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What is at stake in America today?

From the editors  |  Issue: May | June 2019
May Day march

Immigrants brought back the celebration of May Day in 2006.Thousands marched in Washington D.C.
PHOTO: ADRIAN C. GARCIA

 

Turmoil and conflict capture our attention nearly every day.

New caravans of displaced migrants are on the road, even as previously arrived asylum seekers are treated inhumanely and families face separation. Armed U.S. vigilantes arrive at the border to “assist” ICE, as Trump clamors for his wall. The threat of war in Venezuela captures our attention as our president contemplates armed intervention.

Everything appears in flux as constant change, instability, and violence grow. All of our old guideposts appear to lead us nowhere. On internationally celebrated May First organized labor as we knew it appears to be in retreat, as GM shifts plants to Mexico.

But wildcat strikes (not sanctioned by the official unions) break out in Mexico due to poverty wages despite an increase in the minimum wage. Housing insecurity rocks California and new organizations are forming to fight it. Community efforts lead to a first civilian police-advisory commission in Chicago in response to unchecked police-involved killings around the country.

 

PHOTO: ADRIAN C. GARCIA

 

In this setting, some hearken to the past with slogans such as “make America great again.” But thanks in part to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, talk of socialism is on the agenda again, after being absent from our national discourse for decades.

The most women ever elected to political office — with several promoting true family values and socialist ideals — comes as a response to President Trump’s wholesale assault on people’s needs. Voters elect five socialists as aldermen in Chicago. Socialist ideals espoused by newly elected women are openly discussed, and Democratic Party spokesmen are forced to defend them against threats from extremists.

We live in a highly polarized environment. Profound changes in the economy underlie the social and political changes that we see. To quote Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

“We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem.”

That understanding helps to explain why even legal-immigrant veterans such as Joaquin Sotelo face deportation after risking their lives for this country, why rapper Savage was detained and threatened with deportation for his performances protesting police abuse of youth, and why hunger strikers protesting the inhumane profit-driven detention of immigrants are being force fed.

As long as we think in terms of what appeared to make sense in the past, we remain divided and potentially thrust at each other’s throats. Another world is possible. The abundance of the new technology promises a world of plenty, but only if we seize the opportunity before it is too late.

We have to think outside the box. Barriers of borders, gender, race, religion and age don’t mean anything in a society organized around meeting people’s needs. Contact a speaker to learn more.

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