Having been broke many times in my adult life while at the same time raising kids mostly on my own for most of it, living the life of a poet, and a nonacademic one at that, and later a TV and film actor and film writer but one incapable of schmoozing and guilty of what an early educator of a school I got kicked out of called "brutal honesty" in my dealings with the powers that be in Hollywood and the academy etc....
...I know something about how to overcome the odds to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of my children and wives and others. It ain't easy. But it is possible. I worked hard to get some college degrees while holding down various parttime jobs, and I worked hard at the creative endeavors as well, especially writing for hire which I did for many years, from newspaper reviewer and columnist to ghostwriter and screenplay writer etc.
But I never had to face some of the obstacles many folks I've know have had to face. And even though no one has to starve ito death n this country, a lot of people end up homeless. Even I did once. My kids always argue that we weren't homeless back in the 1970s in New York when we lost an apartment due to a gangster landlord fighting a rent strike by us tennents which the others let me opt out of since they had all moved in with their respective lovers and friends while the landlord removed plumbing and used other tactics to get us to give in.
We ended up staying with friends, my kids with one friend and me with another, until I could find us a place to live, which ended up being an apartment we'd lived in before, which became available during the three months or so we were without an actual address. But we weren't forced to live in our car (I didn't own one then) or a cheap drug and prostitute ridden motel like some are. I'm thinking of a documentary I don't know the name of that my twelve-year-old was watching the other day in which homeless single mothers with kids were living in a less then inviting motel near Disneyland where the mothers worked but didn't make enough to be able to rent an apartment, one of the women had formerly worked for Wal-Mart which is when she became homeless because she didn't make enough to pay the mortgage on the home she'd had etc.
I didn't catch the name of the documentary and only saw a few minutes of it because we were on our way out. But it stuck with me, especially when I think of the way kids I've known (and taught years ago) from poor environments where there is no money, and the education is often lacking, who nonetheless have these dreams, beliefs really, that they will someday own a big house and have a big important job and make lots of money and spend it on fancy cars etc. And what that makes me think of is...
...the way so many of my fellow citizens seem to have this same kind of magical thinking that somehow someday things will be the way they imagine rather than the way they really are. I used to think this might be limited to only some kinds of people, people with particular mental or social issues. But I now think it is simply a result of the ways in which our society, especially the entertainment business and the media, distort or exploit reality for a profit.
The right has a stake in convincing people that anyone can end up becoming a CEO, or somehow making the kind of money the right never wants to tax because those who spend big bucks promoting the rightwing agenda ARE making that kind of money and want to protect it and make it "grow" by not paying their fair share. (There are tons of sites where you can find tons of graphs by economists showing that when the rich paid a higher percentage in taxes this country was better off in almost every way economically, especially in terms of the wealth being spread out more evenly and benefiting more people and therefore contributing to a better economy etc.).
But this kind of magical thinking isn't confined to the right. The left right now is doing much the same thing when it ignores or objects to so much of what Obama and the Democratic Congress have achieved that has benefited more people than the alternatives (continued Bush/Cheney policy or any other Republican's stated policy plans etc.). Yes Obama and the Dems deserve to be pushed harder to achieve more, especially to cut back on the military budget by closing bases around the world and ending the two wars we're explicitly fighting.
But I have known many poets who were among those I would consider the greatest of our times and yet they never got recognition, never won an award, never even got the paltry reading fees (which usually start at nothing and go up to measly for most poets but can reach the thousands for the famous and recognized). I have known actors who were incredibly talented and original who never or hardly got any work that paid anything or any real recognition, etc. and in all these cases I have also known the opposite: people who have been rewarded beyond what most people could expect for mediocre or even bad work.
This is true in businesses and corporations as well, as we see all the time and we all know, and suffer the consequences of.
It is not easy to get a plumber who knows what he's doing and is efficient and reasonable, let alone an entire army or economy or healthcare system etc. I have the belief that it is progress rather than perfection that is the realistic goal in most things in life, and I am grateful for that. I have made progress since my brain surgery, obviously, but am still not the same as I was in terms of the way my brain works, my writing, my thinking etc. but I'm grateful for the progress and do not expect perfection.
I do not defend Obama and the Democrats because they are perfect or their solutions are or the policies they offer or enact etc. Obviously not. From everything I've read Bush Junior made progress in the fight against AIDs in Africa, for which he deserves credit. He also made progress as an individual, from a spoiled Yalie drunk to getting the presidency (because he himself and those he surrounded himself with were willing to do pretty much anything to win and to hold on to power, unlike Gore and most Dems, except for Bill and Hilary Clinton who knew and know how to give the Republicans a fight though even they refuse to go to the lengths the right is willing to go to—Vince Foster, impeachment etc.).
In most areas—the gap between the rich and poor, the decline in real wages, the trade deficit, the national debt, the economy, employment, civil rights, citizens rights, constitutional rights, unaccountable hundreds of millions spent in Iraq, support of corrupt politicians and governments, etc. etc—no progress was made under Bush/Cheney but in fact the opposite was true, in most areas that matter this country was set back, put in reverse, heading in not just the wrong direction but backward! (and deliberately, as the goal was stated outright many times, to diminish the federal government to the point where it would be too broke and too broken to be able to regulate an kind of profit-making scheme the funders of the right might come up with, from fake oil crises to raise prices or wars to increase demand etc.
But in the past year and a half progress has been made by Obama and the Democrats in Congress, in healthcare, in saving jobs that would have been lost had the economic policies of BUsh/Cheney continued any longer (3.5 million), financial reform, etc. etc. Did they do enough or take it far enough for me? Absolutely not. Do I need to be pushing them to do more? Well I already do with the few contacts I still have and in my writing and speaking, but for the most part there's plenty of writers and communicators doing that all over the internet and cable and radio etc.
If the Dems had a big enough majority in the Senate and in the House they would achieve more progress, but they don't, and they won't if they lose seats this Fall. But it will not be because the right wins the elections, it will be because the Dems lost them by allowing the right's constant message of disappointment in all politicians and how they're all useless and corrupt etc. (though they mostly only attack and try to defeat the Dems) to keep so-called "swing" voters and many Dems themselves from voting because "it doesn't matter" and "a pox on both their houses" etc.
That's how the right first took over this country under Reagan, and it's been doing it successfully for the most part ever since, (and interestingly all the main economic indicators—jobs, wealth gap, wages, etc.—have declined ever since except for a short-lived reversal during Clinton's time in office).
Today's rightwing ploy I notice (it's already in today's comments added to yesterday's post) on the radio news and on CNN is that the revised economic figures shows growth was even slower in the second quarter of this year, 2.4%. The rightwing is trying to blame that on Obama and the Dems even though the Recession, i.e. no or negative growth, occurred under Bush/Cheney and as a result of their policies and in fact, what they didn't say in the mass media so far today that I've heard or seen is that if you eliminate the trade deficit which grew, the growth amounted to 5% which would be its highest in many years!
And the trade deficit is partly the fault of factory jobs going overseas and us not manufacturing much in this country anymore. A trend that started under Reagan as corporations were let off the hook for sending jobs out of this country, something Obama and the Dems have been trying to rectify and I believe will, if they have the power to, which doesn't come from magical thinking but from savvy politics and convincing the public and voters, which they have become pretty lame at as if they're still playing by some long gone rule book (like Warren Christopher's advice to Gore during the Bush attempt to steal the presidency to be statesmanlike and not lower himself to the level of street fighting that the Bush crowd not only was actively doing but relishing in, as they obviously still do, no matter how many of the rest of us get hurt).