Talking Cultural Diversity

a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis

What Does your Gut Tell You

By Jean Mavrelis - 02.21.2011

Harley-riding, ice-fishing, Northwoods hunting, tough as nails “cheesehead” Packer fans and self reliant pick-up truck driving men and women who endure hardship, may be all about getting “big government” off their backs, (despite being the ones who most may be in need of the safety net that the federal government could create if only the wealthiest Americans paid their fair share of taxes).

But just when they’re getting all jacked up on Rush Limbaugh, these hard-working blue collar union-identified workers find themselves at odds with red state spin.

Many of them are still upset that jobs were moved from Wisconsin to the non-union South.   Then the non-union South got jilted when those same businesses moved those jobs from the south to even cheaper labor outside the U.S.

Although only a small percentage of Americans are now union members and sometimes the unions themselves have to be regulated (See Waiting for “Superman” about teacher unions and tenure for unfit teachers)

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Unions are part of our collective American Story. 

On the Waterfront, Grapes of Wrath, and Norma Rae are movies that are etched on our collective psyche.

And they are an important balance to check the growth of big bonuses for CEO’s while wages for those most in need decline.

Blue collar folks aren’t afraid to sacrifice, they’re used to it. They’re tough survivors.

Read Jim Webb’s book, Born Fighting, to better understand their “insistent individualism” and resistance to big government “handouts”.

To the extent that government has become the domain of oligarchs who buy lobbyists, I too am suspicious of government.

But I differentiate central government reform from big government in cahoots with special interests, like big pharma (pharmaceuticals) or lobbyists who make money off expanding prisons while cutting back on education budgets for children who will, instead of being prepared as professionals and technical experts,  populate those prisons.

I’m proud of those protesters.  I hope these protests are the seed that awakens those hard working blue collar folks in Wisconsin to the reality that “big government” is not one swath – there is big government that promotes special interests, and centralized government that protects and promotes the general welfare of the people, just like the unions have done.

Let’s clean up the unions and the government, not throw them away so big money oligarchs can continue to take advantage of working class vulnerability.

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