This past week has been a doozy:
Unemployment figures (10.2% ‘official’, a whole lot more if you include ‘discouraged’ and ‘part-timers who’d like full time work) announced yesterday – along with the fact the companies are not only still shedding huge numbers of jobs..but are also not hiring
The news that the Catholic Bishops have been lobbying for anti-abortion language in the healthcare bill (considering that we’re supposed to be living under ‘separation of church and state’ and that the choice organizations have been whistling in the dark out there, not appearing to notice, this should be attracting much more attention that it has). Then, of course, there are the supposed pro-choice congressional representatives who … just don’t seem so pro-choice after all.
And, the latest Michele “crazy train’ Bachmann ‘go out there and harass Congress’ rally (attended by a bunch of the more narcissistic Republican House members plus some people who seem to believe that connecting prisoner treatment from Buchenwald is equivalent to healthcare reform), where the Republican’s own “Little Mary Sunshine” ordered her troops into congressional offices to harass and intimidate staffers and representatives.
In NY-23, the socalled Democratic candidate, Bill Owens (a born-again DINO if there were ever one) won because the right wing overplayed their hand while at the same time forcing the fairly liberal Republican candidate out through such high minded tactics as public humiliation, harassment and personal intimidation.
Let’s call this what it is: Thug Democracy. Political process through the use of the mob. Since when do our congressional representatives need to get protection from people who are two steps from pulling out a weapon, or punching someone in the nose? They need it now.
And they need it because something fundamental has changed in this country. Something so monstrous and incredibly basic to who we are and how we see ourselves as Americans that I am amazed that people are not screaming bloody murder about it. Americans used to see the country and the people in it as being part of a grand and growing experiment – the land of opportunity. What has happened over the past 20 years, basically since the Reagan Administration and the wholesale shipment of the great engine of the middle class, manufacturing, overseas, is the creation of today’s social and economic situation, where the vast majority of wealth in this country is in the hands of the few (and getting smaller all the time), and more and more people being crushed toward the bottom.
When you have that atmosphere, it starts to resemble nothing less than Charles Dickens’ London, where everyone fears anyone who they perceive as being below them, where limited opportunity fosters a ‘pull up the ladder’ attitude, and where people believe that the most important activity of their lives resides in keeping and holding tightly to whatever it is they think they have because they fear someone else is going to take it away from them or somehow degrade its value. Anyone who is poor (no matter what the reason) is obviously stupid, bad, or criminal. Anyone who has the bad luck to have something happen to them deserves it. Anyone who does not look like you, act like you, worship as you do, or view the world through the same lens that you do is an enemy. Anyone who needs care or attention or fostering, such as children or women, are seen as ‘unnecessary expenses’ or ‘burdens’ on the rest.
If we were getting a grade on one of those descriptive elementary school report cards of the deep (and perhaps sunnier) past, the country would receive a “Does not know how to share” grade.
People who in the past might have espoused what were seen as ‘open minded attitudes’ or ‘liberal’ attitudes, or fought for civil rights or women’s rights or a women’s right to choose – today can be heard to espouse bitterness toward poor women who need the right and the access to contraceptive and abortion services – and use the reason that they ‘don’t want their tax dollars to pay for abortions for people on welfare.’ Or, they say, “Everyone gets cared for if they show up at the ER.”
What changed for people? Fear. Fear of losing the job. Fear of losing money. Fear of retirement being one long series of meals of cat food. And who stokes that fear? We know all the usual suspects.
But the other part of this is that the other side just doesn’t get heard. It takes great energy and merit to stand up and call people like Michele Bachmann what she is. The Republicans may laugh and sneer at her and Sarah Palin behind closed doors, but they find people such as them, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to be very useful political tools, because for them, fear works.
A lot of us on the other side have been working very hard and a lot of us are very tired. It is extremely difficult to keep slogging through this swamp of hate and fear when there does not seem to be any fresh troops coming for relief. Somehow, we must engage young people a lot more in this fight – they have a tremendous amount to lose. There are no jobs for them and frankly, with what has happened and will continue to happen, there will be a very bleak future. We must somehow find a way to join hands with them, pull them up the ladder and make them our partners, lest we all wake up and find ourselves cemented into Dickens London in the 21st Century. And that is scary, because it means that we must fight for things that will not benefit us – we have to fight for the long term. We have to fight against, “I’ve got mine – screw you.”