All's well with me, so nothing else matters, right?
This is a reprint, with consent, of a column that appeared in the San Antonio Express-News on June 2. The author, Larry Johnson, is working with the San Antonio League on a project to register and engage more disabled voters, including holding a voter registration drive during National Disability Voter Registration Week, July 16-20. See story here.
By LARRY P. JOHNSON
I am pretty happy the way things are going. The economy is strong. I have a nice house, three TVs, plenty of food in the pantry. The grandkids are doing well in school. There have been no school shootings where they go. My Social Security and Medicare are secure (I think). I voted in the recent primary without any interference, as far as I could tell, from the Russians.
The local police keep crime pretty much under control, away from me. Yes, life is good. The fact that 43 million of my countrymen live at or below the poverty level, more than half a million are homeless and 6 million can’t find jobs doesn’t really affect me personally. So should I care? Unless suddenly, at 84, my Social Security or Medicare is severely cut, I am faced with $100,000 in medical bills or a mortgage foreclosure on my house, or one of my grandchildren is killed or wounded in a school shooting.
Unless it happens to me or to a member of my family, it really doesn’t matter. Right? I’m not worried about the Russians or the Chinese or even the Iranians, for that matter. I don’t know any Chinese or Russians, and the only Iranian I know owns a dry-cleaners where I take my suits.
So many of us Americans live in a bubble, insulated from the hardships and realities faced by our neighbors. We don’t want to know about their pain or their problems. It’s a whole lot more comfortable to live like an ostrich, with our heads in the sand.
And yet the reality is that in this wealthiest of all nations too many Americans go to bed at night — if they even
have a bed to go to — hungry, 10 million of them children. The reality is that sharply rising prescription drug costs are driving people into bankruptcy and they are losing their homes. And the reality is that the Russians did, in fact, interfere with our national elections and will certainly try to do it again.
I should care about you, and you should care about me. Because our lives are intertwined and life’s circumstances are very precarious, and what happens to the neighbor down the street today could very easily happen to you or me tomorrow. So if we don’t care about our neighbors, why should we expect them to care about us?
We also need to be aware of and care about the policies and programs being decided by our elected officials at the local, state and national levels. They definitely do affect us. As we move toward this year’s midterm elections, we need to pay very close attention to what each political candidate is saying, which issues he or she stands for and which ones he or she stands in opposition to. Who are the special interest groups supporting their candidacy and why? Are these candidates really aware of and interested in us?
If we don’t care about what kind of leaders we have, then we will most assuredly have the kind of leaders who don’t care about us. Apathy and indifference not only erode our democracy but our human compassion as a society.
And that’s how I see it.
Larry P. Johnson is an author and international motivational speaker who has been an advocate and champion for persons with disabilities his whole life. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Speech and earned his master’s degree in Economics & Latin American Studies from La Universidad de las Americas in Mexico City. He spent 21 years as Human Resources manager with AT&T/Southwestern Bell, 22 years as a radio and television broadcaster in the U.S. and Mexico, and 37 years as a motivational speaker and workshop presenter. He is the author of six books and writes a monthly column for the San Antonio Express-News. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website, www.mexicobytouch.com.