The founder of the country’s largest small-loans network is being interviewed after being indicted for defrauding thousands of desperate customers out of four hundred million dollars. The interviewer from the Netflix series, “Dirty Money,” asks Scott Tucker, the CEO of Payday Loans, “Are you a moral man?”
Scott thinks for a long moment, then answers, “I’m a businessman.”
The cynical rapacity behind that cryptic response should disgust every American. But it doesn’t. For too many of us the indulgent lifestyle, the vulgar mansion, the six-figure Maserati are the goals. Concerns for what it took to acquire the spoils are inconsequential.
There is a saying that “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Clearly America is going to hell in a hand basket. And it should be acknowledged that our generation, the so-called Silent Generation that moved into adulthood during the 1950s and early 1960s has stood by and remained mute, focused on career and self-interest rather than protest.
I’m trying to think back fifty or so years ago when my generation was at its prime, full of energy and ambition. As I recall there was still popular and prevalent in the marketplace the axiom, “The customer comes first.” Earning a profit was the goal, but the existent theory was it would be as a result of giving customers and clients a fair deal, not using subterfuge to serve the company’s greed.
When did greed as the primary motive become acceptable? Even celebrated! What allowed corporate boards to jump the average CEO’s salary from $1.5 million in 1978 to $16.3 million in 2016, which is 271 times what the typical worker earns.
I’m trying to think, what was going on that prompted us to stand on the sidelines and even worse, to jump in and sup at that trough? What were the events that fractured the one-for-all, all-for-one social fabric that emerged from World War II? Was it the Joseph McCarthy House Un-American Committee hearings that made it dangerous for people to speak out; did the Vietnam War harden the middle-class into the backbone of Nixon’s “Silent Majority;” surely the union busting Air Controllers strike of 1981 had an influence; not to overlook the growing chasm of wealth disparity, the growing influx of immigration in the seventies and the founding of the evil empire known as Fox News.
And possibly the greatest scourge to hit earth since the 186 mile wide Vredefort Meteor, “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”
We took part in those history making events. And we have the responsibility to make amends, to re-set America’s compass back to True North. A disapproving tsk tsk is not going to do it. We need a mighty MGM lion’s roar. Fifty million of us born between 1925 and 1945 can create a voice that is more than a sheep’s bleat. The howling wolves will hear us.
We have to become a force. Galvanize. Organize. We must work to dispel the myths that lend false credence to how we elders are characterized: crotchety, cranky and cautious. We must make it clear, we will not be marginalized; we will not tolerate discrimination or prejudice against people of a specific age.
Rallying again Ageism is the key starting point of our movement. And we can go further, expanding to show our empathy with all segments of society that face isolation, irrelevance and powerlessness.
That’s how to make American great again.
By being inclusive. Not by imposing Jacobean immigration laws.
By taking responsibility for the irredeemable sin of slavery that has cursed our country since its founding. Not by carrying Tiki torches and giving voice to our most despicable racist inclinations.
By recognizing that we are more alike than we are different. Not by pandering to elitist institutions that create the massive divide between fictional fractions of “us” and “them.”
By letting loose the dove of peace. Not by boasting about the size of the president’s hands with a massive military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
It’s time the Silent Generation makes its voice heard!
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