A Tear for America

Looking to the West

Here's some thoughts for most of us who think we are or have previously suffered too much in our lives. Personally I rarely take a black or white position on issues, believing that truth usually lies in between, hidden some where within the grey.

However, there are exceptions and I hate it when debates and discussions over minutia can become barriers to achieving a desirable outcome. Sometimes it's best to just get on with it. You might fail to achieve all of your goals, but your actions can, nevertheless, achieve positive outcomes that can have a real and immediate benefit on peoples lives. Which, dare I say, is the whole point of the exercise. While sympathy is good and empathy is better, it's action that matters most.  

Like a Bolt of Lightning out of a Clear Blue Sky

I'm remembering back several months when I saw an amazing Four Corners (ABC TV, Australia) documentary called America's Broken Dreams on life for the dispossessed, formerly middle class, in the USA. I found it to be chillingly honest and compelling viewing. You could describe it as real reality TV. This investigative report dealt with what, for many, has become the sad reality of the American Dream.

I love Americans. I admire the positivity and hard working ethic that has underpinned their rise to superpower statues. And, not for one moment, would I want to forget the defining difference they made in both world wars. Yet, at the same time I have long been opposed to the winner takes it all attitude that seems to run, like an undercurrent, to power that countries economic rise. The notion that Greed is Good has, once again, risen its ugly head and devastated the lives of some many good people.

Frankly, I despair at the loss of standing of the US in our modern world. We know where it has come from, and I'm not here to defend the actions of governments past or the annoying loud mouth tourist. Nevertheless, to those who seek to continually criticize, may I remind you that it's always the USA that is expected to carry the heavy load, whether financial or with the life's of their military service men and women, when the dirty work needs to be done.

Yet, despite my admiration for the USA, I'm happy living where I do. How is it that this nation, long considered the home of freedom and democracy, can allow its people to suffer so badly for so long? And the Four Corners report gave a very honest look at life for this new group of working (and educated) poor.

But the show was not without hope. A church had set aside an outdoor car park, staffed by volunteers, where families could safely park their cars. They'd sleep there in the evening and one or both parents would head off during the day looking for work. Yet, even those folk that are successful finding work, often have to scrape by on the disgrace that is the minimum wage in the USA.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

One of the things that really bothered me about this report was that, while the outside car park had been offered to folk, I couldn't understand why the church had not been utilized to house them. How is it, in such a rich country, that good, decent people are left to fend for themselves without more assistance? If a country can mobilize service personnel and civilians alike during wartime, how is it that more can't be done during times of peace?

Can if be that hard to mobilize final year teaching students to provide education for the kids? Likewise final year medical students, social workers and the like could also provide valuable support. These workers could either be paid a basic stipend by the government or, alternatively, receive a voucher for their services (tax rebate, ticket to a free concert, movie vouchers, etc).

I certainly understand that government alone can't fix many of these problems, but they can provide the momentum and tax breaks by which communities and companies alike can work together to make real and tangible differences to peoples lives. During war opposing political parties suspend petty rivalries and join forces to get the job done. Perhaps legislation needs to be passed to allow for similar cooperation during times of severe economic crisis.

I just don't understand how government can act quickly and decisively to rescue banks and financial institutions, with tax payers money, and then expect that those at the bottom end of the pyramid will be supported by their communities alone. Yes, there's manpower a plenty, but you have to organize and support it. All after, you seem to be able to do just that during recent election campaigns.

Add the Power of Momentum

There must be thousands of churches; church, scout and school halls; and associated car parks throughout the country that could be made available to help those in need. And what about the military? They could and should provide security. Isn't that what they're there for?

My belief is there's always plenty of money in a country like the USA, or Australia for that matter, it's just a matter of how it's allocated. Charities and church organizations need to be empowered. I'm heartened by the symbolic gestures of the current Pope. Well, how about some action? The Catholic church is, I believe, the second largest non-government landowner in the western world, behind McDonalds. (This post presents a different take on who owns what?). With flocks dwindling, at least in the western world, don't tell me you don't have the space. I shouldn't have to point you to passages in the bible for motivation. And I'm sure such actions, though radical, would be good for business.

I believe our New Pope is working to make a real difference to the lives of the disadvantaged. If he's in your circle, let him know what's going on in your own backyard. Regardless of your own beliefs he's everyone's Pope or he's no one's Pope. The choice is as much yours at it is his. And that goes for all religious leaders. Let's stop religion being about real-estate or the need to convert souls. Just get on with the job of helping people and the rest will look after itself, in a way that doesn't result in war.

Where's the Corporate World?

And what's corporate America doing? Imagine utilizing the skills of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like to spread the word through social media. Large companies should be encouraged to allow employees to work one day a month as a volunteer to help care for those in need. That time could be invested in the office or out there, at the cold face. You couldn't ask for a better way to build employee satisfaction. 

And why not court participation from film, TV and music stars? Where is Hollywood in all of this? And Entertainment Tonight, get your head out of the gutter and give folks some life-affirming stories about real people? There's no better stories than what's going on out there in the real world. And I don't mean those staged TV shows with people desperately seeking their ten minutes of fame. I mean the human condition that's being played out all day, every day. I just wish the entertainment industry would take their head out of their own underwear and take a look around.

I'm always interested in your comments and opinions. And, please, take a moment to SHARE widely and wildly. 

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru