Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Let's Pretend

Let’s Pretend

Let’s pretend we’re queens and kings
And we can do outrageous things
To make the long days pass
And fill the counting house with cash
Or entertain ourselves with knaves
While scolding naughty slaves
And holding them to blame
When our subjects call us names

You have to be in my age group to remember the Saturday morning radio program “Let’s Pretend.” In those days of yore, radio was the thing and, in a way, it enjoyed rapt attention of the audience because there was no distraction like TV or Twitter. Once you turned on the radio and tuned to a program like “Let’s Pretend,” you could be transported into a world where you were free to suspend disbelief without being jarred back into reality until the ad for Cream of Wheat interrupted the story.

For good or ill, the days of “Let’s Pretend” are gone. We live in a world where news is immediate and on a 24/7 cycle. Most slaves have been replaced with cheap imported labor and the knaves are usually public figures like politicians and TV personalities pretending to be newscasters. The ostentatious wealthy now act as our royalty and, thank God and Greenbacks, they can do no wrong. I will concede that a few slaves exist in the Middle East (like the boy jockeys of Dubai) and that indentured servitude pops up here at home from time to time, but for the most part, economics has created sharp social boundaries where cheap labor is just across a border here and across the world. This cheap labor has reduced formal slavery. It has also created de facto inequity and displacement.

The world has changed in other, substantial, ways. We have few real royals. Rock stars, movie stars and sports luminaries fill our days and nights along with the super wealthy among us. Billionaires have become self-appointed royalty with purchased kingdoms. The aura of bestowed rectitude, power and dominion surrounds this new royalty with just a taste of the era of King David, who could do no wrong despite lusting and murdering and otherwise excepting himself from the ten commandments. King David acted on his lust for Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed by abandoning him in battle. He also had 20,000 Syrian captives murdered after their capture and yet he is often praised for his actions instead of being condemned for war crimes.

Now our current “royalty” may not be so dramatic in their transgressions, but the fundamental message they send is identical to King David for the exclusion from blame. Meg Whitman of California is seeking the governorship of the Golden State. She has rarely, if ever, exercised her civil responsibility to vote; never registered to vote until 2002 and did not register as a Republican until 2007 and yet she has spent over $119 Million of her own money to capture the governor’s crown. She has been withering in her condemnation of “illegal immigrants” and yet has failed to take responsibility for hiring one for nine years. Her “Mickie” was not a slave, but was a hired hand and was “part of the extended family.” Extended family or not, Meg has condemned the woman for lying and even accused her of theft despite the fact that her husband’s signature lies on the bottom of the Social Security notice (in 2003) to check and report on the discrepancy in Social Security numbers (thus disproving theft). Clearly, the rules do not apply to a billionaire like Meg. She can, at once, call for inspecting employers of illegal workers and refuse to be questioned on her own hiring. In fact, the hypocrisy goes further by her blaming her opponent without evidence, her former employee, unions, media, and an attorney for bringing the offense to light. So it is not the offense itself, but the discovery by others that is wrong? Bizarre? Not at all for the kings and queens of today. Think of it. It is not the crime, but your temerity in pointing out the crime. Of course. It is your fault. Shame on you.

The first casualty in war, it is said, is the truth. It seems that this is now extended into politics. Even after being corrected for false ads saying her opponent raised taxes and otherwise misgoverned Meg has continued the ads. She promises new jobs, but what will they be? When CEO at EBay, she provided herself with a $120 Million bonus just prior to firing 30,000 workers. She has promised to fire 40,000 California civil servants if elected. Yet the work will have to be done. Will these be new jobs be for undocumented domestic workers perhaps? Maybe if the pay is low enough, we can continue the myth that all we need to do is to deport workers to solve our economic crisis. We can meanwhile pretend that they do not exist. We have no need to integrate them into our society. Let them stay in the shadows of the kingdom where nobody sees them and the royalty can dismiss them with a wave of the hand if you discover an inconvenient truth.

Although Meg has shown no civic responsibility strong enough to motivate her to vote and surely not one strong enough to take responsibility for her failure to abide by the laws, she has the money to do as she pleases. It is up to the citizens who do take their civic responsibilities seriously to reject the pretender to the throne of California. By the way, your vote may save your job rather than provide an illegal job for an undocumented worker. It could also go a long way to establish a way to incorporate the millions who are already here and take them from the shadows where they are easily exploited and underpaid while they set the wage standards for the state while working for the many “Whitmans” of California. Suspend belief, not disbelief.

George Giacoppe
6 October 2010