These past few weeks, while watching the Manafort trial unfold, I’ve conjured a fantasy… that the current spotlight on the corrupt behavior of the 1% would create a new movement modeled on “#metoo.” We would call out the pervasive sham of making money off the backs of hard-working, tax-paying Americans and expose scammers who hide amassed fortunes in places where they cannot be taxed themselves. Our collective lens would suddenly be focused on how unchecked greed and shady business practices are destroying the fabric of our country, and (similar to our recent focus on Hollywood predators), public conversations would address the corruption that is often acknowledged but rarely confronted. Facebook, Twitter, and the talk shows would be abuzz, highlighting how this insidious looting of our coffers is inextricably connected to countless other profound injustices perpetrated by the wealthy against US citizens. We would hear the victims’ individual stories, study the history, examine the power structures that support these oppressive practices and discuss how they can be made transparent. More and more perpetrators would be exposed, until we finally burned it all down, one illegally obtained mansion at a time.
There is an old adage that nothing brings people closer together than discovering that they hate the same person. At a time when the Democrats and Republicans seem to be heading towards another Civil War, and their respective parties are fracturing, we might do well to train our focus on the dreams, problems and enemies, we have in common, rather than the paper tigers our respective news sources bait us with.
Both liberals and conservatives long for an idyllic, nonexistent past; they simply dream of different decades. While conservatives yearn for the buttoned-down, whitewashed ’50’s, liberals long for the decades following, when we had the illusion we were making mighty progress towards peace, love, and equality for all. Every American wants to believe in Democracy: that we have a voice in our government, and that those in power are there to serve “we the people.” But our collective dreams of endless possibilities have been crushed by a common enemy: one who sets us up so that we keep fighting with each other, so we won’t notice what they are doing to the lot of us.
It would serve us well to remember that Republicans and Democrats alike all watched corporations move into our cities to decimate small businesses, only to jack up prices and drop wages once they were the only game in town.
We all understand that these same corporations have destroyed Democracy by the unchecked bribing of our politicians: now, policy is determined by lobbyists, rather than constituents. “The swamp” has become more fetid, and threatens to engulf the far corners of our country.
Across the US, we watched hedge funders destroy family futures to make themselves rich. We waited for justice that never came. Only a token few went to jail, and no paternal figurehead appeared on TV to assure us that justice would be served, and that this will never happen again. After families lost their homes to predatory lenders, the government bailed out… the banks.
All but the wealthiest struggle to survive and pay taxes for our roads, schools, fire and police departments, while corporations and the uber-wealthy (the ones who have benefited the most from our system) skirt their share.
We hear the powerful and wealthy preach a conservative chant of “freedom from big government,” when they are really paving the way to privatize everything, with the constant, gluttonous end goal of greater profits. They want to charge us more for those same services, with hefty fines if payments are late.
The corporatization of virtually every aspect of our lives has left us feeling defeated and disempowered. If we want one channel on TV, we must spend more money to buy the bundle. We can’t connect to a human in customer service. Store salespeople can’t really help us anymore, because they are minimum-wage employees, not experts. Corporate lawyers dictate how we do just about everything in our lives, from ordering our venti coffees to giving away our privacy online in exchange for virtually any service. We are on our own. There is no one looking out for us anymore.
We (Democrats and Republicans alike) have suffered from the near-ubiquitous practices of The Real Enemies, and we know them by their deeds:
They have bought news stations to shape our reality.
They own the entertainment industry that keeps us distracted.
They give themselves tax cuts and raises, while refusing a living wage for workers.
They undermine unions to diminish our collective power.
They foster vicious laws to protect the oppressors, and keep the poor in place.
They funnel our tax money into companies they own.
They promise that if we agree to make them richer, it will trickle down.
They tell us that if only we were as smart as them, we too, would be rich.
They use high-priced accountants and lawyers to skirt the laws that we abide by.
Their insatiable avarice eclipses all morality.
They act as if they are above the law.
They countersue, protract litigation, and bankrupt anyone who tries to fight against their crimes.
Their children are exempted from fighting the wars they start: they send our children instead.
They educate their children in private schools, and defund public education.
Their deregulated companies spew poison into the backyards of the poor, far from their own insulated lives.
They use our misfortunes as opportunities to make more money.
They tell us to blame it on the immigrants and the opposing political party.
They think they have the right to own our water, our seeds, our genes.
They create chaos and diversions: anything to make us look the other way while they stuff their pockets.
They think the solution for everything is better PR.
And, when they can’t win the game, they change the rules.
This seemingly endless litany of transgressions can get the better of you, but realize that you’re not alone. That justice-seeking fantasy I’ve conjured persists and grows as I watch the masses tire of self-absolving, duplicitous corporate-speak.
Every thinking US citizen knows the game IS rigged.
And, that means that it doesn’t matter WHAT you believe about guns, immigration, or abortion: your voice can be eclipsed by a mysterious wire transfer of a large sum of money to an anonymous offshore account.
It’s time to drop the old narratives, open our eyes, and ferret out the real villains.
Follow the money.
Expunge the grifters.
Reclaim our Democracy.
Torch the kleptocracy.
Your vote is the match.