American Pie-Not Enough to Go Around

Image of last piece of pie

“Make the pie higher.” So said our illustrious 41st president George Bush. The line resurfaced in my head this week when thinking of two recent exchanges: the flash fiction prompt of “pie” from Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch, and a conversation I had with my conservative sister-the-sister.

These days of course, so many of us political lefties look back fondly on “W.” Ten years ago, we thought the right could do no worse damage than it had under the Bush-Cheney regime—the phony war in Iraq; the torture memos that justified waterboarding; the no-bid contracts with Halliburton and Blackwater; the assaults against the separation of Church and State and the pandering to the detestable Tea Party; the false commitment to “family values”; and the highly dubious oil ties with Saudi Arabia, to name just a few crimes.

And though Bush may have mangled our language, his idiomatic sins were far less sinister than those committed by our current Obfuscator-in-Chief, with his accusations of “fake news,” his protestations of “witch hunts,” his propensity to defame anyone who crosses him with his crass labels (Crooked Hillary, Lying Ted, Little Marco) and his obscene pronouncements regarding women. My gorge rises as I type.

Being thus consumed by my abhorrence of the man now degrading the highest office of our land, I cannot take off my political “pussy hat,” when sitting down to write or when talking to those of my dear ones who voted for the cad.

Religion and Politics in America

I have written here before of my twin sister, the Franciscan nun, and her (to my eye) confoundingly conservative views. “Yeah, yeah, she’s a one-issue voter,” an acquaintance reminded me last week. “It’s all about abortion.” Okay, yes, I understand the social issues over the last twenty years or so that have led my sister to take as her political guide either the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh or the Catholic journals she reads. And though neither Republican nor religious, I too resonate with the bootstrapping values of individual endeavor, responsibility, and hard work that the Republicans have laid claim too. I too agree there should be limits to government control of individual lives. But such fallback justifications for the current  administration’s efforts to, for example, axe healthcare for millions and cut Medicare and Medicaid, are just scum on the surface of a very deep pond.

Certainly the GOP with its  merciless promotion of free-market capitalism, its climate-change deniers, its trickle-down economy enthusiasts and deregulation champions  (except when it comes to women’s bodies) embody as a group the very antithesis of the Christian message they so publicly embrace. So when it comes to understanding my sister, to maintaining the closeness we have always felt, I am abjectly lost. For I can’t help but feel that the actions and values my sister now defends couldn’t be farther from the teachings of the founder of her order, Saint Francis. Here was an intentionally impoverished man, a man now named the patron saint of ecology,  a man who “really believed what Jesus said: ‘Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff’ (Luke 9:1-3).”

A Bigger Piece of the Pie for Some

The sister and I spoke over the weekend. Though we try to stay away from the political, it is nearly impossible not to drift in that direction. She bluntly stated that she believed capitalism was good. That, although she finds our swaggering, mendacious leader detestable, he is moving our country in the right direction. After all, she pointed out, the stock markets are way up. When I objected that not all people benefited from the bull market (and that at any rate bull markets have a dismaying habit of falling), she fell back on the old sad premise that “the poor will always be with us.” By that measure, those who get a bigger piece of the pie leave just a few crumbs for the rest.

As we “speak,” my sister is settling into a three-week visit with her German counterparts for a big council meeting. I wish her well in Germany. She admitted feeling a tad anxious. Our rather virulent strain of capitalism does not apparently go down well with her German sisters. Nor has our president endeared himself to their people. One of these sisters apparently slapped a nun visiting from my sister’s convent some years back. But I do relish the idea of my sister’s exposure to a fresh, European perspective. And I wonder how she will defend her American heartland politics in the face of what may well be a passionate call to support the American left in its struggle against those very positions.

And now, the flash:

American Pie

“Nothing more American than apple pie,” she said.

“Oh, I don’t know. There’s lots of things.”

“Okay, sure, there’s baseball and Mom, too.”

“That’s not what I was thinking about.”

“What then?”

“Oh, oppression of the poor, Wall Street fat cats, imperialism, misogyny, institutionalized sexism and racism, homelessness, addiction, environmental destruction…”

“God, you’re so negative.”

“No, just realistic.”

“I still think it’s a land of opportunity for all.”

“No, you think it’s a zero-sum game. Not enough pie for everyone; some must go without.”

“I never said that.”

“No? Then what’s with ‘the poor will always be with us’?”



12 thoughts on “American Pie-Not Enough to Go Around

  1. Love it…for, of course, I live in the same limbo. Gandhi wrote about the social sin of capitalism w/o a conscience. I’ll have to dig up on earlier notes on that; perhaps they will give me some thoughts to share w/ Sister S.

    Nice work, Jeanne!

    1. Yes, do share your notes on that. I could have said much more on the obvious incongruity I see between Christian values and the continued embrace of a leader who reflects the absolute opposite of those values, but I think I would be preaching to the loud choir on that one. Thanks for reading Peggy, and for leaving a comment.

  2. I share your sentiments Jeanne. Your leader worries me greatly and I don’t understand those that are happy to accept that he lies and twists things to put himself in the white light whilst demeaning others in the process. This conscious awareness and acceptance of this behaviour makes me wonder at the values of some of the people of not only your country but also those with similar views worldwide. His lack of care for humanity is frightening and I understand your dilemma with your sister. Great flash and post.

    1. You hit the nail on the head, Irene, as regards the deeper problem….the 40 percent of the voters who resonate with his message. Many of those, like my sister, do seem to deplore his character and simply hold to the now completely discredited agenda of the Republican Party. I suppose he has his counterparts in many countries, though it is still hard to understand how a man who broadcasts all his flaws and biases and ignorance could win the White House. Well, as the 19th century showman, P.T. Barnum put it, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Much more to say on this. Thanks for joining in the conversation.

  3. Oh, yes! I know: “These days of course, so many of us political lefties look back fondly on “W.” ” Although I also believe what we saw emerging during his presidency is firmly fixed in the nauseating manifestation we now are experiencing. So strange to me how easily led astray the lambs of God are by the likes of Bill O’Reily and Rush Limbaugh. I wonder if the German nuns feel the irony of looking at the despot of another nation who cannot see what he truly is. I hope your sisters is open to what views she’ll encounter in her visit. If we are to be one issue voters, then love should be our one issue. I see no love in the capitalism we have. I want to see love in innovations, of communities solving humanitarian issues in their back yard, of pride of workmanship or excellent customer service because we are working with and for the betterment of our communities, love of art and pursuit of happiness, healthcare to take our greatest fears away, shelter, clean water and a loving hand up, a loving nation that does good in the world. One isue that could solve so much. Great post and flash.

    1. Yes, I hope she is open too. And by the way, I don’t mean to “dump” on my sister, but the irony is just too much. And of course, the Germans of all people have seen the damage across generations that averting one’s eyes to the truth can do, in the name of economic growth, the “cleansing” of society of all the “bad elements,” etc. etc. etc. Many Christians today preach “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Yet they participate in this sinner’s sins. It’s maddening. And now today I see we have a new “Ambassador of Religious Freedom.” Say what? What happened to separation of state and church? I agree with your vision Charli. I was encouraged by the NY Times California updates yesterday. There’s a businessman in San Diego considering a run for governor. He is proposing an initiative to get big money out of politics called the “Neighborhood Legislature. “The idea is to all but eliminate the influence of money in politics by shrinking legislative districts down to neighborhood size — 12,000 altogether. Each district would elect a representative, who would in turn elect representatives from among their number to go to Sacramento.” Here is the link if you want to read more: I figure something’s got to give!

  4. What a great take on the prompt, Jeanne – American Pie indeed, with those who already have more than enough taking the biggest slice.

    It’s fascinating how religion can be such opposing things: a framework for a moral life versus a screen behind which all kinds of abuse can fester. It’s especially scary when “experts” in religion, such as your sister, take what seems to be an immoral stand.

    Regarding healthcare provision, I don’t know if you’re aware of the sad case that’s dominated the news over here lately involving a couple who’ve raised over £1 million for some dubious intervention in America for their terminally ill baby. While it’s understandable for the parents to want to reject the expertise of the medics, we’ve also had the pope (and you’d have to ask why God would save this baby and merrily let so many others die) and your esteemed president (who isn’t even interested in ensuring the provision of effective medical interventions for his fellow Americans if they’re poor) have offered their support.

    As for “the poor are always with us” – I’m furious!

    Thanks for providing the space for a rant and I certainly enjoyed yours.

    1. Yes, Anne, that story of the baby made headlines over here. What blatant political expediency! Absolutely galling to see the Worm-in-Chief latch onto that sad case. And I expected better of the Pope. He seemed reasonable when he first took the papal throne. I gave birth to my son in England. At 37, it was a “geriatric pregnancy” and I underwent amniocentesis as a matter of course. How comforting it was for me to know that if something went terribly wrong, the medical establishment would support my decision to end the pregnancy. In fact, I remember getting the message that it would be a natural and wise course to prevent a fetus with serious medical problems to come to term. I felt bad for the couple too, but it is evil to impose a life of extreme disability and pain on a child and to foster false hope on the parents. Of course it is all the more maddening in light of the healthcare fiasco here. And yes, that last point: “The poor will always be with us.” They can take our “charity” and be thankful for it. It’s appalling. I so enjoyed your rant.

  5. What a great, informative post and series of comments, Jeanne. It is a sad and frustrating situation in which we find ourselves. Democracy is interesting isn’t it? I’ve just read a fascinating book called The Knowledge Illusion and appreciate the statement on democracy saying something like not all votes are equal, that only informed votes should count. (I’m sure I haven’t got it quite right. There is a review of the book here: I think I can see the point of not counting all votes as equal with what has happened in recent times. It’s very sad and frustrating when people stick to their “beliefs” and ignore the truth of the situation.

    1. I think I know what book you are talking about. And there have certainly been many articles on the peculiar situation we find our selves in. I am sure I would be labeled an elitist if I suggested that only people who have completed a couple of years of college, or could prove that they have some critical thinking skills, SOMETHING anyway, be allowed to vote. What we have now is a populace (and perhaps I am swayed too no doubt) too easily influenced by the sensational angles and pundits and headlines, who don’t bother to ascertain if a story is true, who vote for a man based on his name recognition and crass appeals to their fears and prejudices and impotence. As for counting all votes as equal, of course the electoral college here is a joke. It may have meant something when more people lived in rural areas. But now the red rural states are at a huge advantage. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that this mad disruption will expose once and for all the dangers of staying with the status quo. I have enjoyed the circus but where is this going to stop?

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