Author Archives: CharlieClaywell

About CharlieClaywell

I have been a writer for years, mainly as a reporter, but I have always enjoyed history, especially non-mainstream stories buried inside old documents. My blog mostly centers around those stories. On occasion, though, I deviate and talk about my dog, vintage toys and what it's like to be middle-aged.

10 Books, Movies That Explore The American Experience

Over the past month or so,  I’ve read — or watched — a wide range of material exploring the American Way.

Here are 10 works I recommend:

1. Glass House by Brian Alexander: I learned about this book from What’s Nonfiction (read review here) and was several pages into the book before I realized that I’ve been to Lancaster, Ohio multiple times in the past year (the story’s setting). It is the town where I dine after a day of hiking at Hocking Hills. Although the financial aspect of the book is too complicated for my tastes, the societal implications of the economic downturn hits close to home. The book deals with the heroin epidemic and the town leaders inability to solve their economic depravity. The obsession of Lancaster’s leaders with poorly thought out solutions (like festivals and tourism) for their economic demise felt very familiar.

2. Dream Land: This is an excellent book to better understand how states like Ohio became an easy target for the heroin trade. Dealers, mostly from small, rural regions of Mexico, swooped in and profited off the consumer base created through opioid prescriptions. The lack of violence in Ohio (and other states east of the Mississippi River) is by design as customer service and a pizza-delivery style approach — plus a keen awareness of law enforcement’s desire for ‘big busts’ — kept the heroin market thriving.

3. Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A manual of sorts for parents who have children dealing with drug addiction. The book offers insight into the signs and problems of addictions while offering methods on maintaining a high quality of life for the non-addicted.

4. Tears We Cannot Stop: Sermon to White America. Black minister Michael E. Dyson touches on everything from Black Lives Matters to the hypocrisy of the Tea Party, which he astutely notes, read, on the House floor, a modified version of the Constitution (avoiding the article about slaves being 3/5ths human) when they came to power in 2010. The book offers a strongly argued viewpoint that’s America’s ‘whiteness’ is part of our problem in the current era.

5. The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen: Several books have addressed the issue of how American communities are becoming more segregated by class and income in addition to race. But this book also looks at the impact this segregation is having on politics and our democracy. The lack of mobility of the current generation has left us economically and politically vulnerable, the author asserts.

Movies

6. Warning: This Drug Can Kill You: In this hour-long HBO Documentary you meet several families from across the country dealing with various degrees of the heroin epidemic. The movie begins with 1990s footage of a pharmaceutical company falsely claiming that opioids are non-addictive. The movie ends with a law enforcement agency that, in lieu of criminalization, have an open door policy to place willing heroin addicts into rehab centers. Very powerful stories from ‘real’ people dealing with the fallout of an epidemic created by an under-regulated industry.

7. Friends of God: Filmed in 2006 by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the slant is obvious. The story is interesting as she criss-crosses the country highlighting churches and church signs while interviewing powerful ministers. Although not the goal of the film, it does show the mindset (Vote your Values) that willingly voted for president Trump and why they are doubling-down despite his less than Christian tactics.

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Although the film was a little disappointing since the story is quite powerful, it is still a quick way to learn about the rise of the bio-medical industry. Cells extracted from Henrietta Lacks, without her consent, have resulted in cures, cutting-edge medicines and billions of dollars in profit. Lacks, a poor, black woman was never compensated for — what amounts to legalized theft of — her cells. And, as the film points out, it is still legal to extract cells from a patient without their consent.

9. I Am Not Your Negro: Based on a unfinished project by black novelist James Baldwin, the film is mostly a look at America’s hypocritical whiteness. Although there is plenty to comment on about the film, one of the most powerful effects for me was how they zoomed in on historical photos of school integration. By zooming past the black teen or child heading to school and highlighting the expressions on the faces of white children, teens and adults, it is very disheartening to realize those same intense expressions of hate exist today, more than 50 years later.

10. All The Way: This is another HBO film, and it is about LBJ’s campaign for the presidency. LBJ was renown for his crudeness, which the film includes, but the movie is really an excellent condensed version of 1964 — LBJ’s first full year as president. It shows how, even then, politicians were more concerned about wielding power than democracy. Be forewarned, for those tired of the current political debacle, it will not be pleasant film, and it may reinforce budding cynicism.

Categories: American History, Books I have read, movies | 3 Comments

Congressman Davidson: Listen To Your Constituents So You Can Help Them

According to a report released by the Ohio State Patrol, Preble County outrank Ohio’s other 87 counties in the amount of heroin seized by the OSP inside its boundaries.

When the Congressional aide for Warren Davidson answered the phone on Thursday, May 4 — he said yes, Davidson was supporting the American Health Care Act. I explained it would hurt Preble County — launching the aide into a sales pitch. I cut him off and the call ended with an awareness that my opinion was unwanted and unheard. Why would it be heard? I live in a gerrymandered district with a 2-1 spread favoring the GOP.

Davidson’s snafu

The concept of a representative democracy is quite simple: the representative listens, responds and acts in the best interest of the constituents. In theory this sets up a House where each representative is fighting for what is best for the folks back home. In this type of House, Davidson’s hierarchy of priorities would fall something like this (accepting the current reality of monetary influence):

  1. Voters
  2. Ohio
  3. Nation
  4. Party
  5. Donors

His vote for the AHCA demonstrates his allegiance falls this way:

  1. Freedom Caucus
  2. Special Interests (Club for Growth, Freedom Works, etc.)

Or vice versa.

After the bill passed, Davidson issued a statement which includes these sentences,

…Reforms to Medicaid, work requirements for able-body adults, and defunding Planned Parenthood are no small victories. Americans are actively suffering under Obamacare….

Health care jobs have been on the rise for about five to six decades. Click on image to read more.

Even though the statement directly contradicts reports of a growing health care economy (and its importance to Ohio) the ‘reforms to Medicaid’ are very problematic for his constituents which I attempted to explain to his aide.

How ACA Helped Preble County

Click to enlarge

In Preble County, the ACA significantly reduced the number of uninsured — one report puts our uninsured at two percent, a 63 percent decrease in five years. This is due to the Medicaid element of the Act. The ACA is also helping in our battle with heroin.

Another report suggests the poor and elderly will be most injured should the new legislation become law — which means Preble County is, once again, in the crosshairs since we are an impoverished, aging population. But, none of that matters, I suppose, because at the center of the debate is the government’s function. Is it to stay out of the way or is it to make a more equitable society?

Solve It Yourself

Help wanted sign in downtown Eaton.

I live in a community where there is no shortage of people advising the disadvantaged that ‘all they need to do is git a job.’ People spew the advise with little regard concerning a person’s skill set or available employment. In this week’s community paper there were six job offers, mostly entry level work (and presumably without affordable health care). This is also a community which, according to the local rumor mill, has workplaces where some employees are using ‘hard drugs’ like heroin, meth, cocaine and LSD.

The path out of this dilemma is not an aggressive paring down of health care, but rather funneling individuals with addictions through recovery services. And whether, Davidson, the Freedom Caucus, the Club for Growth or Freedom Works approve, this will need to be funded by tax dollars. Localities like Preble County are too financially strapped to solve it without state and/or federal dollars.

Bill Attacks Vulnerable

After the House bill passed, both Ohio senators commented on it and as expected, Sherrod Brown (Democrat) was not supportive. He said,

This bill is heartless, it is bad for Ohio and it will leave real Ohioans struggling to afford care.

Republicans like Ohio’s governor John Kasich and Senator Rob Portman weren’t supportive either. They railed against the AHCA. Portman said,

…this bill does not do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, especially those who are receiving treatment for heroin and prescription drug abuse…

Problems Inside Davidson’s District

Last month, Portman visited my hometown of Eaton — touring a 104-bed women’s mental health and addiction treatment facility which opened here in January. Portman, after listening to some of the residents at the facility, said,

“A lot of them have been through treatment programs before, but what they found here that really works for them. A lot of it is the setting, but more of it is the curriculum here. They really take these women through the brain, what happens in the process of a disease like this.”

The article also quoted the head of a Preble County agency — an organization at the forefront of tackling our drug problem. The spokesperson said,

“What we know is there is not enough treatment to cover the rising epidemic and the amount of people who need treatment in the county.”

From my personal circle I know this to be true. Two individuals in my family circle had to seek treatment outside the county with one heading out of state.

This is what residents inside Ohio’s 8th Congressional District are dealing with and gutting health care will exasperate the situation.

We have two overwhelming needs in Preble County — increasing the availability of livable wage jobs and affordable mental health/drug addiction services. These are two situations Davidson could assist us with — if he chose to focus his energies on what the District needs instead of promoting some far-right ideology.

What Can We Do?

The short-term solution in a heavily-favored GOP district is for the moderate Republicans to find a viable primary candidate to run against Davidson in 2018. A longer-term solution is for voters to demand that Ohio abandon its gerrymandering approach to U.S. Congressional Districts. It’s the only way voters can be assured their voice is heard. It will also promote a more unified populace since we Americans are willing to accept an opponent if the ‘fight was fair.’ Without a level playing field, we Americans are subjected to a top-down management system where representatives are nothing more than salesmen for special interest groups.

Afterthought

When I read books about the colonial era, I’m always struck by the fundamental difference between the New England colony, populated mostly by educated Puritans, and the Virginia Colony, founded as a business venture and populated with the ‘refuse’ of Great Britain — which included my paternal line. In many ways, the distinction between the two major political parties were drawn in our colonial past. The New England colony was definitely influenced by Christianity and many of its laws promoted — and created — a more economically balanced society. Their political offspring would become the blue sections of the country.

The Virginia Colony operated much differently. It never hid its class structure and the poor were manipulated by the ruling elite. In time many of Virginia’s lower class were known as mudsills. Mudsill is a term lost to history. It was the bottom plank of a log cabin. The weight of the cabin would drive the plank deeper and deeper into the mud creating a solid foundation for the edifice. The term is fitting, even today, as the class of people who suffer the most in our society are those at the lowest end of the social-economic pile.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Age of Discontent, My America, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties

When Did We Become Too Calloused To Improve Our Country?

We have a lot of buildings, but a declining number of jobs, prompting some property owners to sell advertising space hoping to attract the attention of people travelling on nearby state highways.

I watched a comedy the other night with my wife — Going In Style. It was a typical, and fairly well-written, B-rated show about three retirees who, out of financial necessity, rob a bank.

Although the goal of the film is to make you laugh (which it did, but I like the three actors), the subplot is a harsh reminder of the society we created. The aged men, largely dismissed by society, are exploited by banking scams and their former employer (which legally robs them of their pension). The subplot is ripped from everyday life — referencing the banking scandals that led to the Great Recession.

Tag You’re It

In our current political chaos, we have created a society where a bully voice wins. And the louder someone yells or the more outrageous their claims, the more power we give them through air time or page views.

This has also led to a ‘tag you’re it’ blame game. The game is hardly new, just refined, but it always plays out the same. Regardless what the problem is — whether it is heroin addiction, job choice or insurance needs — the fault always lies with the individual, not the system.

The blame game is further exasperated by special interest groups which handpick our elected officials.

My Congressman, Warren Davidson, utilized the ‘tag you’re it’ model of blame when a mother asked how her adult son — employed in the service industry and insured through Medicaid via the ACA — was supposed to get insurance if the ACA was repealed. Davidson reportedly said,

OK, I don’t know anything about your son, but as you described him, his skills are focused in an industry that doesn’t have the kind of options that you want him to have for health care. So, I don’t believe that these taxpayers here are entitled to give that to him. I believe he’s got the opportunity to go earn those health benefits.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

It is the last sentence that speaks to the GOP’s unwillingness to address the real issue — the lack of economic opportunity. A party that has blended Herbert Spencer’s ‘survival of the fittest’ philosophy with Ayn Rand’s economic theories has gutted our communities with their horrendous approach to capitalism.

The man mentioned in the article doesn’t need career advice, he needs a livable wage job — and that is influenced by government policy. I’d bet the thought already crossed the man’s mind — that if he was going to work 40 hours a week — why not find a job that paid well and had good benefits.

Anyone who lives in Eaton  — or Enon — where Davidson was speaking that evening can easily determine the quality of jobs in the region. So, to suggest that the man just needs to land a better job is ludicrous.

We Want Solutions, Not A Marketing Campaign

In the 8th, the Club for Growth spent more than $1 million to help Davidson win the primary in 2015. In a gerrymandered District the primary is the de facto general election.

The Club’s policies, though, do not reflect the views of many of the constituents in the 8th. For example, the Club opposes farm subsidies and wants them completely eliminated. Between 1995 and 2014, Ohio farmers received $5.4 billion from the program. Of that $667 million was distributed to farmers inside Davidson’s district — with $107 million going to Preble County farmers.

Presumably, voters — at least the agricultural block that benefits from the program — do not share the Club’s view about farm subsidies.

So, Davidson has aligned with a special interest group whose policies, if enacted, could bring financial harm to people who cast a vote for him.

Who Is John Galt?

It seems to me that instead of politicians marketing a ‘free market’ agenda coupled with a stripped-down government approach of problem solving what residents inside the 8th really need is a government that works for them. We don’t need someone selling the philosophies of Ayn Rand or The Club for Growth.

Those philosophies won’t bring jobs to our region. They won’t help sustain family farms. They don’t reflect our values. Many here don’t even know how to pronounce Ayn. They couldn’t tell you the person’s gender, most haven’t read her books — but even Rand was pragmatic in the end.  She willfully cashed her Social Security checks even tbough she did not believe in the program. Apparently the will to live was stronger than her ideology.

And, although I don’t know for certain, I’m doubtful that many, if any, of the 100,000 members of the Club for Growth live inside Ohio’s 8th Congressional District.

Which begs the question — why are they influencing policy here?

Categories: 8th congressional district, Age of Discontent, My America, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties