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January 7, 2012

rants about labels

by Andrea O'Connell

John Steinbeck is one of my favorite writers.  His novel, The Grapes of Wrath, was made into a play in the late eighties.  It started at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre and then went on to Broadway.  I had a chance to see it in New York because a friend of mine was in the  New York cast and he arranged a ticket for me.  Gary Sinise played the lead and he was incredible.

Needless to say, it was an amazing production.  It was especially cool because they built a pool on the stage – placed downstage center, and they created real rain, which was unique for the time, and utterly impressive to see.

Anyway, I came across a very timely quote of John Steinbeck’s (below) which accompanied the photo, also below…. And, that’s what made me think about The Grapes of Wrath, one of my all-time favorite novels.  The story about the struggle of poor folks moving away from the poor-as-dirt-West to find a better life in California, is very much an immigrant story of today.

Back then great wagons moved entire families.  Everything they owned was piled high on wagons bound for California – the promised land where there was work and better times.

It’s far different now.  Cubans come to our shores on make-shift rafts, Mexicans pay thousands to be smuggled in and these people have nothing when they arrive. Soon they’ll work their bodies into the ground in a job no American wants – a terrible job but to them it’s not; it’s freedom.

I find it very odd that many people in this country know so little about human rights issues.  The Human Rights issues are often ignored; people are labeled and the very ugly and distasteful issues about Human Rights are ignored, or so it seems.  I find it mind-boggling and more than ironic that the people who are hurting the most will vote against their own interests simply out of ignorance or out of living with perpetual rose-colored glasses teetering on the end of their noses.  Here’s what Steinbeck said so long ago about it:

photo from an anonymous source

Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. That’s the only reason I can see why people in the US continue to vote against their own interests. – John Steinbeck

Reading that quote, and the picture that went with it caused me think about the cruelty of today’s immigrant situation in the US, and the cruelty that we can’t seem to fix the homelessness of Americans.  Homelessness, instead of being a problem that needs to be fixed, it’s become something that we just deal with now.

There was a time, back in the 70’s and 80’s, when homelessness began to be noticed in the mainstream media.  A lot of people, and the government, talked about ways to fix or solve the issue, right?

Now, of course, it’s just a fact of life.  It’s so common-place now, universities and US Financial Aid – which is handled by the Department of Education, accepts it as a matter of course.  Universities EXPECT to have homeless students.

That floors me.

When I was in college there was no way a student could be homeless without the other students knowing about it. There would have been absolutely no way anyone would be homeless or hungry and in school without people helping them out.  Granted, I was naive and still am to a degree, but it would not happen back then, other students would help. Professors would find out and help, too.

That was then, this is now, I suppose.

The irony of homelessness in today’s society is that so many got so very rich off of the Iraq invasion and occupation, and now many, many of the American veterans are homeless, suffering from PTSD and other terrible mental health illnesses.   It’s so wrong on so many levels.

The problem with the immigrant populations, say the haters: “They’re taking our jobs, using our hospitals, crowding our schools….” and other such horrible and despicable words and comments about fellow human beings.

The facts are the facts.  Immigrants don’t take the jobs Americans want.  They do the jobs Americans don’t want!  This type of hate, by the way, is what drives class wars… And, well – that’s really a topic for another day.

(When I sat down to this computer tonight, I intended to post some of the pictures I took today, but somehow my mind got stuck on Steinbeck and I completely forgot about the photos!  There was nary a cloud in the sky today and I took Jazz (my dog) for a long walk around the neighborhood.  I took my camera and while he found nice trees to relieve himself on, I found nice flowers, a butterfly, bees and a bird to photograph!)

One of these days, maybe, I’ll understand how our country and so many of our citizens can get away with labeling someone a “Socialist” rather than coming up with a solution to an issue.  By virtue of labeling a problem or a person or a group of persons with some label, the problem is solved – it’s easier to label than to deal with the root of what is causing an issue to be labeled in the first place.  Like the label takes the place of the problem to be solved.

I label you as a Jew because I don’t like Jewish people and that takes care of my problem. You’re Jewish so I can avoid you as my friend, as my grocer, landlord, sales person, hairdresser, etc.   You are a Jew and I don’t like you therefore you are in the group called “my unlikeable’s” and so I put you over there, on a shelf, where you cannot mix with others who are not labeled like you…..

You know what I mean?  It’s the same thing we do to Muslims today.

And so, because my labeling has worked really well with Jewish people and I’ve gotten them out of the loop and out of my space, I’ll do the same thing with immigrant people and gay people, and Muslim people and red-headed people and poor people, and before you know it, I have huge groups of disenfranchised people who are shrouded with that one big label that gets put on groups that haters hate.  People get labeled because people are people and people have to hate because they know they can and be accepted by other haters for being a hater.

There are three kinds of people in the entire world.  Only three kinds – three groups:  Male and Female and In-between.  And they should not be labeled either because we are all the same, at the end of the day, anyway.

Do you want to see a crisis? How about the MASSIVE poverty? How about the generation of children growing up in poverty, children whose parents were foreclosed out of the middle class by greedy fucking bankers, children whose parents didn’t stand a fucking chance against the big banks, children whose parents were born into poverty themselves, straight on down the line for years and years. And I’m supposed to feel bad for the rich bastards who refuse to pay decent wages or taxes? ~ The Daily Kos – Dear Beltway Insiders, while you make pretty speeches, I am being cut to shreds

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