Our online series, "Speak Your Mind," gives you a chance to sound off on the issues you care about.
News & Views reader James Swain of Miami, Fla., offers this latest installment, titled, "Hard Working Americans Need to Get to Know Each Other Better."
"This election presents an unprecedented opportunity for Americans to teach the panderers a lesson," he writes.
Read and respond.
During the Democratic primary campaign, Hillary Clinton asserted a superior ability over her Democratic rival, Barack Obama, to reach "hard working Americans ... white Americans." This mini-debate really bugged me and, now that the primary is over, it still looms large over the coming election. So I wanted to share these thoughts with you.
Her statement, and the dust devils of opinion and comment that followed, foreshadow what we are likely to see over the next eight weeks. Even now, the political party machines, their surrogates and handmaidens have made it plain that they see and intend to recast voters, the American people, as demographic interest groups with differences to be exploited.
We can expect appeals to the worst in all of us as the pandering and fear mongering begin. We can look forward to voters being characterized as "working class white" and "working class black" and "male" and "female" and "young" and "old" and "rural" and "urban" and "suburban" and "native born" and "immigrant" and on and on. The idea being that we are one or the other, and that we are either with one demographic or against another. The politicians and 'talking- heads' who would divide Americans into these manufactured camps, should be ashamed of themselves.
This election presents an unprecedented opportunity for Americans to teach the panderers a lesson.
The fact is that hard working Americans come in all shapes sizes and colors. They live in all parts of the country. They live in cities, in small towns and in suburbs. They live on the East Coast and the West Coast, in the South and the Southwest, in the North, the Northwest and the Midwest. Unfortunately, though they don't know each other. And, tragically, this ignorance about how 'the others' live their lives will again be exploited by the panderers as they define 'the others' as threats to our own well being.
People who live in cities vaguely know that farmers get up early to work the farm, but few realize that many family farm farmers get up before the sun, work the farm, then they drive to work in nearby factories and manufacturing plants for another eight hours or more of work off the farm. Then they head back home to prepare for another day of the same.
Truth be told, 5 AM is not only the time many farmers find themselves on their tractors and combines, but it is also the time many hard-working Americans living in less affluent areas of cities and suburbs are on buses and trains headed to jobs as hospital aides, cooks, waitresses, hotel workers, construction workers and custodians. You rarely see photos of men and women standing on the corners in our cities at four, five or six in the morning, waiting for the bus to take them to work. They are there despite how dark, or how cold or how wet it might be, making their way to work.
Many farmers, rural and small town Americans vaguely realize that there are those in the cities on both coasts and in the big cities in between, who must and do work hard, just like they do, just to stay afloat. They don't know however that there are tens of thousands of people in 'the big cities' who get up before the sun to get to work by six. Then they leave that first job at four and go to their second fulltime job, or one of two additional part-time jobs, they hold down, just to get by. Then they head back home to prepare for another day of the same.
People who haven't done it, have no idea how hard it is to pick tomatoes or apples or peaches or beans all day. Those who haven't worked all day in the hot sun, tossing bales of hay on the back of a truck, or pulling weeds around delicate growing crops, or mucking a barn with a fork and rake or clearing a lot with a chain saw and an axe; really do have something to look forward to.
Likewise, anyone who hasn't worked over a hot stove or grill or behind an industrial dishwasher or in a 300 gallon sink of industrial sized dirty pots and pans, has yet to experience the true joy of cooking.
But for real fun, little beats "duck walking" underground in a cold wet coal mine all day, or watching red hot molten metal spill from multi-ton overhead buckets in a foundry, or walking a steel girder 500 feet above the ground with your hands full and the wind whistling in your ears or even sitting at a table all day sticking the same one thing into the same something else and hoping that it all works when it gets to the end of the line.
The fact is that these hard working Americans are just too busy to play much "getting to know you" after work. Work barely leaves them with time to keep up with their families, friends and neighbors. And it leaves them susceptible to stereotypes, sound bites and the pseudo science of polls, statistics and constultation.
Nevertheless, even if we can't spare the time it would take to meet and greet each other across the country, maybe we can still beat the panderers at their own game. Maybe we can start by giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we need to figure out what we deserve as Americans that all our hard work isn't getting us. Maybe we should demand to be counted as part of a "common needs" demographic.
We all need better and affordable health care; schools that educate our children and jobs that won't be transferred overseas before they can be replaced here. Maybe we can focus on our longing for the safe return of our loved ones overseas who are serving our nation in a questionable war.
Then, when we are confronted with the "us against them" rhetoric that is sure to come, we can measure it against our membership in this demographic of common needs. Then, as hard working Americans all, we can stand up and tell the folks trying to sell us on the politics of division that we're not buying it this time around.
— James Swain
Check out Swain's previous submission, "The Class of 2011: More of the Same?" If you have a submission, leave us a comment and we'll contact you. Remember — the range of topics is totally unrestricted. But all submissions have to adhere to our guidelines.