.) It reached the point where workers had to either surrender to the assaults on their wages and benefits or face the armed might of the state. And make no mistake: here in “democratic” USA the Ruling Class will not hesitate to use deadly force against the working class when push really comes to shove. To not understand this is to be life-threateningly naive. And yet only the working class has the power–by withdrawing its labor from the bosses–to bring the System grinding to a halt. We “merely” need the working class to awaken to realization of this!

    • As Percy Shelley wrote at the conclusion of his poem The Mask of Anarchy:

      “Rise like lions after slumber
      In unvanquishable number —
      Shake your chains to earth like dew
      Which in sleep had fallen upon you —
      You are many — they are few.”

      As a footnote to the text explains, Shelley wrote the poem after learning of certain events which had taken place in St. Peter’s Field, Manchester, on August 16, 1819. It seems that “a riot occurred when a group of drunken mounted militiamen and cavalrymen charged into a peaceful crowd of men, women, and children who were attending a rally in support of Parliamentary reform. At least six persons were killed and more than eighty wounded.” Shelley wrote the poem intending to “produce more immediate effects upon a less educated audience. It is a kind of rallying hymn to nonviolent resistance.” Unfortunately for the cause of militant citizen demands for reform of government, the poem did not see immediate publication because “Leigh Hunt of the Examiner — fearful of prosecution because of the volatile temper of the country and the new repressive legislation passed late in 1819 and 1820 — refrained from publishing the poem until 1832, after the battle had been won for which Shelley had intended his poem as a rallying cry.”

      This sort of browbeaten journalistic timidity sounds a lot like the Pet Press of today in both the U.S. and the U.K., if not Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well. When even English poetry sounds like a threat to government operations, you can expect violent repression upon protesting citizens at any time, any place, and for any ostensible “reason.” Of course, I have read of the current government of Mainland China arresting Internet poets who employ metaphorical allusions implicitly critical of political/economic authority. Some things simply do not seem to change very much. The sword fears the pen, especially when the pen speaks in the language of emotive symbolism.

  2. “After working all my life I cannot enjoy my old age in peace.”

    Then enjoy your old age by discomfiting the complacent. As Dylan Thomas wrote:

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    I don’t know if you have ever seen the movie “Back to School,” with the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield in the leading role. I recommend it. The story concerns a successful businessman-father (Dangerfield) who has returned to college to motivate his son into staying in school. At one point, some stuffed-shirt professor tries to flunk Dad out of school by subjecting him to a series of oral examinations. In one scene, he has to recite the above poem by Dylan Thoma. When a lady professor asks him “What does it mean?” Dangerfield replies: “I don’t take shit from no one! I’m staying in school! Who’s next?” A pretty good philosophy of life for us retired old people, I think. So “rage against the dying of the light.”

    • By coincidence I just re-watched “Back to School.” Rodney Dangerfield does the poem justice. The movie also contains one of my favorite teaching scenes, with the comedian Sam Kinison as the crazed history professor recounting his experiences in Vietnam. Cringe-worthy, but funny as hell.

      • Yes, a very good scene featuring the late Sam Kinison — and beautifully ironic, too, given that Kinison’s over-the-top rant came in response to a lucid, succinct, and utterly true appraisal of the War on Southeast Asia by a sweet young thing who had no actual experience of the war but who understood its meaning far better than the man who supposedly had experienced it firsthand. Thinking of that scene always reminds me of something another American war veteran, the famous Air Force test pilot, General Chuck Yeager, once said about those of us who served in the Great Southeast Asian Debacle: “Those boys in Vietnam just had something missing in their character.” Some of the greatest apologists for endless, pointless, ruinous wars come from the ranks of military veterans themselves, which explains in part why I never joined the VFW or other pro-war veterans groups. So, again, for me the Kinison performance works on multiple levels. Beautifully done.

        And one more thing: that final scene where Rodney gives the commencement address to the graduating class. “And now, as you go out into the world, my advice to you is — Don’t Go! It’s tough out there. Move back in with your parents and let them worry about it.” Given the legions of unemployable college graduates, burdened with a lifetime of student-loan debt, who have to move back home — assuming their parents still have one — that concise little speech has proven eerily prophetic.

  3. No one seems to notice how “labor news ” has cessed to exist. In Chicago, WCFL was th e”voice of labor”. Today even the supposedly “peoples” Public Radio has an hour length program on ‘business’ and the ‘market’ but absoltely splat on ‘labor’. news. It is like working people don’t exist in this country.

    The stock market is the barometer of this country not the ‘labor’ market.

    This country has a very long history of violent suppression of the 99% working class .. From the early 19th century company thugs who murdered at will the miners in the West who wanted to organize against the awful conditions they worked in. Read Meyer Levin’s book The Old Bunch about union organizing in Chicago around the time, 1930’s, of the Memorial Day Massacre of unionists trying to organize the steel workers in South Chicago and Gary.

    Sad to say our country has lived on the edge of corporate Fascism for a very long time and now with the Democratic Party uniting with the Republican Party to pass the codification of international corprate fascism through the Trans Pacific Trade Bill it will take a social revoution to bring back a semblance of democracy. Wake up Ameica!

    • This is why I wrote my article yesterday. The workers are not awakening since they’re kept divided, distracted, and downtrodden. Divided by race and class. Told that people on welfare are their enemies. Told that bad people overseas are out to get them. Told that their president is a crypto-Muslim who’s going to take away their guns. Then they’re distracted by the news as info-tainment, focusing on massacres and celebrities and other content-free features, as well as government propaganda about how they live in the best country in the world (Americans don’t travel much, so how would they know any different? And when they do travel overseas, it’s often on cruise ships or as part of a guided tour in which they don’t ever have to truly experience a foreign culture.) Finally, they’re kept downtrodden by consumerism and debt and jobs that don’t pay a living wage.

      It’s hard to awaken from all that — which is precisely the point. Meanwhile, some people know there’s something wrong, but their anger is often misdirected. They lash out within their families or local communities at available targets. Or they drink, abuse drugs, and so on. There is rage but it’s not channeled along paths that could change things for the better.

      • The former labor movement in the United States once had a key concept that kept workers of all kinds united in pursuing common and achievable objectives: Solidarity. The Oligarchical Collective has learned and understood this, even if workers in the United States have forgotten. Divided and conquered, they will remain powerless and abused until they rediscover Benjamin Franklin’s famous aphorism for revolutionaries everywhere: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” In other words, if “in union there is strength,” then, assuredly, in disunion there is fatal weakness. So let us Americans not fail to note the Democratic Party President, Barack Obama, as he colludes with the Republicans in Congress to pass — without debate or amendment — the latest corporate-sponsored, job-killing give-away trade legislation since Democratic Party President Bill Clinton colluded with a Republican Congress to kill Aid to Families With Dependent Children and the Depression-Era Glass-Steagal Act that kept Wall Street casino houses from gambling with bank depositors’ money. Does anyone besides me notice the obvious pattern here?

  4. I’ve got to do something with all this DIY therapy stuff I started writing a decade ago. So, apropos of the current topic of rule over Americans by the oligarchic 1%, I hereby submit:

    Boobie Theory of the Seizure Class
    (from Fernando Po, U.S.A., America’s post-literate retreat to Plato’s Cave)

    The teenage clotheshorse maiden weeps
    Enduring further slights
    The boys won’t line up on the porch
    Or call on Thursday nights
    (The cool-kid-of-the-moment swears:
    “This mother really bites!”)

    The poor don’t fork out princely sums
    Or lay out table fare
    Esteemed by connoisseurs who make
    Of each meal an affair
    So who would dine with those of us
    Who find the cupboard bare?

    As Veblen said, the scholars yearn
    To do their master’s will
    Accustomed to a style of life
    Their incomes can’t fulfill
    And so they gravitate to wealth
    For which they gladly shill

    To motivate the lower class
    To do the filthy deed
    The Pet Press pundit scribes will pen
    A solipsistic screed
    A yellow plaque upon the fangs
    Which makes the gums recede

    The Boobie Seizure Class, it seems,
    On three crude strands depends:
    On emulation, dominance,
    And animism’s blends:
    Assorted spook religions that
    “Explain” why freedom ends

    No toxic cocktail ever brewed
    Can slake the bloody thirst
    Of those who wish to take their bad
    And have us do its worst
    To kill some hapless foreigners
    So that they’ll hate us “first”

    The Pet Press nanny sycophants
    Transcribe the boss’s views
    And put them into their own mouths
    Reporting them like news
    As “sacred” as the hymnals found
    In precinct churches’ pews

    Embedded for a byline they
    Write for the Army’s ease
    A splendid little war they think
    Needs just the proper tease
    “Support the troops” they now intone
    Just do it overseas

    The fanboy tough guys need a shield
    Behind which they can hide
    While jeering at the ones who choose
    Their time awhile to bide
    Refusing to approve a war
    For just the “winning” side

    Yet never has the Yellow Press
    Refused to praise the Lord
    If any chance they saw to add
    To their paymaster’s hoard
    And something for themselves as well
    If they just climb on board

    So tales of daring courage brave
    Must fill the printed page
    Until a mass hysteria
    Is all the roar and rage
    And symbol rulers ascertain
    That brains no thoughts engage

    The Sacred Symbol Soldier thus
    Appears to cloak the greed
    In made-up propaganda tales
    For those who on him feed
    He always wins the battles but
    No one his tale will heed

    The users of this symbol have
    No patriotic creed
    They love him for his usefulness
    But can’t abide his need
    The Symbol Soldier only serves
    When none can see him bleed

    One day his status changes to
    The veteran who knows
    Who won’t tell lies to cover up
    The crime of war that grows
    With each exalted croaking by
    A Seizure Class that crows

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006

  5. Dear Grace,
    “Consider anger your enemy.” — Japanese manual called “Battlefield Discipline” (Senjin Kunren) anger is a personal emotion {}
    “Give me control over a nation’s currency and I care not who makes its laws.” (Baron Rothschild) Money is power and those with power use it for themselves; the USA is ruled by money (that is exponentially true for my home state of Texas) — so just how does the ‘common man’ deal with the power of money?

    • ” … so just how does the ‘common man’ deal with the power of money?”

      A qood question, and quite germane to America’s current predicament. I suggest that for an answer we consider the comment made by Eddie Murphy (the black beggar-bum turned stockbroker) in the movie Trading Places:

      “It occurs to me that the best way to hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”

      As a Therefore, as a practical matter, then, the working people of the United States need to force their their government to enact a transactions tax on each Wall Street “buy” and “sell” order. Then, too, a War tax on war-profiteering corporations and their stockholders would help to balance the budget somewhat. The more someone profits from war spending, the more they should pay in taxes. It would also help to elect political candidates based entirely on the principle of defeating those candidates who have taken the most corporate bribes. And we should only vote for candidates who do no political advertising on television. All communications with the electorate should transpire through only the written word or personal conversations. This would mean electing only those candidates who have no corporate funding but the most unpaid citizen volunteers working for their campaigns. Stuff like that. These partial measures would only begin to scratch the surface, I realize, but they seem perfectly doable to me. And if the American people cannot do even these simple things, then they really have no hope for ever escaping the neo-serfdom or refeudalization of America that their ruling Oligarchical Collective has in mind for them.

      • Well, Bernie Sanders’s fundraising pitch is that he’s “…not taking money from billionaires.” So, Mike, what’s next for you? You gonna write a sequel to “Alice In Wonderland”?? If you really believed any of these changes in Amerikan society were possible you might…un-ex-pat yourself, eh?

      • “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them in parliament (Congress).” Ulyanov
        When Ulyanov’s party took power they became the Oppressors!
        RE: the people (voters?) — . . . “The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.” (Edward Bernays)
        So it was in Athens, so it is today …

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