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government sprinkles
Photo: Credit to San Diego Union Tribune

I hate partisan politics. I hate words like libtards and wingnuts. I hate that people refuse to embrace common sense or ethics if doing so puts them out of alignment with their party’s hot-button talking points. If you are going to hate, I suggest that these practices are good things to hate. But not people. Never people.

And what about contempt? Well, contempt is perhaps worse than hate. Hate is like steam. It builds up and explodes. It can be used up, spent, exhausted. Sure, sometime hate has some pretty ugly consequences, but other times it wears itself out.  Contempt, on the other hand, is a cancer. It grows. It feeds. It destroys everything in its path. And like cancer, if not treated aggressively, it becomes so big that it crowds out the vital organs. Cancers are stupid this way. They kill their host.

Although I have historically been an eternal optimist when it comes to my steadfast belief that people will ultimately do the right thing in the collective, my faith arrow keeps edging toward E. We could be very close to a revolution in this country. Am I being overly dramatic?

Fifty percent of the population believes that we should take care of and protect the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the fatherless, the widowed, the uneducated, the gays and lesbians, the minorities, women, and the environment. They believe that we should have the right to control out bodies and our bedrooms. They believe that protecting everyone sometimes means that regulations must be placed on dangerous things – like guns. Many in this 50% believe that there should be no restrictions on the amount spent in trying to reach this goal. Many times they do not mind that individual liberties and rights are infringed upon.  They often see only the ideal and care little for the sustainability of achieving this ideal. When it comes to how to pay for everything, their motto can be, “Tomorrow is another day.” They are children in their thinking much of the time. This is not always a bad thing. We can learn a lot from children and how they view the world and treat each other before they become corrupted by power and greed. Still, there has to be some admission that these ideals have to be paid for in addition to an understanding that the “anything goes” philosophy does not necessarily equate with “enlightenment”. Sometimes it is just careless, juvenile and irresponsible.

The other fifty percent believes that we should take care of and protect business, free enterprise, our right to bear arms, and unborn children. They insist on personal fiscal responsibility. They want to cut taxes, limit or eliminate welfare, have a small government, have a strong military and believe we should operate government based on Judeo-Christian values. Many in this 50% believe that it is not the job of government to take care of those people and things the other 50% think are fundamental rights and civic obligations, and to the extent those rights and obligations are worthwhile, they believe they should be addressed by the Church, families, private donations, the conscience of big business, and the generosity of the wealthy. Yet this 50% often has no problem doling out cash and tax breaks to those in power and they have very little capacity to see the hypocrisy of corporate and crony welfare. Their idea of small government is often blind when it comes to government encroaching on individual rights such as birth control, marriage, and sex and enormous budget items like the military. They refuse to see that turning a blind eye to social instability and inequality, regardless of its origins, incurs a huge monetary and social cost probably equal to the cost of every Means Tested program currently run by the federal government. While it is not wrong to want to pay for what you spend without having to go further into debt, they often can be petty, stingy and even heartless.

What absolutely astounds me is that most of the individuals in these two groups have more in common than they realize and are playing right into the hands of the most corrupt and ethically challenged people in our society. Most of us have little money or power when compared to the uber-wealthy who control both business and a good portion of our government. The increasing disparity between the haves and the have-nots is mindboggling. Yet people in the same financial boat point to those on the other side of the political aisle as if they are a “them” instead of an “us”. I direct the reader to the following two sources here and here to offer a little insight into where we are and where we might be headed. These are not necessarily the best sources, and they certainly do not represent the totality of evidence out there for wealth inequality in the U.S., but I daresay they will be enlightening and perhaps surprise some of you. (Make sure you watch the video in the second link.)

We have plenty of examples throughout history regarding what extreme disparities in wealth and/or power will do. It can bring down societies. It often changes the world. And not always for the good. Those that survive these upheavals are not necessarily the wealthy and powerful or even the people who started the revolution in the first place. There are many unintended consequences. While I am no expert on, say, the French and Russian Revolutions, I do see some commonalities and cautionary lessons.

In France, the ruling monarchy and their cohorts lived according to obscene excess and corruption while much of their population was starving. They went into astronomical debt supporting two wars: The Seven Years’ War and The American Revolution. They kept a large army and navy that was costly to maintain. Their tax policies were unfair and overburdened the poor and middle (or non-royalty) class. When the dire state of financial affairs was presented to the nobles, they still refused to pay taxes. They also refused to acknowledge the progressive shifts in society and held even more firmly to their traditions. There was a large, angry, yet easily manipulated peasant class that was strategically used by the discontented bourgeois for their own agenda. Any of that sound familiar? It should.

Russia, at the turn of the 20th Century, had a weak tsar, an economy weakened by war, extreme political divisiveness, and food shortages. The tsar ordered a disastrous suppression of striking industrial workers. After much pressure, he created the Duma, which became increasingly controlled by radical parties, primarily because the tsar kept dissolving it in favor of new elections to replace its members which he didn’t agree with or had a hard time controlling. The people revolted yet again; first in February and then in December. The December Revolution, led by the Bolsheviks, resulted in the tyrannical regimes of Lenin and Stalin. The Bolsheviks had a “vision” for the country and they were not going to allow the fact that this vision did not have widespread support to stop them. Any of that sound familiar? It should.

For those in the 50% who feel an obligation to level the playing field, very little encouragement or convincing is needed, but those on the other side who are deadset against it should understand that some level of wealth sharing is the glue that binds a successful society together. Even if you feel no moral obligation to provide for and protect the poor, the widowed, the uneducated, the environment and yes, even the lazy, then surely self-preservation should be a consideration. I know there are those in this country that want to call it communism or socialism, but is an oligarchy better? I suggest we do not have to be any of these things to be a successful democracy that protects and lifts up it citizenry while encouraging hard work, self-respect and sustainability. This I know, total obstructionism, zero compromise, and hateful rhetoric are not the tools to reach this goal.