One of the most painful things about this last election cycle was the way polls were taken, dividing Americans into the Black community, the White working class, Hispanics, Muslims, the LGBT community, and many other categories. Isn’t America the county that used to be celebrated as “the melting pot?” Not any more.
Bernie Sanders kept our eye on the ball during his primary run, constantly reminding us that the uber wealthy were less than one percent, and that they possess more than half of the wealth of the rest of the country combined. There will be no crossing of that divide any time soon, and the chasm between the super rich and the rest of the country is growing every day. And now, with Trump’s cabinet picks being comprised primarily of billionaires, whose interests do you think will be supported? Not the 99%’s, that’s for sure.
To make things worse, Betsy DeVos is going to head up the Department of Education. Public schools are one of the most
important elements in bridging the divide between rich and poor, enabling immigrants to learn English and the poor to move up in the world. I myself was the beneficiary of a tremendous public school education in, of all places, Newark, New Jersey. We didn’t just have math, science, and reading, although these courses were varied and spectacular by any standard. No, we had art and music, sports of all kinds, Honors everything, creative writing, drama, French, Latin, German, and Spanish, all at a very high level. By the time we graduated from Weequahic High School we were already better educated than most college graduates today. My fellow classmates did incredibly well later on in life, and I mean kids of all races, religions, and sexual orientations. Most of us came from very poor families, but went on to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, mathematicians, teachers, entrepreneurs, CPA’s, and millionaires. We got into the best schools in the country, earning merit scholarships in astounding numbers, and for this we credit a school system that saw education as a sacred trust and lived up to that trust.
Now Betsy DeVos and her ilk want to end public schools and have vouchers and privatized schools take their place. Of course, the rich won’t need those vouchers, because they will still be able to send their kids to the best, most expensive private schools, but what will vouchers buy a poor kid when schools are no longer regulated by a Department of Education? We can already see what happens to poor kids with minor convictions when they wind up in a privatized prison system. They become numbers, cogs in the wheel, and although these places say that they provide educational resources, closer examination without exception has shown that these so-called classes are mere baby sitting services that prepare young inmates for nothing at all. It’s a good bet that a privatized school for poor kids who can only bring to the table a voucher will receive a similar, minimalist approach to academic achievement.
Betsy DeVos has famously said that “mining could be an exciting life for poor kids.” Really, Betsy? But if those “poor kids” got an education equal to the education your kids receive we might find that they have the same, if not higher, aptitudes than your kids for all kinds of subjects. But then they would probably want to move up the social ladder, wouldn’t they? The poor might want more, expect a better life with decent odds at succeeding. You wouldn’t want that, now, would you?
No, the Trump model is looking to stratify America in such a way that the poor, the minorities, the immigrants are all kept down in the lower economic order where they belong. These uber rich want to make the climb harder, not easier, by taking away public education, healthcare, making it harder to survive until reaching the age of Medicare and Social Security for which they’ve already paid taxes. This billionaire/corporate class wants nothing more than to set the white working class at odds with the black working class, turn everyone against the immigrants, keep women and girls pregnant and helpless, and create a class divide so great that there will never be a way to bridge it. If we can judge by the latest election cycle we are almost there now.
And what is the solution? First, we have to stop buying into the false premise that we are so different. If we look at the working people of this country we will find more in common than not. We all want to live long, healthy lives, be safe on our jobs and in our streets and homes, have work that’s financially rewarding and mentally stimulating, a decent standard of living, a better life and a good education for our children, fresh air and clean water, safe and delicious food. In order to ensure that we have these things we must stand up together for Native American rights, understand that Black lives really do matter, that all lives matter, that unless we all have each others’ backs we will be divided like livestock, then herded into our separate pens by huge corporate interests and capitalism gone amuck. Capitalism is not a benign system, but one which must be balanced with societal contracts and a lot of conscience, or it can easily morph into Fascism before you can blink an eye. Let’s stop separating ourselves from “the other” and refute the terms which are now being used to sort us, to pigeonhole us, to fragment our society. Let’s become just plain old Americans, with liberty and justice for all.