Open letter to the 1%.
May 7, 2015 § 6 Comments
I know you won’t read this.
You have made yourselves as remote and inscrutable as God, and yet as a member of the earthbound 99% I am compelled to shake a fist and shout, “Unfair!” into the wind.
Born in 1951, I remember a time when the middle class held the bulk of America’s wealth. Oh you were rich even then, but you still breathed the same air, walked the same earth as the rest of us.
It was still possible for one of us to become one of you.
In those days the American Dream was so solid it could have been called the American Plan. Work hard, practice thrift, raise a family and pass your gains on. Play by the rules and the opportunity to have a decent life was within reach for almost everyone.
Little by little you have rigged the game.
Our aspirations remain along with the illusion that prosperity is possible but nothing is what it appears to be beginning with the wayward behavior of gravity.
We, at the bottom are told wealth trickles down, which, even if it worked, is insulting. You get to have it all, and we get to live the adage “one man gathers what another man spills.”
In reality, wealth rushes up. And you make sure it does.
You have subverted the language, reshaping its meaning to suit your own ends.
Right to work. Of course we want the right to work (and buy groceries and have a roof over our heads) but this appealing phrase is really a legal tool meant to weaken labor unions and diffuse our strength-in-numbers, which is all we have against your overwhelming financial superiority.
Citizen’s United. This is not about a group of citizens coming together to support a worthy cause. This is about giving a collective form of humanity known as a corporation the same rights as genuine individual citizens (that would be us). This collective form of humanity (you) can now buy the government it wants.
Fair and balanced. News used to be “just the facts.” Now opinions are given equal time in the name of being fair and balanced. “Just the facts” was the way to go, but today’s “news” is designed to elicit an emotional response. Leaving the emotional response up to the recipient of that news would be too chancy for you. Keep us riled up and we’re not very effective.
It is to your advantage that we remain ill-informed, pliable, and mad as spit—at each other.
I used to have a neighbor with two small dogs. They would lunge at my dog when we passed in the street, but because their leashes kept them from reaching my dog they’d tear into each other.
Because we cannot reach you with our anger and our frustration we tear into each other.
And you make sure we do. You work our loyalties and turn them against those who are not like us. You know our prejudices and exploit them. You magnify our differences, discount all we have in common because if we pulled together we might look up and see that you (not folks with different religious beliefs, sexual preferences, or political leanings) are the ones who empty our pockets, hold us down.
You do not believe in government of, by, and for the people. You believe in capitalism, and then only with the understanding that the phrase “free market economy” is accompanied by a wink and a nudge.
Over time you take more, and more, and more. You could not possibly need more so it must be a game to you. To us less, and less, and less is a source of daily struggle.
It’s true that some of you give away big chunks of your wealth. For that you are lauded as philanthropists. But in order to qualify for your largess we must first be appealing in our need, and then grateful for your generosity.
There would be so much more dignity in earning a decent wage and being a member of a solid and thriving middle class, independent and self-sufficient, our hats on our heads, not in our hands.
I wish my memory of a thriving middle class were universal. Among the young it isn’t, so let me tell you how it looks to them. The American Plan is gone as if it never was.
And the American Dream? Today’s American Dream is a scratch-off lottery ticket picked up at the local convenience store, a momentary hope that luck will strike right here, right now.
It won’t surprise you one bit that it never does. How could it? It’s a rigged game.
But you know that. The game is yours.