An Explosion of Myths
by Donna Schoenkopf
I have a collection of myths, commonly called “conventional wisdom,” that I’ve collected over the years. They are what most people believe is The Truth. In my humble opinion, these myths are how the powerful are able to trick, convince, manipulate the rest of us in ways that will enrich them even further.
The myth: Lawyers are lying snakes and will stop at nothing to win their cases.
The reality: I have heard more cruel jokes about lawyers than any other occupation. Lawyers, rather than being the crooked bastards, purveyors of lies, right-hand men and women of evil, powerful forces, are really defenders of our rights. Without them we would be slapped around by the powers-that-be like serfs on the lord’s feudal estate.
Yeah, sure, lawyers are hired and used by the powerful elite and those lawyers have the money and the might to give quite a fight to their opposition—us. But we less powerful folks have access to justice through our own lawyers. We have the ACLU, and private lawyers who work pro bono, and lawyers who care about justice and believe in protecting the civil rights of ordinary citizens. Lawyers with a moral code. There are tons of them.
You know how most people look down their noses at personal injury lawyers, calling them ambulance chasers and all manner of rude names? This is an example of pharmaceutical and medical interests winning the battle for the minds of the people. If you can’t sue a company, or live in a state with laws that limit what you can win against a corporation that has maimed you or killed a member of your family, you have been a victim of the manipulation of opinion by the powers-that-be.
Right here, I can hear some of you sniggering. Stop it. You are hurting your own interests.
The biggest problem (as I see it) is that not enough people have lawyers. Isn’t it interesting that the right wing (protectors of the business class) of our political system denigrates lawyers while the left wing (the working class and environmentalists, for instance) regards lawyers as protectors of our rights?
Just think about that, lawyer-hating person.
Public vs. Private
The myth: Government would work much better if it behaved more like a business.
The reality: Hah! What a crock.
I have worked in the private sector and the public sector. I was treated with more fairness, better working conditions and more respect in the public sector than in the private sector. I was paid better in the public sector. I had more access to justice in the public sector.
And organization? Businesses are much more poorly organized than the the public sector. There is a 90% failure rate in private business.
For example, the only entity that has ever lost my mail was FedEx. Three times. Important stuff, too, because I sorta believed the hype about the post office losing mail and needed to get it where it had to go,so I chose FedEx.
I have never had mail lost through our good old U. S. Postal Service. I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of people say the post office lost their whatever (check to the mortgage company?) because they actually never sent it.
A recent true-life experience:
I tried to get Verizon cell phone service out here in the boonies in order to get WiFi. Even though their maps said their cell towers would service me, the real deal was they were out of range. (Sprint made the same claim. Also a lie.) When I tried to leave Verizon and return to my old phone company’s land line, both my old company and Verizon struggled mightily to not have to deal with any of it. Every time I called those private businesses I got completely different answers to the questions I was asking. I am still getting conflicting billing statements from Verizon. This month I got two statements, a credit for $10.22 and a charge of $22.74. This mess has been going on for three months.
I have never had this problem in the public sector. Not ever. Smooth as silk with the IRS, Social Security, Medicare, the County Assessor’s Office, the Police Department, the Post Office, every single government entity I have ever dealt with. Silk, baby. When I checked in at the admissions office at the hospital once, I was asked about insurance and I responded that I had Medicare. “Great,” I was told. “Those other insurance companies are drowning us in paperwork. Medicare is simple and easy.”
Liberals Are Weak
The myth: Liberals aren’t macho. They are sissies.
The reality: Having experienced the 1960s through the present, and seen the activism, courage, and strength of the liberal movement, I can attest to the fact that liberals have the courage to speak up for what’s right in a society that sneers and jeers at them, spits on them, and sometimes physically attacks or kills them.
Being outspoken is hard to do in any society. Humans, being herd animals, do not like being on the edge of the herd. We feel more comfortable in the middle, where it’s safe.
But liberals feel a calling so strong that they move to the outside of the pack to speak truth to power. And even though they are hosed down, beaten down, called UnAmerican, they will not shut up.
We don’t need a war to make ourselves feel strong. It’s in our hearts. It’s in our voices.
Renters vs. Landlords
The myth: Renters destroy property and are a scourge on humanity.
The reality: Renters enrich landlords and get practically nothing in return.
I was a renter all my life until I built my own little housie three and a half years ago. Forty-nine years of renting. Averaging the various rents I’ve paid to a mere $1000 a month, I estimate I have given landlords $588,000. I have rented big houses, little houses, flea-infested trailers with no utilities, and cottages surrounded by lilacs and oak trees.
I was a good renter. I repaired things that broke. I kept things clean. I watered the grass and planted flowers. I paid my rent on time. And every single person I have known who was a renter was as decent and responsible a renter as I was.
The myth that renters are bad folks permeates our society. I have been asked on applications if I owned or rented. Checking the rent box automatically made me less desirable.
But as my mother said, “If fortune tellers could really see the future, why aren’t they rich?” With that logic, if renters were the dregs of humanity driving landlords into poverty, there would be no rental properties or landlords. Yes, I know there are some folks who have left the place a mess, but considering the fact that the landlord is getting the mortgage paid and/or making a sweet profit every month, creating wealth for them, while the renter gets absolutely nothing in return except a roof over their head, an occasional bad apple is a small price to pay. I reiterate, because it’s important, if it weren’t worth it, there would be no landlords.
And whooeeey. Have I had some rotten landlords. Not all, but some. Invading my privacy. (One literally stood over our bed early one morning, watching us sleep.) Giving me no credit whatsoever for the furnace I fixed twice, the plumbing I fixed three times, the floor I tiled, the hardwood floor I scrubbed and pulled staples out of after I ripped the 25-year-old carpet off of it, and the landscaping I kept alive. Naaaah. I was just a renter. A loser. You’ve heard about us all your lives.
The myth: The death penalty deters crime and metes out justice.
The reality: Sigh. Do I have to say it?
Back in 1960-61 I was a high school debater. Our topic was the death penalty. In debate you have to research each side because you have to be able to argue both. Even back then, the statistics were definite about how the death penalty absolutely did not deter crime. The Department of Justice has recently issued a statement saying that the death penalty cannot be applied fairly and the recent use of DNA evidence has proved how often we get things wrong.
The only remaining defense for the death penalty is blood lust. And that, in my book, is no argument. Isn’t that why we put people to death? Their blood lust? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
Undocumented Workers Are a Drain on the Economy
The myth: If it weren’t for those “illegals” we’d have more jobs, less crime, less drain on our governmental systems.
The reality: Undocumented workers take jobs, have always taken jobs, that the rest of us don’t want. That isn’t a myth. Statistics prove this. They grow our food, take care of our children, clean our houses, mow our lawns, dig holes in the hot sun, tar roofs in the hot sun, do the grunt work. Statistics: 35% of young people (the age group that commits the most crimes) in California are foreign born but are only 17% of the prison population. Numbers do not lie.
Undocumented workers and their families are important to our economy because we are an aging nation and the influx of workers is an asset. I remember years ago the emergency France was going through because their birth rate was low and the ability to support the aged was becoming a problem. The same thing is true in China now, with their one child per family policy. These are serious demographic matters.
Lawsuits Have Produced Outrageously High Monetary Verdicts and Raised Insurance Rates
The myth: People are sue-happy and are getting rich over hyped-up lawsuits, bringing insurance rates up for all of us and playing games with the justice system.
The reality: The number of suits and amount of awards hasn’t risen in a hundred years.
Several years ago in California, when there was a proposition about curbing law suits, I researched the money awarded to folks who sued and the reasons insurance rates were raised. I learned that (adjusted for population and inflation) the statistics have not changed for the last hundred years. Insurance companies have no legitimate reason to raise rates.
I happened to watch the documentary, Hot Coffee, recently about the woman who sued MacDonald’s for the hot coffee in her lap incident. (Pictures of her injuries were beyond horrific.) It pointed out that MacDonald’s had known for years that their coffee was so hot that it would scald/burn human flesh and had paid off many people with piddling amounts over the years and kept the coffee at that dangerous temperature, making it part of their written policy. See how our public consciousness is affected? Most of us think we know the facts—that that woman was a greedy sue-happy jerk who is raising insurance rates for all of us.
And those headlines about huge court settlements? Most of them are reduced. Those huge amounts you see in the paper don’t stand for long.
Corporate interests carefully teach us to think of lawsuits as being a way for unsavory characters to milk innocent folks of their money. Their first line of attack on health care cost control, for example, is to get rid of lawsuits in the medical world. You know, tort “reform.”
Cutting off the legs of the justice system is more like it.
Politics Is Crooked
The myth: Politics is a crooked game.
The reality: Politics is the most noble enterprise of human endeavor. Politics is about thinking of others in the community.
You can’t tell me Bernie Sanders is crooked or John Conyers is crooked or even Rick Santorum is crooked. They all believe in their causes. Their hearts are pure. Misguided, maybe, but pure. I think people with money find folks who have the same agenda as they do, and then they support those folks.
Unions Protect the Lazy and Incompetent
The myth: We would be much better off if we didn’t have unions protecting bad employees.
The reality: Nope.
As a union rep for about fifteen years, I was clearly told by my union that we were not to defend bad teachers. Period.
But how do you know if the employee is a bad egg or only a victim of a bad boss? The union is the entity that ensures that the facts be known. That is the American way. Try to imagine yourself in a position where you have been a diligent worker but for one reason or another (Spurning the boss’s advances? Not wanting to inhale poisonous gases on the job?) the boss declares you unfit and fires you. Wouldn’t you want a union rep to defend you? A union rep’s job is to make sure that workers have a way to make their cases. If a worker is deemed unsuited for the job when all the facts are on the table, the union says adios to that person. The union has no desire to protect someone’s job if that person can’t perform it.
But I will reiterate. Unions will protect your right to a fair hearing.
That’s enough for now.
You probably disagree with me in at least one area. That’s okay. But I will speak up when I can, because the Big Money people certainly get their say-so, and we can’t let them get away with hogging the microphone, now can we?