Yesterday we published two seemingly unrelated news articles. Yet the story they tell when placed next to each other and viewed in the same gaze with clear eyes is one every American should hear and ponder.
First, we reported on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The darling of the "just left of Marx" camp, in an interview with Vice, stated that once the economic lockdowns are lifted, Americans should simply refuse to go back to work. Here's what she said:
"When we have this discussion about 'going back' or 'reopening,' I think a lot of people should just say, 'No. We're not going back to that. We're not going back to 70 hour weeks just so we could put food on the table and not even feel any semblance of security in our lives.'"
Americans should refuse to go back to work, she says. "No. We're not going back to that," we should say.
Back to what? To the greatest and most prosperous economic times humans have ever known. The highest wages and the lowest unemployment for all groups. Companies fighting each other to pay people more for their skills and services. The least amount of financial suffering of our lifetimes. An economic situation that should have caused any of us with a modicum of self-awareness, knowledge of history, and honor to say out loud every day, "Thank you, God, for this time in which I live."
That's what AOC says we should refuse to go back to. The best we've ever had it. Because it wasn't enough. The government should be giving us more, more, more — without us having to lift a finger. We deserve it. We are entitled to it.
That's one way of being an American.
Next, we reported on factory workers at a company called Braskem America in Pennsylvania. More than 40 employees made the collective decision in March to leave their families and live at the factory for 28 days, where they would eat, sleep, and take turns working 12-hour shifts to produce protective equipment for healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. They clocked out yesterday after their month-long shift.
I couldn't help but notice that every one of these workers appears to be male (extremely problematic lack of gender equity!). And may I hazard a guess that most of these men were raised to be men.
They lived in a factory. For a month. Doing factory work in 12-hour shifts. They agreed on it unanimously.
I wonder, did they each have an in-depth consultation with a union rep first? Did they demand quadruple-time "hazard pay"? Did they insist on more benefits, more accommodations, some equity, shorter work-weeks, and an extra paid month off next year as a "human right"? Did they require that the owner of the factory reduce his income a certain percentage before they'd do the work?
I don't know these men, but I have a hunch that instead of all that, what they said was something like, "Alright, boys. We can help a lot of people and get some sweet overtime in the process. Let's man up and take care of business."
That's another way of being an American.
Two different ways of being an American, and two different ways of being a human being.
May I suggest that the way of the Braskem America workers is the spirit that built America into the greatest and most prosperous country the world has ever known. It's also the animating force by which our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and beyond were able to survive and sometimes even thrive in a world far different and far harsher than our own.
The attitude of responsibility and hard work. Sleeves rolled up. Playing through the pain. Standing tall as one on whom others can lean in tough times. Whatever needs to be done — just turn me loose on it. I'll get it done; I'll figure it out. And keep your handout! I'll work for my own. And I'll outwork anyone here. I'm grateful for my job — and I'll be running this company in five years.
The other way, the AOC way, if you choose it, will lead to a life of resentment, covetousness, laziness, narcissism, anger, and misery. If the most prosperous economy in history is, to AOC, cause for nothing but a workers' boycott, then nothing will ever be good enough. No handout large enough, no government overreach far enough, no tax on others confiscatory enough.
In a heart full of entitlement, there is no room for gratitude. In a brain full of "gimme gimme gimme!" there is no room for responsibility. Because in the AOC way, I am the most important entity on the planet. The universe revolves around me. I am so, so special that I deserve to be given everything — and more. That's true in the workplace, in relationships, in friendships, in family. I always deserve more, more, more. Gimme gimme gimme!
The more I thought about these two articles, the more stark the differences became. So I had to share.
Yesterday, forty-some men with smiles on their faces clocked out from a month-long shift during which they literally lived in a factory working their fingers to the bone to help their neighbor and provide for their families.
While one do-nothing politician who collects almost 200,000 taxpayer dollars per year sat in her luxury D.C. apartment — complaining.
Two different ways.