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Joshua Nordman: Victim or Criminal?Daniel Johnson Salem-News.com
If Nordman had had some economic lifeboat so he and his family could continue to live (not just survive) with dignity and decency, the idea of robbing a bank would surely never have entered his thoughts.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - On the morning of June 23, 2009, Joshua Nordman walked into the Willamina branch of Bank of America, handed the teller a “threatening” note and walked away with an undisclosed amount of cash. (see: Yamhill Deputies Arrest Willamina Bank Robbery Suspect - Salem-News.com)
He apparently made no attempt to hide his identity from the security cameras and was apprehended without incident a little more than two hours later at his home.
Under our system of law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but in this case, I doubt that anyone would dispute the facts as just presented.
Joshua Nordman is a married father of four who lost his job last week and who, for an unknown reason, was unable to admit this to his wife, Tammy. She wrote to Salem-News.com: “That man in those photos to me is a man who loved his family so much that he didn't have the courage to tell us that he lost his job, so he lost himself and did a stupid thing.” He is “someone who just had a breaking point.”
I don’t know Joshua or anything else about him other than what I’ve read in the news stories but Tammy told us: “He is one of the best fathers I have ever seen, I was so proud that my kids had him for a father.”
Did he really commit a crime? I don’t believe he did, at least not the one he is charged with. He terrified the teller, no doubt, and for that our thoughts must go out to that otherwise innocent person. If it was up to me, I would require him to somehow make amends to her. After all, he gave the money back which is, I suggest, the least relevant issue in this whole story.
American society under indictment
There are two fundamental approaches to the meaning of this story.
Conservative law professor John O. McGinnis once wrote in The National Review that
“The depiction of our species that is emerging from Darwinism—as composed of individuals who are basically self-interested yet capable of altruism toward family and friends; who are unequal in their abilities yet remarkably similar in their aspirations—comports with fundamental premises of conservative thought.”
To conservatives, man is an animal who has not risen above his animal nature and that, for survival, it’s every man for himself!
This, in my view, is an indictment of the American people who have been brainwashed into allowing such an anti-human attitude to dominate their social life. As film maker Michael Moore said: “We're plagued with an every-man-for-himself attitude. That attitude may have been good in helping us build this country and helping us become the innovators that we are. But we won't make it through the 21st century intact as a great country if we don't adopt a different ethos that says we're all in the same boat. We sink or swim together. We have to help each other.” (It’s not a great deal better up here in Canada.)
Some do have a larger perspective. When she was at the International Space Station last February, astronaut Sandra Magnus said in an interview: “Up here I've seen the world from a different viewpoint. I see it as a whole system, I don't see it as a group of individual people or individual countries. We are one huge group of people and we're all in it together.”
WAKE UP, AMERICA!
Who owns the earth?
The 13th century Roman Catholic, Saint Thomas Aquinas argued in Summa Theologica that private property is a public trust. “Whatever some people possess in superabundance is due by natural law to the purpose of succoring the poor” concluding that “if there is no other remedy it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another’s property by taking it either openly or secretly.”
Although Nordman has almost surely never heard of Aquinas’ argument, I argue that there is a cosmic law that overrides the limitations of what comes out of our heads and onto the statute books. We are all part of the cosmic web of life and this idea of every man for himself is a concept of Social Darwinism which is simply an extension of the Victorian ethos of the nineteenth century, so horrifically described by Charles Dickens. For those who still believe that man is still stuck in the mud of the earth—I leave to their sterile and barren thoughts.
The Bank of America
The Bank of America is a multi-billion dollar corporation (2008 revenues: $119 billion, profit $15 billion). The key word is corporation which, in law is a fictitious person. Who owns the Bank of America? Nobody, it turns out. As a corporation it is a limited liability entity with no one responsible for the corporation’s actions.
The B of A has many shareholders, but they have no responsibility for anything. All they do is what Gordon Gekko said in the 1987 movie Wall Street: “I create nothing. I own.” So, in a moral sense, Nordman didn’t steal from anyone.
I would never try to convince a judge with any of these arguments, but they set us up to look at the system from a different perspective.
I don’t dispute that there are legitimate investments and shareholders. Take Salem-News.com as an example. It started as an idea in the heads of one or more people. It requires the existence of some capital to establish and operate but it is in the process of creating something new in society. The mammoth corporations of America are far beyond this limitation. There are individuals who just buy and sell shares in these companies.
The richest 400 people in America have combined assets of about $1.5 trillion. But, remarked business critic Ferdinand Lundberg more than 40 years ago: “Today, the biggest money rewards in the American system come from simply sitting and listening to the reading of a will, which can scarcely be construed as a social contribution. Intellectually, it looks medieval.” It’s even more medieval in 2009.
I once wrote a book (never published) called The Milk and Cream Theory of Economics. The theory, simply put, is that there are economic cycles and through each cycle the workers get the milk to survive, but the elites siphon off the “cream”. A simplistic, but accurate theory.
In 2008 the Fortune 500 companies had total sales/revenues of more than $10 trillion and profits (after taxes) of nearly $650 billion. This latter amount, the cream, goes to the shareholders. Most importantly, none of this money goes into the commonweal to make the nation and world, better for everyone. The rich keep it for themselves. The workers, the disenfranchised, create this wealth.
We work to live, not live to work
Joshua Nordman had a job and, being in jail notwithstanding, now he doesn’t. He is what I call one of the “economic dead”; one of many such millions in today’s society. As long as a corporation needs a worker, he has a job. BUT when downsizing and offshoring occur the worker is economically murdered. I cannot stress this point strongly enough.
It is at then that the worker is cut loose to survive on his own. There is no adequate safety net for workers who are left to twist in the wind. How is a worker to survive until jobs come back? The corporation takes no interest or responsibility. This is where the immorality of the corporate system appears. The corporation takes when it is of advantage to itself and, when it is not, it does not give back. It leaves it to the rest of society, you and me (it’s no different here in Canada) to give the economically dead a subsistence existence. Think of the last great economic dislocation of the 1930s. No longer needed, the excess workers were cast off to ride the rails and beg at the back doors of houses.
If Nordman had had some economic lifeboat so he and his family could continue to live (not just survive) with dignity and decency, the idea of robbing a bank would surely never have entered his thoughts. Work should always pay more than idleness but in situations of enforced idleness, the living standard should not depend on food banks and charity.
Joshua Nordman is a victim, broken by an inhuman system, not a criminal.
Wake up, America. You have created for yourselves a shallow, materialistic, money-grubbing society. There’s nothing great about America beyond its military might—and what some individual Americans do. America is a country about which you can say you love the people, but hate the country.
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class—a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves—writing and trying to make the world a better place
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