In a recent article for The Contributor, a Nashville monthly newspaper that employs homeless and formerly homeless people as vendors, a street-seller who identified herself as Jeanette B. recounted how a customer said something ugly to her and, rather than just letting it go, she replied, “Hey, I am a human being.” His response was a sneering, devastating “barely.”
Here is what Jeanette B. wrote about her feelings: “I cried a little — because he’s right. In the eyes of Metro I am an eyesore, someone to harass for trying to do simple things like sleep. To businesses, I am someone to ask to leave, to tell that I am not allowed to use their restrooms.”
But of course the bigot was not in any way “right.”
Here in Tennessee we are seeing such bigotry not only on our streets and in our restaurants, but also in the halls of legislative power and even in conservative churches that constantly deride President Obama and Democrats for trying to “do too much” to help the poor, sick and elderly.
And now we have a man — I have come to think of him as Bishop Romney — who is a step from the presidency and in my opinion represents the worst of all three worlds: business, political and religious.
There seem to be two very different versions of Christianity at work in the world today. One looks to the good example of Jesus Christ in his earthly ministry and operates with compassion for the less fortunate. A much darker version of Christianity seems intent on separating the wheat from the chaff, and sweeping the chaff away, to make life easier for the affluent. This darker version of Christianity is chauvinistic, autocratic and demands conformity to its narrow-minded, Dark Age vision of how “good people” should look, act and probably smell.
Willard Mitt Romney once served as a bishop of the Mormon church. I do not want to put his faith on trial, especially when I see the same sort of bigotry in other ultra-conservative churches such as the Southern Baptists, who are headquartered here in Nashville. But please allow me to point out three things about Bishop Romney that make me think he is unfit to be elected dogcatcher, much less president:
(1) He said that 47 percent of Americans feel “entitled” to housing, food and health care. This suggests that in a land of plenty he thinks nearly half the population is not entitled to a decent life, since a decent life requires housing, food and healthcare.
(2) He toured a Chinese factory where 20,000 girls and young women lived and toiled in a factory complete with guard towers and barbed wire. Rather than reporting this outrage to our government and the American public, it seems Romney invested millions of dollars in the Chinese company that owned the factory, at one time owning nearly 10 percent of its stock, before finally cashing out.
(3) Later, as his Bain Capital group aggressively closed American factories, outsourcing American jobs to low-wage countries, it seems Bain-owned companies may have adopted the methods Romney saw being used in China. For instance, Bain earned $242 million by pressuring Dade International to take on massive debt in order to buy back Bain’s shares in the company. The result was large-scale job elimination. According to a Huffington Post report, some fired workers would “get an hour’s notice before being shown the door.” Fred Gregory, who assisted a plant closing in Miami, said that he stopped eating at the cafeteria because, “I didn’t want to see the women crying. You could walk in there and hear a pin drop. You could see the emptiness. It was just huddled-up sheep. It was pathetic. It was heartbreaking, heart-wrenching. You just want to hug them.” According to Gregory, the plant added higher fencing and concertina wire. Every day, a pair of security guards would check his backseat and trunk to make sure he wasn’t stealing office supplies. “It was all so well orchestrated,” he said, “and so evil.”
I do not want to see such suffering here in America, so that the affluent can become even richer at the expense of ordinary Janes and Joes. If Bishop Romney can see such things in China, without offering a word of protest, and do such things to American workers, without an ounce of remorse, what might he do to us, once he has the power of the American presidency in his hands?
Is it the street vendors and factory workers who are barely human, or their heartless overseers like Bishop Romney?
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.