Here in America, we tend to view things in an 'Us' versus 'Them' scenario, but the time has come for us to take a step back and realize that the lessons learned from people other than Americans needn't be reinvented by us. We can look to see what they've learned, what they've done right, what they've done wrong, and try to avoid the pitfalls that befell them.
In the Spring of 2011, the simmering pot which has been the Arab world boiled over. The "Arab Spring", as it's been dubbed, saw the overthrow of dictator after despot, continuing right on through the late summer. While it's still too early to tell what outcome this will have on the citizenry of each newly-freed country, the mandate of the people in revolt was heard 'round the world...and it was even heard here, in America. Here, in the Bible Belt. Here, in Georgia. And it's Georgia, specifically, that I want to concentrate on.
My family moved from Florida in 1972 and resettled in Coffee County in central southeast Georgia. Coffee County is primarily an agricultural area with a focus on poultry production, soybeans, tobacco, and cotton. It's located in what I refer to as the Interstate Quadrangle, a chunk of remoteness bordered by I-16 to the north, I-95 to the east, I-10 to the south, and I-75 to the west. The Interstate Quadrangle includes a slice of far north Florida from Jacksonville in the southeast corner to about Lake City in the southwest. It's northern corners are Macon in the northwest, and Savannah in the northeast. Within the boundaries of the Interstate Quadrangle lie some of the most remote areas in the Atlantic coastal states. It's also one of the least densely populated areas in those same states. There are no large cities, nor even large towns beyond those on the corners. In short, it's an area that has had little direct outside influence, and that lack shows every day in how those of means think about those without. You would be hard pressed to find an upper-middle income or upper income person in that area, and that majorly means white, who doesn't daily use the N-word, or who doesn't look down on those of us educated in public schools as "public school trash" as one business owner in that area puts it. Of course, she has had the benefit of a religious private school education as have her children. Or the business owner whose business is predicated primarily upon serving Medicare recipients with home health products who tries to ram products he can profit from most down the throats of those least capable of protesting rather than working to ensure proper fit and match of products to the clients. He tried to do that to my mother. It didn't work, and he's angry, threatening to charge her for something she can't use. He'll be answering to Medicare for that gaffe.
In the 26 August 2011 New York Times, Georgia Congressman John Lewis (D), has an article entitled 'A Poll Tax By Another Name', in which he discusses, from his deeply experienced point of view, how even today conservatives scheme to prevent African-American and Latino voters from voting, disenfranchising anyone that they feel might be a threat to their stranglehold on power. John Lewis was a leader of the civil rights movement in America, and one of the few dedicated people left in Congress who truly represents the will of the people, especially those who lack the voice to speak for themselves. John Lewis is a living American hero.
While Congressman Lewis' article focused on the Civil Rights Act as well as other playing field-leveling legislation and the impact these have had on the lives of African-Americans, it also warns us that those who hold power over the lives and livelihoods of others will go to any extreme to hold onto that power. This prejudice affects anyone who hasn't the financial wherewithal to fight back, to stand toe-to-toe with those who seek to oppress rather than liberate. This affects almost half of all Americans. As late as April of 2011, less than 46% of Americans had jobs, and that number is likely to have decreased, not increased.
In early-Twenty-first-century America, money is power. True, that's always been the case, but with so many wealthy Americans now, the disenfranchisement of the poor and the dichotomy of wealth disparity puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a meaningful, living-wage job. Nepotism and cronyism are the new rules-of-the-day. Those who consider themselves to be of a certain social stratum look down at the poor and loathe them, often publicly. Case in point, Fox News' recent campaign targeting the poor and unemployed. Fox commentator, Neil Cavuto, cited a figure which showed that 99.6% of the "poor" (Fox's quotation marks, not mine) have refrigerators, and the list went on showing that certain members of the "poor" have a few modern conveniences or even small luxuries. Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs, both notoriously snobbish towards the poor and bottom-tier-working-class people, went on to hash out how they really didn't look down on the poor but they clearly didn't grasp how a poor person might own a refrigerator or cell phone, and even compared them to the poor in Europe. Which made me laugh because I've lived in Europe and never did I see the squalor that can be found here in America.
And here's the Big Picture: It's still 'Us' versus 'Them', except now the two sides are Wealthy versus Poor. How do those who have not compete with those who have? It's hard to do...unless we look at recent examples abroad. Maybe they have it right, those who stood up for their rights in the Arab Spring. While the riots in Britain turned violent and vandals took the reins, it began as a protest for economic rights. A protest for rights for those who have been disenfranchised. The street hoodlums in Britain had it all wrong, vandalism is never an acceptable answer.
Whatever non-destructive form that answer has to take, it's time has come. One would hope that parties representing both sides could sit down diplomatically and discuss the problems, work out a solution, and everything would move apace towards equality. But our own politicians can't do that amongst themselves, so what hope do the rest of us have for that? Right now, there is a political party that has a wing bent on enriching the already enriched while the rest go without. And don't think that they feel remorse for the plight of the needy, because if they did, they would've already done something.
Ask yourself this, though; if these people are truly the patriots they claim to be, why do we have so many homeless veterans, and why are the same "patriots" calling for cutting veterans' benefits? In fact, why is it that so few of THEM are veterans? The nation already puts many of the 1% of those who serve into the poverty category WHILE they're serving, but now the ones who have most profited from staying behind while true patriots served their nation are the staunchest supporters of cutting veterans' already-meager benefits. Used and thrown away. It's shameful. But they have no shame. None. They'll simply pray the shame away and after that 2-second prayer, they'll go right back to the same behavior as before it.
THERE WILL BE NO CHANGE UNLESS WE CHANGE IT OURSELVES!
Freedom isn't free; it's paid for in blood. Everyone is faced with life and death decisions, but some employ others to make those decisions for them. The time has come for those who have been disenfranchised, those who have served, those who are made to feel like second-class citizens in their own country, those whose skin color or religion is deemed deficient by the monied...the time has come for them to stand up and say no to that behavior.
I find it no surprise that John Lewis is a Georgian. He's a fighter, and he's a winner. I aim to be like him.