REFLECTIONS ON AMERICA, By Louise Annarino,September 7,2012

7 Sep

REFLECTIONS ON AMERICA,By Louise Annarino,September 7,2012


Local newspapers used to have a society page, really a gossip page, wherein we learned who was engaged, had married, or celebrated a significant anniversary. Each story contained interesting details such as where the affianced couple met and when they planned to marry, the design of each bridal gown and the type of flowers in her bouquet as well as where the new couple would honeymoon, and the biography of the anniversary couple and their off-spring. Most stories were accompanied by a photo of the happy couple. Today, we see remnants of this practice in neighborhood news rags.


The items that interested me most were the 25 or 50 year anniversary photos which usually depicted the couple in two photos: their wedding announcement photo and their newly-shot anniversary photo. I was struck by how much the couple had come to look like each other over the course of living together 25 or 50 years. How did that happen? Another phenomenon occurs among women who live together. Their monthly menstrual cycles soon coalesce onto a common cycle. What happens when diverse individuals live together in common community?


General systems theorists would acknowledge these phenomena as examples of “reflection”. We experience reflection each time we look in a mirror. Spending years in close proximity we stop merely looking at one another and start looking like one another. Is this how America has absorbed so many varied cultures? By joining closely with one another, spending time together, really looking at one another, eating each other’s foods, singing each other’s songs, listening to each others stories, carrying each other’s burden,and celebrating each other’s success;is this how we have become one people?


The idea of a coloring of America, the changing demographics wherein white Anglo-Saxons are no longer the dominant cultural or political force frightens some of us so much that we miss the beauty of what we are becoming. When I looked at the photos of those married 50 years I did not see a man or a woman who had been lost to themselves, but a loving couple who had found themselves within the bonds of their relationship with one another. I did not see a loss to either of them, but a gain to all of our community. That is what made their anniversary meaningful enough to justify including their photos and stories in the newspaper. The entire community benefited from their union and we celebrated with them as a community.


Elizabeth Warren responded to Mitt Romney in her speech at the Democratic National Convention: “No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama.” She reminded me that being human matters. People are not merely numbers. They have faces. We need to look at those faces.


Whenever we reduce persons to numbers we are doomed to failure. When our policies are solely designed to reduce the bottom line we are on the wrong track. Focusing solely on numerical/monetary deficits in federal,state,county,municipal or school budgets leads to disaster of the kind we experienced during the Bush Administration. We began to envision the American Dream as a numbers game, with Wall Street setting our goals. We conveniently forgot the persons behind the numbers. This led to a Republican policy failure which President Obama is turning around with a different policy.


Article 1,Sec.2 of The United States Constitution contained language which reduced persons to numbers to satisfy southern delegates who refused to sign the new document if it in any way impugned slavery. John Rutledge,the delegate from South Carolina spoke for the south when he insisted slavery was a question of property rights  and should be protected by the Constitution. He added, “religion and humanity have nothing to do with the question.” He asked the delegates to forget the faces of the slaves, and serve the bottom line of southern planters. Slaves were counted as 3/5 a person.


The 3/5th compromise was written as follows:

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.) Art.1,Sec.2


Bain Capital is an American success story if we only look at numbers. It is a failure when we consider the persons behind those numbers. Decisions which make the numbers work do not always work for human faces the numbers hide. “Counting the cost” means counting more than numbers. We cannot afford to ever treat human beings as mere numbers. It is a matter of religion and morality. It is why we are suffering through a severe recession; only saved from depression by FDR’s safety net and President Obama’s stimulus,his refusal to only consider numbers.This is what he means by a balanced approach.


Business is not governance. Business is only one aspect of governance. We bailed out banks and the auto industry because more was at stake than financial solvency of those institutions. We required the bail-out money be repaid as good business practice. Mr. Romney  states we should have let both fail because as an investment capitalist he only uses a bottom-line business model when making decisions. This will not work as president of a self-governing people. Faces matter as much as numbers.


Governance of human beings requires that our political leaders look at the faces of those they govern, and we look at the faces of those governing us. Sunshine Laws, Open Records Laws etc. recognize the right of the governed to look at the face of government. We have a right and a need to look at Mr. Romney’s tax returns, and a list of businesses in which he has/had an interest. After all, he has used his business experience as the basis for his readiness to lead the free world.


In his acceptance speech, President Obama talked about citizenship; and, this is what citizenship means.It means looking at one another, feeling each other’s pain, knowing the country’s economic numbers hide fellow-citizens faces behind each statistic,working together to do the hard work to keep enough jobs for every American at home, pay our fair share of taxes, and support one another no matter what the numbers say. Like those in the anniversary photos who faced years of struggle and moments of joy together while becoming more of each other, we will become a stronger, more encompassing, and more prosperous America by looking at, and looking out for one another.


This is how America moves FORWARD. President Obama reminded us last night, “We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up.” This is what we do if we want a marriage to last. This is what we do if we want America to last.




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