Geschrieben am 1. April 2020 von für Crimemag, CrimeMag April 2020

Benjamin Whitmer (writer) #Covid-19

Let’s do with them the „Walk-in-Our-Moccasins“ program

Hello from Colorado,

We’re under a stay-at-home-order, which means that, among other things, we can’t go to work unless our workplace is considered essential. I’m lucky, in that my workplace is considered essential, and I can work from home. Which means I still get to pay rent, buy groceries and get my kids medical care if they need it, all without leaving the house.

But I know a lot of people who aren’t lucky. 

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with social distancing. I locked down our house a week before there was any order in place. But there’s this: If you’re a politician in this country, a country that has no social safety net and no way for people to pay their rent or take their kids to the doctor or afford food except for work, then when you shut down work, you better have a plan in place for the rest.

Out in Germany in April 2020

So far, our shit-for-brain leaders don’t have anything like a plan. I watched Denver’s mayor joking and laughing with reporters when he announced the stay-at-home order, but I didn’t see a word about the people he just put out of work. Our millionaire governor was slightly better, but I haven’t seen much as far as a plan from him either. If we’re taking a moratorium from work, are we gonna do the same for medical bills? Are we making groceries free? He hasn’t even ordered a stop to evictions and foreclosures. 

As usual in America, their solutions work great for people who have money, but they’re barely survivable for those who don’t. So for many of us, our choices are stark: We can risking our lives by going to work, or risk starvation by staying home.   

I’m spending a lot of time pacing the house in a state of semi-fury. I want to wring the neck of every CEO who’s telling us to get back to work to keep making them money. And I want to wring the neck of every politician telling us not to go to work, without telling us how to survive if we don’t. And I can’t tell you what I want to do to Trump — or, for that matter, Biden — because it would get me arrested. 

It all reminds me of a newspaper column that my mother shared from 30 years ago about a different election cycle. It was written by my grandmother, Janet Goode, who was a reporter and columnist in Southern Ohio, for the Middletown Journal. The title is “Campaign Madness Calls for Reality Therapy.” And assuming things ever return to normal, I think she’s got the right idea.

I’m glad all of our presidential candidates understand the problems besetting us Common Folk. I know it’s true because they tell me so practically every day.  

„I understand. I care,“ says Republican President Bush, who goes on to explain that the recession, national debt, high welfare rolls, runaway drug use, the past savings and loan fiasco, acid rain and constipation are all the result of a hostile Democrat Congress that stubbornly refuses to enact his enlightened legislative proposals.

„We know how you feel. We care,“ chorus his Democrat opponents, blaming the recession, the national debt, job layoffs, homelessness, the high cost of health care, toxic waste, the approaching bank crisis and bad breath on an unfeeling administration whose leader vetoes every vital piece of legislation they pass.

„We don’t understand and we don’t care,“ whisper David Duke and Pat Buchanan subliminally, as they twirl around the fringes.

Well, I’d hate to suggest that someone (with the possible exception of the last two) may be fibbing, but I do have a new Rule for Potential Presidential Candidates that will convince voters they are telling the gospel truth. It’s called the „Walk-in-Our-Moccasins“ program. For one month each candidate will live on an income equivalent to 40 hours per week at minimum wage or the maximum welfare payment for their particular states. 

Each elected official will be forced to repeat the „Moccasin“ program every other year he or she is in office. And that means no cheating:  

No more than a week’s supply of food in the pantry at the beginning of the month. Only one vehicle per family during the trial period, and no more than a quarter tank of gas in that car at the start. No bills paid ahead of time. No loans from relatives, friends or corporations. No credit card charges. No rubber checks cashed against next month’s wages by friendly bank officials. 

If the car breaks down, they will have to take a bus or beg a ride. If they get sick they will have to line up at a clinic. If they need medicine, they may have to decide whether to fill a prescription, heat the house or buy food for the kids. Close relatives — parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters — will be permitted to invite the family over for a chili supper or a meal of beans and corn bread, if it doesn’t happen too often.  

Personal entertaining will be a bring-your-own-hamburger barbecue in the back yard, followed by a game of cards or a night of television.  Local channels only, of course, since cable is an expensive luxury.  If the TV breaks, tough: PTA meetings in the school gym will break the monotony. The kids will have to go along, since there will be no money for babysitters.

No spare cash will be available for domestic help, so family members will share household chores — but they must still keep up with their current jobs. They will probably have to carry brown-bag lunches, because eating out is costly.

Only after they have completed the „Moccasins“ exercise, will prospective candidates be permitted to throw their hats in the ring. Then when they say „I understand“ the statement will have validity.

Once a person has achieved candidate status, he/she will be permitted to take part in pre-election debates. These debates will be run like the Olympic Games. Each debate will feature a panel of judges, chosen from a cross-section of voters (One homeless person, one house-person, one waitperson, one teacher, one banker, one auto assembler, for example). At the end of each speech the panel will grade the candidate on a scale of one to six on substance, knowledge, ability, honesty, innovation, sincerity, statesmanship, showmanship and organizational skills. Anyone with an average of three or less must drop out of the race.

That way, voters will have a fighting chance of getting representatives who will fulfill their jobs.  And we will probably see a dramatic increase in governmental efficiency and responsiveness because the words „I understand“ will have real meaning.

Benjamin Whitmer is one of Wolgang Franßen’s favorite authors. He published Im Westen nichts (Pike) and Nach mir die Nacht (Cry Father) in 2016 and 2017 at Polar. Ute Cohen (also in this Year’s-end-issue) wrote a review titled „Wildromantische, vogelfreie Scheisse“, and CrimeMag published the opening pages of the aptly named Im Westen nichtsIn the West – Nothing. Ben’s novel Flucht (Old Lonesome) about a jailbreak at New Year’s Eve 1968 in Colorado, translated by Alf Mayer, will be published this April. It has no publisher in the states, but was published in France.
Ben’s appearance at CrimeMag.