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The Non Americans

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Message David Cox

The non Americans are with us, it is we who are not with them. They walk our streets and live in our communities but travel different paths and live a thousand miles away. We don’t know them and don’t want to know them for they are not the Americans like we are. Just being born here might make you a citizen but it doesn’t make you a full participatory American, they live invisible right before our eyes

There was a time not too long ago when America led the world in manufactured goods, steel, automobiles, furniture and electronics. The system built itself and the wealth of the middle class drove the system on allowing the best and the brightest to rise to college while allowing the rest to at least an opportunity for a decent lifestyle.

There has always been a percentage of non Americans, pushed out unwanted derided, hated because of the color of their skin or the god they worshipped. To them the American dream was a cruel illusion but I’m speaking now of the new non Americans to which the American dream isn’t an illusion at all but a myth. They watch television and see wealth portrayed but it’s like watching Neil Armstrong

step off the lunar module, it has no relationship to their lives.

What is real to them is poverty what is illusionary is the chance to escape. To build a future on a minimum wage income but the shame is not theirs, the shame is ours. The shame of paying less than subsistence wages, literally slave wages with boisterous talk of a free society. Is it any wonder they form gangs to salvage some vestige of dignity from a society that believes their labor is unworthy of anything but a starvation wage. Iron bars do not a prison make and chains need not be made of steel.

During the Truman administration Truman advocated raising the minimum wage by 40%. During the three years of the Kennedy administration the minimum wage rose by 25% A new car averaged $2000 or 1600 hours at minimum wage today a new car averages $20,000 or 3479 hours working at minimum wage. But we claim no one really works for the minimum wage but the minimum wage is the floor it is the bottom and when you have no decent floor you have no decent bottom.

There was a time when railroads meant prosperity in America they symbolized power and growth but this too like a living wage is no more. You see I live on the fringe of non America I once watched the railcars carrying new cars from the cities two automobile factories. They are both shuttered and vacant now and the railroad hauls away only empty boxcars and hauls in the containers from the great ships importing poverty and exporting our wealth. Make no mistake and remember always the next one you see that when it returns home it carries away a part of your children’s future inside it’s belly.

This is not to say some don’t succeed and prosper but we are talking about non Americans here not those born with every advantage. How well the prosperous do is no indication of how well a society is doing. Hurricane Katrina was an excellent metaphor for as the storm drew closer the wealthy and prosperous just drove away

leaving the non Americans to sink or swim. How many in big SUV’s that held six or seven drove away with one or two passengers without a thought or concern for their fellow man.

But everyday is Hurricane Katrina somewhere in America, with upwards of two million homes expected to go into foreclosures the residents wait on the roof tops with their help signs but our Christian President makes it clear we don’t help those who have made bad decisions. They have over reached they have tried to climb the glass mountain and now it’s begun to rain and the President says sink or swim. After all he’s the American President and they are after all non Americans.

But the storm is growing in intensity, new car sales are falling the savings rate is non existent as home prices collapse. The academics and economists spin and weave like undertakers in Louisiana trying to bury the bodies of the truth. But the delta soil is saturated by the storm and the bodies keep popping back up. This is the perfect storm and the ranks of non Americans are swelling. But we are leaderless, the Americans have a President but we non Americans are alone trying to shield ourselves and hold back the winds of destitution on our own.

But some profit from the system even if it’s in the death of the system it’s self. The undertakers and casket makers profit from the dead and dying as do the worms. The systems working just fine don’t change a thing. But the waters are rising and even some at the top are beginning to question whether the levees will hold. I have no grand academic laurels or educational sheep skin but then again I don’t need one. Because I live in non America where we see with our eyes and feel with our hearts. My neighbor moved here two years ago for a job as an aircraft mechanic now he’s swimming on with his family on his back chasing a job in Denver.

My neighbor with his Masters Degree in aircraft design working at Home Depot designing patios tells me more about the economy than CNBC or the President. After all who listens to the President? Not the non Americans.

On my daily jog through the neighborhood I see the numbers of foreclosed homes rise their once green lawns turned to weeds their paint fading like the dreams their structures once held. And I ask myself, where have my fellow non Americans gone too? Where are they now? What will they eat tonight?

But these are the questions that only non Americans ask themselves. The media confines its self to; will the subprime mortgage crisis affect investments? What are the best stocks to buy? Will the fed move to lower interest rates? Maybe to Americans these are important questions but to non Americans were it not so pathetic it would be funny. The stewards on the Titanic worried whether the champagne is cold enough in first class while the seawater pours in upon the third class and pretending it won’t affect them.

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I was born and raised in Chicago in a liberal Democratic home my Grandfather was a labor union organizer my Father a Democratic district committeeman my Mother was an election judge. My earliest memories were of passing out Kennedy yard signs from (more...)
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