Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

Playing the provocative card of “class warfare” is a totally disingenuous monkey wrench thrown from the Right into our already polarized economics. Class warfare has always been waged best from the top down, and all too successfully punishing to those struggling to just get by. Most Americans simply keep their head down and try to survive an economic battlefield on which they feel completely lost. Most still don’t recognize the obscenely privileged as their economic enemy, while those that do are politically marginalized by both the mainstream Left and Right.

We hear about “working class values.” Always referenced in the most positive manner, the term is bandied about as if everyone knows its meaning and holds such values as being quintessentially American.

I, for one, am not exactly clear as to what those values are except that the phrase conjures up a vague ethos of honest hard work toward self-betterment. “Middleclass” conjures up an image of a certain white-collar weakness and comfortable acceptance of the status quo. Middle class values, however, are still understood as basically down-to-earth, only more educated and socially elevated.

The wealthy have no such branding of their values. We don’t speak of “well-to-do values,” or example them as something to look up to. The wealthy never come across as actually standing for anything except being on top. Whatever they see from aloft they pretty much keep to themselves.

That view’s price of admission is obviously worthwhile because everyone wants entry, just as much of the desire of something that’s expensive lies in the fact that it’s indeed expensive.

Culturally predisposed, most of us do envy the well-to-do. We’d like to do what they’ve done, or what they lucked into, to achieve or come by such wealth. Such success is envied for its sheer quantitative status of excess. How it’s achieved receives little moral or ethical scrutiny. Having more is instinctively revered as better than having less.

“American values” traditionally brings to mind the lone pioneer clearing just enough land to allow for an individual stake in the pursuit of material happiness. The American dream is all about opportunity. Prosperity and upward mobility are there for those who care to bootstrap themselves. America’s promise is about hard-won personal achievement, not “entitlements.”

That sounds all well and good to those already having achievement and entitlement. For them, the way things are is best left unchanged, unless the system can be made even more imbalanced towards favoring those already favored.

There’s nothing new in any of this. There have always been the haves and the have nots.

Somehow the thought of American values and that lone individualist pioneer never wander to remembrance of the plantation owner and the actual workforce enslavement that was the economic engine which built what still remains a vastly inequitable economic inversion of socialism rather than a truly noble capitalism.

As Bernie Sanders reminds us, it was Martin Luther King, Jr. who pointed out that, “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” Sanders’ brand of “democratic socialism,” where the “d” remains in lower case, is a timely and logical extension of those large “D” socialist policies successfully realized by FDR, America’s only four-term president.

Sanders’ basic message is that Americans need to take back the American dream from its nightmarish perversion by the insanely rich. If the 1 percent of America continues on its unchecked oligarchical rule, others might well ask themselves what exactly was the point of originally rebelling against an oppressively privileged elite? Proudly socialist, Sanders is fighting for a re-democratization of America, reestablishing its power of, by, and for the people.

Meanwhile, many of capitalism’s followers nevertheless blissfully identify themselves as Christians, followers of one whose socialist teachings remain a daunting material challenge to those claiming serious belief in his spiritual message. Pope Francis couldn’t be more direct in his admonishment of the ever increasing planetary endangerment by a truly unprecedented empowerment of greed’s reward at any cost.

The Church has finally come full circle to its anti-capitalist beginnings which preached that the least among us will be first, and that amassing material wealth is a very myopic game plan when eventually threading the needle’s eye of eternal reward.

Whether bowing one’s head in church or worshiping the almighty dollar, or being an American by whatever manner of religious or social-economic leanings, let’s give thanks that America’s wise and revolutionary separation of church and state still fostered a compassionate belief that all should have the right of economic justice in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

America’s values, materially and spiritually, are what we collectively determine them to be.

Wouldn’t it be great if America finally valued what other supposedly far less exceptional nations already have in place, and sought to provide every U.S. citizen with universal health care, food security, affordable housing, tuition-free higher education, income equality, truly progressive taxation and a secure retirement?

Some believe such thinking is fundamentally un-American. It isn’t. What’s un-American is thinking that America can’t or shouldn’t provide for the basic needs of all its citizens.


Gary Anderson lives in Bath.

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