Perhaps some of you have, as I do, well-meaning but clueless friends and family who sit and watch Fox constantly and live in a right-wing echo chamber where hateful chain emails are spewed forth in a never-ending vomitous circle. Some of these emails are evidently so important that the sender feels emboldened and compelled to spread their message beyond the circle even to those unsuspecting family members who have made it clear to them that they hold views that are vastly different; dare I say “alien” to the “common-sense” views held by these responsible, upright citizens who are so tired of having all their hard work stolen by the government and given to the undeserving.
One such email has now graced by inbox no less than three times (twice from my father-in-law, and today from my mother-in-law). The subject line is “‘I’m 76 and I’m Tired’ by Bill Cosby” (read the full text here, along with the facts about its true author). It has been debunked in no uncertain terms by Bill Cosby himself, yet the thing refuses to die. The second time I received it (in early December), I was so angry, I began writing the following response. I added to it over the ensuing days, every time I felt a little twinge of anger. Yet I could never work up the nerve to send it, because I really do love them and don’t want my husband to feel stuck in the middle, and hey, family harmony and all that, yadda yadda.
But today’s incarnation came with a special exhortation from my MIL: “I love Bill Cosby, always have, always will, and admire what he gave to this country. I think this is an important letter. It’s something we as Americans should think about. When do we make a stand…draw the line…say enough is enough…and be willing to speak out plainly about it?” So I wrote back to her and sent her the link from Bill himself and asked her to forward THAT to everyone on her email list. I still don’t have the guts to tell her what I really want her to know, so that’s where this diary post comes in. I’m going to post it here and hope that I can stop being mad about it now.
I’m not Bill Cosby, but I’m tired.
I got my first job when I was 14, and I’ve worked hard ever since. I didn’t inherit my job or my income, but I was lucky not to be born into poverty. Growing up, I wore second-hand clothes a lot of the time, but I had enough to eat and was able to concentrate well enough in school to get decent grades. I was lucky that my school district had enough money to hire good teachers and maintain a reasonable student-to-teacher ratio, and fix the building when things went wrong. My parents didn’t have to work three jobs each just to make ends meet. I did everything they said I should do: finish high school, go to college, study hard, get a good job, save for my retirement, buy a house, and take care of my health to the best of my ability.
But I’m tired.
I’m tired of receiving ugly screeds sent under cover of supposedly being said by prominent black men. Well, I do understand the desperation behind that motivation, but what I don’t understand is the absolute zero effort made on the part of the sender to try to make sense of the origins of these ignorant rants – a willingness to swallow them whole without looking deeper. Look! A black guy said it – that makes it OK! Well, no he didn’t, but nice try, and thanks for playing. I said I’m tired of it, but keep ‘em coming, because it’s useful for us to know what we’re up against.
I’m tired of ginned-up “nontroversies” and lies (Immigrants get free health care! Obama wants your guns! There’s a war on Christmas! People on food stamps are going to Hawaii! Voter fraud! Muslim Brotherhood! Sharia law! ) that can make otherwise well-meaning people hate anyone who isn’t like them. I’m tired of those people failing to realize that it’s all a bunch of manufactured crap designed to create division and keep us from getting together and understanding what’s really going on.
I’m tired of seeing our country’s beautiful, courageous people be turned into a society where no one cares about their fellow citizens. I’m tired of the way our values have been slowly eroded until we’re like rats in a cage, defending the last tiny crumbs we have left against whoever Fox News decides is the villain of the day, whether it’s those thieving, lazy immigrants or brown people or teachers or non-Christians or anyone who doesn’t think like they do. Where a legion of corporate-owned media spews out a steady diet of TV drivel that alternately numbs us to reality or tells us to be terrified, angry, and hateful.
I’m tired of hearing that America is exceptional, while 1.6 million children in this country are homeless and many more are hungry, while people are being thrown out of their homes because they lost their jobs or a greedy mortgage company didn’t do the paperwork properly, while elderly people are freezing because they can’t afford heating oil, and people are dying for lack of health insurance, cities and towns are turning off street lights and closing libraries and laying off policemen and firefighters and teachers, and our college graduates are thousands of dollars in debt with dismal job prospects – yet the rest of us, when faced with these stories of others’ misfortune, seem to be capable of mustering little reaction other than “sucks to be you!”
I’m tired of hearing President Obama being called a socialist, or a Marxist, or a fascist, or a statist, or an appeaser, or a traitor, or a Kenyan, or whatever the red-meat talking point of the day is, by the very same people who would have wanted my head on a platter for merely questioning the wisdom of the previous president when we went to war against a country that had done nothing to us, based on lie after lie and a story that kept changing as the lies were uncovered. I’m tired of being told that Obama is single-handedly ruining the country. Why is it that the talkers conveniently forget all that happened during the prior ten years, and they don’t seem to understand the fact that laws are made by Congress, and that Congress has become completely and utterly dysfunctional?
I’m tired of our national priorities being focused on corporate profits and how we can make labor cheap for the corporations (hint: Ship jobs overseas where labor is cheap and exploitable, so the remaining jobs in America become scarce and people will do anything to have them. And exploit those who can’t fight back: use immigrants, use poor kids, use prisoners.)
I’m tired of hearing that we can’t afford to fix our roads and bridges and antiquated power grids, that we don’t want to invest in education for our kids, or develop new technologies for energy, while I read story after story about rising CEO pay, even for those on their way out the door after tanking the company, and obscene oil company and bank profits. The rest of the world is going to kick our ass, but somehow that’s the fault of Obama and the other socialists.
I’m tired of being told we have to spend more on our military than the next 15 countries (including China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and Japan) COMBINED to continue to prop up weapons systems that haven’t been relevant since the cold war and are powerless against the asymmetrical tactics being used on us now. I’m tired of a populace who can’t be bothered to look beneath the surface of what we’re told: that “they hate us for our freedoms” and we should be afraid that “they” are coming to get us. Since our media doesn’t report on these things, we don’t ever read the stories about the thousands of innocent civilians we’ve killed or displaced, or see those photos of children our drones and Hellfire missiles have killed. Do we think, as USMC Major General Steve Johnson said when asked about the brutal killing of 15 innocent civilians at Haditha, that deaths of innocents are “just a cost of doing business“? We continue to think we’re simply innocent victims here, scratching our heads in bewilderment, while the rest of the world knows the truth.
I’m tired of the constant push for new wars and aggression by chickenhawks who never served, who want to send other people’s children to die or be horribly maimed physically and mentally, to “fight” for some vague thing whose goals and outcomes are never clearly defined so that they may change as people get wise to them. Saddam Hussein had WMD! He didn’t? Oh well, he was a bad guy. But what about those other bad guys who terrorize their people? Shhh – they let us park our boats in their water!
I’m tired of a Supreme Court that’s compromised by individuals of questionable morals who are bought and paid for by the powerful, who attend fundraisers put on by wealthy donors, who fail to fill out their disclosure forms properly, and who have conveniently decided they’re exempt from the Code of Conduct imposed on all lower court judges. Oh, and by the way, they’ve decided that corporations are “people” and money is “free speech” – an absolute and mind-boggling outrage to the senses of any thinking person.
I’m tired of seeing bills that would do something to help the lives of ordinary people win by simple majority in the Senate only to be defeated via filibuster by the minority, whose leader has said out loud, on national television, not once but multiple times, that their single biggest goal is to make sure Obama doesn’t get re-elected.
I’m tired of politicians who know nothing about economics continually parroting completely discredited theories about supply-side economics and unfettered free-market capitalism so they can ignore the express desires of the majority of people in this country – polls showing Americans favor asking the wealthy to do their share are ignored completely. Guess we’ll just have to gut Social Security and Medicare and school lunches now so we can keep throwing money at Halliburton and KBR and Blackwater (oh, excuse me, Xe) and so their billionaire friends can buy another 50,000+-square-foot “house” or $35,000 crocodile backpack or $25,000 gold-dusted hot chocolate (yes, those really do exist!).
I’m tired of being told that the “job creators” need more tax cuts while they’re sitting on more cash than they know what to do with – because the people who worked for them contributed nothing, that these titans of industry earned every penny on their own, without benefit of public roads, publicly-educated employees, taxpayer-funded police and fire protection, and a market of consumers that could actually afford their products. Yet if we expect them to contribute anything to the common good, that’s “stealing.”
I’m tired of corporations plundering resources that belong to the people: our air, our rivers and oceans, our land and animal habitats, our health – while making huge profits, yet paying nothing – even less than nothing (seriously!) in taxes and/or getting government handouts. I’m tired of them wanting “tax holidays” for all the money they made overseas. They didn’t create any jobs the last time they got one; why should we seriously think that would be different this time?
I’m tired of hearing that energy-efficient light bulbs are an existential threat to the United States (Michele Bachmann – how on earth did this woman ever get a national stage?) I’m tired of being told that “the science isn’t settled” and “climate change has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution” (Larry Bell in Climate of Corruption, quoted in Naomi Klein, “Capitalism vs. the Climate“). Because even supposing for one minute that 97 percent of all scientists are lying or faking and have formed a giant conspiracy because they hate capitalism, it sure would be a damn shame if we put some efforts into new energy technology, because then we’d have to stop polluting our air and water and Exxon Mobile couldn’t make $10.33 billion with a “b” in a single quarter (while they get tax subsidies from you and me), and we wouldn’t have to keep ignoring those stories about toxic coal sludge breaking through dikes and destroying homes and rivers, or about miners being trapped by explosions because it’s cheaper for Massey to pay fines for violations than it is to follow safety regulations.
I’m tired of being told that regulations are bad and they kill jobs. Am I supposed to go out and test all the food myself before I eat it (or if I get sick from tainted spinach, is that my own fault, too)? Do I not have a right to clean air and water? Do our children not have a right to play with toys that won’t make them sick or kill them? Do Wall Street players have a right to deliberately gamble with people’s houses, jack up the prices of commodities so people can’t afford food or gas, create complex financial products from which they profit hugely if they fail, and get multi-million-dollar bonuses while tanking the economy?
I’m tired of being told that anyone who works hard can be successful, that if you’re not rich it’s your own fault and you’re lazy, while the facts show that for every job opening there are more than 4 people looking for work, and it’s been that way for nearly 3 years. I’m tired of hearing that we should lower our sights and take minimum wage jobs, while at the same time they want to abolish the minimum wage, paid overtime, sick days, and child-labor laws.
I’m tired of corporations being allowed – no, encouraged – by tax law, to ship jobs overseas where they can have their products made in countries that allow the exploitation of human beings. I’m tired of the fact that their CEOs make more money than they could possibly spend in 100 lifetimes, while their workers are greedy if they should want something so unreasonable as a livable wage and access to health care and a comfortable retirement.
I’m tired of the fact that our two-party system means that in an election for the highest office in the land, we only have two options: on one side a party which has so compromised its own principles that they can’t get anyone besides either craven hypocrites or wingnuts who are dumber than a bag of hammers; while on the other side, we have a party so weak that its leader is a guy who makes great speeches in campaign mode, but then continues the illegal and secret wars begun during the previous administration and even creates new ones, and refuses to do anything about the crimes of Wall Street because he wants their money. We can have no real debate about the serious issues facing our country because big-money donors don’t want that, so all we get is crap about gay people destroying marriage, who is the best Christian while simultaneously loving Israel the most, who is the biggest war hawk, or who hates immigrants or birth control the most. The American people deserve better.
I’m tired of living in a police state where I can be pepper-sprayed or beaten if I choose to exercise my First-Amendment rights, where I can’t go anywhere without being watched on a surveillance camera, where the government can listen to my conversations and read my email, and where we happily give up our constitutional rights and freedoms because we think that’s going to make us safe. According to the conservative narrative, the government is good when it wants to do all of this, but bad when it wants to help its citizens.
PS – I’m REALLY tired of being told that if I don’t just shut up and go along with all this stuff, I’m not a “real” American – I’m just some “bleeding heart” or I’m “lawless, unaccomplished, ignorant, and incompetent” or “unwashed” or a rapist. You can try to marginalize me with this rhetoric, but in reality you’re actually making me stronger, and I’m going to do everything in my power to find more people who see the injustice and bring them together. We can either stand up to what’s going on, or we can go sit back on the couch and see who’s winning on Dancing With the Stars – and then wake up one day wondering what the hell happened.