BY VERN TURNER
Here we go again. In 1966 my National Guard unit helped suppress the race riots in Cleveland, OH. Before, during and after that event we all saw the deep disturbances in Newark, Detroit, Watt/Los Angeles, Kent State, Chicago and several other places.
Who said we were a peace-loving people? Not me. In my lifetime, I’ve seen a constant stream of violence in our cities, mostly class against class and race against race.
Before I was born in 1942, race and labor riots killed hundreds. Police have always been out there dealing with riots and killing unarmed people who won’t go home.
Nobody asks why they won’t go home or why they’re so upset. I think those with the guns and nightsticks already know why. Here is the quote from the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, John Angelos, that says it all:
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
Psst. He’s talking about Reagonomics and the lurch to the right by the GOP.
In case you slept through American History – the part not taught in schools – it has always been a class war in this country. If it weren’t, why would the Republican Party have lurched so far to the right to keep suppressing the tenets and policies of the New Deal? Why would “conservative” Christians keep whining about “takers” and “those lazy people” when their prophet said to do the opposite? Are they so inured with their own hubris that they can’t see their own abject hypocrisy? I think that is the case.
My latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, begins with an anecdote about a little boy being toured through the ghetto of 1950 Cleveland. The poverty and street culture was there then and is there still. There is, and has always been, an underclass that defines institutionalized poverty. By always ignoring the hopelessness of extreme class warfare by mostly white business and corporate ownership, underclasses are clearly and perversely defined.
In Howard Zinn’s brilliant take on the underbelly of American history, The People’s History of the United States, he shows how this institutionalization began even before the inception of the nation we now hold so dear. He also makes it irrefutably clear that pure, unfettered capitalism is to blame for slaver, institutionalized poverty and the resistance to the New Deal or any other human rights/social services initiative because it cuts into profits – that’s short-term profits, the watchword of corporate accountants.
So, for those who brave the concept of peeling away the rosy scales of the American Dream, take a look at how to solve the issue at hand: Poverty. Total, complete, unfair, cloying, hope-draining, pervasive poverty.
The Keynesian philosophy of spending our way out of poverty is logical, doable and proven to work. See the two Roosevelt administrations of the 20th Century for that proof. We spend enough each year on our military/security budget to eliminate world hunger every year!
We could resurrect the Marshall Plan for our own cities and educate the citizens in them to rebuild those cities with renewable energy construction from the ground up, thus solving two problems at once – perhaps three. Because if we put all those people to work and pay them, they’ll return that favor by buying stuff, creating new jobs with their demand and paying taxes back to the governments – to say nothing about reducing the welfare rolls greatly.
But will we do those things? Probably not. Hell, we can’t even get off of our fat asses and vote for people that are in our best interests. Instead, we stay home and let the rightwing zealots elect radical reactionaries who pass themselves off as conservative.
Have you noticed how many people of color consider themselves conservative? Why is it that the 17% of those who pick the “winners” are almost all white? It’s because they have skin in the game of economics and race. It’s because progressives seem to not want to participate actively enough that we get the Republican foxes eating the chickens in our citizens’ hen houses.
When those of us who are white or brown or black who actually care about the future and present status of our nation finally put down the phone, the remote and the Bud Lite to become politically active and vote, we have a chance of saving ourselves peacefully. If we don’t do these things and take back our democracy from the rightwing, ideologue, true believers, we’re headed for more civil unrest and perhaps an outright revolution.
With all those militarized police out there, imagine how much fun that revolution will be. Make no mistake: The rich will defend their wealth to the utmost. The only peaceful way to make equitability a reality is through the ballot box. Otherwise, we deserve what we get.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He will be signing copies of his latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, at Full Circle Books, 1900 Northwest Expressway, in Oklahoma City, on May 19 at 6:30 p.m. Copies also are available through Amazon.com.