by Don Washington on 2012/05/02
America is a country that is always at war with itself. We live at the point where what it claims to be clashes with the hard-cold reality of what it actually is. The claim that we are the land of the free has never been true for every soul under the Stars and Stripes. In fact every “freedom” we enjoy was won with someone’s blood and taken from those in power not given by our Constitution or won on some distant shore in some foreign war. We must clearly face that we live in a time of scapegoats or solutions.
America has always been a place with the rich and the rest of us. Know that the collapse of every society can be measured by the distance between those that have more than enough and those that have not at all. The greater said inequality the weaker society becomes. A weak society cannot respond with obvious solutions to its problems so instead it seeks vulnerable scapegoats to sacrifice to its failings. As Jay Gould said, he could pay half the working class to kill the other half. That is what it is like to live in a time of scapegoats or solutions.
America’s search for scapegoats is a history lined with racism, violence, lies and xenophobia. Working people, black people and immigrants slaved for 12 to 16 hours a day for pennies and lived in squalor as they died in the tens of thousands on the job before being made into scapegoats. As scapegoats immigrants, working people and blacks were regarded as sub-human and even disease carriers. They were called terrorist-communist-sympathizers for standing up for their rights. In some cases job stealing foreigners when they were brought here to fill low wage jobs and to depress the wages of native American workers. They were called anti-American and sometimes socialists, without any regard for the terms when they wanted democracy in their work places. If it sounds familiar it should. Some were called Catholic when it carried the same weight to wound one’s life chances that Muslim carries now. If you have heard this before then you know in a time of scapegoats or solutions scapegoats cost less and blood is cheaper than money when it’s not your blood being shed.
Liberals, activists, women, organizers and people who believed in human, civil, labor or women’s rights were beaten, arrested, shot down by state militias for peaceably assembling and putting those beliefs on paper. This is because that's what happens to scapegoats. In all cases they were persecuted and even murdered to the applause of the “free press” when they were not being ignored or maligned by it. After all it was that same “free press” that labeled them dangerous, anarchist terrorists, free loving, shiftless slackers, class warriors, and atheists. All of these people were accused of trying to tear down democracy for demanding it live up to one of its principles… fairness. If you can hear an echo in today's coverage of unions and Occupy Wall Street and any critique of corporate power you should because it is shouting at you. That is what it means to live in a time of scapegoats and solutions.
We know that a society is held together by empathy, compassion and connection not some social Darwinist worship of markets and competition. When its guardians; politicians, policemen, academics, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, poets, soldiers and scientists stop being advocates of the common good and become disciples of economic expediency those without means become scapegoats for a society incapable of solutions. When they have no solutions they make us scapegoats so that they can savage us with a militarized police force. Military grade weapons and measures on peaceful citizens because we who are scapegoats are a danger to their legitimacy every second we refuse to wear the label and speak truth to power.
But label us and scapegoat us is what those who have stolen so much wealth from all of us do. We are the lazy, welfare-stealing blacks, the illegals who took your job; the gays with their agenda; women who cannot mind their God-given place, liberals who seek social justice and to redistribute wealth and Muslims with their Sharia Law and terrorist religion all must be watched and warded and possibly punished. They respond with the closed fist, the baton, tear gas, pepper spray, nets, surveillance and maybe soon indefinite detention because force is the face of public policy when the public it serves the tiny few not the working many. That is what it means to live in a time of scapegoats or solutions.
Scapegoats are the easy explanation for both economic uncertainty and the certainty of helplessness and despair. When the gulf between the unbelievably wealthy and the unbearably poverty stricken is large enough everyone knows that only solution is to restore the social contract. They, who have built a system to extract vast amounts of wealth from society, must return to it what in many cases they have stolen from it... from us. They must return the wealth because thirty years of impunity and inequality demand expensive and immediate solutions that everyone knows we need. We scapegoats know it most keenly of all as we are the canaries in a closing and dying democracy’s mines and we will not fade without fighting for solutions.
Still there is a place on the continuum… the fulcrum point of a nation’s soul before it rockets down the path of Imperial Rome or Nazi Germany and we are in that place now. In that place where our collective conscience stands up and provides an ethical, principled reminder that for a society to work it needs solutions not scapegoats.
We know there should be a single-payer, national health insurance plan because private healthcare insurance, like the slave trade before it, is a market that should not exist in a just society. We know that twenty percent of America’s children should not live in poverty because that is a blasphemy. We know that the government tax policies, like a corporation paying a quarter in taxes for every dollar a living human pays, must be changed to stop redistributing wealth upward and start restoring it to the society that makes wealth creation possible. We know the fact that students have taken over a trillion dollars in loans from the same financial entities that are stealing their parent’s homes via fraud is a crime against accountability. We are clear on the fact that no one has paid for this financial corruption is a sin against the notion of the rule of law. We know that the fact that not one person has gone to jail for transforming us into a torture state while whistleblowers who reveal such malfeaseance are prosecuted and imprisoned without charge for years before trial belittles the concept of legitimacy. We understand that the fact we continue to lose civil rights a decade after 9/11, via the NDAA, ignoring the FISA Court, the PATRIOT ACT, the MCA and repeated attempts to chill speech on the internet in the name of security is unconscionable. We the scapegoats are shouting for solutions.
But as bad as things are they have never been better. This time we know that racism, sexism, religious and sexual intolerance and all the rest are just tools to divide us. This time we remember how they shot down the Black Panthers and sent agent provocateurs into our organizations to disorganize and destroy us. This time we know we’re being monitored, spied upon and that it is a prologue to possibly something far worse. But we’ve faced these odds before. We faced them at Homestead, Pettis Bridge, Kent State, Selma, Everett, Orangeburg, Wounded Knee, Ludlow, Greensboro and Haymarket and we’ll stand up and face them again and we won. I know we won because there’s a weekend and Social Security and racism and sexism are things we fight over instead of just agreeing on. We live in a time of scapegoats and solutions and that’s what no one ever tells you about democracy… that such is always the case and as a scapegoat I will fight for solutions… like we scapegoats always do.
Don Washington is an AP-Award winning writer, political expediter and problem-solver, proprietor of the agitational, informational, interactive website and show the Mayoraltutorial.com. You can follow him as drobsidian on Twitter where he is not afraid of ninja, thinks Godzilla is every bit as plausible as Santa Claus and is the keeper of one large and brilliant cat.