Big Government Be Damned?

OK. So Nancy Pelosi says Republicans are anti-government ideologues. My question: So why do they run for office?

If one does not believe in government, then what do such political candidates believe in? Why spend literally millions of dollars to be elected to office? Why are they there?

What do these anti-government ideologues want? They don’t want the government to do anything for the underdogs of our society.  They prefer for the private sector to do that, some kind of way. But doesn’t the private sector, businesses, want to make money most of all, and are pretty much not concerned with the well-being of those who do the work?

President Calvin Coolidge said that the business of government is business. Some have said that democracy and capitalism, as two belief sets, are not compatible. Democracy as we have come to understand it, or the way many interpret it, is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We who believe in democracy have internalized that to mean ALL people.

But capitalism is different. Capitalism seems to adhere more to the line of thought which promotes the “survival of the fittest.” Capitalists scorn those who cannot “make it,” and do not believe that democracy is supposed to mean that everybody can and should get the same benefits. Capitalists promote the thought that the only reason some people don’t make it is because they do not try, especially in America.

True, there are more opportunities for attaining the so-called “American Dream” in these United States, but some people really try to make it and just cannot. Maybe it’s because of extenuating circumstances or personality flaws, but maybe it’s because of something called discrimination. Surely that cannot be ruled out, no?

If it were not for government, people who have dealt with discrimination wouldn’t have had any protection, it seems. Blacks, browns, women …have all had to call on government for help and fairness when business and/or society would not budge. Government acted …albeit slowly …to insure a more level playing field for those who had been essentially pushed off to the sidelines.

So, there IS a need for government.

So, if there was no “big government,” what would happen to those who are making their way to center field now? Would there be a repeat of post-Reconstruction, when blacks, who had made political and economic gains were essentially pushed back into legalized slavery in the system known as “convict leasing?”

The federal government really stayed out of the Southern states after Reconstruction got underway, and slowly, state governments began to return their society to the way it had been before. The powers that be didn’t want blacks, and certainly not women, to have the opportunities that white men had. They didn’t even think blacks should have been freed from slavery.

Big government, then, has its place, it would seem. When people are trying to make money, they want to make money, not babysit or placate people who are having a hard time making it. They want the most work for the least buck, period. Without a big government that cares about people, many ordinary folks would just be out of luck.

That’s not to take away the fact that some people are extremely skillful at pushing against the resistance that comes with pursuing any dream. Some people just will not quit, and they deserve to move ahead. Vince Lombardi once said “winning isn’t everything but it is the only thing.” That is the mantra for many people and it works.

But some people with a little less chutzpah, or a whole lot more discrimination working against them, need help. Heck, even the most tenacious people need help. So if that help comes from big government, that should be OK.

Of course, this conversation is kind of superfluous. Everybody calls on government once in a while, whether or not one is pro or anti-big government. Everyone has a sense of entitlement when something catastrophic happens; then we want our government to kick into gear, and be BIG.  If the government does not, we get indignant.

But we tend to only understand, as human beings, our own needs, and cast the needs of others aside. We don’t even want to think about the “have-nots” too much; we avoid really getting to know why they are where they are, because to see their suffering makes us uncomfortable. That’s human nature. Nobody wants to see suffering.

So we work hard to make sure we are comfortable, and criticize big government it attempts to do things that will make the lives of some legitimately suffering people a little easier. We shut our eyes to the real barriers which spring up in a capitalistic world and society and instead blame those who struggle for the situations in which they find themselves. We regard those who cannot make it as moochers.

Some of them are, and some of them are not. We just don’t want to take the time to make the distinctions and give help where it is needed. We are content to charge the poor and blame the poor for being poor, thus helping to keep them poor, and we defy the government to try to change that reality. We in America have little regard, it seems, for the burgeoning population of older Americans who barely have enough to live on once they can no longer work. And so, many older Americans are living in deplorable conditions, and we will not look that harsh reality in the face.

What does it take to make people in a democracy do what democracy purports to do – to make a society where all people are created equal? Those who do not like such a notion say that to want that is to be socialist. OK, but really, that’s what our United States Constitution says – all men (people) are created equal.

We have a problem in our formative ideology. It seems that there is an untenable tension between capitalism and democracy, and capitalists are criticizing the very political system which has made their wealth acquisition a reality.

A candid observation …

 

Anybody Want Healing?

Sometimes, I need help to understand why some things are as they are…like this: why do some white people think it’s racist to acknowledge that racism exists and to talk about it?

I have been chewing on that ever since I had an online chat with a white friend who was furious with me for saying that, at the beginning of the GOP race for the presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich was “playing to his base.”

That base was in the South, and consisted primarily, as far as I could tell, of white people. Many of them resonated with Gingrich’s assertions that black people and their situation in America were surely to be considered; in a speech in New Hampshire he made in January he said “… the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/newt-gingrich-paychecks-food-stamps_n_1188193.html)

That comment, along with others, such as “President Obama is the food stamp president” are no less disparaging and inaccurate about the lives of African-Americans than was President Reagan’s creation of  the “welfare queen” which fed into the belief by many whites that black people are eating up the economy; their access to entitlements are a big part of the blame for the shoddy economic condition of this country, many will say, and any attempt dissuade people of those beliefs usually meet with rabid and bitter opposition.

OK, so I get that …but why, if one talks about the reality of racism in this country is one branded a “racist?” Why is the worst thing to talk about in America race, when our sick racism is at the base of so many of our problems?

In a book entitled To Ask for an Equal Chance, author Cheryl Lynn Greenberg talks about the state of African-Americans during and leading up to the Great Depression. She cites United States Supreme Court decisions few of us know anything about, like Grovey v. Townsend (1935), which said that electoral parties are private groups and can exclude African-Americans from membership and participation, and Norris v. Alabama, (1935) which allowed for the routin exclusion of African-Americans from jury duty. She talks about the “Atlanta Six” who were arrested in 1930 under a slave statutes against inciting insurrection for organizing protest. In The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, an amazing book which describes the dust bowl of the 1930s, there is a description of signs put out advertising scant employment opportunities, but signs which clearly said “colored need not apply.”

The foundation of America was sewn with racist and with sexist threads…so why can’t we talk about it without being called “racist?

I cringed when, after Trayvon Martin’s case garnered national and international attention, and President Barack Obama made the statement that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon, the accusations of him playing the race card flew as though the card game had been set upon by a great, unexpected wind. Those protesting said he was not only playing the race card, but that he was sowing division amongst or between the races, because this is an election year.

The truth of the matter is that racism has been brewing just under the surface of our American political scene since the president was elected. Congressman Joe Wilson’s rude “you lie!” outburst at the president’s first State of the Union speech was beyond comprehension; the tactics of the Tea Party, including some who reportedly  spit on revered African-American leaders, was steeped in race.

The truth of the matter is, not talking about race has only made the situation worse. Everybody wants to pretend that “it” isn’t racism that is driving some of what we are seeing and hearing today, but it is…We can’t keep agreeing to be silent. We need to face it and shake out the blanket of American democracy. The wrinkles caused by racism need to go…but if we keep the blanket all balled up, the wrinkles will only become deeper.

A candid observation …