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That’s the minimum wage in Santa Clara County, California, where “the self-sufficiency standard for two adults, one preschooler, and one school age child is $77,973.” So if both of those adults both hold down two minimum-age jobs, they can attain self-sufficiency. (Data from the Insight Center for Economic Community Development, via Step Up Silicon Valley.)
Setting the minimum wage far below the poverty level is one of the biggest pieces of corporate welfare we Americans fund. Instead of businesses paying people a living wage, they pay wages at which a full-time worker–or even two full-time workers–can’t support a family, and the taxpayers step in to fill the gap with welfare programs. Or, more usually, the gap just stays a gap.
Some San Jose State students who were working at a community services center started wondering why so many people who had full-time jobs were still coming into the center for help with food, rent, and other necessities. Once they investigated, the reason became obvious, and they took action. They and a coalition of other organizations in the city–and its county, where my congregation is also located–started to press for an increase in the minimum wage, from the current $8 to $10.
If you’re in Santa Clara County, please send this letter to the San Jose City Council, which will be considering the $10 minimum wage at a meeting next Tuesday. Better yet, sign the letter and go to the meeting. And even better than that, sign the letter, go to the meeting, and send a donation to Raise the Wage San Jose. If you’re elsewhere, you can look up your state or city’s minimum wage–in many places, it’s no higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25–and multiply it by 2000. What annual income are folks are expected to live on in your area? Do you think it’s feasible?
Even Michele Bachmann underestimated the jingoism of the American right this week, as she came under fire for exercising her option to have Swiss citizenship. Mark Krikorian, who directs an anti-immigration group, wrote in National Review Online: “Dual citizenship isn’t simply a matter of convenience, a way to make travel easier or a sentimental tie to the Auld Sod. It’s a formal declaration of divided allegiance, civic bigamy, if you will.” Reading that, I had one of those moments when another person’s worldview flashed in front of my eyes and I realized how differently we see things. “Allegiance” is just not a word I apply to my relationship with my country, certainly not undivided allegiance.
That allegiance (which is to say, that loyalty, devotion, and fidelity, to use the words that appear in Merriam-Webster’s definition)–that commitment–is shared with the commitment I make to all living things; to humanity as a whole; to the truth, as best as I can perceive it; and to the aims of liberty and justice for all, which is the only phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance that ever moved me. Maybe I am not using the word “country” the same way Krikorian, or the State Department, uses it. The government? The people? The land?
I guess Krikorian’s view is not new to me. A good friend of mine took the attitude that when one’s country is at war, it is irresponsible to do anything but support that war. I was bewildered, but could at least see that he was setting aside a special case. Not all that special, since the US is almost always at war, but still, there was a theoretical space for peacetime dissent there. He is no longer alive, so I can only wonder what he would have made of the idea that being a citizen of two countries at peace with each other is inherently disloyal.
Divided allegiances do mean one may have to make a choice. In fact, if you look at it as broadly as Bachmann’s compatriots on the right are doing, one faces these choices constantly. When my country disregards the well-being of living things, for example, by insisting upon its “right” to pour a dangerous amount of carbon into the atmosphere we all share, do I go with my country or the biosphere? Easy: the biosphere. If my country required me to kill someone I didn’t think had done anyone any harm, would I go with my country or my religious convictions? Easy to say, hard perhaps to carry out: my religion.
I’m not sure what Krikorian imagines a dually-faithful person does at such moments–throw bombs? Being that his country has chosen a Democrat as its leader, he, also, must find that his country does something every day that appalls his principles. What does he do at such times? He’s a columnist and heads a think tank, so I assume he does what a lot of us do: he protests and he argues. What I don’t see is how either of these things threaten the United States. It’s an axiom of my understanding of democracy that they strengthen it. Maybe that is why I tend to think of my relationship with my country not in terms of allegiance, which seems to smother disagreement, but in terms of affection, hope, and responsibility.
I popped into a dim sum place today, all by myself. It was past my lunchtime, I had done the grocery shopping that I needed to do, and I had an hour at most before I had to pick Munchkin up at a birthday party. And I was jonesing for dumplings, as I frequently do, and was in the neighborhood of a very good dim sum palace I’ve been to before. Service is fast–as soon as a cart comes by with something you want, you’re eating. It would be the perfect quick lunch.
Except that it wasn’t, because on my own I can only eat about six dumplings, and that means only two dishes. That somewhat defeats the purpose of small-plate eating, of which dim sum is the cuisine par excellence: to have lots of little dishes and taste a bit of each one. Some foods are just meant to be shared with many friends. Which, now that I think about it, is one of the charms of dim sum.
One of the search terms that was used four times today (presumably by the same person) that led them to my blog was ancient art depicting snake eating a bird. That’s not that odd a thing to put into a search box, but why my blog would pop up beat me. I gave up after 2 seconds’ pondering and tried it myself. The searcher was sent to this entry of mine, and this one, both from two years ago, about our week in Mexico City:
Thoughts on religion, art, books, politics, philosophy, and life in general …. to be eaten by the giant snakes (the counterpart to the giant snake in the … amor, toda para nada” (“House for birds, nest for love, all for nothing”). …. On Monday, we traveled 35 km out of the city to the ancient site of Teotihuacán.
It’s surprising that they clicked on it, considering that it clearly was not what they were looking for, but I guess they were intrigued. I hope they found their ancient art depicting a snake eating a bird somewhere.