by Joe Baxter
ALERT! Ask him, Joe will tell you he’s angry. He is welcome to pour it out here and explain why. If you’ve been reading his column, you know his heart and you know he’s not mean-spirited or condescending. YOU are welcome to read it or not, comment, and above all, think. The Luther Register is always open for new content and viewpoints. If you want to write a column, let’s chat. (Joe will tell you the pay is really great! NOT). This effort helps us get to know each other a little better. What’s ironic is I am posting this, a day late, while sitting in LAX ready to come home. I’ve been in Cali all week for work (and some fun). The experience out here has been amazing, the people have welcomed me, just as I am. They are just as concerned about the division in the country as we are. No easy answers. Thanks Cali and thanks Joe!
Are you Working Class? Buddy, I am, and I’m damn proud of it.
I bet there ain’t a billionaire amongst you folks reading this. (If there is, PM me. I need some money.) I just don’t know any. Do you? I grew up hungry, with one pair of pants. That sounds like an exaggeration, and I wish it was. It’s not. I’m not the kind of person who knows any billionaire persons. Wish I was.
I DO know people who use their childhood poverty to justify their adult resentment of today’s poor, who are forced to rely on government programs for a place to live, food for the kids, and health services. The “self-made” are so proud of themselves for surviving that they’ve forgotten that everything is relative, including their own survival. (Battle Cry: “If I can do it, THEY can!”) Because of their hard work, they have everything they need, and SO many break their arms patting themselves on the back, and forget that there are millions of people who worked just as hard as they have who will never have as much. Maybe this lapse in memory is why they worship authoritarian puppets and don’t mind oligarchs buying their country like a sack of beans, though I suspect it’s a lot less “don’t mind” and a lot more “clueless.” They don’t understand that just because they somehow glommed onto a living-wage job and eventually worked their way out of whatever crappy situation they were born into doesn’t mean that everyone can be as fortunate. Tragically for our nation, this most basic brand of human resentment is carefully cultivated and used as a tool by Evil People to drive wedges between America’s have-nots. The oligarchs know that if they can set the rabble against each other that we will be easier to control. It’s textbook; all been done before, in other places, in other times. Nothing new under the sun. The Evil Ones are simply checking the boxes; following the Recipe.
I am mainly speaking here of “empathy,” and lack thereof.
EMPATHY: “The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. Also: The capacity for this.”Merriam Webster
I am MUCH more baffled by the sad, weird, poor-on-poor brand of resentment than I am by the at least-more-understandable resentment shown by folks who never missed a meal and whose resentment is mostly driven by plain old greed. They resent the fact that they are forced to pay taxes that they think go to support Those Lazy Poor People. It’s not hard to suppose that most folks who lack basic human empathy are the ones who have never really lacked for anything in their own lives. They have zero ideas of what it’s like to struggle to live because they’ve never struggled to live.
It’s easy for these folks to hide behind a barrier of nationalism and the lie that their greed and self-pride is “patriotism.” I’m hearing the term “patriot” being thrown around like used Kleenex by a certain group of Americans these days. Forsaking democracy because you (quite wrongly) feel that your religion, race, guns, gated community, “way of life”, etc, are being threatened is not what I’d call “patriotic.” Working to understand how democracy works is patriotic. Defending democracy itself IS patriotic. Caring about your fellow citizens IS patriotic. Voting for monsters who are seeking to gain power by attacking minorities and the poor is not “patriotic”. It’s just mean, and stupid, and it is un-American at its core.
Be careful who you vote for. This state of affairs is not “sustainable.” It’s time to TRULY protect our country.
This brand of essay might not be suitable for inclusion in a small-town Oklahoma newspaper, but I can’t think of any better place for it, today.Ramblin’ Joe
Bottom line, for our nation’s sake, if you lack empathy as a citizen of a democracy, and the resulting resentment grows and grows until you end up actively supporting those who seek to use your resentment against other citizens, you have a lot of nerve calling yourself a “patriot.” If you lack empathy and call yourself a “Christian.” shame on you. If you lack empathy, or you know that you do and do not care, you are neither patriot nor Christian.
I’m sorry I have to say all that, but I’ll keep on saying it. It’s my duty as a citizen and a human being to give ALL my brothers and sisters a damn break! ALL American citizens. Every single one of them. I will respect your views as long as your views don’t violate the Constitutional rights of other citizens. Unlike my choices of people who “represent” me, my respect for others is not up for a vote. Evil is evil, and there’s no grey area, as the Evil Ones’ political media propagandists would have us believe. Your lack of respect for others leads to others’ lack of respect for you. No big mystery, there. So don’t act surprised when somebody calls ya out.
Elections are sneaking up on us again. I am horrified at Oklahoma candidates’ TV ads. Man, talk about some nut cases, radical righties and plain ol’ bad actors! They are running on one thing: FEAR. They’re ALL pushing that big red FEAR button. In this one-party state, I’m surprised that they are even bothering to advertise, but they ARE running against each other, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t seem like they are all trying to out-nasty the next guy (or gal.) It doesn’t say a whole lot about our state that blatant false religionism, inferred violence, exclusion of class and lack of human empathy seem to be the prime qualifications for public office. I’m not making anything up. Watch the ads. They talk about God; they talk about “family” they talk about “values” and “rights”. They use the word “patriot”. They wear U.S. flag clothes and depict themselves in front of crosses with weapons in their hands, touting their personal relationship with God, all while supporting overt treason and blowing those racist dog whistles just as hard as they can. There’s a word for this, and, kids, it is NOT “patriotism.”
I’ve been laying back for the past year or so, taking it easy on myself, trying to breathe and sing my little songs and live a pleasant life, enjoying the fact that we’ve somehow survived a pandemic that’s killed a million Americans. We lived through the worst presidential nightmare our federal government has gone through in my lifetime. (And that’s saying something….) We barely thwarted a violent coup attempt by the radical right. All that was quite a lot to deal with, for an old retired couple who just want to be LEFT ALONE to enjoy their golden years, free of hate, oppression, want, and the infringement of Other Peoples’ religious superstitions on our Constitutional rights. As far as I can tell, it’s not getting any better.
This brand of essay might not be suitable for inclusion in a small-town Oklahoma newspaper, but I can’t think of any better place for it, today.
I don’t want to live under a single-party state. Anyone who knows me knows that I WILL fight for my country. However, AS A PATRIOT, I would rather seek democratic compromise and find a way to take care of each other and live our BEST lives, while preserving our beautiful democratic republic. I think it’s doable, still, but America AND Oklahoma had better wake up. Real soon.
It doesn’t matter what we believe. It just matters that we care about others. That’s the Golden Rule, friends. I just don’t see it in these people whose TV ads use FEAR as a weapon, as they flaunt their lack of empathy like some sort of proud calling card. I cannot respect that, and I’ll be damned if I’ll tolerate it.
Hey – Y’all have a “patriotic” day. JB
RESIST – Lies. Remember – if it sounds like a lie, it probably is. Go with your gut.
EDITOR’S NOTE. Joe Baxter is one of my favorite people. He loves music, the Arcadia Round Barn, his wife Jean, a club sandwich from Farmstead Cafe, Route 66, and America (not in that order). A songwriter and musician, he has a way with words and can turn a phrase such that you want to listen, or in this case, read for a while. If you are one of his “face friends” on social media, you know he can get you thinking with his posts and musings. Let’s insert here that Joe’s comments might not “reflect the views of staff and management,” or they might. All views, musings, and submissions are welcome here on these digital pages where we don’t kill trees or buy ink by the barrel! Find Joe at the Arcadia Round Barn where he is the head conversation aficionado catching stories from Route 66 travelers from all over the world, and getting the band together eight days a week! Thanks Ramblin’ Joe! Y’all ENJOY! – dawn