We the People

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Lately I have been struggling a bit. Everywhere I look things are crunching, twisting, turning into mangled shapes of forgotten diplomacy, impending war, children ripped from their parents and locked in cages. We have come to the brink with a terrible momentum and impetus that is threatening to propel us into the abyss. Somehow we have lost our way, our moral code got jammed.

This was exacerbated by a decision I made to look into and write brief profiles of the Democratic candidates challenging for the presidency. It was a depressing look at two dozen educated, ambitious, successful people rushing to say almost exactly the same thing. I hit a new low.

I needed something, some boost. Fortunately last weekend was Street Fair in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Yellow Springs is a Democratic outpost in the middle of Trump country. You don’t see many MAGA hats in Yellow Springs.

I walked the streets, looking at the tie dye, the peace symbols, the handmade soap and incense. It was refreshing. I saw the “My Body My Choice” shirts, signs saying, “We don’t care where you were from, you are welcome here.” It was repeated in four languages. I looked at “No Fracking Way” hats and I realized things were not hopeless. 

It was an epiphany. I knew we could never give in. It became obvious. We need to demand more. We deserve better.

I understood the appeal Trump had for all of the MAGA hat wearing, screaming, xenophobes. He had big ideas, most of them were mean in spirit, and blatantly prejudicial, but he shouted them from the dais with the zeal of an evangelist called to witness. He appealed to something stronger than reason, deeper than patriotism, and they responded. The fire Trump lit was based on something old and primitive, the same thing despots have used to climb to the top for thousands of years: a common enemy. 

And the Democrats need to respond. It is time for bold, brash ideas. They need to get past the hollow excuse of electability. Nobody would have thought Trump was electable. Yet, here we are. Democrats need to have a passion. They need to light a fire, too, a fire based on the common bond of enlightened compassion and shared possibility. 

There are things in this country that need to be repaired, and are repairable. There are things that are approaching critical mass, but there is still time, if we act.

Do you realize that it is impossible for a person working full time making minimum wage to afford a one bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S. Taking care of a family is out of the question. That is a problem. It is also something that needs to be factored into any rosy pictures about jobs and employment. If a person is working and can’t afford to live, eat, occasionally see a movie and still stash a little dough for emergencies or retirement, there is something wrong. The minimum wage needs to be raised.

Our healthcare system is destroying our economy. Thirty percent of people who file for bankruptcy do so because of medical emergencies. This is made even more disturbing by the fact that 78 percent of these people had health insurance that failed to cover their expenses. People routinely have to choose between buying groceries and paying medical bills. There has to be a reaction; things are getting worse every year. It is time for single-payer insurance, “Medicare for all,” something — some way to keep staying healthy from killing people.

In the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — the cornerstone of the Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan middle-class reduction campaign — homeowners in high tax states like New Jersey will lose $323 billion in deductions. These are the most extreme examples, but middle-class families everywhere will feel the squeeze. While the code is complicated, almost impossible, it has been accepted as fact that the wealthiest have benefitted in an alarming way. And the deficit grows yearly, with no sign of slowing. Trickle-down doesn’t work. It is time to make taxes fair, time to make everybody pay their share.

These are not wild, left-wing socialist ideas. These are baseline measures, things that have to happen. Just to have a chance to save the people. These are just the paddles in the back of the ambulance. There are dozens more. Equal rights need to be equal; that shouldn’t have to be said in 2019, but it does. It is un-American to lock children in cages; that shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. We need to end the wars we have become mired in, not start looking for more, but we are in the middle of looking for the next one right now. How many more reasons do we need?

We need to demand the candidates address these disasters. It is time to rise up and demand action. We can’t let superdelegates decide the next candidate based on seniority, or the “electability” factor. We need a candidate who is not afraid of the moment. And if we don’t make enough noise, well, shame on us.


Featured image: Ken Ratcliff/Flickr

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