I am the 99%
I’m sure there are many of you who do not much like all this talk about ‘the 99%’.
It may smack of divisiveness, or anti-elitism. You may think it ‘class warfare’. You may even think that ‘the 99%’ — or at least many of those who profess to be members of the 99% — are malcontents, homeless, radicals, professional protesters, lazy drugheads, or simply uninformed individuals expecting some form of welfare or support to which they might not (legally or morally) be entitled.
Well, let me disabuse you of such notions. The 99% of Americans is actually a very polyglot, diverse, rambunctious and disparate group. In fact, it most likely includes you, too, whether you much like it or not. It includes conservatives and liberals and independents, religious and atheistic, white and black and red and brown and yellow and green. It includes steelworkers and software designers, hardhats and housewives, teens and geriatrics.
The very concept of ‘the 99%’ is that of a sizable majority being misled, scammed, lied to, taken advantage of, or simply neglected and left behind by a very slim, narrow and powerful ultra-elite 1%.
So, when an extremely wealthy ex-governor or ex-congressman — cushioned atop a massive fluffy cloud of money and privilege and perquisites and pride, and thus totally out of the reach of your daily life experience — pontificates on what is right in your neighborhood, your home, your business, your church, your bedroom, your doctor’s office, you should rightfully feel aggrieved.
When a multinational corporation opts to drive down vendor costs, underfund pensions, shed U.S. jobs, pollute American land and water and air, game the U.S. tax code to avoid paying Uncle Sam (who is simply you, and me, and our fellow citizens, by proxy), expand overseas, lavish huge bonuses and pay packages on its officers, invest in a Senator or two, fund a SuperPAC to advocate more drilling, then whine about our ‘punitive corporate tax rates’, you have every reason to be crying foul.
And, if some blowhard in front of a podium or a television camera tries to spew some bilge about how a simple ‘gut-check’ of ‘good ol’ American values’ and blathering about the Constitution are valid substitutes for reasoned discourse and hard work and thoughtful compromise on the myriad nuances and complexities of America’s social and political problems, you can tell him to go stuff it.
The 99% have brought into the public spotlight a national scandal: over the past several decades, America has become more harshly divided between the haves and the have-nots than ever before. As each day progresses, more of our children fall into poverty. More of our families see the American Dream vanishing. More of our youth become demoralized and disenchanted. More people lose access to good jobs and health care. And more of our nation’s ‘robber-barons’ become even richer and more rapacious.
Being part of the 99% requires work — diligent, consistent, thoughtful, considerate, collaborative work. It requires listening to the many richly varied voices that make up America, and parsing out the commonalities and the shared beliefs, not the extreme arguments and divisive rhetoric. It requires realizing that we all have a shared destiny, that as Ben Franklin reportedly opined, “If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.” We must launch America into a great extended period of reinvestment, growth and opportunity for all.
I am therefore proud to be the 99%.
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