"A boy is born
In hard time Mississippi
Surrounded by four walls
That ain't so pretty
His parents give
Him love and affection
To keep him strong
Moving in the right direction
Living just enough
Just enough for the city.
His father works
Some days for fourteen hours
And you can bet
He barely makes a dollar
His mother goes
To scrub the floors for many
And you'd best believe
She hardly gets a penny
His sister's black
But she is sho'nuff pretty
Her skirt is short
But Lord, her legs are sturdy
To walk to school
She's got to get up early
Her clothes are old
But never are they dirty
Her brother's smart
He's got more sense than many
His patience's long
But soon he won't have any
To find a job
Is like a haystack needle
'Cause where he lives
They don't use colored people
Living just enough...
Just enough for the city... ohhh
His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty
He spends his life walking the streets of New York City
He's almost dead from breathing in air pollution
He tried to vote but thim there's no solution
Living just enough, just enough for the city... yeah yeah yeah!
I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
This place is cruel no where could be much colder
If we don't change the world will soon be over
Living just enough, just enough for the city!"
--Stevie Wonder, Living for the City
(A song which awoke me from my childish slumber of white privilege.)
* * * * *
Deke's Note: Whew! What a week. It was one of the busiest in recent memory, given the Pacific Northwest's odd gift of sunny and warm late-winter weather. Still, it was a great one even though I suffered physically from the onslaught of 56 hours in service. Giving people rides is what I do, and I certainly did. It might have been a record-setting week for number of rides, but Deke's "Positive Thought for the Day" added a generous amount of positive passenger interactions. A rarity, I must add, was more than I had hoped for.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”
A few times, it seemed as if the bus farts meant more than what I had proclaimed. Nobody seemed to notice my desperate attempt to engage the riding public with what I believed a truly-inspirational and uplifting message. Then, magic happened. As passengers exited from the back of the bus, they purposefully walked to the front and thanked me for Emerson's quote.
"That was really cool," one lady told me as she exited, "to give me that Emerson passage," one kind lady told me. "Thank you."
It struck me with a force of love equal to that with which I had offered it: honestly and with passion. Her tone was sincere, and the smile she left me with shone as bright as that winter sun we have been graced with this week. It warmed me just as equally. Yes, I had made a difference in her transit experience! YES! Faaaarrrr out! Isn't that what my employer brags about even though it has no idea who it manages, the very souls who drive Portland to and from whither they go?
After a week of this "experiment", all I can do is give thanks to he who reached out and helped me see the light I have shaded my eyes from all along: Tommy Transit. This dear man has uplifted thousands of Vancouver, British Columbia's passengers and also those who ride his Party Bus on Galiano Island, for three decades. It is borne from one kind, decent soul who decided his mission as a bus operator encompassed the unselfish desire to lift people from the despair of darkness into the light of love and positive thoughts. Tommy reached out to me just a few weeks ago. Since then, we have had several email and text conversations on the plight of bus operators who toil through the darkness without seeing the light of what could be.
Full-time city bus operators of worldwide metropolitan areas have the grand opportunity of reaching millions of people just like us every day, each year. More than the Pope, the US President or Queen of the United Kingdom, to the often-rolled tune of 150,000-plus people just like US. Those who toil for infinitely less than our collective worth, just to stay afloat beneath the rich man's realm.
We collectively await the day our bank account is awarded the wages we have earned, only to see those precious pennies sucked away by the landlord or mortgage or student loan leeches and other countless bills our tenuous existence depends upon. After all that is paid, we're left with the meager slop described by the Charles Dickens "Oliver Twist" character when he asks for just a wee bit more sustenance. Of course, Oliver is met with the cruel ridicule of the headmaster who mocks his cries for mercy... something we're all too accustomed to as hard-working slaves to the master of capitalism which ultimately enslaves us all.
I pay my countless bills which allow me the least of luxuries, levies galore even to the point of local transit tax extortion I had no choice to vote upon, and countless extra leechy-grabs upon the wages I slave to earn every minute I'm in service to our beautiful city. Whatever is left goes to food, gas and other necessities, only to afford me the crumbs I'm expected to be grateful for receiving while bowing to the master's feet each day of occupational slavery. If I'm lucky, these leftovers are enough to afford me the occasional trip away from the urban prison I call "home".
As a loyal citizen to my territorial prison, I'm expected to suffer pain and not complain. That's capitalism at its worst. Anyone who calls for anything better is labeled socialist. I'm sorry, but my life's devotion to hard work should afford me more than the slavery of working oneself to death for little more than basic sustenance.
You may not recognize it when you board my vehicle, but even through this dazed glaze derived from millions of miles in service to humanity, I am still there to see you safely home. That's what I'm paid to do, along with my thousands of brothers and sisters who do the same, hundreds of thousands times a day locally, millions of times worldwide. You only hear about transit when a rare occurrence of tragedy strikes while people roll. Without fail, local media assails you with the suggestion painting transit workers as tragedy's ultimate culprit. It doesn't matter how many millions of safe miles we provide each minute of every day; when shit goes down involving injury or tragedy, the headlines automatically blame the operator.
Transit workers are the most-defiled and least-defended of service personnel. True, there are others who toil at the mercy of the public yet are largely ill-afforded society's respect. Still, those who do the work of the capitalist victors are viciously pitted against one another. People today are encouraged to blaspheme the holy rather than assail the culprit. It has been so for millennia, and so it will continue until we RISE against the evil to whom we unfailingly bow.
Dem vs. Repub, blue vs. white collar. Rich vs. poor. White vs. black vs. brown vs. beige. It doesn't matter which flavor you favor, the opposition will fight you at the expense of us all. They will constantly build walls to separate us because if we could somehow all unite, their power over US would quickly dissolve. It's an ages-old tactic to pit us amongst ourselves, by those who stand to gain the most from it: those who have what they don't want us to. Blood between us will forever be spilt, as long as we agree with whatever media flavor encourages us.
One-hundred sixty-or more years ago, blacks were enslaved by ruthless masters who bought and sold them as worthless chattel. President Abraham Lincoln paid his dues to humanity by giving his life to ensure their lives would no longer be considered worthless in the minds of those who ruled the "moral code". That gave way to bigots working even harder to ensure those who didn't look like they did being held down for another century before Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcom X, and Senator Bobby Kennedy sacrificed their lives in a collective sacrifice to ensure all voices mattered in our society. Today, we're still senselessly-separated by our once-realized victories of past racial wars. Even though people whose skin color differs from mine have provided valuable contributions to human kind's collective good, these values have been degraded by the ancestors of past slave masters who somehow maintain control over those they consider less than human. It has always disgusted my sense of what it means to be an American. We're all connected by the shared bond of what we based this country upon: that all men (and women) are equal. Let us be reminded of the sacred words of the United States of America's most beloved of all documents save for our Constitution:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
Upon the power of these sacred words, our country could have been overthrown a few times already throughout our sordid history. First, we had to reaffirm that ALL people are created equal. Given the Bible's insistence that humankind was created from the loving coupling of Adam and Eve, who are we to argue what color these two were? Given the location of their meeting, chance itself dictates their skin color differed greatly from my own: white. Additionally, that would mean our Biblical origins suggests God Himself wanted from us his highest command: that we love one another.
I believe there is but one race: the human one. Please do not refer to me by my skin color. Rest assured I will not judge you for your own. We are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of whatever God we honor. I love us all.
Once bigots realize they are truly equal to that other-colored mate who works next to them and shares their own daily struggles, they will finally accept we're equals in the society within we all toil. We're all of intrinsic value, yet we needlessly fight each other while the big fishes gleefully feast upon our unnecessary hatred. Those who have will tear at those who have not. For millennia, they have laughed at us as we do their bidding.
This is not a post supporting socialism: it's simply my description of the natural order of the powerful encouraging the lower masses to cannibalize ourselves to our ultimate demise. As we battle one another, they get richer and even more greedy as they pick up the crumbs our mutual self-destruction leaves behind. Once we're gone, nobody will remain to do their bidding, and humanity will eventually cease to exist. The coddled rich will not know how to fend for themselves without any type of caste system to support them. Perhaps that what Planet Earth needs most: the end of humanity. I hope and pray not.
I don't "hate" you for feeling differently than I do. Please stop using that word in relation to our differences... I really do love you. I'm sad we have lost our ability to compromise. Our current divide is over-amplified by a definition of those who rule the working class, rather than our shared beliefs.
I safely move those who either don't have their own transportation or unselfishly choose to ride public transit. Whatever the case, I'm here with, for, and living among you. Please treat me with the respect my millions of miles of safe driving deserves, and thanks to those of you who do just that. Yeah, I'm paid well. But I could be treated better by those I serve, and by those who oversee my dedication... the transit lords to whom YOU pay taxes to. See where it all leads?
So yeah, I drive a bus. It's not something to be looked down upon, or to be an accepted target for your collective frustration. I'm your equal, but also your biggest fan. We're stuck in this gene pool together, and I hope we can someday learn to find harmony together. That's why I have decided to regale you with my "Positive Thoughts for the Day". One step at a time, they say, may find our paths intertwine. And that, my friends, is where we become strongest.
Thanks for riding.
With respect, I am
Deke N. Blue