Twilight of the Tradesman

The most tragic and sympathetic victims of the United States’ deficient Medical-Political complex might be the American blue-collar workers.  We silently honor them every day, simply by going about our daily life activities.  We awaken from sleep on a mattress assembled by American factory workers and shipped to us by truck drivers or railroad personnel.  We reach up for a light switch installed by a tradesman and turn on a light attached to wires and components installed by an electrician.  We walk to the restroom over a floor poured by concrete workers and likely covered by materials installed by carpet layers or tilers.  The restroom is attached to a network of pipes carefully laid by plumbers after being manufactured in factories and shipped by truckers or railroad workers.  We enjoy clean water thanks to plumbers, water plant workers and chemists and dispose of our waste into a vast network of pipes and wastewater facilities built by tradesmen and maintained by plant operators, chemists, pipe-fitters, welders, plumbers, equipment operators and drivers.  We steer vehicles built by auto workers over roads dug, shaped, and paved by highway contractors that are lined by curbs formed by concrete workers and painted and maintained by road crews.  Every path we tread, every building we enter, every life activity we take for granted is the product of somebody else’s sweat, busted knuckles, pulled muscles and weary body.  They are the sinew of the populace.

Most of the men and women who work in the blue-collar trades don’t have college degrees, although some may have attended a trade school or taken part in employer or union sponsored vocational training.  Some attend junior college.  Many did passably well in high school and some of them participated in sports.  Some served in the military.  Most married, had kids, settled down and tried to earn enough to buy a decent house and car or two, maybe put something away for their retirement.  Some go to church, some don’t; some drink and/or smoke, some don’t; some cheat on their spouses and some don’t.  Most try to be good parents and most succeed to some degree.  Nearly all want their kids to do better, maybe even obtain that college degree that was not in their own life plan.  And, it seems, nearly every blue collar worker entered into the trades feeling young and invincible and expecting to stay that way.



Like The Birdies Sing

In 1932, songwriters Sydney Edmund Tolchard Evans, Stanley Damerell, Robert Hargreaves, and Harry Tilsley wrote a silly little ditty that became a hit at the time and has endured in American culture. The song, “Let’s All Sing like the Birdies Sing,” is familiar to anybody who has visited Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – and possibly found it an annoying earworm for hours after the visit. The lyrics start this way:

Let’s all sing like the birdies sing,
Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet.

In 2017 that song should replace “Hail to the Chief” as the Presidential Anthem. Our new President, who bears a disturbing resemblance to a giant canary, has been tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweeting his way through his presidency, usually from the bowels of pre-dawn sleeplessness. While that might not be a good way to govern – it isn’t – or an effective way to communicate – it isn’t –tweeting is his favorite mode of expression.

The President may be the most famous American canary since Tweety, an iconic presence in Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. The little yellow fellow starred in 47 of them and adults and kids alike could recite his signature line: “I tawt I taw a putty tat. I did! I did!” For some reason Warner Brothers and Mel Blanc thought it endearing to inflict Tweety with a speech impediment, so what he was actually saying was: “I thought I saw a pussy cat. I did! I did!”

What is it about canaries and pussies? Consider and compare the two most famous American canaries:

Tweety Bird: “I thought I saw a pussy cat. I did! I did!”
Tweety Trump: “I thought I’d grab a pussy. I did! I did!”


The Eternal Nonsense of the Baseless Claim (of Voter Fraud)

The late Congressman Henry Hyde once said this on the floor of the House of Representatives:  “There is a story that goes around in my hometown, Chicago. It says, Bury me when I die in Chicago because I want to stay active in politics after I am gone.”  That joke, which dates back at least to political comedian Mort Sahl, has been applied to other jurisdictions as well, including Arizona.  It’s a funny line and has the ring of truth, given Chicago’s history of creative political shenanigans.  But it’s only a joke.

Or is it?  In recent years many Republicans and conservatives have tried to weaponize what should only be a funny line in a malicious attempt to strip away the voting rights of people they fear will support their political rivals.  The political right has been flogging the baseless “voter fraud” meme for so long that I usually disregard it as white noise unworthy of a response.  But since the most recent example of this lie appeared in the Southern Arizona News Examiner, where this column runs, I owe it to readers to set the record straight.

That article, which originally ran in the Heritage Foundation’s propaganda sheet, The Daily Signal, contains 899 words and zero substance.  The author, Washington lawyer Joanne Young, endorsed President Donald Trump’s demand for an investigation into alleged “vote fraud.”  She noted Trump’s complaint that some voters are registered in more than one state and some of the names on voter registration rolls are of dead people.  This is the same President who declared that “nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”  God knows what he’ll do if someone spills the beans about Santa.


The Kids Are Alright With It

The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw federal protections for transgender public school students constitutes poor governance, deficient humanity, and legal ignorance.  A “Dear Colleague Letter” from the Departments of Justice and Education dated May 13, 2016 detailed those protections.  The Obama administration recognized that transgender students were denied equal access to educational opportunities and did not enjoy civil rights protections available to other students.  Discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX).  The new administration’s decision to abandon the protections endangers transgender students and will do far more harm than good.

In the 2011 National School Climate Survey by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), eight out of ten transgender students said they felt unsafe at school.  Nearly six out of ten experienced verbal harassment on account of their gender expression, more than twice the rate of their peers.  A recent GLSEN survey in Arizona that included gay and lesbian students along with transgender students reached a similar conclusion.  “Schools are still hostile environments for so many of these students,” stated Ricardo Martinez, Chair of GLSEN Phoenix, “and now more than ever they need our support.”

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, a lecturer with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, College of Education and author of several books, including Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice, notes that LGBT youth live a very different life experience from their peers, and not just in the school setting.  “For one thing, they live in families who very often do not share their sexual and/or gender identity,” Dr. Blumenfeld wrote in an email message, adding, “I call these ‘diasporic’ identities — we are dispersed within families who are different than us.”  “LGBTQ youth live in families with the added fear of ‘coming out’ to others,” wrote Dr. Blumenfeld.  “They also suffer significantly higher risks of being bullied and dropping out of school.”

He blames adults more than kids for the harmful experience of transgender youth…