Thursday, August 2, 2018

T'row da bums OUT!

Warum ist Amerika „das Land der unbegrenzten Möglichkeiten?“

I was asked that question by a fifth-grader in a Kiel classroom in Northern Germany, when I visited a school where a former teacher of mine was teaching back in 1961. “Why is America ‘the land of unlimited opportunity?’”

The question caught me off guard. Where did this 11-year old kid pick up language like that, I wondered. They were prepared for my visit, so I imagined a conversation around the breakfast table that morning. “An American is coming to visit us today and we’re supposed to have questions ready to ask. What should I ask him?”  Maybe mama comes up with, “Ask him what he likes about Germany” and papa suggests the unlimited opportunity question. (This was still pre-feminism days, and I’m only 21, so allow me the unenlightened thought process here.) It didn’t occur to me that the kid was just a bright kid in a good educational system and maybe he came up with the question all by himself.

I’ll never know. If the kid is still around, he’s now in his late 60s and is probably asking questions like, “How is it that what was once a land of unlimited opportunity could become what it is today?”

I’d have as much trouble answering that question as I did the first one and would have to fall back and recommend an entire library of American Studies books on the topic.

I stumbled for an answer and came up with a cowardly dodge. “Why do you think Germany is not a “land of unlimited opportunity?”

His answer was “because Germany is divided,” and that led me to believe the kid had a political consciousness beyond his years and, whether the answer was right or wrong, was on his way to active participation in a working democracy.

I live in Berkeley, California, just six blocks north of the Oakland city limits. Many see Berkeley as Oakland’s rich neighbor to the north. I protest when they say that that we have lots of low income people here, too. Like myself, for example. I’m living on social security and if you look just at my income from non-investment sources, I’m well below the poverty line. That shows you the problem with actuarial and other wealth-measurements, which are easily manipulated to mask or overlook the big picture. For me, living in a Bay Area home which I own mortgage-free, to cry poor would be a nasty insult to those struggling to keep their heads above water, financially.

Complexity in numbers aside, the fact is that America is a land of opportunity for only some of its citizens and anything but for an ever increasing portion of the population.

Otis R. Taylor, who writes a column for the East Bay (Oakland/Berkeley and other towns across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco) in the San Francisco Chronicle has an article in today’s paper on racial inequity in Oakland. For starters, 28% of the city’s population is black, but also black are 70% of its homeless. And that’s only the beginning. The median income for white households is $110,000. For blacks, it’s $37,500. It’s worth mentioning that the other two large minority groups are in the middle, with Hispanics at $65,000 and Asians at $76,600.

It’s also worth mentioning that Oakland was once a major black population center, but once the housing prices started rising, blacks were priced out. Between 2000 and 2010 the black population decreased by 25%. In 1980 they were about 47% of the population; today they are down to about 28%. It’s an open secret that blacks were especially adversely affected by the housing crisis in 2008, when the rich bankers were bailed out and the black exodus from Oakland was in full swing. 

San Francisco has had a similar drop in its black population.   In 1970 they were 13.4% of the population; today they comprise less than 6%. In San Jose, they are down to 3%. Segregation is still a problem, and it’s another open secret that blacks were forced by housing costs to live in high crime areas like Hunter’s Point and the Western Addition. White people need to remember that any illusion that they gather into “their own areas” by choice is negated by these statistics on the drop in black population. Black people have even more reason to escape high crime areas than white people do. Who wants to raise their kids in places where it’s next to impossible to keep them from being bullied into gang membership?

There are reasons I’ve been banging on about attacking head-on the American conviction that socialism is a dirty word. Combining socialism with democracy is, to my way of thinking, just another way of labeling the process of removing the albatross around America's neck that is racism once and for all. And by that I mean white people need to stop associating the word racism with individuals and protesting, “I’m not a racist.” We need to use the black lens and see racism systemically. It’s in our institutions – the fact that our “right to move freely” often masks the tricks we have for assigning different places for blacks and whites to live. The fact that the white lady with nine yachts in Orange-Stain’s cabinet working to promote charter schools at a terrible cost to public schools – where the black kids go – is part of the story. That kids can’t do well in school if they are hungry, or frightened or confined to restricted experiences with the larger world outside of school, and if we want to lift the next generation out of poverty we have to look at the entire environment kids live in – and not just their schools and playgrounds. And that's how I see the democratic socialist/social democratic approach differing from the mainstream democratic approach - they focus more clearly and intensely on the big picture, the complete environment a kid grows up in, while the Hillary/Trump mainstream parties still think they can Rube Goldberg the status quo into better government.

Living in a social democracy doesn’t mean robbing the enterprising rich to toss money at the undeserving poor. We need to recognize that as Republican bullshit. It means living in a society where those who live in a community which allows them to make great wealth share enough of that wealth to assure the best possible policies for enhancing health, welfare and security for the entire population.

The current administration is killing American society as a national community of shared interests, shared goals and a common fate. After lowering the personal responsibility of the superrich to look out for the national welfare, and adding trillions to the national debt, it is now proposing yet another tax cut for the guys at the top – a billion dollar cut for the superrich which the president can make happen all by himself, without having to pass the idea through the legislative branch of government.

It’s like the only game in town is to increase the outrageous injustice on a daily basis.

And it goes on and on and on, this Republican Party and its reverse Robin Hood monetary policies.

Come on. We all know we are being jerked around by a bunch of rich white guys in government doing the bidding of the superrich to the detriment of everybody else.

Get these guys out!

Vote for the democratic socialist wing of the Democratic Party. If you can’t get yourself to do that, vote for anybody in the Democratic Party.

But get these Republican greedy bastard Trump enablers OUT!

photo credit


1 comment:

Dwight said...

Your thoughts on democratic socialism are brought out quite powerfully in George Lakey's "Viking Economics". Denmark, Norway and Sweden, midst twists and turns, have settled on a system which really works for them--and, as Lakey indicates, can work for others as well. Lakey is a longtime activist, teacher, writer and Quaker.