The American Dream is over the hill quite a distance away. The line is long, and more often than not, it is no longer moving. You don’t really want to look behind you to see just how many are farther behind than you. You’ve done everything right, you’ve worked hard, paid your taxes, played by the rules. You deserve to be at the front of the line, not back here with lazy people who just want to freeload off the government.
And then you notice people cutting in line ahead of you. Some are immigrants, legal or otherwise; some are minorities; some are women; doesn’t matter who they are, they’re getting in line ahead of you and someone is helping them — more often than not the Government — but no one is helping you.
And you’re tired of liberals telling you that you should feel bad for those behind you in line; that you should feel guilty for resenting those cutting in line ahead of you.
You grow to resent the government and liberals.
This is the concept of a book I recently read, called Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russel Hochschild.
You couple this with success in our society is based on how much money you make for yourself or someone else, not on the impact you have on the lives of others. You start to make decisions based on the return on investment, be that investment time or money. It seeps into your decisions about who to associate with at work, you select a spouse based on how well they can provide for you, you vote for your interests not the country’s. You’ve got yours, everyone else can go get their own.
Then you’re sold the myth of meritocracy, that all you have to do is work harder, longer, smarter. You’re working multiple jobs, coming home exhausted and unable to spend much time with your family, but you don’t seem to be getting anywhere, so self-doubt begins to set in, I must be doing something wrong because everyone else appears to be doing ok.
Something just feels wrong about all of this so some turn to churches that talk about the value of a strong work ethic, of family values. Many churches have been co-opted by the Republican Party or the conservative media. They share a message of “It’s not YOUR fault, it’s THEIR fault — that minority, that immigrant, that woman, why isn’t she at home taking care of her kids so I could have her job? You’re doing everything right, THEY are the problem. Vote for Republicans, we’ll fix your problems.”
The media jumps on board the division train pitting left against right, Republicans against Democrats, they say that blaming the rich is “class warfare.” Everyone likes to identify up and prefers to believe they’ll someday be rich and wouldn’t want to pay all of those taxes, not wanting to realize they are one car repair or medical bill away from a financial tailspin that could lead to bankruptcy or poverty.
They have divided us and so we turn on each other. We blame the government, the media, the damned liberals who want to take my money to give everyone free stuff. Never does it cross our minds that someone is pulling the strings in government. We keep electing people who say they hate government, they appoint people to key positions who want to destroy government, and when government becomes impotent and can no longer protect or help us, we turn scream even more about how dysfunctional it is…and elect another Republican who hates government as much as you do.
Who is pushing that narrative? Who is pulling the strings of elected officials? Why is it they keep saying they’re going to fight for the middle class but the middle class is shrinking?
News flash: It’s not poor people, minorities, immigrants. If they had that much power they wouldn’t be poor or marginalized. So if it’s not them and it’s not you, who is it?
What do we call them? The 1%? The 1/10th of 1%? The corporatocracy? The oligarchy? The plutocracy? The rich & powerful? The donor class? Call them what you want, but reality is that the rich & powerful contribute large amounts of money to get people elected that will serve their agenda. And if they are successful, those politicians will leave office and have a cushy job at a lobbying firm, or on a corporate board, or they might get a cable news show.
So the rich and the powerful buy the best government money can buy so they can have laws written to give them more wealth and power. Yet somehow you can’t be angry at them, it’s easier to pick on the people cutting in front of you in line.
Are you pissed yet? Good! That means you’re still with me and that I’ve hit a nerve. Kind of like biting down on an ice cube and a shot of pain seers through your jawbone and into your temple. It’s a signal that there is something wrong and you’ve been ignoring it as long as you can, but now it’s too painful to avoid.
None of this makes you stupid, ignorant, or gullible. It means you’re human, and you’re exhausted and you probably don’t know who or what to believe any more. The game is rigged against you but you’re not powerless, you don’t have to fall into the role of victim. You have a vote. I’m not trying to persuade you to vote Democratic because too much of that party has sold its soul to Wall Street as well.
Maybe who you need to vote for are the people that the media demonizes the most. If Nancy Pelosi was weak & worthless, FOX News wouldn’t attack her daily. Bernie is saying things that make some sense to you, but the media has convinced you he’s a damned socialist — Elizabeth Warren is derided as Pocohantas and now there are new ones like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez or Rashida Tlaib to be concerned about, they’re not following established norms. The very norms to purport to despise. You hate the Establishment but you get upset when new members work outside of it.
They are not tearing these people down because they ineffective, they are doing so precisely because they do have an impact, they have influence, they are on to something. And if those damned Democrats are able to convince YOU to listen to them, it means you might finally realize the Corporatocracy has sold you a bill of goods.
It’s greed. Pure & simple. No matter how much they have, they want more. It’s a pathological pursuit of profits and they don’t care about you unless you’re buying what they’re selling. Otherwise, you’re of no use to them.
The corporate owned media has convinced you Democrats are trying to take things away from you to give to someone else, when reality is they’re fighting to make your life better. But if you vote for them, if you vote for Bernie or Kamala or Elizabeth or any other Democratic candidate, you’re voting for one the enemy.
But we’re not your enemy. We’re just like you. We all want the dignity of a decent job that pays a living wage so we can have a roof over our head, food on the table, a good neighborhood with good schools, the ability to go on vacation once a year, to pay for our kids’ college, our daughter’s wedding and to retire with enough in savings or Social Security to live our golden years with dignity.
Democrats are pushing for universal, affordable health care so you won’t go bankrupt if your crappy insurance (if you have insurance) doesn’t pay for a major health crisis. They’re pushing for affordable or debt-free college tuition at state schools so that your kids will have a brighter future without be saddled with crippling debt. They’re fighting for stronger unions so you have a voice at work and can bargain for better wages & working conditions. They are fighting for equal rights, a judicial system that treats everyone fairly and objectively no matter how much money or influence you do or do not have.
How is that bad? Because they might ask the wealthy or corporations to pay more taxes? You do realize that when our country was booming, the upper tax bracket was much higher than it is today? You do realize that 83% of the recent tax cuts benefited 1% of the population? You do realize that without those revenues, the federal government won’t be able to fund state governments, that won’t be able to fund city & county governments, and because they must balance their budgets, you’ll make up the difference with levies, sales tax, and fees for services.
They don’t care about you, they’re exploiting you. Stop letting them do that. Vote for someone different. Vote for someone who rejects corporate PAC money, who is funding through grassroots supporters and small donations. Then they are beholden to the people instead of corporate interests.
Congress has about a 9–12% approval rating yet 94% of incumbents get reelected. Then people scream about term limits, that no one should be in office for that long. Well then VOTE THEM OUT. Stop voting for the incumbent, for the same straight party ticket, and for the love of God, please stop listening to attack ads during campaigns to make your decision.
So, back to that line. It’s at a standstill NOT because the Government is inefficient or helping others get ahead of you. It is no longer moving because of globalization, automation, and the concentration of wealth into the hands of a few billionaires who hand pick their candidates.
Rich people have convinced middle class people that poor people are robbing you blind. It’s the rich who have been doing it. Find out who they are backing in an election and vote for someone else. Give newcomers a chance. Just because you don’t know their name doesn’t mean they won’t represent you well.
The next time you go to vote for an incumbent, ask yourself this question: Sure I know his name, but does he know mine? Does he reply to my calls, emails, letters? Do you ever see him in your district and is he approachable?
If the answer to those questions is no, why would you give him your vote again?
You don’t have to be the victim here. You don’t have to wait in line. You don’t have to play the game. You just need to understand how the game is played and understand that right now the Corporations have paid off the referees. So don’t buy their stuff, find a small local business or co-op to support instead. Vote with your wallet and vote to replace the referees.
Realize there are more of us than there are of them, and if we just banded together, we could gain the upper hand and have a society that works for all of us and not just the few.
Theresa Gasper is a small business owner, a former Republican, a voracious reader and lifelong Daytonian. She recently ran for US Congress in the Ohio 10th district against a Republican incumbent. Her guiding purpose in life is simply to make a difference.