There truly are 3 types of people in this world, but only two sides. The first type, the manipulators, strive to deceive and take advantage to serve their own needs, wants, and interests. The second, the ambivalent, sit idly by chasing the dream of owning what the first type owns without “corrupting themselves” by being as bloodthirsty as the first. These two types occupy the same side of the spectrum. They both, in their own ways, work to reinforce the status quo and impede progression and advancement. The third type of person, the Driver, is s/he who chooses to speak, stand, and fight injustices even if those injustices are not perpetrated against them directly. They see that there is much LESS to life than what most think and much MORE to passion, sacrifice, and dedication to justice than is commonly trained, taught, and thought in the contemporary Western world. There are only three types. Only THREE, and we all must choose to be one.
Once upon a time, this country was, at least in a rhetorical sense, built upon the ideals that spoke most closely to the third type of person. There existed a sense of responsibility to build and improve upon that which was old, decadent, and obsolete. That is how this nation stretched from the cold shores of the eastern seaboard to the warm waters of the pacific. That is how this nation was able to finally throw off the evil institution of slavery, even in the face of virulent opposition. That is how women, blacks, homosexuals, and latinos all achieved greater social standing and recognition as integral threads woven into this expansive quilt that we call America. THAT is how this country rose from a group of colonies in an unknown land into the greatest nation that this planet has and ever will see. But maybe that is the problem. Maybe it is because we see America as “as good as it gets” that we cannot see a “Better America.” Maybe it is because we view our middle-class lives as so much more privileged and blessed than those in say the Congo, Afghanistan, or even China, that we refuse to see a BETTER Middle-Class life for Americans. Maybe it is our warped view that America’s greatness is omnipresent throughout this country, that we fail to notice the very defects, blemishes, and stains against this country’s founding principles that pervade the poorest communities. Have we become so entranced by the promise of the American Dream, to continuously chase prosperity through hard works, that we are actually emboldening the harbingers of an American Nightmare?
During this country’s greatest times, there have always been men and women who stood up. Men and women who left behind the comforts of their own lives to speak for those who either did not know to speak for themselves, or did not know how to speak for themselves. Every era of growth for America, there have been men and women who put everything, their reputations, their possessions, their freedom, even their lives, on the line in order to bring about greater prosperity for people whom they could have easily dismissed and continued on with their lives in search of greater individual prosperity. These courageous men and women, the Susan B. Anthonys, Martin Luther King Jr.s, Muhatma Gandhis, Cesar Chavezs, Harvey Milks, They all could have used their skills and talents that made them the great activist they were, to simply enhance their own lives. But they did not. They were able to see, understand, and feel the connection between themselves and the people they were fighting for. They were able to feel the pain of black men and women hosed down in the streets, They could feel the shame of Mexican workers being treated as nothing more than cogs in a profit-churning machine, They could place themselves in the shoes of the LOWLIEST of their kind. And through their passion and determination, they succeeded. They lifted not only themselves, not only their people, not only their nation, but the entire world. They brought our human race closer to the perfection that we should be striving for at all times.
Where has this drive gone? Why is it so difficult for the average American to connect his/herself to the plight of the lowliest of us all. Why is it so easy for us to not only distance ourselves from those whom we would call “scum” but to demonize them and blame them not only for their own plight but for the plight of a nation? How is it that we can do this while continuing to praise, admire, and chase after the lives of the culprits responsible for our hardships? Do we just not know? or is it a conscious decision? I think it is time for every man and woman. Every person amongst us. Every American. To look into a mirror and ask “What type of person am I?” It is a simple question but the answer is often one difficult to swallow. Most of us, in our hearts, believe in justice, freedom, equity, and the wellbeing of others. However, when this comes into conflict with our American Dream. Our corporate job. Our six-figure salary. We often toss the good in our hearts to the side. When confronted with the same decision that Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Chavez were confronted with, can you honestly say that you would give up the chance at the life you’ve always dreamed of in order to secure justice for someone that you’ve never met?
If you cannot, I cannot blame you. Most people around my age have been socialized into the belief that you go to school, get a degree, struggle for a job, grow old, have kids, and die. That is life and if you cannot fit into that mold, it is generally of some personal defect within you. I, however, can blame you if you never even give it a thought. If you never even for a second imagine giving everything that you have, EVERYTHING, to see the good of this world exalted and the evil justly punished. To see children BORN INTO poverty afforded the same chances as corporate big wigs thrust into positions of wealth through a hierarchy akin to familial monarchies. And that is exactly what they are becoming familial monarchies. The same unjust, unchecked, irresponsible, and unaccountable rule that revolutionaries sought to escape in 1776. The same brutish rule that paid no mind to its constituents in the form of American Slavery. The same under-the-table strongarming and soft-stepping the companies use to hire undocumented workers under inhumane conditions today. This very same type of power structure, in which those in power are no longer accountable to those whom they preside over, is what is in this country’s future right now. As if we are miners, working in what we were told was a diamond mine. Toiling away endlessly day after day searching for those milky white crystals promised to us. Tossing away the dirt ahead of us. Allowing our sweat, blood, and tears to drip into the soil below us. Not even realizing that every shovel full of soil is filled with gold nuggets tossed back to the mine owner at the service. Yet, we keep digging. Searching, working for something that is not there. Why? because the belief is still there. That is the power of the American Dream. It is built on a belief. Upon faith. But what happens when that faith is misplaced. What happens when the dreamers have been led astray?
Throughout the Great Recession that began in 2007, Americans have continued to work hard through high unemployment numbers, high gas prices, and low economic growth. As we worked, we also searched for a reason. Why was this hardship bestowed upon us? The answer was clear. The greed of bankers and Wall Street monarchs had dissolved the foundation of our economy over the decade. After years of surplus budgets, the Clinton Administration handed the office of the President over to George W. Bush with a 1998 budget surplus of $124 billion. In 1999, the Glass-Steagall act was repealed, setting a tone for the deregulation of the banking industry. Over the course of his presidency, the Bush Administration introduced legislation collectively known as the Bush Tax cuts. Intended to speed economic recovery from the dot-com bubble burst, the cuts essentially were a favor to big business. Banks, and large companies flourished as the budget went from surplus to huge deficit. The unnecessary war in Iraq also added to the deficit and cost thousands of lives. What was the result of this deregulation of big business and banks? Predatory practices preying again on our infatuation with the American Dream of wealth and ownership. Enticing Americans into loans that would essentially financially enslave them to the banks for decades, the banks grew. Every American family wants a home of their own. And the shadowy hawks we call bankers took advantage of this desire and sold the American public dreams that were not meant to be. When this bubble imploded and the banks were facing destruction, the Obama Administration was forced to bail them out. The Great Recession ensued and the debate turned to the Federal Debt and the Deficit. The rhetoric moved towards entitlements, welfare, and government spending even though the direct cause of the current state of our nation’s finances stem from the slashing of revenue from taxes and the forced bailouts of the banks and the corporate owners that BENEFITED from the tax cuts. So now, as ordinary Americans argue over what to cut and what disadvantaged group to leave out, the banks and corporations are seeing HISTORIC levels of profits and growth. They are, in fact, larger than they were before the bailouts that they received, yet unemployment still wavers and the deficit and debt are still the hot topics in politics. If this is not an example of the Mine Owner keeping the miners preoccupied with finding their diamond as they reaped the gold from the discarded soil, I honestly do not know what is.
With that being said, WHO ARE YOU? As the income inequality in this country continues to grow and those who have taken advantage of this country’s taxpayers to pad their pockets continue to become richer, WHO ARE YOU? As prisons continue to be filled with non-violent offenders and private companies use this free labor to increase their profits, WHO ARE YOU? As political action committees and lobbyists funnel money into politicians’ pockets in return for favors that shaft the middle and lower class individuals who BELIEVE IN and DESERVE representation in this government, WHO ARE YOU? As corporations, who apparently are considered people, make business decisions to put arsenic, a poison, in our food and dump toxic chemicals into our waterways, WHO ARE YOU? There was a time when Blacks in this country weren’t considered human and were brutally treated. We can readily identify who the Manipulators were at this period, but those who fell into the black abyss of nothingness, who have been forgotten, the Ambivalent. They sat by as a practice that they despised continued on because they felt it was not their fight. In the end, the institution of slavery ended, however, it could have been sped exponentially had the Ambivalent chosen to act. In NAZI Germany, as Jews, Gypsies, and foreigners were shepherded to their deaths, German citizens stood by as the Manipulators pushed their machine forwards. The Holocaust eventually ended, but if the Ambivalent had chosen to act, think of how many lives could have been saved. Today, we face a challenge. We must figure out who we are. Will we sit back as the Ambivalent and allow the Manipulators to continue to tighten their grip on this country and on our freedom. Or will we be Actors? Will we speak up against the injustices that affect the lowly of our society, but also that affect us? Will we become more aware of how we are being misled day after day? Will we rise up from the Mine to retake our Gold or will we continue chasing the nonexistent Diamonds that we have been TOLD and SOLD. That we have bought in exchange for that which is so very American, the belief that every should truly be provided with Freedom, Justice, and Equality. That is impossible when corporations have their hands in the pockets of our “leaders”. That is impossible when those “leaders” continue to prop up laws just to keep prisons filled for the profit mongering corporations in control of them. THAT is IMPOSSIBLE as long as, on paper, money means more than the lives of people. And THAT is what we face today. So I ask once again–WHO ARE YOU?