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
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.