Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized, Writings

Evil counts on the public to stop trying

It is government that built the highways and bridges, managed the airwaves, created law enforcement to keep the peace, raised military to protect the nation, educated the workers and business people, created order out of chaos, kept the air and water clean — without which the selfish bastards who cling to their cash and say “Nobody tells me what to do with MY hard-earned money!” would not have any cash.

Newsbreak: Without government, you would not have “hard-earned cash” because business and labor can not function without government support — just as government can not function without the support of the people.

Government built the infrastructure that once made the United States the greatest country in the world. Where government didn’t build, it enabled business to grow to unimaginable heights. Airlines are private but it is government that manages the traffic in the skies and ensures that planes are safe enough to fly.

Photographer Maggie Meiners re-imagines Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Religion,” with American Muslims (2017)

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It is government that warns people of approaching disasters, because hand-in-hand with science, sophisticated warning systems have been put in place. It is government that comes in when disaster strikes — wildfires, floods, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes — and makes things right. When government does not step in, we get things like the pandemic and 175,000-plus people dead.

It is government that (sometimes) ensures that everyone has decent medical care and a retirement fund for the time when labor is no longer possible. It is government that ensures the food you buy at the market is clean and non-toxic. It is government that ensures your medicines do what pharma claims they do.

Government does many of these things because the belief that profit-driven corporations, banks, and businesses can police themselves is a dangerous myth. Somewhere down the road, the public gets screwed — you need only think back to 2008 and the financial melt-down — and government has to step in to make things right again.

Are you old enough to remember thalidomide babies? That was in the era of a lightly regulated pharmaceutical industry. Look it up. More recently, the tobacco industry knew that smoking caused cancer for decades. They did not do the right thing on their own. They still don’t.

Norman Rockwell, The Problem We All Live With, 1963. Illustration for Look, January 14, 1964. Collection of Norman Rockwell Museum. Courtesy Photo

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You would think that after 244 years people would have figured out that the government IS the people and the people ARE the government. When government does good, it is not stealing credit from the people. It is validating the public’s faith.

We were once a great nation because we cared about each other and we understood that there are issues bigger than “I’ve got mine; fuck you.” We always gave to charitable causes — that is not a libertarian invention. But we also knew that there were millions of people who did not benefit from such generosity.

That is where government steps in to help. It fills the gaps in our natural urge to be generous. We also knew that if we created or perpetuated a class of poor and uneducated and denied them the even playing field of opportunity, they would eventually rise up and demand our “hard earned” money.

People seem to think that an imperfect government is a bad rap. But it is only a reflection of us. Mistakes are made, corrected, and improved upon and democracy stumbles forward. That is how government has always worked. Sometimes, government gets it right the first time, as it did when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. And a few times since.

Today’s reality: Artists Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur reimagined Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want,” the iconic 1943 ode to American abundance.

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More often though, we used to compromise and pass laws that were what you would call “a good start” and “a work in progress.” We’d see the holes, the shortcomings, the inequities — and in subsequent years, improvements were made. We weren’t ideologues or — most heinous of all — single issue proponents. Good people knew how to work with assholes and assholes knew that, without compromise, they would get nothing.

We all thought we had the greater good of America in mind, even when we disagreed. 

We haven’t got democracy and government right yet but we keep trying.

Even when it feels like the assholes have won and are turning government into their private ATM machine, spitting out trillions of dollars for the super-rich and well-connected. 

We keep trying because we must. 

Evil counts on the public to stop trying, to turn its back, to retreat to its caves to count the “hard earned” money, and most of all, to remain silent. Evil counts on us saying some lives (ie white) matter more than others. Evil counts on us to turn on each other and do its dirty work — kill education, destroy opportunity for all, rig the justice system, focus on race, foment fear, build a wall ….

Evil wins when fear and selfishness become the nation’s defining “virtues.”

Right now, evil is winning.

What are you going to do about it? Count your money?

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