Friday, April 3, 2009

A Grandfather's Wisdom

At a townhall gathering in Strasbourg, France today, President Obama lamented the fact that, unlike the social safety net of France and the rest of the EU, " an illness in America could cost the person his job and house."

What is it about older nations like France or Germany? They seem to 'get it' way before we do. Neither nation, for example, joined George Bush's dog and pony show, the Coalition of the Willing. Even today, neither nation is willing to send more troops to Afghanistan. Sarkozy, just today, told Obama directly at a news conference: no more troops to Afghanistan. No doubt Angela Merkel will say it later today.

The wisdom of the ages.

Why is it that here, in the home of the free and the land of the brave, we are often unwise? Even after 230 years, we seem to be novices at the 'how to run a country' concept. We give permission to presidents to send our troops anywhere they please, often after misleading the citizens into believing that the cause is 'just.' We nod like bobbleheads, only to learn months or years later that we were bamboozled, lied-to.

The health care issue raises its head cautiously once again. I wonder what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was thinking as she heard Obama, in embarrassment, tell the Europeans that we lack a national health care system? They must surely think that we Americans are a bunch of frontiersmen, still trying to create a nation of our own.

Shortly after the Great Depression, my grandfather wrote a letter to his relatives back in Germany. He was dumbfounded in that January letter in 1931. He wrote:

Therefore I come on a subject where I almost know nothing; where I should begin?

It concerns is the condition in which America, which ended up the richest country of the world, the country of cable transmitter, of the millionaire, the country of unlimited possibilities, the country of inexhaustible sources of help and raw material, with its highly developed railway system, its all-outstanding industry and machines, its abundance at meat and grain of its decided industries and industrious population contains 5 million unemployed person since November 1929, to which in the finance battle yet a further million have joined since February 1930.

He goes on:

Middle and small business close by the thousands with bankruptcy. In the business parts of the city each 7 of 8 shops stand empty for one year. Therefore managers and department chiefs, lawyers, accountants, bookkeepers, salesclerks, agents, office assistants of all degrees have increasingly traveled in the army of the unemployed persons of the factories and industries. Many stand around lasting for days before the working door for emergency constructions,which the towns are obliged to introduce; the unemployed person gets one or 2 days of working wage to a week.

He gets to the point of my posting today when he writes,

We do not have like other civilized countries such things as like old-age pension, state sick person's relief funds, or unemployment compensation. We do not even have statistic offices for the unemployed person as all such legislation has prevented it by the big capitalists. Not even national support for soup kitchens, so extremely necessarily in each city, winter and summer for two years and so insufficient against hunger death for women and children. We would have houses enough against housing shortage. The building swindle however has our children, which smears next generation the purchase of the houses with monthly pension with highest price and heights wages, now as the prices pleases, but the taxes on it are and become ever higher and exorbitant.

Yes, grandfather, you had it correct, sad to say, and surely you now know, sitting in your golden room above, that little has changed since you wrote that letter, just before you died.

When will America ever learn?

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