The Blame Game
by Rachelle Ankney, North Park Justice League
Nearly every time I hear a news story about the state of housing in the US, or the austerity measures being rejected in Europe, or the looming student debt crisis, I get to listen to some “expert” worrying about how all of the people affected by the crisis are irresponsible (or we wouldn’t have had the crisis in the first place) and itching to act even more irresponsibly (by defaulting on debts, or by demanding that budgets not be balanced on our backs, etc).
This drives me crazy, because I am one of those people affected by the crisis, with my home worth half what I owe on it and my family plans upended. And I’m in this situation precisely because I was trying to do the responsible thing with my life. I was looking into a future of low retirement funds and trying to do the right thing by investing in a home instead of rent so that my future would be more secure. And yet those who were truly irresponsible, who gambled with my life and my future, the Wall St tyrants who still get to manipulate our government instead of sitting in jail, they are the very ones in charge of this message that I was somehow greedy and irresponsible and that I will only get more irresponsible if they offer me any relief in the form of principle reductions, interest reductions, or a repaired safety net.
In the NFL, each stadium has to meet very particular standards for the playing fields. So a given football team, no matter where it plays, will be guaranteed a level surface of exactly the same dimensions as every other field. In this setup, it makes sense to claim that one team is playing more poorly than the other team. Maybe even – if it’s true – that one of the teams wasn’t responsible with their resources and therefore lost the game.
But imagine a football league in which a field could be steeply inclined towards one end, and that Team 1, playing offense, had to move the ball uphill, while the defensive Team 2 had the advantage of pushing them back down the hill. This makes the argument about poor playing a little harder to accept, right? Now imagine that when the 4th down is over and the ball changes hands, that the referees, who are supposed to be there to represent both teams and call the game fairly, tells Team 1, now on defense, that they must switch end zones and fight uphill again. Imagine further that Team 2, having paid vast sums of money to control the game, the tilted fields, and the referees, is always the team playing downhill, and that every single one of the other 31 teams always has to fight uphill, every game, every move.
Now if an analyst suggested that Team 1 hadn’t tried hard enough, was playing poorly, or was irresponsible, it just wouldn’t make sense. But that’s what the analysts and experts are saying about the same lack of a level playing field that you and I play on every day. And it’s not a game to us – it’s our lives. Fortunately, IIRON is fighting back. Our Covenant for Economic Justice is a move to get the referees – our elected politicians – to even out the playing field and insist on fair play. For example, we want education to be a protected right, not something that private companies can provide or deny at will. Similarly, private gain should never be a factor in the prison system, but it is under the current system, and that tilts the playing field sharply against targeted sectors of our population.
Mark June 10th on your calendar now to come out to IIRON’s Covenant for Economic Justice Assembly at St Mark United Methodist Church and change the way this game is being played with our lives.