How to Worry About the Right Things
And Do Something Meaningful About Them
My fellow Americans, the following excerpts illustrate one of the major problems we face as a society – focusing on the wrong things out of convenience, denial, or fear. It’s a brief overview, and we follow it with an explanation of why this dynamic occurs, and what we can do to turn things around. Enjoy.
“Voters overwhelmingly believe American democracy is under threat, but seem remarkably apathetic about that danger, with few calling it the nation’s most pressing problem, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.
In fact, more than a third of independent voters and a smaller but noteworthy contingent of Democrats said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election, as they assigned greater urgency to their concerns about the economy than to fears about the fate of the country’s political system.
“Voters see democracy in peril, but saving it isn’t a priority,” New York Times, By Nick Corasaniti, Michael C. Bender, Ruth Igielnik and Kristen Bayrakdarian, Oct. 18, 2022.
“For prospective college students, the cons of signing up for a degree (ballooning tuition costs, heaps of debt, declining value of degrees) continue to outweigh the pros (maybe you’ll like your roommate). US colleges and universities saw a 1.1% drop of undergrad students from fall 2021 to fall 2022, according to preliminary data from the National Student Clearinghouse.
Although less substantial, that decline is an extension of the pandemic trend of emptier dorms: Over two years beginning in 2020, more than 1 million fewer students chose to enroll in college—a 6.5% plunge.
Enrollment has been decreasing by at least 1% per year since 2012, but the pandemic supercharged disillusionment with higher ed. Colleges expected to see some of those students return with the loosening of restrictions, but it didn’t happen.
Bottom line: When it comes to going to college, a significant number of Americans just don’t feel the juice is worth the squeeze. 46% of parents hope their child pursues something other than a four-year degree after high school, according to a Gallup poll. Only 56% of adults under 30 who attended college believe the benefits outweighed the costs. Meanwhile, 80% of adults over 60 who attended college feel that way.—MK
“Life expectancy at birth in the United States declined nearly a year from 2020 to 2021, according to new provisional data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). That decline – 77.0 to 76.1 years – took U.S. life expectancy at birth to its lowest level since 1996. The 0.9 year drop in life expectancy in 2021, along with a 1.8 year drop in 2020, was the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923,” National Center for Health Statistics, August 31, 2022
“In a new NBC News/Telemundo poll, 54% of Hispanic voters say they prefer Democrats to have control of Congress compared to 33% who want Republicans in power but that 21-point difference is half of what it was in 2012.
Political strategists say Democrats are increasingly out of step with working-class voters of all races, including Hispanics, on key issues.
A lot of Latino voters are in limbo. Everything we see points to the role of the economy,” said Carlos Odio co-founder of polling organization EquisLabs.
The poll shows Republicans with slight advantages among Hispanic voters when it comes to the economy and the border,” Jillian Smith, TND, Oct. 3, 2022.
I know you know these things matter, but did you know that they are related parts of a vicious cycle of American socio-economic decline? And did you know that they are deliberate outcomes of a 60-year Republican plan?
First let’s discuss the inanity indicated by these reports.
Americans are worried about the economy? We began our involvement in World War II in the 12th year of the Great Depression. Think those Americans weren’t worried about the economy? Nevertheless they stepped up to save the world from tyranny and authoritarianism and made the lives we lead now possible.
College costs too much? It sure does. And it should be free or subsidized as it is in most other democracies – and many autocracies for that matter. Education is the only antidote to the ignorance that opens the door for the right — whose intent is anathema to anyone with the basis critical thinking skills a solid college education can provide.
Why is the average lifespan of Americans declining? Illicit substance abuse, Covid, poor diet and lifestyle, and suicide. What causes this? Declining hope in the dream of America without a sociopolitical outlet and the sense of agency to do anything it other than internalize it. Not to mention ever more limited possibility for upward mobility, rapidly widening health, wealth, and income gaps, and ever shrinking ability to shape your own world and have your voice heard. Not to mention — oh the irony of it all — these same people voting for Trump so he could accelerate the very trends that are killing them.
Hispanics drifting from democrats? Drifting towards a cretin who calls their countrymen rapists and murderers? Drifting towards a party this is working to disenfranchise them in all aspects of life that matter except when it suits them? How can this be?
Well, our immigrants have always been pre-brainwashed into the American dream. My ancestors and yours included. This makes them – and us — pre-disposed to focus on the economy. But not really the economy as it exists in reality – rather, the economy as the press and dominant culture filter it.
The same New York Times that wonders why Americans are more worried about the economy than democracy is the same paper that writes daily anecdotal articles about how some poor American is struggling to pay the bills in a time of inflation. Do they write articles about how everyone else is simply adjusting in the classic microeconomic ways? How about articles about the long period of time when we had basically no inflation at all? Why don’t we see regular articles about the record-breaking profit levels of America corporations?
Because the New York Times is not on the side of progressives, people. It is not left-leading, it isn’t even liberal. It is a conservative institution doing the work of the system – and thus part of the real deep state which has always been conservative, authoritarian, controlling and close to invisible.
Who does get this? Black people, women, and LGBTQ people get it – that’s why Black Lives Matter, and the movements to protect abortion and LBGTQ rights were the only ones appropriately outraged and mobilized to fight back against Trump and the right the last six years. They live life closer to the bone and have long since realized they hypocrisy of the American dream. An analogy for their commitment would be World War II Great Britain, before the U.S. entered the fight.
We’ve had two Pearl Harbors with the Trumpists – in 2016 and again in 2020 – more warning than our forebears received before they shed their isolationism in a hurry. But the Berrigan brothers (https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/social-sciences-and-law/social-reformers/berrigan-brothers), white men and the college students – who legitimized opposition to the Vietnam War – have yet to show up to protect democracy — and without them we are doomed, because only their participation will change the narrative the New York Times drives and the national culture amplifies.
What will get them off the couch?
Well, first, a felt need to participate. Rick Blaine, Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca, was a cynic as a result of his participation on the losing side in the Spanish Civil War and the failure of western democracies to support Spanish democrats. But he was roused to participation by the example of his lover’s husband – he took on the Nazis personally and gave up a nice life to re-enter the fight for democracy. We each must find that which does the same trick for us.
Second, societal “permission.” This is where the mainstream press comes in. If/when WAPO and the NYT and even MSNBC (not quite as progressive as you might think) start legitimizing widespread participation in civil action, economic boycotts, and massive dissent against institutions like the Supreme Court, the energy required to preserve democracy will be blunted.
Third, something to fight for. For far too long we’ve been forced to eat shit, to accept dribs and drabs trickled down from the system’s benefactors, so that we’ve stopped dreaming of what we could achieve with a true, equitable and democratic multi-racial society. As the first press excerpt indicates, we easily accept the dystopia being rammed down our threats — but can’t rouse ourselves to face about and demand better.
We can’t let the right appropriate either the term -- or actual – “American heritage.” Good American citizens must be able to draw a line from the past sacrifices of millions of Americans straight through to the future we want – while centering ourselves in the present through our actions. By failing to appropriately honor the good aspects of American history — as the left tends to do — and as that tendency is deliberately reinforced by Republican strategy — we lose a powerful motivating force.
Finally, there needs to be a movement and strategy that embraces and unites the existing progressive movements and energies and gives them a collective vector to preserve democracy.
How can you help? Whatever you can do to move the needle in these four areas would be helpful. (Note our previous work in these pages for more detail in this area). Give yourself permission to do something more than just vote – the soldiers of WWII voted – but they also fought for you and me.