What Would It Take for Us to Rise Up?

We’re so passive! I’m speaking to white folks this time. I see black folks starting to push back against conservative extremism. I have not seen many signs of life yet in the Hispanic community, or the Asian community, or any of the other cultural groups who make up large or small segments of our country. Right now I am speaking to the middle class, no matter what other groups they represent, but I am most familiar with the thoughts and actions of my family and my friends.

Yesterday’s celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington of 1963 was about milestones, but it was also a great and energetic call to action. With the current attempts to suppress the right to vote, the African-American community is likely to stay energized. It doesn’t matter whether Republicans are doing these voter “adjustments” to block Democrats or to block minorities from voting since the effect is the same. Minority voters have been voting for Democrats recently and who could fault them for it.

White folks in my social sphere are half in agreement with Conservatives because the middle class is buying the “taker” argument. It plays into some cultural unfairness they have been feeling. They have had it with folks, they say, who could work but don’t. They have all worked day in and day out, week in and week out, year after year and have scrimped and borrowed and repaid and saved. They do look forward to retirement with Social Security and Medicare to allow some leisure and some rest from their labors, but they have never been on Welfare, or SNAP (food stamps), or Medicaid (although an aging parent might have been on Medicaid at some point) and they are proud that they have taken care of their own needs.

These middle class Americans are divided, as is the rest of America, about ProLife vs. ProChoice. They don’t know much about regulation on Wall Street. They don’t usually own stock. They don’t know what to make of the ACA because it hasn’t gone into effect yet (except for their children who are in their twenties), but they know that health care in America costs too much. If they are still looked after by their doctors and if prices go down they will be fine with the ACA; if not they will grumble and you’ll hear their frustration. I don’t live in the South so my cohorts are not affected by many of the battles there; battles in which the Conservatives are actually challenging American laws.

These middle class-ers (new word) could quite easily agree to shut down Welfare (which they suspect of being a bigger program than it is), or food stamps, or social security disability (for those who are not truly disabled), or Medicaid. I don’t believe they have thought through what America will be like without these programs. If they think America has scary parts now (and they do) it will be even scarier if these programs go away. Those most affected would be America’s poor children and that will tear their hearts out since they are actually very compassionate people.

There are sections of our cities some of us never go into – not because of hate – because of fear and feelings that we will not be welcomed. There are invisible walls around our inner cities and they don’t just keep some people out, they keep some people in. Skin color delineates the wall but only poverty keeps people there. When you read about shootings every day in the news, shootings in certain neighborhoods of your city, it doesn’t make sense that you would want to go there. It is fear that has people rudely locking their car doors or waiting for the next elevator. (In fact, I never ride in an elevator alone with any man who is a stranger.) This is not done to hurt anyone’s feelings, although it is understood that it does; it is done because it makes us feel safer. (As if a locked car door could stop a bullet.)

Addiction is also part of this scenario. Maybe cities will always contain neighborhoods that less “adventurous” residents will want to avoid, but perhaps we can reach a place soon where the most frightening neighborhoods, the least beautiful neighborhoods are not occupied by those with the darkest skin. If fifty percent of inner city students do not graduate we have to find out why. Can we design schools these students will not want to leave? I think we can. I don’t think privatization of schools is intended to retain these students who leave. I think privatization is about separation (segregation). I hope I’m wrong about that. But education is the key to the doors that open up the middle class (as long as there are jobs to be had.)

So what will make my friends and my family rise up and send a do-nothing Congress home. Attacking unions hasn’t done it because we have almost no factories so unions have lost a lot of their power. Cutting public services and employees may eventually get through to them, but since these folks are pretty self-sufficient and don’t require government services very often (they believe), it will take longer for these affects to be felt. Of course, many members of the middle class have had those public (government) jobs that are now on the chopping block. If their pensions keep disappearing, they might rise up, but I hope that doesn’t happen.

I don’t even want the peeps to be violent. I’m not talking revolution here. I’m talking political activism, making elected Congressional representatives do their jobs or go home. If cuts make chaos, and ignoring climate change makes chaos they may decide to speak up, and if they lose Medicare and Social Security they may decide to speak up. If their lifestyles begin to erode they might speak up. They should really speak up now. They should speak up before things get this bad. The extreme right is not the friend of the middle class. Do you realize that some states are breaking their paved roads up to make gravel roads which require less upkeep (Rachel Maddow tells us)? What’s that about? Is it about small government or impoverished government? Doesn’t this scare you? If scares me. Something might come along to save us but I don’t see it on the horizon yet.

Speak up; don’t give up the American Dream just yet. Hold on to as much of it as you can for as long as you can. Fight, fight, fight! (Fight verbally, within the law, with your voice, with your vote.) Stand up and be counted! I can’t believe you all are still so silent. Maybe you really do want small government and an end to having a social safety net. I just don’t think you’ll be happy with that state of affairs once it really applies and no one can tell anyway because you’re not saying anything.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com


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