We talk a great deal about “family values” in this country. I’m not opposed to that. I’m not one of those hard-line left wingers that automatically shoots down every phrase uttered by those more conservative than I. So, I don’t necessarily equate the term with code for censorship, homophobia and theocratic rule by hand wringing, fundamentalist evangelicals. In fact, I think it’s a term that gained as much traction as it did, precisely because it sounds so much like what a great many Americans think is important.
After all, one of the overarching themes of the American dream is that hard work will not only secure a future for you, but for all of those who are dependent on you for their support. That might be your spouse, your offspring, or your aging parents. In fact, it might be just about anyone you consider to be part of your family, and I think that here in America we get a fair amount of leeway on how we define family. I’m alright with that too.
I think it’s safe to say that when we speak of our families, their future and the American dream, we assume that all our hard work is going to somehow materialize in the form of opportunity for our children. Besides feeding, clothing and sheltering them in the present moment, we believe that it’s our responsibility to leave them some kind of legacy. It might not be a mansion on a hill and vault full of cash, but we believe it to be a valuable legacy, nonetheless.
The legacy most working people leave their children is an education, a work ethic, the concept of delayed gratification, a sense of fair play, an awareness of the importance of family, and with any luck at all, the promise of a better tomorrow. Yet, those are all the things that too many corporations in today’s America are trying to end. Once again, I draw attention to Charter/Spectrum. Make no mistake about it; they are guilty as charged. Ask Sanela Djencic, wife of a thirteen- year Spectrum employee, and mother of three.
Ask Ms. Djencic what it’s like to tell her nine-year-old that there will be no dance lessons for a while. Ask her how it feels to explain to her six-year-old that soccer isn’t an option this year. Ask her too, how she feels as she feeds her one-year old baby, looks into its face, and wonders how she will ever manage to pay its college tuition. Those are the questions we need to ask as opposed to “Where can I get cable service for $29.95?”
You might also want to give some thought to Mr. Djencic. I do. I know first hand how it feels to come home tired and hungry and maybe just a little cranky because your body is sore and your muscles ache. And maybe traffic was horrible because you worked late to grab the overtime you knew you could put to good use. I know what it is to leave the house when it’s dark, and come home when its dark, and be on the move all day with your tools on your belt, or in your hand. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it because when you do get home, you look into the faces of those you love and you know they are going to be alright. It’s worth it, because you value your family.
When we talk about the Charter/Spectrum strike, we need to remember that we are not talking economic theory or hypothetical situations. We’re talking about people. And we’re not talking about just the 1,800 people who are the striking Charter/Spectrum employees. We’re talking about all the families out there who are feeling the economic crunch that has ensued as a result of employees standing strong to protest what is wrong.
I know the Djencic’s have family values. I’ve walked in his shoes and looked into her eyes. I’m convinced that what we need in America is a lot more people just like them. I’m also pretty sure we don’t need any more companies like Charter/Spectrum.