Published and archived on History News Network (hnn.com) on December 4, 2011. Approximately 1068 words.
I regret that a System that really CAN work is being damned once again by those who declaim in the mainstream of long ago radicalism. I fear that youth among us are unable to recognize and decipher the prose used by yesterday’s Populists, LaFollette Progressives, Wallace zealots, Socialist Worker Trotskyites, Socialist Labor debaters, and similar related radicalisms. Now and then they take to the streets and even sloganeer in our community newspapers.
These supercritical and super activist people know perfectly well that ours is in form a representative democracy that exists in a welfare capitalist system. Much of the time–but not always–the System ends up working. Violence of invective, born of understandable frustration and impatience, can be potentially revolutionary. Remembering the violence in the turbulent 1960s, that would be an unacceptable outcome from today’s street convulsions.
In today’s paper one radical writer says “oligopolies…milk the system.” Always upset activist Amy Goodman demands her version of “democracy now” with no delay. She quotes C. Wright Mills to good effect in her crusade to dump the system that has so served Americans in yesteryear. (I do remember when Mills wrote me to fulsomely praise my detailed summaries of socialism and communism in my dissertation.) A column reprinted from the rational Kansas City Star mourns the demise of our “spirit” and the total irresponsibility of Congress. That we can agree with! Daily, the protesters get a good press in our town as their protest techniques are weakly tried out yet again in our business district. Overall, something “basic” is said to be Wrong. I never thought I’d have to say it, but this time the outcry has some real merit.
Sadly, this is indeed not one of the times when our system is working. There is growing inequality that must be addressed–and NOW. It cannot be saved for another day. Many reliable measurements display it. The tax system is skewed to serve the very rich. Our betraying representatives in Washington are not taking seriously the threats to both our wellbeing and the System itself. The malaise is serious, measured by two criteria: accumulation of wealth in the “upper class,” and use of wealth in skewing the System itself.
Anybody with even half a brain is very concerned–or ought to be. About what? Our economics and our politics–that’s what! Our conduct in this era’s foreign affairs, where the out of control impulse to “do good” or “bring change” has led us into a succession of military interventions we cannot afford, has been poorly researched beginning to end. Indeed, we have somewhere picked up on the concept that in the Middle East the US can disregard deep-rooted local religions and historic tribalism and simply barge in to convert any local civilization to a defined idealistic Western democratic capitalism.
Now the piper wants to be paid. Iraq since 9/11 better not be the model. Yesterday’s Soviet Union, now “capitalist” but unsafe, unequal, uncertain, and unloved is not the System we want to be spreading. Right? Japan and Korea may be workable models of what can be achieved, however. There is no denying that they have done well in adapting many aspects of Americanism to their peoples’ lives. As time passes we hope they will avoid what doesn’t work here.
Our passion to spread democracy and with it some aspects of capitalism is admirable in theory. So far it is killing us in practice, at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, we mistakenly thought the highly educated but ethics ignorant leaders of our Economy were sympathetic to the wellbeing of Americans on the farm, on Main Street, and living on various pensions. Was our faith fully warranted? No, our Trust has been misplaced. Many in our elites just don’t care as they revel in the millions that arrive yearly. It cannot be denied.
So: are we to dump the political and economic system that built America? As CBers once said, “Negatory, good buddy.”
The American System is worth preserving, rebuilding, expanding in acceptance, and admiring for what it was and what it can be again. Forget any launching
Capitalism is not the culprit. Nor is our form of government. Our economic system and our form of government (national and local alike) can do the job for us if a new generation works with rather than against us.
As a very senior citizen I cling to faith that my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will get to live in a democratic, representative, and welfare capitalist America. But it has to be said that neither creation nor preservation will be automatic and effortless.
Good things can happen if we all work to reform, preserve, and protect the most important aspects of The American System. The ball is in the court of all of us. Meanwhile convinced radicals and discontents among us will have to stop persisting in throwing out the baby with the bath, so to speak.
I say with conviction that the systems that built the United States of America are the right ones. I agree they are sick. Even so, we will be better off if we hang on to what has worked in our better times up to now. Reform is in order. Intelligent parts of our public are crying out for new and reputable leadership. Who can blame them? Still, basically, our political and economic systems are SOUND.
This is not the time for contaminated prose pointing hopefully to possible revolution. with demoralized generalizations that go nowhere. We don’t need a “new order.”
We can preserve and restore procedures that work. I know we can. But what a task! There is a sickness in the land. To treat it and not kill the patient will take skill from the educated and restrained patience from all who suffer. (Don’t think my parents and I weren’t once, 1930-34, embedded among The Poor.)
We will be counting on those in Education to help. Leaders in commerce and finance must think constantly of others. Those entrusted with our government must honor their trust. Our Younger Generation, meanwhile, needs to resist zealots and direct action enthusiasts.
We must not “settle” or pretend there is no problem. Embedded in our minds must be the total survival of the American political and economic systems that are absolutely basic to this great and good, welfare capitalist, Democratic Republic.