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Of Cement Mixers, Red Shirts, and Fear

by Mark Riley posted Mar 28 2012 5:42PM
I came back from Washington, DC Tuesday, after doing the WWRL Morning Show across the street from the US Supreme Court building. Inside, the nine justices (eight, since Clarence Thomas remained mute) took up weighty issues like forced broccoli, cell phone, and burial insurance mandates. After the protests and counter protests, and headline seekers like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum, I was ready to go. To do so, I had to go through Washington's cavernous Union Station. The station, in 21st century parlance, is undergoing a reboot. Outside, construction workers were laying concrete, part of the effort to make the old station seem young again. The unique pinging sound of raw cement running down a funnel caught my attention.

So too did the sight of about a dozen homeless men, sitting (or trying to lie down) on railing not 25 feet from the construction work. It dawned on me that maybe, once upon a time, these homeless panhandlers may have had decent jobs. Just because they may be down on their luck now doesn't mean its been that way all their lives. And not far away from them workers are building a new plaza in front of Union Station, all of them making wages sufficient to feed their familes. The contrast and the potential irony struck me at the same time. Could those now working ever think they'd be in the same situation as the homeless?

With that in mind, I walked into the station and into a sea of red shirts. Upon closer scrutiny I realized I'd run smack into a group of healthcare law opponents. "Don't Mess with My Healthcare" was defiantly emblazoned on the front of the shirts. On the back, tucked in the bottom right corner was the message from their sponsor, Americans for Prosperity. If you don't know the oprganization, just know its funded by the Koch Brothers. Like the homeless and the construction workers, they were occupying the same space, if only for a little while. In listening to their conversations (yeah, eavesdropping) I realized they were well organized, determined, and, it seemed, scared.

Scared of what, I couldn't quite figure out. Is it fear of Barack Obama, and what he represents? Was it really the healthcare law? Or was it that the me-first attitude that permeates the oppsition to the Affordable Care Act (I, the taxpayer, don't want to pay for anyone else's healthcare, or for that matter, anything) could one day end up biting them back? We are a nation of abundance, that's what we've always been told. How much of it do they really want, and at whose expense?

I'm not naive enough to think the red shirts noticed the homeless people they had to pass to get into Union Station. If they noticed the contruction work at all, it may have been to wonder how much of their taxpayer dollars are being used to fund the renovation. Yet at the end of the day, do we as a nation really want to be that self absorbed, that narrow, that small?

You tell me.
Filed Under :
Topics : Labor
Location : WashingtonWashington, Dc
03/28/2012 5:42PM
Of Cement Mixers, Red Shirts, and Fear
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