Are We a 47% Country?
Is the American Dream just a dream?
Mitt Romney's recent 47% comments raise huge questions, not the least of which is this one: "What kind of country did our founders form?" My wife, who is an Early American historian, says that the colonies (and future federation/union) were intended to be egalitarian, a classless society in which no one has the upper hand and no one gets excluded from the chance to strive for what's been called "the American dream."
Throughout our nation's history there have always been those who veer from that broad vision and take a narrower view. But until recently, an alternate vision hasn't been adopted by any sizeable group of individuals or entities. Enter Mitt and his disparaging remarks.
Singling out forty-seven percent of the U.S. population and classifying people in that percentage as lazy tax-avoiding freeloaders who live off the public dole is damaging (and misguided) enough, in that - as many have pointed out - the vast majority of that forty-seven percent are returning [often wounded] veterans, retirees, the disabled, unemployed or under-employed.
But even worse, there is an assumption implicit in Romney's comments - that, as he's said, those less "successful" people are envious of those who are well off and think they are owed a handout by them.
The truth is just the opposite. A percentage of those who are in the top one percent (or perhaps top five to ten percent) have a condescending opinion of those 'below' them. They only think we are envious, when in truth it is they who are pre-judging those who have less.
These United States were founded in order to escape classism, monarchies and bands of oligarchs. But, suddenly, a majority of Americans find themselves battered by those who are privileged and well off. Far from being lazy, the vast number of citizens in this country are hard working and have big dreams. We want our children to be successful (in ways that go far beyond just earning lots of money) and we want our people (and all nations) to live in a world that is at peace, that thrives on mutual respect and fairness. Equal opportunity is the American dream, rooted in the now-famous comment that all men (sic) are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, namely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The Republican (aka Tea) Party and its nominee favor a top-down society in which a small minority hold most of the wealth, power and privileges - while the rest of us are left to "sink or swim." That's not American. It's not Christian. It's not even fair or basic common sense. As John Donne wrote, "No man is an island." We're in this together, or we're not a nation at all. It's time we all recognized that and worked together for the common good - all political parties and their leaders, all our nominees for office - and most of all, the U.S. Congress. In the first quarter of the 20th century, people like the Rockefellers and Mellons donated vast sums to public education and enlightenment. We still have Bill and Linda Gates with us, and Warren Buffett, along with some others who have that same broad interest in the public good and act on it, but the numbers of well off people and corporations that focus only on themselves and seek how to get more is growing.
In less than four weeks we'll reach the voting deadline for the American public and also rush toward that financial "cliff" we've heard so much about lately. Will we come to our senses and work for solid solutions, or will be plunge over that 'cliff' and stumble into so many other pitfalls, as if we were robotic lemmings (yes, I know that real lemmings don't actually follow their leaders blindly, let alone jump off cliffs).
A large part of the answer comes on November 6th, when we each need to go to the polls and take a stand for decency, common sense, and positive action. I'm counting on enough enlightened people to tip that balance scale in favor of the real American Dream.
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