Saturday, February 04, 2012

A Different America

(Click on the image to enlarge and then come back.)

David Horsey's latest column is titled "Donald Trump and Mitt Romney live in a different America," and he makes his point both in the cartoon and the post accompanying it.

Mitt Romney is not heartless, he's merely clueless when it comes to understanding the precarious position of the poor or even the beleaguered middle class. He’s never been there and, unlike the wealthy Bobby Kennedy, he has never shown much interest in finding out what it’s like.

The poor need more than a thin safety net and they need more than the false dream of a job somewhere down the line when the tax breaks of the rich trickle down to their level. They need a president intensely engaged in breaking the cycle of poverty, poor education, fractured families and criminal activity that has created a permanent American underclass.

While Horsey makes the point that the current president doesn't exactly fit the bill either, at least Obama doesn't go around freely making amazingly tone-deaf statements on the issue. Still, we do have two Americas: one for the 1% and the other for the rest of us. Citizens United certainly is adding to that divide, although the events of the last year do give me at least a little hope.

The OWS movement has given us the vocabulary to talk about the divide and has energized not only the young people who are doing much of the heavy lifting, but also older people from the entire economic range who are tired of having no representation. It may be winter, but Occupy! is still showing up, and shows no signs of disappearing.

Even before, OWS, however, there was Wisconsin. Thousands showed up in a literal blizzard to protest Governor Walker's blatant union busting and safety net shredding in that state. Recently, over a million voters signed petitions to recall Walker and that election is coming up. Taking the lead of Wisconsin, voters in Ohio voted to repeal similar legislation pushed by their governor.

But elected officials haven't been the only targets. Thousands of Bank of America customers, outraged by the addition of yet another bank charge, pulled their money out and put it into credit unions or community banks. People angered by the blatant attempt by entertainment industry to curtail file sharing and the right wing's attempt to set up a mechanism for closing down the internet when it became convenient bombarded their senators with petitions, emails, faxes, and telephone calls. The Senate backed off and canceled the vote on PIPA.

And this past week, the Komen Foundation faced the wrath of decent people who were outraged by its clumsy attempt to defund Planned Parenthood's program of breast exams and mammogram referrals as a way to finally close down the one place poor women could count on for reproductive health services. Once again, the powerful were humbled by the sheer numbers of people who weren't having any of that crap.

We're still a long way from a just America, but it does appear that large numbers of people are waking up to the fact that they do have power, a great deal of it and that when they mobilize that power with their neighbors they can make an astounding difference. We could actually have an American Spring.

I am still only cautiously optimistic, but that is something. And for that I am grateful.

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