Saturday, February 12, 2011

Revolution in Egypt and America

My facebook news feed is all abuzz with the revelation that the peaceful revolution in Egypt has brought down a 30-year dictator. I feel that euphoria too. I'm so moved and impressed with the courage, dignity and tenacity of the millions of people who flooded the streets. They are asking for democracy by demonstrating democracy.
Some of my friends have mused that it would never happen here. But I think it is happening. Consider the last election and before, people protesting, calling their representatives, unseating long-standing incumbents. But it is different. I heard an Egyptian say, regarding the vast resources of Egypt whose spoils all go to the ruling class, "We are like the camel who carries gold and only gets to eat grass."
We have incredible resources here too, and a labor force making a sliver of people very, very rich. But instead of demanding more of the spoils, we are crying, Cut spending! Cut! Cut! We are in the streets shouting, no more policies that redistribute the wealth! That's socialism! Let free market competition lower our wages, take away our benefits, our health insurance, pensions and social security. Just give us low prices at Wal-Mart.
While corporations make record profits by hiring and selling in China and India, and one in five Americans has lost a job in this recession, let us blame the jobless for being too lazy to work! Take away our protections from predatory mortgage and finance companies, and insurance companies that would deny us access to health care, or pay so little of the care we receive that we lose our houses.
Let coal, gas, oil and nuclear energy corporations and the U.S. military (the greatest polluter on earth) blow up mountains, stain the ocean and tundra with oil, squander and toxify ground water, lace lakes with mercury and the air with particulates that give kids asthma, and create nuclear waste that will be deadly for thousands of years. Don't support the development of clean energy and public transportation. Let us spend all our time raising money for cancer research without asking why the cancer rates are going up and up. Don't tell us about the link between lawn chemicals and childhood leukemia. Don't talk to us about climate change until our cities spend all their money on record snowfalls, floods, tornados, and hurricanes and Florida is half underwater. Let us ignore the death of coral reefs, spotted owls, whales and polar bears, and let us shoot the remaining wolves.
Let us shoot ourselves and each other too. We want more guns, since 30,000 deaths a year is not enough. Don't tell us that one third of our children are obese, and that in 15-20 years, obesity will be the greatest, most expensive health epidemic we've ever faced. Don't make our K-12 education system any better - we like being 33rd - and don't help our poor and middle class kids pay for college. Let rich kids have those slots. If the others want to go to college, let them work a couple minimum-wage jobs while going to school, and come out competing for a few high paying jobs, strapped with a mortgage-sized debt. While half a million kids languish in foster care, and only 14,000 kids are adopted each year, and 80% of inmates went through the foster care system, let us scream out against abortion. But don't fund birth control clinics either, especially for the poor.
Don't fund our arts, libraries or public broadcasting. Let all our media be owned by a few, and let corporations control the message, and hell, let them control the government too. And speaking of the government, let them listen in on our phone conversations, see what books we check out at the library, grope us at the airport, and hold us without charge, to save us from terrorism. Let our xenophobia fester until we are insane with rage about undocumented workers, without talking about our economy, guest worker passes, or the way American agribusiness under NAFTA dumped cheap, subsidized food on Mexico, causing a million and a half farmers to lose their farms. Spend the lion's share of our resources on the military, until we are spending more than every other country on earth combined, but if we complain about the expense, lower the wages of the lowest-ranked personnel, deny them care if they are injured in war, and privatize as much as possible, so our tax money is gobbled up by companies with no oversight
Take away all the protections for individuals until we have the freedom to stand alone against our employers, corporations and government. In the distribution of wealth and power, we don't want to be like Europe. We want to be like Egypt, the day before the revolution.

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