Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting Our Priorities Straight

I read The Huffington Post as a matter of course, but I missed this. It's a very useful, very interesting, Q&A with the Iowa waitress who, thanks to Hillary Clinton and NPR, became the center of yet another non-controversy controversy. I still don't know what the facts are about the tipless tip, and I still don't care. What is interesting is how many sane people there are in this country, and how few of them have a voice in our public discourse.

For example:

Huffington Post: What is it like to be in the middle of a campaign-related media frenzy?
Esterday: It is nuts. Even going on the web for anything. There was a website in Cedar Rapids that said I had committed suicide. I understand that whoever wrote this meant it as a joke, but I have family in Cedar Rapids and I know people in Cedar Rapids and my mother committed suicide. So it wasn't a joke to me... It's taking it to an extreme and I guess in America now that's what people like and it's a shame that the media ran with this.
I learned this as a pastor: once you are a public figure, no matter how small the fishbowl, your entire life is up for scrutiny, examination, and wild gossip. I can't imagine what has been said about me among my last congregation in the past 6 years (diminishingly less, I know), but this points up one of the worst sins of the Intertubes, one I have complained about before. Still, there is more to this waitress than complaints about her 15 minutes of fame, viz:

Does the press have misplaced priorities?
In this country, look at how many homeless people there are. There are millions. There are people just like me. I'm not the only parent who has had to raise two kids and barely makes $20,000 a year... This is supposed to be the United States of America, the strongest nation in the world, and we can't even provide places for our homeless. The media should be focusing on that.
Studs Terkel couldn't have put it better. The said fact is, of course, we used to have politicians who talked about these things, as I mention below. But today? Even among Democrats? Fuggedaboutit! And as for mentioning her in Clinton's stump speech, too easily do politicians forget other people are not public figures, free for the taking:

Sen. Clinton talked about you - following this incident - in some of her speeches about women earning minimum wage and you seemed upset about it.
To all the politicians, if you talk to somebody and maybe their life interests you, don't just go down the road then and use them as part of your speech to get votes. I was never even asked that day if I'm a Democrat or a Republican or whatever. I was never asked whom I was behind. And then to go down and be called up that night [in a speech by Clinton], was I angry about it? Yes I was. Don't get me wrong they called me a few days later to ask if they could use me in the speech. And they sent me a release form, but they were already using me. So what the hell, I signed it.
Another lesson learned as a pastor: never mention anyone's personal story, no matter how public it actually is, from the pulpit. Everyone will know who you are talking about, and the person in question won't appreciate the attention. Of course, that's an obvious lesson in a church, a very closed community. What's disturbing is when a politician doesn't recognize that, despite the fact its 300 million people, each one is still an individual, and this is still a "village." And the waitress's conclusion?

Does this change the way you are approaching the presidential election?
I've been an independent all my life. My mom was a Democrat and my father a Republican. I just sat back and watched them argue and stayed in the middle. But I'm not going to vote for Hillary. That is a definite. No one could pay me enough money. My opinion of her has changed drastically. The more I read and find out about her it changes more and more to the negative. I don't believe she can help out the working women of this world because I don't believe she gets it.
I'm reminded of the newsreel pictures of Bobby Kennedy in the movie "Bobby," (and yes, if you follow that link, we are still honoring swagger and bluster; read that speech by RFK and try to imagine any Democrat giving the same speech today.) RFK walking among the working poor of Applachia, RFK addressing groups of people on city streets in inner-city America. It's because of his assassination, among other things, that politicians don't do that kind of thing anymore. But we are all the poorer for it.

And getting poorer by the day.

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