Racism is the opiate of the masses. Keeping the blacks in their place had the desirable consequence of keeping the whites in their place. The oppression of racism hid the basic fact that black people and white people had a common predicament and a common enemy.
If it were not for racism, black people and white people might band together and vote against the corrupt oligarchs who have turned this country into a haven for the huge faceless entities that contrive a million different ways to relieve citizens of their livelihood, property, dignity, worldly possessions.
Mentioning class warfare is considered de trop. It’s so, well, 19th century. But look around: Class war is already happening; it’s just that our side is essentially unarmed. Our only strength is our overwhelming numbers.
Racism is the drug that makes people not notice that. Racism is the drug that sets people against people and leave the super-rich alone to do business. Racism has allowed our country to arrive at its current state of apocalypse-level corruption.
Everybody wants social justice. Everyone wants policies that restore human dignity. Hardly anyone believes that American democracy, as it is currently constituted, will do anything to fulfill those goals. There is too much fluidity between government and business; too many think tanks, lobbyists and bundlers. The ruling class does what always does; it perpetuates itself. Also, it rules.
We wanted to get away from a king, but we’re still all subjects of an arbitrary system, cogs in an economic machine. We’re getting into 30s-eras Commie-pinko territory now, but why not? Let’s form cells and talk about the masses . The masses are still screwed. Russia is now another capitalist greed carnival. Making money is our religion, and we have proselytized the entire world with our message of hope: Someday you could be really rich, but probably not. But see, here’s the gleaming bauble. Worship it!
Is overweening greed essential to human nature? Pragmatists say yes, and they’re probably right. But what if?
All this is idealist talk, I know. I’m old, and I have been seduced by idealism before. I idolized Jack Kennedy for what I thought he was. I idolized Barack Obama for what I thought he was. But, one way or another, they served the masters of the universe. They had no choice; the game is set up that way. The only solution is to change the game — and that hardly ever works.
Revolutions have a tendency to end badly.
Have I been thinking about Bernie Sanders? Well, yes I have. You want an example of racial harmony? Watch Killer Mike talk with Bernie. You don’t need to know who Killer Mike is; context will explain it all. Watch and, as we used to say in the old country, dig that.
I do understand the immense downside of a potential Sanders presidency. His foreign policy pronouncements are only a shade more nuanced than those of Donald Trump. His executive skills are unproven, and probably not very good. His fabulous persona, the cranky Jewish grandpa who gives impassioned mini-lectures about income inequality, touches some clear need for authenticity in the electorate. He’s entirely charming, but is it a political trick? As the president reminded a questioner, somewhat impatiently, Bernie Sanders is a politician. He knows his schtick is working. Today’s media culture makes all candidates hyper-aware of the metaphorical nature of their ambitions.
Other candidates have wanted to seem plugged in and hip. Bernie went the other way; he cultivated the image of a guy who might very well complain about his new-fangled smartphone. Maybe that’s the real Bernie; I dunno. But it’s also a very shrewd choice; when Hillary goes after him, she’s like a brusque night nurse at the assisted living facility.
Sanders is peddling an attractive line of goods. Hillary is enmeshed in the liberal way of doing things, a philosophy that started in the FDR administration and has remained essentially unchanged since then. Her beloved Clinton Foundation is a beacon of compassionate capitalism, in which all the corporations that have pillaged the world for a century are encouraged to give gigantic (although not painful) donations to fight poverty and hunger in the developing world.
The poverty and hunger in the USA: Not so much.
Hillary’s ideas are bold, and her mastery of dirty details of policy implementation is unrivaled, but she is a gradualist, manipulating the system cleverly to achieve her laudable goals. But Bernie presents a more compelling argument: Gradualism has not worked; things have gotten worse for wage earners and the poor no matter which president sat in office.
And Bernie tells the truth. Over and over again, he tells the truth. He’s finding an audience. Listening to him, people might find a new way to think about the world. People might band together, not because they love each other, but because they need each other.
I gave $100 to Bernie, but I don’t know whether I’ll vote for him. Clinton knows where the levers of power are; in the end, that might be more useful than ideology. But I like that Bernie is part of the conversation. I like him touring the country, presenting visions of struggle and unification. I came of age in the Sixties; of course I believe in struggle. I believe in marching in the streets; I believe in the peaceful redress of grievances.
Maybe it could happen. What have we got to lose?
Photography by Tracy Johnston
Spam folder expertise by Michelle Mizera