Not only is it a disgrace that a nation endowed with the enormous wealth of the US neglects the working class and the poor -- it is morally reprehensible, even criminal. Some of our founding fathers did not believe in equality -- a fact they neglected to tell us in history class. There was much debate about whether or not non-property owners would have the right to vote or to govern. The original intent of some was to create a plutocracy in which those with wealth and property would govern those without. The first inhabitants of what is now America were never included in the equation; nor were non-whites or women. How could this be called democracy?
Capitalism is the paradigm that drives the economic and the philosophical engines of America. So ingrained in the collective psyche of society is capitalism that it is rarely questioned, much less challenged on the grounds of social justice. Capitalism is the antithesis of democracy. Therefore it is the enemy of social justice. This economic system concentrates wealth at the top of the economic ladder, in the hands of the rich and powerful. Those who occupy all but the uppermost rungs are left to scramble for the crumbs that fall from the top. Thus the form of government we have much more closely resembles a plutocracy than it does a democracy.
Trickle down economics have never served the interest of working class people, especially the poor. Concentrated wealth and power cannot serve the needs of social justice. Only when wealth and power are distributed equitably will this occur. All power must rest in the hands of ordinary working people. It is they who must decide their fate, not wealthy plutocrats and corporatists, who do not know the meaning of sacrifice or justice.
Because enormous power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a privileged few, we find ourselves in our present precarious position near the cliff’s edge. We are losing our tenuous hold and a vortex of chaos and uncertainty swirls menacingly below. Rather than using our national wealth for the public good, those in power have usurped our tax dollars to further increase their enormous wealth and to tighten their grip on power. The rich always prey upon the middle class and the poor. They send us to suffer and to expire at the altar of corporate greed, to die in wars in distant lands. They condemn us to work at menial jobs that generate enormous wealth for the corporate CEOs, while paying the workers slave wages, often without health benefits.
Apart from its fabulous wealth, America is distinguished from the rest of the world by its bristling military muscle, which is the result of the concentration of power and wealth. Militarism does not further the aims of democracy and freedom, as we are told. Its real purpose is to protect the financial interests of wealthy investors, to open world markets to the exploitation of cheap labor -- and to make the world safe for relentless corporate abuse and plunder. That is the real purpose of America’s war machine. Our young people need to know this before entering the military. They must decide whether or not these are causes they wish to die for.
As evidence for this view, 52 cents out of every dollar in the federal treasury ultimately finds its way into the bottomless coffers of the Pentagon. Our total military expenditure far exceeds the entire gross national product of many nations. It exceeds by far the expenditures of our nearest competitors combined.
Were so many of our resources not subverted to overt militarism, we would have universal health care. We would have the best schools and universities in the world. There would be no hungry children; no homeless or disenfranchised people sleeping on sidewalks on bitter winter nights. Our veterans hospitals would not be filled with broken men and women who thought they were serving their country when, in reality, they were serving empire. The needs of the elderly would be provided. Growing old would not be the hardship that it is now. There would be no poor, and no class divisions to separate us. Everyone who wanted a higher education would be able to get it because of our national bounty. There would be more than enough to go around if the wealth were equitably distributed. Our young people would not be placed in harm’s way, occupying sovereign nations while helping corporations to steal their wealth. Every working person would earn a living wage in a safe and clean work place. The family unit would be intact. The workweek would be significantly shorter than 40 hours.
The people would not be misled by a corporate media subservient to money and power. Poor minorities would not be the sacrificial lambs for the war machine that threatens our planet’s life support systems, because there would be no poor minorities, and there would be no war. We would not be led astray by the lies of pasty-faced war pimps, who by virtue of their positions of wealth and privilege will never encounter the cost of war -- who do not know the meaning of personal sacrifice. Their path has been paved with the blood and sweat of those they tread upon without a thought. They are men and women with social pedigrees who do not know the meaning of struggle, whose bellies have never known the pangs of want and hunger.
To our utter shame, we are the only industrialized nation in the hemisphere that does not provide universal health care to its citizens. But we grant enormous welfare to obscenely wealthy corporations on a scale that boggles the mind. We provide tax cuts to the wealthy by stealing from the middle class and the poor. We are a nation that encourages the rich to prey upon the poor with impunity.
One of our greatest citizens, Dr. Martin Luther King, stated: “Silence is betrayal.” Those in power expect the rest of us to remain silent and servile. They expect us live on dirt while they dine on steaks and lobster and consume goblets of wine. Their tenuous hold on power, endowed by the privileges of class they enjoy, depends upon our continued self-betrayal through silence, indifference and apathy. They expect the multitudes to continue to sacrifice so they can have more and lord extraordinary power over us. They require us to continue to die in wars and to tolerate intolerable inequity. Why should we?
Enough, I say! Let us stand upright like men and fight for all that is sacred and decent about America. We will never have a just society by being silent and remaining ignorant. We have no rational choice but to open our eyes and to see things as they really are. We have a moral obligation not only to speak out against injustice; we have an obligation to act against it. That is our duty as citizens; it is our duty as servants of justice and peace.
Revolutionary change is never easy. Its currency is blood, sweat and tears. Revolution demands personal sacrifice and courage. Direct action and civil disobedience is the only thing that has ever brought justice to the oppressed in this or any land. The forty-hour workweek and the weekend are the result of such struggle. American child labor ended because of massive direct action and civil disobedience. The Civil Rights Act is the result of millions of people committed to social justice taking to the streets day after day and demanding justice. The Vietnam War was brought to an end only when citizens took to the streets in mass to end the killing. It is not enough to simply say no with our conscience and with our spirit. We must also say no with our bodies. It has always been so.
Justice is always born of struggle. Nothing less can bring about the kind of change America needs. There are no easy solutions. A price must be paid. We all know what happens to revolutionaries in America. Coretta Scott King and her children certainly know. Dr. King showed us the way out of the morass we helped to create through apathy and indifference. A man like Dr. King only comes along once in lifetimes. Do enough of us have the courage and strength of character to follow his example?
Charles Sullivan is a furniture maker, photographer, and freelance writer living in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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