From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr
Is someone a radical left if he calls a truth by its name – a truth that affects the majority of people in the U.S. at that?
The truth should prevail above personal political and, by the way, religious convictions. Why? For, first, humanity has been misled and abused by both sides – by politics and even more so by religions – more often than seldom. And secondly, because those who in principle give their convictions a higher value than facts and truth degrade themselves to intellectually wretched creatures whose train of thought discharge into baseless assertions. From such a corner emerge the conspiracy theorists, who, by the way, have always existed throughout history.
Without my own experience, I probably wouldn’t believe Bernie Sanders so easily either. In eight years of working for a company called Walmart, I’ve encountered more than enough not to know what he’s talking about. I can justifiably say that I have not experienced such a lack of rights on the part of the workers even under communist rule in the GDR. There – in a command state in which we were all walled in – at least the physical well-being of the workers was still taken care of. In the workplace, physical integrity was a high priority, and no one has ever been burdened with additional financial demands other than the monthly health insurance contribution. Medical care at that time was excellent, even if it was subsidized.
It is an arbitrariness like in a third world country, to which the employees at Walmart and more than likely elsewhere in the country are exposed – without a real possibility to defend themselves. Working time was cut if the profit figures for the store did not match greedy corporate expectations. Consequently, those who were spared from even lesser income now had to run faster to get all the work done. In a hopelessly understaffed department, I contracted a double hernia. All references from my side to a health impairment contracted at Walmart were of no use – the superiors had their instructions according to which they had to proceed.
A case like mine was everyday business, and Walmart had long since taken precautions to shirk its financial responsibility. Workers’ compensation insurance was only on paper, because according to Walmart’s philosophy, I had not sustained the injury while loading hundreds of bags of mulch, garden soil and compost for the customers, not seldom without help, but probably at home growing tomatoes or studying American history books.
Despite health insurance, a not inconsiderable part of the costs for the surgery fell on me. I settled the bill with means not generated in the USA, but in my home country Germany. How many Americans are fortunate enough to be able to similarly compensate for the miserable care their own wealthy country provides them?
After the passing of a young colleague, the lady from Human Resources went from table to table in the Walmart break room asking for donations for his immense hospital bill that the bereaved family was facing. No one sitting there could answer in the negative. People barely able to make ends meet themselves pulled a dollar out of their pockets, some as much as five, while American health insurance companies shoveled billions in profits into their own pockets without lawmakers lifting a finger to stop the criminal profiteering at the public’s expense.
A few weeks later, this HR woman who had helped me get a full-time job in 2014, was also hospitalized and died.
During my tenure at Walmart, I’ve seen colleagues 80 and older dragging themselves to work, forced by medical bills, incurred years ago. People undergoing cancer treatment had visible difficulty to make it through the workday. I saw all this for the first time in my life, and I couldn’t believe I was in the United States of America.
Of course, Bernie Sanders is right. Anyone who denies this has lost all touch with reality and lives in another galaxy. Facts cannot be blurred by closed eyes during prayer, either, but faith and belief can be misleading. Religion can very easily lead astray – especially when those who derive lucrative benefits from it know how to skillfully spread it among people as an ideology. As a consequence, this has a lot to do with how few of my colleagues recognized the injustices that happened to them every day. Most took it in silence. To put it bluntly: they were used to it, they didn’t know any different.
The old man Bernie is also right about the Democratic Party. Because just like the Republicans, Democrats with very view exceptions are also grateful recipients of large donations from the country’s moneyed elite. Their corrupt nature deprives millions of needy Americans of much-needed help in connection with the build back better act once so hopefully announced by Biden. Instead of supporting their president, his own party is embroiled in an internal battle of alignment while more and more Americans are dissatisfied.
Is he really surprised? Joe Biden is an American, he should have known better. After all, not long ago he publicly described himself as a capitalist. It seemed to me as if he wanted to make clear with this very insipid formulation how little he has to do with socialist ambitions. The man knows only too well what a sour taste such a disposition would evoke in most of his compatriots. Therefore, he did not even bother to explain to them what socialism actually is, nor what kind of capitalist he himself impersonates as president of the country.
I don’t think a turn for the better is imminent for most Americans.