Category Archives: History

Time for a Change

Recently the English Premier League announced they are considering a ban on all social media platforms effective May 1st.   The ban is being considered to protect footballers (soccer players) from racial and homophobic abuse.  Most footballers are teenagers or 20-something’s.  

Racial and homophobic abuse has always been a feature of sports from a segment of “fans”.  It’s on a par with the jerks who post revenge porn against their exes when they realize those women won’t put up with the selfish, spoiled brat behavior that mommy indulged all those years ago.  

When racial or homophobic abuse happens on the field, the footballing authorities can investigate, identify and ban the moronic player spewing hate.  When “fans” scream filth, the home team can investigate, identify and ban the jerks for life from attending games.

Social media abusers can hide behind avatars and fake identities. In some cases, abusers are based outside the country of their victims.  In other situations, the abusers deliberately, with malice aforethought, route their internet connections through countries that can’t or won’t prosecute the abusers.  

It’s time to stop social media abusers from using their cyberspace anonymity to avoid the consequences of their hateful, malicious actions.   The first step is to require all social media companies to authenticate the identity of each account holder just as banks are required to “know your customer” by authenticating the identity of new bank account holders.  Social media companies should also continue shutting down the fake accounts they find littering their platforms.

The second step is to enact laws that require social media companies to provide the identity of the abuser to the victim.  This process should be quick and easy and low cost. There are limited (at best) privacy concerns for the abuser because no one has a First Amendment right to spew hate and the threat of violence.  Foot-dragging on ID’ing the abuser is tantamount to enabling and condoning the abuse.

The victim can then decide whether to file a criminal complaint or to sue for civil rights violations or defamation.  That brings us to the third step. The civil and criminal penalties for engaging in hate speech and revenge porn on social media should be much more severe.  At a minimum, abusers should be banned from social media platforms until they can demonstrate they deserve the privilege of having an account.

Abusers who spew hate on social media are usually feeling insecure and afraid of social and cultural changes that they view as a loss of power and control.  Their fears make them lash out to try to regain control.  They’re counting on us being so scared of drawing their abuse or violating their free speech rights, or of secretly sympathizing with their racist, sexist, xenophobic comments, or so uncaring that we do nothing.  It’s time for that to change. 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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AUDREY!

I watched “Audrey,” on Netflix last night and was so impressed and inspired, I decided to skip my original topic and share this one with you all.  Perhaps you’ve seen it, a biography of Audrey Hepburn.  Perhaps you already know her story.  I’ve always loved her and her characters.  Who doesn’t?  I just never knew HER story; Where she came from and how she became the powerful force she was; dancer, actor, philanthropist, and that she really became an actress by accident.   

Audrey Kathleen Ruston was born on Мау 4, 1929 in Ixelles, Belgium. She adорtеd thе pseudonym Edda van Heemstra іn 1940 tо evade capture bу thе Germans because аn “English sounding” nаmе wаs considered dangerous durіng thе German occupation. 

During World War II, when she was just a little girl, the Nazi’s over took Audrey’s town in Holland and thousands died, including some of Audrey’s relatives. Food was very scarce, and, in fact, just to survive, Audrey and her family would grind tulip bulbs to eat and attempt to bake grass into bread. This led to her being extremely malnourished and left her with complications later in her life; Undernourishment, acute anemia, and respiratory problems during the war, contributed to her lifelong waif-like figure.

Audrey wanted to be a prima ballerina. She began training at the early age of 5 for many years to fulfill this desire. Unfortunately, at 5 feet 7 inches, she was too tall, and after being so malnourished when her town was occupied during the war, she often fell ill and could not continue training. She is quoted saying, “…there is probably nothing in the world as determined as a child with a dream and I wanted to dance more than I feared the Germans.” 

Audrey worked for the Dutch Resistance and would carry secret messages in her ballet slippers. Anyone suspected of being a part of the resistance, was rounded up and killed. Once, she was suspect and rounded up by truck. She barely escaped when the Nazis pulled over to the side of the road and she crawled under the truck and out the other side.  As an agent for the Dutch Resistance, she performed in a series of secret ballets to help raise money for the rebels – after the shows, no one would applaud so as not to alert the German Soldiers. These performances would be called “black performances” to raise money for the rebels and their underground war against Hitler. 

At 16, Audrey was a volunteer nurse in a Dutch hospital. During the battle of Arnhem, Hepburn’s hospital received many wounded Allied soldiers. One of the wounded soldiers Audrey helped nurse back to health was a young British paratrooper. Little did she know, the young man would be a future director named Terence Young and within 20 years would later direct her in Wait Until Dark.

Having suffered several miscarriages during her various marriages, but always wanting a family, Audrey was blessed with two sons.  She took a hiatus from her career to spend time with them and was away from acting for many years.  Her childhood traumas and malnourishment, not to mention her three-pack-a-day smoking habit, contributed to her death at just 64 years old in 1993.

From “Our Fair Lady” at People.com,

OUR MOST RECENT IMAGES OF HER CAME OUT OF AFRICA where, as a shirtsleeved ambassador for UNICEF, she walked in a ravaged Somalia, giving solace with that radiant smile—and focusing the world’s attention on a starving land. Last September she asked to be taken to the famine’s epicenter, a feeding camp in the town of Baidoa. As she arrived, she saw hundreds of small lifeless bodies being loaded onto trucks. The worst of it, she would later say, eyes welling with tears, was “the terrible silence.”

Audrey donated аll thе salaries shе earned fоr hеr final movies tо UNICEF. She hаd contributed tо UNICEF sіnсе 1954 and wаs appointed Goodwill Ambassador оf UNICEF іn 1988. UNICEF was the foundation that actually helped thousands like Audrey during WWII and she is quoted saying, “I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II.  I have a long-lasting gratitude and trust for what UNICEF does.”

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit.  Thanks!

About Jan Schim

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The Prime Directive

One of the concepts introduced early in the Star Trek franchise was the Prime Directive.  This guiding principle prohibited the Star Fleet alliance from interfering in the social and political customs of societies on the planets they visited.  These societies were supposed to develop naturally without outside ethical and social rules imposed on them.

Of course, every Star Trek captain, beginning with Captain Kirk, violated the Prime Directive every time he (and only once, she) visited a planet that offended the captain’s notion of how things ought to be done.  At least Captain Picard debated the matter with his senior staff. 

Their discussions sounded an awful lot like debates at the European Union or the United Nations.  The EU was founded in hopes that economic integration would prevent future European wars.  The UN was founded in hopes that nations would negotiate their differences rather than going to war. From the beginning, both organizations faced Prime Directive problems. 

When Putin’s Russia repeatedly tried to murder Alexey Navalny and imprisoned him on bogus charges, should the EU and the UN have intervened?  Navalny is fighting for an end to the kleptocratic reign of Putin and the creation of a democracy that works for Russians.  Putin and his enablers argue that Navalny’s treatment is an internal matter for Russia.

When China imprisoned a million Uighers in “re-education camps” where they are tortured and used as slave labor, should Chairman XI and his minions be charged with “crimes against humanity”? China claims the Uighers are Muslim terrorists and besides, it’s an internal matter for China.  

Prime Directive arguments pop up in the U.S., too.  Our federalist system allows states broad scope to enact laws on social and political matters.  But sometimes the federal government overrules what states want to do.  Notable examples include creating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and civil rights laws that ended segregation and reduced voter suppression.  These laws were challenged by states who argued that how they treat their citizens is an internal matter.

The Prime Directive debates will flare up over the next year as each state legislature creates a new districting plan for federal and state elections.  Nearly two-thirds of state legislatures are controlled by the Republican Party. In states like Tennessee, the Republican Party has a super majority. 

Already, the Republican-controlled state legislatures have introduced more than 100 bills to restrict voting rights based on the bogus claims of stolen votes.  The proposed laws include purging voter rolls, eliminating early voting, severely restricting mail-in voting, making it more difficult to register to vote, and cutting the number of polling locations in areas that historically haven’t voted for Republican candidates. 

President Biden and his advisors will have many Prime Directive discussions on whether the federal government should intervene in the redistricting and voting law changes taken by state legislatures.  Expect the states to raise the same arguments as in the past. 

The Prime Directive debates could potentially become a lot uglier over the next year. A recent survey conducted by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, found that 55% of grassroots Republican Party members believe it is acceptable to use violence to enforce their political vision for America.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Will We Ever Be Normal Again?

As we say goodbye to the Trump years and begin the Biden presidency, some people are talking about a return to normality.  This talk is premised on the notion that the Trump years, particularly the past few months, are an anomaly.  But what exactly is normal for our country?

True, we’ve never had an armed mob storm the U.S. Capitol in a desperate attempt to block the results of an election.  But our country has always had demagogues, con artists, opportunists, and sleazy provocateurs looking for their fifteen minutes of fame.  Without wishing to diminish the magnitude of the threat the current bunch pose, it is instructive to look at what was normal in the past.  

Long before Trump’s tweets supporting white supremacists, Woodrow Wilson openly supported Jim Crow laws because he believed whites were superior to blacks.   In 1924, a purported one million Klansmen descended on the Washington, DC mall in their white robes and hoods to spout their hatred of blacks, Catholics, Jews and immigrants.  President Calvin Coolidge didn’t condemn them or their rhetoric. 

Before social media platforms amplified the white power movement, a Catholic priest named Father Coughlin hid behind the label of “Christian” while spewing anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi garbage. He was the country’s most popular talk radio host in the 1930’s until some of his supporters were arrested on suspicion of trying to overthrow the U.S. government.   

Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz aren’t the first politicians to endanger the country in the cynical pursuit of their personal ambitions.   John C. Calhoun announced his national ambitions by whipping up an anti-British mob that pushed the country into the War of 1812.  That’s the war we don’t talk about because the British burned down the White House.  Calhoun became a prominent pro-slavery southerner who developed the legally dubious “nullification” theory which Tennessee’s less-gifted politicians periodically drag out of the trashcan of history. 

Hawley and Cruz are also not the first politicians whose cynical ploy backfired on them.  In 1804, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were fading into the political sunset when they decided that fighting a duel would draw attention to resurrect their careers.  Instead, Hamilton was gut-shot and died in agony days later while Burr had to go on the lam to escape a murder charge.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln traveled to his first inauguration by train.  His travel schedule was supposed to be kept secret and security was increased due to the number of death threats he received. Several last-minute route changes ensured he arrived at the U.S. Capitol on time to be sworn in as president. 

This year, Joe Biden had planned to travel to his inauguration by train.  But last week a brief announcement said that Biden’s travel plans had changed due to the level of violent threats made against him (and V.P.-elect Kamala Harris).   Unfortunately, and depressingly, our new normal looks a lot like the old normal. 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Nothing New Under the Sun

He benefited from the wealth bequeathed by his father.  He inherited a politically stable country that was militarily stronger than its enemies.  His country was at the heart of a vast trading network that made it wealthy and spread its influence across the world.  Its’ fertile soil provided so much food that it exported the excess to neighboring countries. 

He set out to destroy all that.  He felt only contempt for the competent, experienced government officials he inherited and replaced them with sycophants loyal only to himself.  He built a new capital city in a remote location where he lived in an echo chamber surrounded by his supporters.  The working class that built his new city were underfed and overworked.  They died young while he lived in a palace and treated himself to the best food and wine available.

He created his own cult and demanded that everyone worship his new god.  Traditional religious leaders were unceremoniously tossed aside, and their treasures confiscated to fund the new cult.  His wife and children slavishly followed his lead.

While he was busy dismantling the existing order, his country’s enemies grew bolder.  Other great powers began expanding their territory.  His country’s allies begged for help but he ignored them.  He was too busy attacking his real and perceived enemies at home to notice or care about the threats at his own border.    

When he finally left the scene (due to his death), his country’s hegemony had faded.  Society was fractured, the economy was in decline and his country had lost about a quarter of its territory to other great powers.  His inattention ruined his country’s alliances and its allies shifted allegiance to others, including the new great powers.   

His surviving opponents moved quickly to restore order, reinstating the traditional government structure.   His cult was abandoned and replaced by the former religion.  His name was erased from the written record as was his wife’s name.   His children repudiated him and his cult in a desperate effort to salvage their own lives.

His name was…..Amenhotep IV, better known to us as Akhenaton.  He ruled Egypt at the end of the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom.  His son, Tutanhkamon, was the last of that line of pharaohs and died young.  Ancient Egypt never again attained the cultural, political, and military hegemony that Akhenaton inherited.

Today, as we debate good versus bad leadership, Akhenaton is a reminder that there is nothing new under the sun.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Indeed, it will be a VERY different Thanksgiving this year.  Super storms on our shores and around the world ravage cities, towns, and entire islands.  Fires rage on our West Coast.  Violence is on the rampage in our streets while our “bipartisan” political system may be falling apart.  We have a president who sees himself as an emperor instead of the out-going leader of a free country.  AND our citizens are dying at an unprecedented rate due to a disease we cannot contain.  Does this not all sound more like science fiction than real life as we’ve known it?

So, here we are at “the holidays” which are usually the most festive times of the year, but things will definitely be untraditional this year.  Many of my friends are staying in, most are avoiding travel in attempts to keep loved ones safe from this insane pandemic.  What are you doing? 

Since I work with the public, and in a grocery store where we’re allowed, nay, encouraged to engage in conversation with our patrons, I’ve been able to get a pretty good glimpse of how this Thanksgiving is going to look for many of us.  Lots of good food will be enjoyed, but not in the usual great gatherings of family and friends.  Some folks I’ve chatted with are still planning their big family feasts where their members live close and have been in contact anyway, but more don’t have big plans, if any at all.  “Staying safe” seems to be how this Thanksgiving will be spent. 

This “thanks” holiday will be observed quite differently than tradition calls for, I’m afraid, and the thought of it has been keeping me up at night.  While the strangeness of it all surely wouldn’t be considered a blessing, perhaps it can be an opportunity for each of us to reflect and truly give thanks for what we do have; Thanks for our family and friends who are so far safe and healthy; Thanks for our individual health and well-being; Thanks for the little things (like running, especially hot, running water…)

And GIVE, if you can, to the various organizations that are providing food, and shelter, when needed, to those who don’t have these gifts due to the pandemic and/or just hard times.

Happy Holidays everyone.  Be well.  Be safe.  Send love.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit.  Thanks!

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Fixing Our Broken Electoral System

The sun rises in the west!

The sun rises in the west!

Voter fraud cost me the election!

Repeating a lie doesn’t magically transform it into the truth.  The truth is that the Republican Party’s presidential candidates haven’t won the popular vote since Ronald Reagan’s day.  The only thing keeping them competitive in federal (including the Electoral College) and state elections is gerrymandered voting districts. The Democratic Party doesn’t care; they’re busy gerrymandering voter districts in the states where they control the state legislature. Both parties are happy to suppress voting rights to the other side’s supporters.  

It’s the type of greedy, short-sighted and unpatriotic behavior that motivates warring factions in third world countries, most recently in South Sudan where the two guerrilla forces turned political parties have wrecked their country trying to sate their piggish appetites at the trough of public patronage. They couldn’t care less that their citizens are dying from bullets, disease and starvation, not to mention rape, murder and pillage.

The U.S. is the leader of the free world.  We deserve an electoral system that reflects that status instead of one appropriate for deadbeats skulking in the bush.

There is a better way and the prototype is called “Aadhar”.  Aadhar is an electronic database created by the federal government of India in a public-private partnership.  Every person in India is given a retina scan and a thumb scan and issued a 12-digit unique identifier.  This digital ID is linked to a card that looks like a credit card. The card is tied to a personal bank account which allows poor Indians to receive their government aid directly.  Aadhar is already paying for itself due to the amount of government corruption it has eliminated.

Aadhar is also the platform for an ecosystem of digital commerce. With their card and a retina scan, Indians can apply for a bank loan, pay their rent, buy groceries, a new refrigerator or TV and pay their cell phone bill. 

The U.S. could create its own version of Aadhar that would include a voter registration application.  Voters could register electronically and then vote electronically.  

Amazon, Apple, and Google, to name three American tech companies have the expertise to help set up an American version of Aadhar.  We could use the database as a platform for government services and private industry.  Privacy could be protected with beefed up privacy laws which need to be updated anyway.

So what’s really stopping us from instituting an electronic system that could reduce the threat of voter fraud while simultaneously speeding up election results? 

No politician in this country gives enough of a damn about America to put the country’s interest above her/his own interests.  They’d rather be tribal twits screaming about voter fraud and fighting over their turn at the trough of public patronage.  We’re a first world country with third world pols.  And that’s why I pessimistically believe an American Aadhar will never happen and we’ll never fix our broken electoral system.   

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Voting Early

Early voting is in full swing. I always try to vote early because I can show up at a time convenient to my schedule and there is usually no waiting.  But this year is different.  For the first time ever, early voting was as busy as a typical Election Day crowd.

When I drove to the public library on the afternoon of the second day of early voting I couldn’t find a parking space. The line wrapped around the building. I gave up and went home.  The next day I showed up at 7:30 am and was happy to find a parking space next door. Then I stood in a line that snaked around the library parking lot waiting for the 8 am opening. 

Voters ranged in age from 18 to 80.  Several neighbors in the line told me that they were willing to wait all day for their chance to vote.  When word spread of a first time voter, everyone in line cheered them on.   I finally voted around 9:10 am.    It was absolutely amazing.   

This year we will probably see record-breaking voter turnouts in every state. The good news is that people are motivated to have a say in the outcome of the election.  The bad news is that they are motived because our society is so polarized that many people see this election as an existential threat to their existence. (If my candidate doesn’t win, the world will end!) 

I suspect that is how voters felt in the past when there was a major political realignment of voters.  Major political realignments happen when demographic changes or political grievances motivate normally uninterested voters. 

The 1876 presidential election was so contentious, it still reverberates.  Samuel J. Tilden received 185 electoral votes, Rutherford B. Hayes received 165 votes, and 20 electoral votes from Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina were disputed.  In a thoroughly disreputable political deal, Hayes was declared the winner in exchange for an end to Reconstruction in the south. 

The south repudiated the Republican Party which had imposed Reconstruction and created the Jim Crow laws that suppressed black voters until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included the Voting Rights Act.  The 1964 law moved the entire south back to the Republican Party until this year.

This year demographic changes are reshaping the electoral landscape.  A tenth of the eligible voters are from Generation Z (18 – 23 years old) and a third of all voters are non-white, mostly Hispanic. The Baby Boomers are a shrinking voter bloc.   Although it is too soon to call, the early voting turnout may be a harbinger of a major political realignment.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Off Balance but Still Standing

This is the weirdest autumn ever.  Everything feels off balance.

The covid-19 pandemic continues to kill people with no relief in sight.  Our economy is teetering on the edge of recession due to the knock-on effects of the pandemic, like job losses and slowing demand.  The economic blows are made worse by protectionist politicians who ignore what is good for the average consumer in order to protect monopolistic industries run by big campaign donors.

We have a new class war brewing as our society splits between those who can work from home and those who can’t.  The ones who can’t are mostly blue collar workers who are paid less and have fewer employee benefits.   Blue collar workers are also less likely to have options for ensuring their children will keep up with their schooling. Parents who are struggling with fears of layoffs don’t have energy to try to help their kids solve math problems.

As if a pandemic isn’t bad enough, our political lives have fractured due to the ugliest electoral season since 1968 and 1860.  In 1968, race riots caused by racial injustices and protests against the Vietnam War turned most major cities into mini-war zones.  In 1860, half the country was ready to secede and fight a civil war to keep the institution of slavery.  Then as now, self-serving political and religious demagogues got their 15 minutes of fame by exploiting the situation.

But this is the point when I realize that not everything is doom and gloom.  The political violence of 1968 and 1860 can’t happen again in our country.  Today, hardly anyone supports the notion of seceding or going to war to protect racial purity and racial inequities.  Unlike 1968, today people of all races, ethnicities and ages are marching demanding a fairer social bargain for everyone.

Eventually, there will be a vaccine to beat back the threat of covid-19.  That vaccine will be created faster than any other vaccine has ever been thanks to advances in bio-medical research in recent years.

There are also signs that the economy is adjusting to the new ways of doing business. Some old business models will fail and be replaced by new models.  That’s what capitalism calls creative destruction.

We’ll adapt even as we carry the psychological scars of the pandemic and its economic destruction.  Everything feels off balance but we’re still standing.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

Norma Shirk is an author, speaker, business owner and an attorney. In 2011, she founded Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, LLC (www.complianceriskadvisor.com), a human resources consulting firm for small employers.

She writes a weekly blog that alternates between human resources issues (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) and history (History by Norma, www.normashirk.com).  She is also a founder and monthly contributor to the Her Savvy blog, www.hersavvy.com.   In 2018, she published, Psycho Bosses and Obnoxious Co-Workers, an amusing look at workplace behavior.

Ms. Shirk frequently speaks to a variety of audiences on topics ranging from human resources issues to historical events and persons.  She may be contacted at norma.shirk@complianceriskadvisor.com.

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The Despair of Poverty

Imagine climbing a mountain with no helmet, no harness and no pitons or belaying ropes to keep you safe.  You constantly slide back because there’s no support to help you succeed.  You keep trying, one attempt after another, until you are physically and emotionally exhausted.  Then despair overwhelms you and you give up.

That’s what it’s like to be poor in America.  Poor people don’t choose to be poor. They are born into poverty and our social welfare programs are designed to ensure they never have the tools to climb the mountain and escape poverty.

Public assistance (“welfare”) programs like Medicaid, Food Stamps and public housing are based on household income.  The income assessment is done monthly and there’s no leeway.  Either you’re below the dollar limit for eligibility or you’re not. You’re not allowed to build up a nest egg, the pitons that could save you from falling.  Getting a job means losing all support and you’ll plummet down the mountain.

Of course, most poor people are too wealthy to qualify for public assistance even though their low paying jobs don’t cover the rent and the light bill, let alone food and school fees. Every day they must decide whether to buy gas for the car to get to their job or buy food.  They can’t do both.

Their kids go to school in clothes bought at a thrift shop or donated by a charity. Other kids mercilessly “tease” them for their shabby clothes and cheap sneakers. Poor kids live every day with emotional stress that would flatten an able-bodied adult.  They are beaten down by the despair of knowing they have no climbing gear to take them up the mountain.

Every time a poor family gets two nickels, a dollar’s worth of bills pop up.  The car breaks down.  The landlord raises the rent.  The unpaid balance on the electric bill plus the “restoration” fee wipes out a month’s pay.  You’re banging your head on rocks as you fall down the mountain.

Then a family member gets sick.  Poor people either can’t afford to buy health insurance or the co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance guarantee there’s no way to pay the hospital and doctor bills.  A collection agency relentlessly pursues payment before a person is healthy.  The now utterly exhausted poor person gives up.

When poverty intersects with American culture, the results are rotten for the poor.  We’re taught that people can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps if they’d only try harder.  Our Protestant tradition encourages us to blame poor people for being poor as if poverty is a punishment from God.

Yes, poor people often make bad decisions. But so do better-off people. The difference is that better off people have helmets, harnesses, pitons and belaying ropes from birth in the form of family and friends who save them from falling down the mountain.  When we blame the poor for their poverty, we ignore the barriers blocking their climb and we accept the despair of poverty.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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