Fun and Busy Mixed with a Serious Reflection

A rainy day in the neighborhood, and outside it looks like dreary March rather than crisp December. Never mind! At least there aren’t power outages and freezing rain, and for that I am grateful. At Chickadee Place—my new “old” name for this house—it is no fun when the power goes out. We have a well, which means no water when there is no power, and we have to use buckets of water to flush the toilets. Since our house nestles in the woods—so cool and pleasant in the summer—we don’t get much natural light, and without power, the house is dark. And, we have an electric stove. So although I always am prepared for power outages—big buckets of water in our cellar, a gas camp stove, oil for lamps, a wood furnace—I never look forward to them.

A busy weekend coming up. On Saturday, there will be the town’s Christmas parade, and the library is actually going to have a float this year. The theme of the float will be books, of course, and I am looking forward to seeing it. After the parade, a bunch of us are gathering at Margy and Steve Knight’s house, where we will come together for one of their fabulous potlucks. Margy and Steve have such a warm, welcoming home, and it’s always such a pleasure to go to one of their potlucks. I will be making a ginger-carrot soup, and I’m also going to try to slide in some homemade bread. No sleeping late tomorrow.

On Sunday, I’m meeting my friends Susan and Joan for brunch in Portland at Petite Jacqueline. We’ll be celebrating not only the holidays and our friendship but also Joan’s birthday. After that, I’ll meet my daughter Shannon for tea and then we’ll meander to the Portland Flea Market. Somewhere amidst all the fun will be a trip to Trader Joe’s to stock up on supplies for the holiday.

Despite all the folderol and frivolity of the season, I have been thinking about more serious matters. Striking fast-food workers have been much in the news lately, and even though I seldom go to fast-food places, my sympathies are squarely with the workers. (No surprise there. I come from a long line of blue-collar Democrats. Where else would my sympathies be?) Working people deserve decent wages, and nowadays, it is impossible to live on $8 (or even less) an hour without government subsidies. Through our taxes, we citizens are helping these workers, and, in effect, subsidizing the fast-food restaurants. As a progressive, I am all for helping workers and society, but do those fast-food restaurants, which make billions of dollars in profits each year, really need my tax-dollar assistance for their workers? I don’t think so.

The same is true for most retail jobs. Wal-Mart is the symbol for all that is big and greedy, and they deserve it. However, they are not alone in their Scrooge-like behavior, and it is the rare job in retail that pays a decent wage. (Even $11 or $12 an hour is not really enough to live comfortably.) Unfortunately, this is also the case for small businesses as well, even when they are making a good profit. (I know this from personal experience.)

Therefore, as we move into this season of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All, my thoughts are with all the exploited people, not only in this country but also in the world—people who work too hard for too little; people who make it possible for us to buy cheap stuff and to eat cheap food; people who deserve better than what they get but are under the thumb of such an oppressive economic system that their prospects are bleak.

There are glimmers of change. Workers in this country are starting to protest, as well they should. And we should be in solidarity with them.

These glimmers of change give me hope. After all, a great man who just died spent 27 years of his life in prison. He lived in a wicked, wicked regime. Finally he was released and eventually went on to become president of his country.

If Nelson Mandela could achieve the nearly impossible, then our country should be able to come up with a fair and decent economic system for its workers. All of them. Not just those at the top.