JOAN BAEZ GOT IT RIGHT

Almost every year in high school during All-State and All-County Chorus performances, we sang what no one told us was a Joan Baez song:       “No Man is an Isand.”

Here’s the first couple of stanzas:

“No man is an island.  No man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me, each man’s grief is my own.

We need one another. So I will defend….each man as my brother, each man as my friend.”

I hear those who say they’re self-made — or their grandparents were self-made and they got the benefits of that wealth. And I see two completely different dynamics.

The Bush’s and Romney came from money. It’s in their blood. You don’t hear about them working their way through college or having to depend on scholarships and grants to get them through. You don’t hear how their  wives were the “hunter-gatherers” while they developed their political careers. OK, so Ann Romney ate off an ironing board when she was in college. Tell me one kid (before panini makers) that didn’t use an iron and ironing board to make a grilled cheese sandwich.

Clinton and Obama came from humble beginnings. They are the ones who really did pull themselves up by their bootstraps and made themselves successful against the odds. They speak unashamedly about the fact that they couldn’t have many of their accomplishments without the help of their wives. And how proud they are of those wives.         

And they got through college with the help of scholarships. And part-time jobs. And grants.

One side doesn’t believe anyone needs an island, the other understands that few of us make it without a community.

I can’t name one of my author friends, and I’ve got a bunch of them, who didn’t gain knowledge and contacts from classes,  referred to an agent or publisher by an already-published friend, who didn’t have a support system in the form of an organized group like California Writers, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America or a critique group that tore their work to shreads with all the love they could give. What if bookstores decided not to carry their works? Refused to let them have book signings? What if people didn’t post favorable reviews? Books don’t simply sit on shelves and sell themselves.

When I was district manager with McBee Systems, the other district managers were my support group. In the beginning, I sucked the life out of them for information on how to take the worst district in the nation and  make it successful. With their help, in two years my district was winning awards. And we all shared different twists on how to sell the products we had available to us — or how to bring in a national account — or sign a bank as a referral source –or the best approach to take at banking and CPA conventions — or what conventions other than those were worth the investment and which weren’t.

When we went on company-sponsored award trips, we sat around poker tables talking business and learning from each other while our VP of Sales took all our money.

Who, in college, didn’t participate in at least a couple of study groups? Or rely on that secret cabinet in the sorority or fraternity house for past tests and ideas for term papers?

I know of several cases where sorority sisters found each other jobs in their companies. Or when alumnae got recent grads interviews in companies that had previously shut the door on them.

Who hasn’t had to borrow a few bucks from time to time for a tank of gas or an important date? I’ve seen kids split the cost of textbooks.

What small business doesn’t rely on some form of assistance? Why do you think they join Chambers of Commerce? Networking groups? Philanthropic groups who hold social events? It’s not because they’ve got a ton of extra time and are looking for a way to spend it.

Abbi started her entertainment business in the big pond of Los Angeles. She belongs to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (at the cost of $500/year). She has taken classes from SCORE (a non-profit of retired business people who pass their knowledge and experience on to the next generation.) Her clients refer her to other people who can use her services. A friend helped build her website. Her dancers/models/hair & make-up artists/specialty groups refer their peers and warn her who not to hire– knowing the quality she is looking for. Venues have allowed her to put on shows to get her name out. Non-profit events have brought her girls in to perform and put her company’s name on their posters, websites, etc. She has a great banker who allowed her to “take an advance” on her car loan when a client didn’t pay early enough for her to pay her girls. I doubt if you’ll ever hear Abbi say she’s self-made. And truthfully, how many businesses can?

When visiting a mom-and-pop store the other day, the owner and I started talking about these issues while I was meandering through her shop. The owner made an interesting statement. She said she’s a Republican, but didn’t understand how they were sending out a message that “I’ve got mine. You’re on your own,” while the Democrats seem to convey a message that “we understand that to build this country, we have to build up the middle class, give the small businessman the tools to help them grow, and give those who are living in poverty a hand up; not a hand out.” I told her I used to be a Republican, too, and don’t know where we went wrong. She mentioned that they seemed to have lost their hearts — their souls — their empathy for those who have less than they do. Like it’s none of their concern that our veterans are coming home without the tools or the emotional stability to get a job and are both unemployed and homeless. That tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and are living on the street because they lost their houses to foreclosures. That it’s impossible to look for a job if you have children living on the street with you. Where do you leave the kids. What if they don’t  have clothes to wear to an interview or haven’t been able to shower for a week? How doe they enroll their children in school if they have no address? There are people who want to work…..but don’t have that option without some form of help.

Do you know why you rarely see Jews on welfare? Because they still take care of each other. The community meet’s the communities needs. And it doesn’t have to be public. The Rabbi has a “discretionary” fund that he can disburse as he pleases — if someone needs to make a mortgage payment, or needs food. If he doesn’t have enough in the fund, he makes a couple of phone calls, and without divulging the name of the person in need, someone in the congregation will ante up the funds.

A lady in my Oklahoma City congregation at Emanuel Synagogue had her house disappear from around her in a tornado. She opened the closet door to find nothing. Nothing. No building, no stick of furniture, absolutely nothing. She called the Rabbi, and by the end of the day she had a place to stay. Within 24 hours, she had a new wardrobe. 

That’s what communities — islands — are for.

I’ve been around for awhile. Eisenhower is the first president I remember. In studying what most of the Republican presidents stood for when they were in office, I don’t understand how Eisenhower, Lincoln, or Reagan could be members of the Republican party at this point in time.

The other side talks about bringing God back into the picture, but refuses to help the poor, or the sick, or the elderly. They want to take away the rights women have worked so hard to attain. They want to block the votes of anyone who doesn’t plan to vote their way. The Bible admonishes us to help the poor, the widow, and the sick. Remember all those WWJD plastic bracelets everyone used to wear? I’m pretty sure He/She/They wouldn’t be thrilled at the things that are going on in His/Her/Their name now.

Here’s the dichotomy I see now.  Not just on this subject, but many others. I have a friend who is a stalwart Republican. I was asking her, as a social worker, about today’s welfare system — because I wanted real answers. We segued into insurance, and how Abbi can’t find decent insurance that meets her needs since she’s an individual, and that the good insurance is available only to those who work for companies that offer it.

She told me that insurance was originally designed to help people keep from losing things — cars, houses, etc. I told her that Abbi doesn’t own her house, and though her car is paid for, it’s 6 years old. She said that eventually, Abbi would have a lot of things, and insurance would help keep her from losing them. But all her insurance is getting her now is in debt. And she’ll have to pay her way out of it.

 Here’s the kicker. My friend’s husband is on disability. And she works for the County, so has county benefits. They  get a free ride and don’t understand that they’re beneficiaries of the systems they want to vote to have taken away. (Brain pinging around in skull.)

I hope we can get back the America our grandparents fought for (except for that thing where women should be barefoot and pregnant). An America that doesn’t owe another cent to any other country (legalizing marijuana could fix that in a couple of weeks). Where a woman in the same job as a male counterpart should get the same pay, benefits, and promotional abilities. An America with an education system that is once again considered the best in the world. With roads and bridges that are well-built, stable, and safe. With enough police and firemen to protect us when we need it. With good, affordable insurance available to every American. With a military designed to fight for what is right for America and that stays out of the business of countries who don’t invite us in. With a Congress that votes for those things that will make America the country it should be and not put petty agendas at a higher priority than the needs of Her people.

I won’t be voting for a straight ticket of any kind this year. Never have, never will. I’ve done my homework on the candidates available to do the jobs in the district where I’m registered to vote and nationally. I’m voting my conscience, not what my parents taught me to vote, not what my state votes, not what a social standing dictates.

I’ve been very wealthy, and I’ve been poor. When I’ve had money, I’ve helped in any way I could. When I haven’t, I’ve still tried to help in non-monetary ways. As most of you know, at this point in time I’m lucky to have some very special friends who are making my “world tour” possible. A friend in California called today to say he’d referred me to an urgent job opening. I’m damned happy to be part of an island.

So, from my precious Peggy’s couch in Littleton, Colorado, I hope I’ve given you something to think about, and regardless of what you choose, I’ll respect your decision. But either way the election goes, because I WILL be voting, I’ll have earned the ability to say, “I told you so,” which ever way it goes. To the 70% or so who choose not to show up at a polling place and push a couple of buttons, keep your mouth shut. You have no right to criticize.

Until tomorrow, be safe out there — and do something unexpected for someone else.  See how good it feels. And think about what America would be like if we all did just one thing for one person every day.