Imagine a country where almost all of the wealth is inherited by a small elite; where most people are living in abject poverty, powerless, desperate, willing to work in almost any conditions for a pittance and be grateful for the opportunity; where decent health care and education are available only to the rich; where people brandish firearms in public; where corporations dump waste wherever it is most convenient without regard to the effects on the environment or the surrounding community; where the roads and bridges are crumbling; where police brutality against the underclass is rampant; and where the government is corrupt, primarily focused on protecting the privileges of the well connected elite, and willing to use military force against its own people to suppress dissent. I have seen places like this. I enjoyed my visits, but I was acutely aware of my position of privilege and glad that I had a much better place to come home to.
As unbelievable as it seems, there appears to be a well funded campaign to transform the United States of America into such a country. Globalization has already vastly increased the wealth of the privileged few while undermining the position of the middle class. This the effect of this is compounded by reducing taxes on the wealthy. They are even attempting to eliminate inheritance taxes, as if hoping to reestablish an aristocracy. For the very poor, they show little concern. They want to gut the safety net entirely, and seem particularly galled by any attempt to provide universal health insurance. They want to keep the minimum wage as low as possible and undermine collective bargaining rights. They want to turn education into a profit making enterprise, where, inevitably, quality will be guaranteed only to those who can afford it. They advocate “open carry” laws, and, when these are passed, they brandish weapons in restaurants and toy stores. They try to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and undermine environmental regulation at every turn. They object to spending money on the public infrastructure. They create pretended social welfare organizations whose real purpose is to provide cover for massive funding of political campaigns, corrupting politicians and drowning out honest dialogue with deceitful misrepresentations. And now in Ferguson, Missouri, after a young man died at the hands of the police, we have the specter of the modern military weaponry being used against our own citizens. In Guatemala, all of this could be considered conservative. In the United States, in the twenty first century, it is at best misguided; it cannot be said to be conserving anything.
Wake up, America! Do not abandon the gains we have made in the past century. Let the tragedy in Ferguson be a turning point, not just in race relations in a Missouri suburb, but in the direction of the nation. Let us devote ourselves to making sure that the long arc of history truly bends toward equality, liberty and justice for all.