Sunday, June 20, 2004

Class Warfare in America by Bill Moyers

In a recent speech, Bill Moyers summed up a lot of what we're trying to say here--that a class war has been initiated by the corporate ruling class and the religious right with the aid of the media and politicians across the political spectrum, that this war has been nearly won (he points out later that Warren Buffet thinks it has been won), and that this war has serious, long term and lethal effects on the poor, on the middle class, on the economy, and on our democracy.

He's right. I said the same things in my first Commentary:
Those of us at the bottom of the income scale are involved in a war. It is not a war of bullets, mortar shells, bombs and tanks, but it is a war just the same, and people are dying. We didn't start this war. It is not a war with us but a war on us. We didn't ask for it, we don't want it, and if we could we'd sue for peace. It is not a war we can win in any final way, ever. We are outgunned, overmatched, and trapped in a swamp. The enemy controls our food, our shelter, our health, and our livelihoods. He rarely shows pity, breaks every truce within hours, and chips away at us every day as if we were emotionless blocks of ice he is hoping to whittle down until we just melt away.
I know this not because, like Mr Moyers, I have studied it, but because I live it. Every day.

It's a long speech, so I'm going to cut it up into shorter segments and post it over the next few days. Read it at your leisure, but read it and think about it. Those of us on the bottom are just the canaries in the coal mine; this poison gas is going to infect the whole society--if it hasn't already--and when it does, it won't just be us who will be dying. As the oligarchs consolidate their power, everybody's head is going to be on their chopping block.

It is important from time to time to remember that some things are worth getting mad about.

Here's one: On March 10 of this year, on page B8, with a headline that stretched across all six columns, The New York Times reported that tuition in the city's elite private schools would hit $26,000 for the coming school year -- for kindergarten as well as high school. On the same page, under a two-column headline, Michael Wineraub wrote about a school in nearby Mount Vernon, the first stop out of the Bronx, with a student body that is 97 percent black. It is the poorest school in the town: nine out of ten children qualify for free lunches; one out of 10 lives in a homeless shelter. During black history month this past February, a sixth grader wanted to write a report on Langston Hughes. There were no books on Langston Hughes in the library -- no books about the great poet, nor any of his poems. There is only one book in the library on Frederick Douglass. None on Rosa Parks, Josephine Baker, Leontyne Price, or other giants like them in the modern era. In fact, except for a few Newberry Award books the librarian bought with her own money, the library is mostly old books -- largely from the 1950s and 60s when the school was all white. A 1960 child's primer on work begins with a youngster learning how to be a telegraph delivery boy. All the workers in the book -- the dry cleaner, the deliveryman, the cleaning lady -- are white. There's a 1967 book about telephones which says: "when you phone you usually dial the number. But on some new phones you can push buttons." The newest encyclopedia dates from l991, with two volumes -- "b" and "r" -- missing. There is no card catalog in the library -- no index cards or computer.

Something to get mad about.

As always, if you want to read the whole thing, click the title. If something in the excerpt above moves you or surprises you, leave a comment. We need to start talking about this stuff. We need to understand it. Most of all, we need to acknowledge that it's happening and determine to do something about it.

(Many thanks to Jamison of BiteSoundBite for the link.

And Welcome to Phaedrus, who has officially joined FTT and will be posting here periodically as time and circumstances permit.)