I'm sitting at my desk in an old Texas house in a small Texas town on this Sunday before Labor Day. And I confess to a virtual Mulligan Stew of thoughts and emotions as we reflect on our country, which will turn 250 years old in 2026.
For me this is, first and foremost, the birthday of my daughter who turned 26 today. She lives across the country now and we spoke excitedly this morning as she thanked us for the checks that now replace the Barbies and bicycles that used to be the medium of exchange on birthdays, and talked about her latest work in theatre.
But mainly, on this day that we formally established in 1894, we celebrate the American worker. Begun by early American labor unions in the late 1880's, those organizers would be amazed to see themselves demonized in the nasty give and take of political campaigns today. The landscape of the American economy changes faster than Kim Kardashian husbands. No, we don't make buggy whips anymore, and the market for blacksmiths makes that a career dead end, in case you had an eager young smithy in the family with a hankering to pursue it. Steer them toward IT or at least plumbing.
And as we argue over things like the future of coal mining, we need to realize it has ever been thus. Steam power gave way to coal and petroleum and they in turn have proven to be useful but with drawbacks we have come to realize. Oh, there are still plenty of naysayers, but the fact of the matter is, they are wrong. I heard one shrill, miniature talk show performance artist shriek the other day that the vast majority of greenhouse gas is water vapor, and it is. But of course he didn't explain the difference between condensable and non-condensable gases and why it is not the problem. Did you notice I said that as if I know what it means? Not bad, eh? But I am not that smart, though smarter than this tiny, talk host. I let NASA explain it to me and the link will let them explain it to you.
Anything else we use for power will involve jobs. The American worker will be needed for whatever we make. And if it's made overseas, make it here, for crying out loud. Electric cars? Charging stations? More power lines and generation to handle the load, windmills, mirrors, batteries? Someone has to build and operate them. Will we need oil and gas for a good long while? Of course. Can we convert quickly enough to avoid climate change? Of course not. It's already started. The only question is how long the luddites out there want to prolong this and what level of sweat and discomfort, or more likely, pain they want my daughter and her daughter to live with someday.
When did we become so scared of everything, well, except for another episode of Ted Cruz and his 'bros pretending to be actual beer-drinking humans. I assume you've seen the segment on some wingnut network that makes Fox look like an episode of Rachel Maddow. He was in a bar when interviewed along with some shanghaied friends and chugging a Shiner Bock. You see, the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism had discussed the idea that Americans should severely limit alcohol intake to a couple of beers a week. And Ted's misguided attempt at apparently breaking the actor's strike was his response.
Firstly, do you know what their former recommendation was? Neither do I because I ignore it daily thanks to the box of Cardboardenet Sauvignon in the pantry. The point being, that it's a recommendation, a guideline. Here's the name of the director of the council.
Koob, George F., PhD
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892-9304
And do you know what George is empowered to do? Nothing. Zip. Bupkis. He and the gang make recommendations. Like the advisory board that pointed out that gas ranges emit some potentially dangerous gases. The only thing that came out of that was a recommended higher efficiency standard. All appliances will need to be more efficient, just like we have switched to LED light bulbs, which last longer and are way more efficient.
You see, Ted and his posse were making the point that you'll have to take his Shiner out of his cold, dead fingers..........
Sorry that last line sent my mind pleasantly wandering. Anyway, the Tedster asked the rhetorical and asinine question, "Why do liberals want to take our beer, gas stoves and dishwashers from us?" To that query I think we can all join in a collective, "Huh?" And, frankly, if I were the in-house counsel for the Spoetzl Brewery, I'd consider a cease and desist order for Ted for any further association with our fine brew.
No one has taken anything away, unless you are an Edison fanboy and the idea of losing your incandescent bulbs sends you into a siege of the DT's. But the point is, you're not sitting in the dark. A better bulb is now glowing in your bedside lamp. But it is politically advantageous, Lord knows why, to scare the bejabbers out of people about progress. We didn't used to be that way.
The American working man and woman have been incredibly resilient, no matter what was thrown at them. When the steam engine and trucks replaced the wagon, the steamship replaced sail, tractors replaced horse-drawn plows, Leno replaced Carson, we adapted. I watched "The Grapes of Wrath" on TCM for the umpteenth time and was amazed all over again at the toughness of our forebears. When the land turned against them, the Okies went west, swallowed their pride, lived in tents, picked fruit and survived. When World War II broke out, we converted our factories into the arsenal of democracy and those who didn't enlist, went to work there, men and women. Are we too scared to handle changing light bulbs today? To quote an Aaron Sorkin TV script, which I think may be one of the finest moments in the history of the medium...
"So when you ask - what makes us the greatest country in the world? I don't know what the fuck you're talking about - Yosemite?
We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right, we fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons, we waged wars on poverty, not poor people, we sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men, we aspired to intelligence, we didn't belittle it. It didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't...we didn't scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed…by great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one."
I confess, I'm not quite as pessimistic as Sorkin, as brilliant as that speech is. On this Labor Day, I think the American worker can handle the changes and challenges that are coming down the pike. Let me bore you with one more quote, from a good Republican, President Theodore Roosevelt...
"We cannot afford in our republic to draw distinctions between our citizens save on that line of conduct. There are good men and bad men everywhere. All of you know them in private life; all of you have met them. You have got to have decency and morality in the first place, and of course that is not enough. It does not begin to be enough. No matter how decent a man is, if he is afraid he is no good. In addition to the quality of self-mastery, self-restraint, and decency, you have got to have the quality of hard work, courage, manliness - the quality which if the people who founded this state had lacked there never would have been a state founded here. You have got to have the men who can hold their own in work, and if necessary in fighting. You have got to have those qualities in addition, and you have got to have others still. I do not care how brave a man is and how decent he is, if he is a natural born fool you can do very little with him."
That last line puts me in mind of the Texas Junior Senator for some reason, and the dope of an anchor he was talking to. There are folks whose political, media or financial future depends on convincing you that American workers and the American public can't deal with change and progress. Those people need to be ignored, and/or voted out. They are unworthy of this country.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.