George Saunders: A Nobel Prize to Essential Workers

Today, we have wisdom from George Saunders, plus 3 videos: the Green Amendment; Republican voters on why they are turning away from Trump; and one from Trump himself. Also a poem from Tony Hoagland.

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TODAY, Sat., May 9, 8:30 am – 9 am. KSFR 101.1 FM, with Maya Van Rossum, Founder of The Green Amendment. Maya has been advocating for states throughout the nation to implement the kind of amendment found only in Pennsylvania and Montana. She is a wonderful combination of passionate and knowledgeable. She has initiated an effort in NM and will have a Facebook conference with Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez on May 21 at 6pm. We’ll keep you posted on that.

Last week, we spoke with Cylvia Hayes, an author, researcher, advocate and expert on sustainable development. She is also the former first lady for the state of Oregon and in that role advocated extensively for incorporating an economic justice lens on the state budgeting process. It was a fascinating conversation.

A new Retake Our Democracy feature is to use Zoom technology to record our radio shows and when we do this, we record both the audio and the visual. Cylvia’s interview is the first available by clicking here to get to the new Retake Conversations page. The conversation with Maya is also available now.

The Wisdom of George Saunders: Freedom is NOT the Right to Behave Like a Brat

Roxanne has long been a fan of George Saunders and we went to see him speak in ABQ a couple years ago. He has a laser eye for detecting BS in government and its leaders, and a way with words that makes reading his insights both entertaining and insightful. Today, we feature a few excerpts from his most recent newsletter, focusing on Covid-19, how it is changing our world view, and how it has also exposed a uniquely American perspective on what freedom means.

“From where I am, I can’t see the terror and tragedy happening in other places, and can only hear about the extraordinary grace and courage being shown by so many people on the front line (and re: that, I’d like to propose a collective Nobel Peace Prize for doctors, nurses, dentists, grocery workers, pharmacy staff, etc. etc.)”

George Saunders Newsletter

I don’t know if it has ever been done, but if ever there were a time for giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a large class of people, this is it. I don’t think I will ever shop again without thanking those clerks who have risked their lives so we could have groceries and even more so to those health professionals who save lives and are the ones who, unlike Saunders and most of us, live with the horror of death, day after day. They deserve something for their service besides a paycheck and our gratitude. Heroes.

I very much appreciate Saunders sentiment for formally honoring those essential workers who kept our world spinning. Saunders goes on to talk about how Covid has created an opportunity for all of us to question “normal,” an insight that has been shared in this blog from Cylvia Hayes and others. But as noted above, Saunders has a way with words and offers a unique take on how the imminence of Covid-19 and the death that too often comes with it could be transformational.

“But, even on the small scale of my own life, this period feels like a chance to reconsider my way of living. We’re shopping less and more efficiently, driving almost not at all. I am more in touch with old friends than ever before. This feels, somehow, like those periods when someone close to you is gravely ill, or is dying—everything is being reconsidered and the things that really matter are meekly stepping forward, saying, “Time is short, don’t forget about us.” My sense of ambition is getting refined: What is really worth doing? What will we regret not having done when the end really comes? Here’s hoping that this somehow performs the same sort of reset on the whole world. We don’t have to live the way we’ve been living, just because we’ve been living that way all these years. The field is open, so to speak; what might we learn from this and how might we decide to change our ways going forward?”

George Saunders Newsletter

But for me, the best part of this issue of Saunders’ newsletter is his scathing perspective on the protesters and the president who cheers them on as he skewers their insistence upon their freedom and their Nazi chants and signs aimed at the Governors with the courage to keep things closed. Thank You, Governor Lujan Grisham.

There seems to exist an American personality type that has taken a childhood resistance to being told to eat his or her vegetables and grown it into a political position—the type of person who has a tendency to misunderstand “freedom” as “being allowed to do exactly what I want, perpetually, no matter the effect of this on other people.” That attitude is more correctly called “being a brat” or “perma-juvenilia.” We have to get things up and running, of course; that’s a healthy aspiration and a humane one. But to simply put aside science to do it, out of boredom, is only going to make things worse in the long run, and harder on the working-class people this thing is affecting the most.”

Clearly, it is not sheer boredom driving many to want to return to work. For Trump it is 75% about his re-election and 25% about his ego, his thirst to be right and for others to be at fault. For many workers though, it is desperation driven by being suddenly unemployed, relief checks caught in the bureaucracy, and unemployment benefits impossible to secure due to log-jammed offices.

But Saunders is correct in labeling as “brats” the protesters breaching quarantines and exposing others needlessly to Covid exposure. Their anger should not be aimed at the Governors with courage, but at the president and the GOP with none. The GOP has put the brakes on genuine relief, and so while workers in Europe stay home but retain their income and jobs because those governments don’t shirk their responsibility to serve and protect, our leadership would rather focus on using the opportunity to appoint more judges, relax more business regulation, and reward their corporate benefactors with more tax breaks.

We must remember how we were treated during this crisis and, to the degree that any of us have GOP friends, it is vital we use our relationships and our friendship to plead a case for a reset in November.

Click here to read more from Saunders.

The Word
– Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful, it touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent you from some place distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue

but today you get a telegram,
from the heart in exile
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time,
to sit out in the sun and listen.

Why Some Trump Voters Reject Him Now

The group interview from the mid-terms shows people who have been Republican all their lives calling out Trump for being the bully and buffoon that he is. It is the kind of response that most of us expected far sooner and one I’d hope would be more prevalent today given all that has transpired over the past months.

How Trump’s Own Words Condemn Him

The clip below would be funny if it weren’t so awful. It pieces together one clip after another of Trump Covid commentary going back to the beginning of the onset of Covid through to this week. His boastful, self-congratulatory commentary appears center screen while on the right is the climbing death toll worldwide and in the US. Six minutes and so revealing. You might want to share this with any GOP friends and ask their reaction.

The Green Amendment in New Mexico

We end with an uplifting video from The Green Amendment. We will keep you informed of advocacy for a Green Amendment in NM, beginning with the KSFR interview that aired today (see above).

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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