Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 218- Spain, Haiti and China

From College Humor:

Dear Mr. President,

Apparently the First Lady's trip to Spain is upsetting some people, and it is no surprise that Rush Limbaugh is one of them. He is, predictably, spewing his usual racist nonsense about something as silly as a First Lady going on vacation. This from the man who paid a million dollars to have Elton John sing at his latest wedding. I'm glad that Limbaugh chimed in, because his contributions to public discourse usually remind thinking people just how ridiculous some of the accusations by the right actually are.

What do you think about Wyclef Jean running for President of Haiti? I suppose I don't know enough about Haitian politics to have an informed opinion, but my initial reaction is that a nation so devastated by natural disaster and economic calamity should probably have a more experienced leader. On the topic of Haiti, tonight I heard some news of a woman I attended high school with, Katie Zook. She was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building after the earthquake hit. She's recovered now, and going back to Haiti soon, to continue working as a teacher. Seeing the courage it must require of her to return to a place still so damaged after survivng such a tragedy has got to give a person hope for the future.

I've also heard two rather disturbing stories out of China. The first is about China's policy of locking the poor up in their own neighborhoods during the night. The second is about the 600,000 Chinese workers who die from overwork in manufacturing every year.
Both stories illustrate, to me, the dangers of a society where wealthy corporate interests are placed above the value of a person (even, or especially, a poor person.) What is most disturbing is how much the purchasing habits of the American people contribute to this system. Our demand for cheap goods has created this tragedy, and we continue to support it almost unconsciously. Recently, you offered three words to frame our best hope for economic recovery; made in America. Don't Americans have a moral imperative, as well as an economic interest, in making sure the good they buy are, whenever possible, produced by fairly paid workers in safe conditions? I don't think that most Americans want to support a system that contributes to hundreds of thousands of needless deaths, or the extreme poverty of many workers. There has to be a way to wake people up to the human cost of our cheap imported goods.

Anyway, Mr. President, I wanted to make a cleaner connection between all of this, but I don't know that I can. It's something about our priorities, about celebrity worship and service to others and putting our own immediate gratification away for the greater good. Maybe these stories aren't connected anywhere outside of my own mind, but I hope that people wake up and realize that obsessing over how many Secret Service agents are working to keep the First Lady safe is not fair or productive to complain about. There are so many terrible things happening in this world, and we ought to stop worrying about appearances and ephemera. I hope that the Rush Limbaughs of the world don't frustrate you into forgetting about the Katie Zooks. I think, at heart, most Americans are good people like Katie who are concerned about preventing or easing the suffering of others. We don't always go about it the right way, and we don't always make the important connections between our own decisions and their consequences, but I think that slowly we will change for the better.

Respectfully yours,


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