Sunday, January 28, 2007

IT'S TRUE: What They Say About Liberals

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
Phil Ochs
I had a supervisor at UCSF who couldn’t be more liberal. She looked at Common Dreams daily to find fresh arguments to match the urgency she felt inside. Most of what she said about politics I agreed with, but it was a little too party-line to be interesting.

Martina arrived in the United States from western Asia along with her family, when she was twelve, and started learning English then. Hers was a modest immigrant family success story. By the time I arrived on the scene, both of Martine’s parents were dead and she owned, outright, two homes in the burbs south of SF.

Martina lived in one of the houses and rented the other one out.

It came to pass that the rental house became vacant and we’d hear horror stories from Martina about exorbitant repair expenses and unreliable workmen. And, then, we’d overhear her talking with the agent who was looking for tenants and handling the lease.

One day Martina got a call from the agent that upset her. The agent had found a tenant, but Martina was adamant that no lease be consummated without her approval.

Turns out the prospective tenants were Filipino, and Martina would simply not rent to them, and she told the agent why, with her five subordinates, three of whom were themselves Filipino, listening the whole time.

Martina explained to the agent that Filipinos live in large groups, that the nice couple that looked at the house were only the tip of the iceberg. There would be, Martina predicted, eight to ten people living in the house and it couldn’t stand the wear and tear.

End of conversation. No Filipinos.

Needless to say, I was flabbergasted. Not just the prejudice, but the overtness. Ain’t America great! It’s a place where immigrants from any culture can discriminate against other immigrants from a multitude of cultures—sort of a melting pot of ill will.

One of Martina’s Filipino subordinates, a long-term temp, was a nice older guy (my age) who was overqualified for our work but was hindered by halting English, you could tell he was translating back and forth with Tagalog, in his head.

We all liked Joey. It was understood that when a permanent position opened in our group that he would be hired.

One morning Joey came in not feeling so good. When he sat at his desk he couldn’t get going. He had no energy and he felt something weird in his chest.

There was lots of hemming and hawing about ambulances etc, so finally I got my car and drove Joey to Kaiser hospital, where he had limited coverage through this temp status.

Later that day Joey had a triple bypass. He’d been having a heart attack.

So, at least among the Filipinos in the office, I was said to have “saved Joey’s life.”

In the hospital they fixed Joey’s heart but they diagnosed some other serious conditions that needed attention. And his limited coverage would leave Joey owing tens of thousands out-of-pocket.

This presented Martina with a chance to do something good for Joey. There was a permanent-position opening in a section next to ours that did similar work. Joey was qualified and the supervisor of that section would be happy to have him.

So Martina went to bat and got Joey hired for the permanent position, almost overnight—a process that usually takes weeks.

With his new permanent status, Joey’s health coverage was upgraded to “full” and all those looming medical bills went away, at least from Joey’s perspective. Someone (all of us) was still paying the costs.

My guess is that Martine probably thought she had done a good deed, a moral good, buy relieving Joey of his crushing medical bills, of course, WITH OUR MONEY.

So it’s true what they say about liberals: They’re generous, with other people’s money.

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