"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
This morning at 7 a.m. the phone rang. I was still asleep. A woman's pleasant voice informed me that my lost suitcase - a bag that was handed off to an American Airlines luggage guy at the same moment I handed off another bag that did arrive in Phoenix - would be delivered to my home this morning. The delivery person, she said, is named Toots, and if I wanted to "show Toots some appreciation," it would be very welcome, because Toots does not work for American Airlines." Half asleep, I got it that she was asking me to tip Toots. I hung up, melted back into my pillow. Then suddenly, I got the rest of it.
I called back the number on my phone. I asked, "Did you just tell me that you work for tips?" The dispatch woman, who, it turned out was herself on the road making suitcase deliveries, was clearly rattled by my return call.
"It's strictly voluntary," she hastened to tell me. Then she explained that in fact, American Airlines pays $7.20 for each delivery. From that fee, the delivery women receive 55 percent, or by my calculation, about $3.96 a delivery. For that, at 11 p.m. last night she drove from wherever she lives to the Airport, grabbed my bag and drove home, then hauled it across town this morning to Scottsdale. Toots, it turns out, had two deliveries this morning, so for her time, she made $7.92.
Has anybody noticed that gasoline is $3.00 a gallon?
The dispatch woman, whose name I later learned from Toots is Mary, was more than apologetic. She was scared. I told her I think it's so wrong for American Airlines to pay such a pitance to these women that they needed to rely on tips from AA customers - customers who should not have to tip to get their bags back after American lost them. After enduring days of worry, days without important belongings, days of fruitless phone calls to clueless American personnel; now I need to tip?
Oh, and did I mention that American Airlines charges to check the bags that they lose? Twenty-five dollars to lose - oops, I meant check - the first bag. Thirty-five dollars for the second bag.
I was so angry that I told Mary I planned to call American Airlines and tell them how wrong it is that they pay dirt-for-wages to these women. How wrong it is that the jilted American customer should have to pay, instead of American Airlines falling all over itself to make things right with its customers.
Mary's voice got a little strained. I should do whatever I felt I had to, she said, but... if American got wind of this, her delivery company would lose its contract. She explained that these delivery services are a dime a dozen. That the delivery business was cut-throat. That her company gets these accounts through a broker, and the broker could turn to another company in a snap to fill this contract. She was sure that if I called, they would be cut like that.
She then pleaded with me. She informed me that Toots is 56, has a disabled, unemployable husband at home. Mary said she herself is a widow in her late 50s, lucky enough not to be supporting anyone else, but this job is all she has. She told me that once upon a time her agency had multiple airline contracts, but now the American Airlines contract was the only Airline contract they had left. She reminded me that the tip is completely voluntary. She said I should not feel obligated. She apologized if I was upset. She apologized and apologized and apologized.
And then she said it. She said the thing that is on the minds of any honest liberal whose eyes are open, and who is not an Obamapologist.
"President Obama hasn't done anything for us. He hasn't done anything at all."
I made up that word, "Obamapologist," by the way, joshing my friend Ruben for 'splaining away something or another coming out of the White House. I am very proud of that word. It's right up there with Obamacare.
Anyway, at that moment, I realized how angry I really am. Angry to the point of adrenalyn coarsing through my veins. Angry to tears. Really. They are streaming down my face while I write this, even though I couldn't get to my computer until after Toots arrived with my bag. Until after I'd figured out what to do about tipping Toots, since I did not want to give in to American Airlines' madness, yet it wasn't Toots I wanted punished. Until after I took Lucy and Simon to the dog park, came home, set up a virtual office hours for my ethics students, made myself something to eat, fed the dogs, swept the kitchen floor.
Angry because President Obama, the president of Change, and of Yes we can!, not only can't, but maybe just plain won't.
I am angry because President Obama just made William Daley his new chief of staff. Daley is a JP Morgan Chase man from the same Wall Street crowd that just sucked in billions of dollars of our tax moneys, to prevent the collapse of "our" financial system. I put the word "our" in quotes, because it turns out that preventing the collapse of the financial system did not loosen up money to small business or in any other way result in trickle-down financial health for the rest of the country. No, it just restored wealth to those who had already had a lot of it.
And James Cole, a private consultant to mega-insurance and investment firm AIG, another tax-payer bailee, to the Justice Department.
And just yesterday, Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, to be the head of Obama's jobs council and his new outside economic adviser. Jobs Council? Really?
What I'm getting at here, is that President Obama is bringing in the fox to guard our hen house. And Toots and Mary and me and you and a whole bunch of other people you know - we are the hens. We are being eaten alive out here in this economy, and President Obama is awash with fox.
Does it seem interesting to anybody besides me that GE was, according to Recovery.org, one of the largest direct and indirect recipients of funds from the federal stimulus program?
Does it trouble anyone besides me that Obama just placed at the head of our jobs council the man whose company took advantage of federal stimulus dollars despite having $156 billion in revenue last year, according to Standard & Poor? How much stimulus did they really need?
Does it trouble anybody that Obama assigned a guy to create American jobs whose own company reduced its employee rolls by 18,000 in 2009 and has more of its 300,000 plus employees overseas than at home?
I'm mad as hell.
All this time later, I am still...so...angry... that I feel like whooping some ass. I feel just like Billy Jack.
"When I see this girl... of such a beautiful spirit... so degraded... and this boy... that I love...sprawled out by this big ape here... and this little girl who is so special to us we call her 'God's little gift of sunshine'...and I think of the number of years that she's going to have to carry in her memory...the savagery of this idiotic moment of yours... I...just...go...BERSERK!"
Folks, I'm a nobody, but until a whole lot of nobodies get angry, stick their heads out the window, get their bodies out in the streets, we're going to be stuck with a lot more of the same, and a whole lot less change.
The Tea Partiers and I don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of solutions, and by blasting the Democrats, they've missed the real problem by a mile. The real problem is that Washington has been co-opted by corporate greed. These machinations that benefit corporate shareholders to the detriment of the rest of Americans have been behind the scenes until recently. But the economy, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the rest of the Stimulus packages, coupled with the beautiful new transparency afforded to us by the internet - no wonder "they" are trying to regulate it - has put the truth in your face.
Those Tea Partiers who are there for real change - not just because it's a convenient vehicle to promote some extremist ideologies - Tea Partiers like my facebook pals Andrea Kent, Earl White, Jamie Conner and Deb Johnson - should cross the fence to talk with Democrats who find themselves disappointed - no, make that disgusted - with Obama's inability to break out of the D.C. mold. Together, we should push America up off its couches, party affiliation be damned. We should make Americans see that our country has been deeded over to corporate shareholders, and is not the mecca of common man.
This is no longer a place where anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, because the jobs are headed overseas and the profits are consolidated into corporate pockets. We Democrats should be thanking the Tea Partiers for getting angry.
I know this must sound outrageous on the heels of my post about toning down rhetoric. But getting angry is not about getting violent. I'm going to tell you what I used to tell my daughters when they fought with each other.
"Don't call names. Don't be hateful. Just say, firmly and strongly, what is happening that is hurting you. Name the thing that is making you angry. Name the thing so we can work it out."
It would be a mad world if we didn't get angry about what's going on here. We are only 235 years old as country, and we may not have known the outcome of corporate greed when we passed all the laws that nurture and protect it, but we can begin to see its outline. We can begin to see its casualties, and those are us. This is not a market economy. This is a corporate despotism. So yes, let's take a page out of the Tea Party handbook and get into the act. Let's put some reformers into office. Not pretend reformers like President Obama.
There, I said it. Thank God I'm not important enough to end up on anybody's McCarthy-esque list.
Yesterday, my facebook friend Shaw Israel Izikson posted a YouTube video clip from the 1976 movie, "Network," showing fired news achor Howard Beale's on air "witness" after losing his job. Shaw posted the clip in honor of Keith Olbermann's final speech after MSNBC cut his show, "Countdown." As I watched Peter Finch's testimony to his audience, I realized his words, in 1976, were as accurate and meaningful today. Just substitute "Iranians" for "Russians," and you've got it. Down to the last dime. Here is the script to Beale's speech, but you'd do better watching it on the video below.
"I don't have to tell you things
are bad. Everybody knows things
are bad. It's a depression.
Everybody's out of work or scared
of losing their job, the dollar
buys a nickel's worth, banks are
going bust, shopkeepers keep a
gun under the counter, punks
are running wild in the streets,
and there's nobody anywhere who
seems to know what to do, and
there's no end to it. We know
the air's unfit to breathe and
our food is unfit to eat, and
we sit and watch our tee-vees
while some local newscaster
tells us today we had fifteen
homicides and sixty-three
violent crimes, as if that's
the way it's supposed to be.
We all know things are bad.
Worse than bad. They're crazy.
It's like everything's going
crazy. So we don't go out any
more. We sit in the house, and
slowly the world we live in
gets smaller, and all we ask is,
'please, at least leave us alone
in our own living rooms. Let me
have my toaster and my tee-vee
and my hair-dryer and my steel-
belted radials, and I won't say
anything, just leave us alone.'
Well, I'm not going to leave you
alone. I want you to get mad --
I don't want you to riot. I
don't want you to protest. I
don't want you to write your
congressmen. Because I wouldn't
know what to tell you to write.
I don't know what to do about the
depression and the inflation and
the defense budget and the Russians
and crime in the street. All
I know is first you got to get
mad. You've got to say:
"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going
to take this any more.
I'm a human being, goddammit. My life
So I want you to
get up now. I want you to get
out of your chairs and go to
the window. Right now. I want
you to go to the window, open
it, and stick your head out
and yell. I want you to yell:
"I'm mad as hell and I'm not
going to take this any more!"
- Get up from your chairs.
Go to the window. Open it.
Stick your head out and yell
and keep yelling --
-- First, you have to get mad.
When you're mad enough --
-- we'll figure out what to do
about the depression --
-- and the inflation and the oil
-- Things have got to change.
But you can't change them unless
you're mad. You have to get mad.
Go to the window --
-- Stick your head out and yell.
I want you to yell: "I'm mad
as hell and I'm not going to
take this any more!"
Right now. Get up. Go to
your window --
-- open your window --
I got my bag back this morning. No thanks to American Airlines and with the help of two women who make 55 percent of $7.20 for their trouble. These two women are so afraid of losing their jobs that Mary called Toots and asked her to pick up a Dunken Donuts gift card good for free coffee and a donut for me, on the way to my house. That's $3.50, leaving her with forty-six cents for her trip.
I have changed Mary's and Toots' names to protect their meager livelihood. I stood for a long time after I got off the phone from Mary, pondering how to deal with this. How to protest the profiteering of a mega-corporation like American Airlines by squeezing the blood from women like Toots and Mary. In the end, I gathered up all the change I could find and put it into a sandwich bag, and gave it to Toots in exchange for my bag and the Duncan Donuts gift card. Later I gave the Duncan Donuts card to two cops who were talking in the parking lot at the dog park. They have to sit there because there are people in my town who are so hungry or desparate that they break into our cars while we are off playing with our dogs. Or maybe they're druggies looking for something to sell to feed their habits, but maybe they're not.
I no longer think our government is a government of the people, by the people or for the people. It will be interesting to see what reaction I get from calling this the way I see it. I will be waiting to hear from my friends Doug Chandler, and Kathy Hodge Scherich, and Sandi Elliott and others on the left with whom I share opinions about how to solve social problems.
I wish I could do something more than write this damn blog. But it's just me and my keyboard today. Me against American Airlines, G.E., Wall Street and our corporatized government. I wish I had a business where I could employ Mary and Toots for fair wages. I wish I was Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King or even Jon Stewart - somebody who cares and had the charisma and power to move people to the streets. I wish I had a bully pulpit.
I wish I had the power to get you all to move to your windows and scream.