When I was six years old I was taken by my mother to the Springfield, Massachusetts railway station. The station had a high overpass across which the passenger trains passed. On the street below was an enormous crowd packed elbow to elbow and stretching back for several blocks practically vibrating with anticipation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had confronted the “Great Depression” and created the “New Deal”, was loved by working people like my parents, who had suffered through the 1929 – 1939, “Great Depression”. At the rampart of the overpass the great man, by then afflicted with polio, appeared, he waved and was greeted by the crowd with the most tumultuous expression of respect I have ever experienced. There was no ressentiment, no anger only respect and gratitude for a better future. This was the America that defined my basic understanding of our social contract, my social reality. This was the America I grew up in. This was the country I joined the military to serve. It was a very different country from what we have become today, a country with a President, Masha Greene writing in the New Yorker, describes as a “foul-mouthed vulgarian”.
During Roosevelt’s terms of office programs such as Social Security, the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the National Labor Relations Act were created and implemented. Today all of these are under attack. To what end are ordinary working class people being manipulated to demand curtailing social programs that they and their families have benefitted from for generations? What kind of world do these Trump supporters imagine they are being led to? Are they ready to accept levels of poverty not seen since the dust bowl era, the soup lines of the depression? And, as jobs are shipped to low wage countries health care becomes out of reach for our own working class poor. All of this is happening while the accumulated wealth of a minuscule number of individuals grows even more enormous, becoming, “Rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”.
What kind of society denies sustenance and health care to the disadvantaged and displaced by a political and economic system that denies them meaningful work? What ends are being served shipping entire factories abroad leaving thousands of Americans unemployed? To what ends are the foundation stones of an American belief system being attacked and destroyed? What of the common welfare of its’ citizens and taxpayers? Can a commons of any sort rise out of the rubble of playing every group of Americans against others? In the past, this kind of antisocial destruction has been an invitation to violence some of which we are already experiencing. The answer to all of these questions cannot be evermore attempts at social control, government propaganda, lies, or the kinds of police violence we have seen before and after this past election. We have not seen the end of groups like “Antifa” arising out of the ruins.
People have understood the costs of social divisiveness as far into the past as one cares to look, as far back as the 6th B.C. when Aesop coined the phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall.” We are now divided. We must ask and demand answers to the question, Where is all of this going? “Where are you taking us?” The government cannot keep on locking up and silencing protesters. Plainly, todays’ Republican populist politics of destruction is evolving towards levels of social and economic inequity not felt since the Great Depression. Perhaps that’s the “Great America” Trump, the Republican Party, and the billionaires who sponsor them envision. Could be.