Land of the Least Free

At what point beyond the Northeast Region do Americans start ceding our postures? Not physical postures, but those defining who we claim being and how our projections are received.

Don’t true Americans find virtue in modesty? Somehow that attribute has been perverted into humility. The two are unalike.

Especially in the West humility overwhelms modesty. It’s one thing to be polite. Society benefits from politeness. Why, hearing the amount of “sirs” or “ma’am’s” during the course of a day ought to give Northeastern listeners diabetes.

But this cordial nature masks or sweetens a kind of imbalance between perceived inferiors and their tacitly acknowledged superiors.

It remains one of the most tangible vestiges of frontier days when ranching, railroad, and mining interests lorded over homesteaders and any other entity that didn’t worship big money. It also reminds that outside of the Northeast and industrial Midwest, movements which vastly improved lived lives by lessening inequities among social classes and promoted the possibilities of greater affluence throughout the populace never penetrated far or deep or lasted long elsewhere in the United States.

Remnants of that posture exist in plenty of today’s Westerners, people who’ve always been told they’re small. And believed it! Hear something repeated often enough and maybe it becomes truth. Throughout life they’ve been told they’ve already plateaued. They must accept what little their lives offer. If they can swallow that without complaint, or as little complaint as possible, all the better for a smoother life whose rewards will admittedly be meager.

Yeah. I reread the above paragraph. It’s depressing. But just through casual observation alone one sees no shortage of Nevadans who crowd the profile.

Such legacies are continued in right to work laws or for cause statues prevalent in Southern, Plains, and Western states. Both edicts are legal thumbs in the eye that suppress working individuals’ abilities to seek fair redress when necessary. Doing so opens complainants to likely economic threats and sure retribution if the matter proceeds into any judicial arena.

What Americans don’t these laws insult in these less dynamic regions? Right to work excludes closed shops, which negates unions and collective bargaining power. An open shop is just another way of saying “You’re on your own.”

And while “for cause” allows disgruntled employees to give employers the high hat and skedaddle, it generally permits employers to dismiss employees for the most specious of reasons.

Vindictiveness is a usual matter of course out West. Seething, resentment, and eruption are commonplace. Yet it’s always those bearing the upper hand who inflict their reckoning with the hardest lash. The ultimate futility of workers below management trying to reciprocate says plenty about the human spirit. But the most important word of the last sentence is “futility.”

Oh. There will be occasions when an aggrieved party from the barely noted, barely tolerated set will get his or her instant of retribution. Some insignificant revenge, some instance of laughable turnabout that might register as a blip on the target’s revenge scale. Likely not, though.

When one reaches a certain height, nuisances are just that and nearly forgotten in the same breath.

However, for the instigator it’s a moment worthy of rejoicing. He or she had obtained “his or hers back” … after a fashion. That the mark of such reprisal little or never notices isn’t the point. It’s having stood on one’s hind legs. What counts is having shaken a figurative fist or delivered the equivalent of a gnat’s gnaw.

The empty boast of “I showed him/her!” supposedly evens the score as well as restores what remains of the aggrieved party’s dignity. But that is a meaningless boast whose salve wears off quickly.

Ironically, it was an Israeli who clarified and simplified what I saw and what proceeds. Fuchs observed we Americans defer too much to authority. The clearest example he gave? Citizens and police but it also serves for employer and employees.

One would think that placed where Israel is, society should be far more regimented, its populace more obedient than that of post 9/11 America. According to Fuchs not at all.

Well, certainly interactions among Israelis. Between Arabs and Jews it’s hard to forget who the Indians are and who resides inside Fort Apache.

In Israel the authorities are nowhere near as confrontational and dismissive as Stateside elected, appointed officials, and public servants. That might have everything to do with every Israeli remembering they’re all sailing on the same boat upon seas that could roughen without warning.

That sort of collectivism lessens inclinations towards our mythic form of individualism. The Israelis seek to protect each other. And exhibiting civility and at least trying to behave in cordial ways heightens the defensive responses when the wagons must be circled.

Despite our bloated military budgets, what American doesn’t know the Republic faces no serious external threats? That our armaments industries don’t enhance security but simply provide “make work” jobs.

But illusions must be maintained.

Anyway, the Israelis, living with enemies on every near horizon, don’t defer so readily; whereas Americans, whose hazards are remote, voluntarily yield more and more of ourselves. The difference between Israelis and Americans? Israelis inhabit a challenging society. Americans demonstrate propensity to concede esteem for empty materialism and nationalism cloaked in situational patriotism.

The American labor movement which once dominated Industrial America and lasted throughout my formative years never prepared me for the readily bent postures of Western workers. Who out here isn’t grateful to have a job? While I’m glad to be gainfully employed, I’m not indebted. As it should be, I look upon the exchange as the employer getting honest toil for fair compensation. Nothing more. Nothing less. Both sides benefit.

Here, though, in right to work, for cause Nevada, is it ever far in the back of employees’ minds that employers have the upper hands? The salaried and hourly in Nevada remind me of supplicants. In theory they have employer-provided allowances when real life does task them. Yet to access necessary time off, the understanding of incidents which require rejiggering life, Western workers nearly must grovel before overseers, um, supervisors.

While every business without fail clearly spells out employee entitlements, actually availing selves to them often calls upon a level of servility close to kowtowing. Deserved and earned as absences may be, when aren’t they grudgingly given?

Coming from a culture of unquestioningly receiving what one earned, the idea of performing verbal soft shoe routines in order to get what’s already obliged extends loathing towards those awaiting such fawning; contempt for personnel delivering these obsequious exhibitions.

And without fail the recipients of their due are always relieved, relief sloshing over into gratefulness. One might mistake some reactions as those of death-row prisoners spared their sentences.

What boss here has ever told any employee, “No-no, you’ve earned this. Take it!”?

Okay. What boss anywhere?

Daily I hear and watch colleagues who would literally be hat-in-hand if they wore hats humbly make requests to get what’s already theirs. Some go as far as slightly bowing their backs and looking indirectly at the minor viziers possessing yea or nay powers.

So conditioned to submit and obey are born and raised locals, long-time residents who’ve gulled themselves into believing this Mojave juncture an arid Paradise, retired military personnel, as well as hungry immigrants who eagerly recognize the opportunities aplenty landed citizens blithely ignore, it seems only arrivals from dynamic America possess the spark and drive to wrest what’s ours. If it’s ours, to a man and woman we skip beseeching. We take what’s ours.

Doubtlessly a lot of people here in the Big Mayberry find that off-putting. So what?

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