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Finding Their Voices

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Hi-yo! Bruddah Hank here, and I’m not in the best of moods. This weekend, I was minding my own business, working in my garage, and listening to music, when the song “Rich Men North of Richmond” by Oliver Anthony started playing. As I was born in Brooklyn, it wasn’t until my Navy years and four years at a Virginia college that I developed a taste for country music. Anyway, it started out a bit too “twangy” for my taste, and I was about to fast-forward it until the lyrics hit me.
I froze, tools in hand, and honestly, I know several songs played after that one, but it was Oliver’s lyrics that hit me so hard I don’t know how long I just stood there, holding a socket wrench in my hand and staring into the distance like some zombie (I hope my neighbors didn’t see me). He sang:

“Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground
‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down
It’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to
For people like me and people like you
Wish I could just wake up and it not be true
But it is, oh, it is”

You see, I live in a fancy house, I have a good job, I have a little money in the bank, and my kids are all doing okay. To all outward appearances, I have arrived, and life is good. I also know this is all fancy window dressing. Things could have turned out much worse for me. One bad decision, and I could have lost money instead of making some. Ten years ago, a few extra months of unemployment could have driven me into bankruptcy. These days, a sudden illness can wipe out an entire lifetime of savings. All that I have and all that I am can dissipate as quickly as a divorce, a cancer diagnosis, a terrible car accident, or a fight that results in serious injury to myself or another. I’m grateful for my situation, and I try to show that gratitude in word and deed.

I know many of my fellow American brothers and sisters will never have it even close to as good as I have it. They may have made bad decisions that landed them in jail. They may not have dared to take that out-of-town promotion and leave their parents behind. They may have risked it all on some Bitcoin get-rich-quick scheme and lost it all. Should I feel bad that some people haven’t done as well as me? Yes and no. We all make decisions about our lives and futures, and to a certain extent, we have to live with the consequences of those decisions.

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But how about those people who never even had a chance because of decisions made for them that stripped them of their futures? What about programs that incentivize women not to get married and depend on Uncle Sam for reliable income? What about the men with no formal college degrees who are forced to accept low wages, have no prospects for future growth, but must still compete with new arrivals (both overseas and locally) for the necessities of life? When government programs are designed to create a permanent underclass by incentivizing laziness, amplifying the sense of victimhood, and rewarding the 1 percent with the labors and sacrifices of the 99 percent, we have a revolution brewing, and I can feel the flames under my feet.
So to the “Rich Men North of Richmond,” I convey a warning: this country was built by the silent majority, and they are starting to find their voices. Listen to what they are saying before those voices become the shouts of men and women who see violence as the only viable alternative to being continually taken advantage of.

I say this as a Yankee (yes, I know what this means) who learned the lyrics to “Sweet Home Alabama” from a bunch of rednecks I preferred to hang with while in the Navy. During those days, we all learned that there are no atheists in foxholes, and when we bled in battle, our blood was the same color. In a firefight, there were no yanks or rednecks or black, brown, yellow, green, or purple. We were either going to all get through “the issue” alive, or we’d all go down together.

I guess this is why this song hit me so hard. My skin may be brown, and I may wear a funny little hat when I worship God, but my soul is Good ‘ol boy American Redneck, and my heart breaks for my American brothers and sisters of all races who are trying to do the right thing and are being rewarded with being ignored and abused. They need a government that has their interests at heart and programs that can help them prosper. This is what our legislators need to focus on. Doggonit! Focus on helping your American family; many of us are hurting. Together, we must save this sinking ship, or we will all drown.

“Bruddah Hank” was born in Brooklyn but has lived all over the US and abroad. A deeply spiritual man yet circumspect person, he learned the most valuable lesson at the feet of a Hawaiian Kapuna: time is the only gift that can never be taken away. Spend it wisely.

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