Letters to a Senator

We recognized as a nation that we still had unmet needs, and expanded the social network through the programs of the Great Society, and even while fighting another unnecessary war in Southeast Asia paid down the debt, had a national surplus. The American dream stayed alive, was expanded for many.

And now? I read Herbert and my heart aches. But I am not surprised. He is not the only one who has been trying to call our attention to what is happening. Other writers, some politicians, many bloggers – including me – have been saying that the American dream is disappearing.

Bernie Sanders gets letters like this because people believe he still cares. They may not feel that way about other politicians.

The final paragraph in Herbert’s piece is from outside Sanders’ constituency:

A couple facing foreclosure in Barre, Mass., wrote to Senator Sanders: “We are now at our wits end and in dire straits. Our parents have since left this world and with no place to go, what are we to do and where are we to go?” They pray to God, they said, that they will not end up living in their car in the cold.

Can I be cynical and point out that at least they have a car to turn to, and many in this country do not.

I have a job. Some of my fellow teachers will lose theirs at the end of this school year. Many entered teaching for less pay in return for what they thought was job security and delayed compensation of pensions and health insurance. Now in our economic crisis they are losing those, if they keep their jobs. Teachers in many jurisdictions have lost stipends, are undergoing unpaid furlough days. We struggle to pay our bills, to maintain our homes. Yesterday we had to spend over $1,000 on plumbing that had to be addressed. We are now two highly educated people of middle class background who have no margin of error. And we are lucky. We do not have our own children, and so far we have not had to help support our older relatives, although one is dependent upon government assistance for her care, assistance that may soon disappear, and thus fall upon her children, including us.

If this nation is unwilling to be honest with what is happening, it will not just be the American dream that disappears. it will be hope. It will be democracy.

It already is justice. People have ripped off the system for trillions and gotten away with it. Any attempt to hold them accountable gets blocked – by politicians and judges bought and paid for by those who are transgressing against the rest of us.

This is perhaps not new. After all, one reason we went to direct election of US Senators is because the state legislatures that used to elect them were in some cases effectively subsidiaries of railroads and banks. It was a populist uprising that changed that. Now the wealthy fund “popular” uprisings that include in their agenda removing direct election of Senators.

But forget about political ideology. It is a cover for our shame as a nation.

Bernie Sanders speaks out. People write to him.

We need more than one senator.

We need people across the nation to speak out, to act.

Except for too many it is already too late.

Their dream is no longer dying. It is cold and in the ground.

The numbers of whom that is true is increasing, far too rapidly.

Bill Clinton used to quote from Proverbs 29:18, that where there is no vision, the people perish. Vision is the ability to look ahead. Vision combined with hope is what makes positive change possible.

People are losing hope. Some have already given up. Their voices are not heard, they are shouted out by anger provoked and manufactured by those who seek to profit for themselves and those like them, and to hell with the rest of us.

Letters to a Senator. Perhaps my title is too mild? Perhaps it should be screams of agony written to the one politician who still seems to listen?

I read Herbert. That is, I read the letters he quotes and the additional words he offers.

I did not need to.

I see it around my state of Virginia, where there are communities with effective unemployment rates over 30%.

I hear it in the voice of a student who asked to speak with me after class on Wednesday, who told me her family had lost its business and was about to lose its home, and she did not know how much longer she would be coming to school.

I read it in newspapers, on line and in dead tree editions, when they pay attention long enough to realize what is happening in this nation.

Herbert’s column should be read by everyone here. It should be sent to every elected official and candidate for public office. Of course some will ignore, others will politicize.

America is becoming immoral.

We already have a GINI coefficient that is embarrassing in how much economic inequity we have, and that inequity continues to increase. But as a nation we refuse to address the causes of that inequity, and pursue policies that only make it worse.

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