Friday, December 2, 2016

Liberals Don't Need to Understand Real America. Real America Needs to Get Real.

After this election, I have been reading nonstop about all the poor assumptions liberals made about this country and its voting habits, and how their biggest mistake was not understanding "Real America".

What is "Real America"?  Real America is geographically the central states of the US, often referred to as "flyover territory" in a derogatory fashion.  The people who live there are characterized as white, working class (or poor), Christian, and conservative.  Their education levels rarely go beyond high school.  They are seen as clinging desperately to a world that never really existed.  They fear change.  They fear being left behind by an ever-increasing multicultural population and the globalization of the economy.

It doesn't matter if these stereotypes are true or not.  Every election we have ever had panders to them.  The assumption is every politician is eager to grab votes from minorities, educated and professional women, and big cities with large populations, so this group is left behind.  That means more time and attention is put on campaigning for the needs of this group and framing the message that Real America still exists and still has a voice.

Working class and poor people have real fears and real problems that affect the entire country.  Unskilled workers can no longer be guaranteed employment in a well-paying manufacturing job.  There are jobs out there, but they are low-paying service industry jobs and do not cover the cost of food and housing.  They also don't provide healthcare benefits or the healthcare benefits they do receive cover as little as possible.  The need to find a way to pay for the basic cost of living has caused an endless cycle of debt.  Education used to be the one way out, but schools are failing and the cost of college makes higher education impossible for many Americans.

Liberals understand this.  We know many Americans struggle with basic needs.  We know children go to bed hungry.  We know adults are deep in debt.  We want to solve these problems first.  Liberals see the only way to solve problems is to move forward and not try to go back to some other time.  We need to work with the system as it is and not try to make it into what we wish it would be.

How do liberals want to do this? you ask.  We have several key initiatives to grow the economy into the future.

Manufacturing jobs that have already moved overseas are not likely to come back.  There is little incentive for companies to do that.  Besides, automation has made many manufacturing jobs obsolete.  Producers simply don't need the workforce they needed 50 years ago.

Rather than make jobs that don't exist, we need to make existing jobs more profitable for the worker.  We need higher wages, better working conditions, and strong benefits.  The government needs to stand with the unions instead of with the union busters.  If you truly want to return to the "Golden Age" of the 1950s, you need to do exactly what they did in the 1950s.  That means high minimum wage and strong unions (and yes, a high top tax rate, which was not proven to diminish the wealth or lifestyle of the super-rich).

We encourage rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.  This is one of the best ways to create jobs.  This will not just benefit the working class.  Everyone will benefit from safe roads and bridges and safe and reliable public transportation.

We want to invest money into education at all levels.  Education is the one way all Americans have to improve their quality of life.  Equal access to the best education is another benefit to society as a whole.   This is particularly true in the age of automation.  If we gave Americans the technical training to program and service the automated systems in place, more of them would have jobs in the manufacturing industries and would wouldn't have to keep hiring educated technicians from other countries.

We see the need to start investing in renewable energy instead of trying to rebuild the dying fossil fuel industries. Coal is dirty and inefficient and automation has replaced a vast number of coal mining jobs. Investment in alternatives will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship s.  This investment will create more jobs.  The added benefit to Americans as a whole is our air and water will be cleaner.  Win/win!

Unfortunately this message has been either buried or distorted by the right wing media (the "liberal media" is one of the biggest lies currently perpetuated by our culture as a whole) and the massive corporations who own them.   Every attempt at improving the lives of all Americans is framed as impractical, elitist, and even communistic.  While the internet has provided a voice for liberals to state their case without corporate dollars interfering, we have a long way to go to make our message heard.

The problem isn't just the media though.  It's the people themselves.  For too long poor and working class white people have swallowed the Republican message even when it has ceased to make any sense whatsoever.  How can anyone stand up and say we need to get rid of establishment elitists and then elect a billionaire who is infamous for underpaying - or not paying at all -  his employees, and even commits outright fraud?  Why would anyone believe our President cares anything about the people he has stomped on his entire career?  There are powerful interests at work saying if we just let billionaires make as much money as they want, they will begin spreading that money around.  There will be more jobs and higher wages.  This has never proven to be true.  No matter how many Republicans are in Congress or the White House, the Trickle-Down Fairy has yet to sprinkle her magic dust over the US population.  (I wrote more about that here.)

The real issue here is not whether or not Americans are willing to accept practical fixes for the economy.  It's that they are looking for something else.  As I said above, white working class people aren't looking for practical solutions.  They are looking for some version of America that doesn't exist.  They don't want the world to change.  They don't want equal rights for all races and religions.  That would mean a risk that their own power will further diminish.  They don't want better education.  They want jobs for the uneducated.  They don't want multiculturalism.  They want their world to exist exactly as it is forever and ever.

This mentality needs to stop.  It needs to change.  I'm tired of living in a country that is trying to preserve a way of life for a certain group of people.  I'm tired of hearing how elections are lost because white, Christian, working class people "Want their country back."  I'm tired of being told I don't understand working class people and that I'm an elitist.

It's time for Real America to get real.

I am not the only one who believes this.  I am writing this post after seeing these pockets of dissension regarding the reason Trump won the election.  There are many new voices coming out and saying the same thing I'm saying and saying it better.

Real America needs to face a few truths if we are ever going to move this country in the right direction.

Let's start with the fact that Christianity is not the only religion in this country.  Accept the fact that Christianity can not, and does not, dominate the public square.  This does not mean you can't be a Christian.  You are welcome to attend church, proselytize on the street corner (as local ordinances permit), pray, and practice ritual as long as you don't cause harm to others.  This is your right as an American.  However, it is time to understand you can't force everyone to live under your religion.  Others do not have to pray with you if they don't want to.  No one is required to celebrate your holidays or celebrate them exactly as you celebrate it.  The Constitution is not derived from your ancient holy texts and the country is not required to live by those rules.  It's time to coexist with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Wiccans, Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and yes, Atheists.  We need to start talking about creating an ethical society that does the least harm and provides the most benefit instead of trying to turn everyone Christian.

Next it's time to stop fearing multiculturalism.  There is fear among white people that European culture will be lost.  What is European culture?  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, native-born Americans (but not Native Americans) feared the masses of immigration from European countries such as Italy and Ireland.  I'm sure they felt these immigrants would destroy their way of life.  Now the entire country celebrates St. Patrick's Day and eats more pizza than they do in Italy.  That's what the "Melting Pot" is all about.  Our country always has been, and always will be, absorbing aspects of other cultures int our own.  Do you really think only white or European culture is the only one we should allow in this country?  Do you love jazz, blues, rock, or hip hop?  Do you enjoy salsa dancing or eating street tacos?  Do you practice yoga?  Elements of immigrant and non-white American culture are probably already part of your daily life.  It hasn't harmed you.  In fact, it has probably made your life more enjoyable.

If you think it's possible to keep every single undocumented immigrant from crossing the border, you had better think twice about the advantages.  There are industries who - rightly or wrongly - rely on undocumented immigrant labor.  This includes industries that affect your daily life like agriculture and meatpacking.   If an impenetrable wall is built from edge to edge of the Mexican border, food prices will soar. Will you just say that's Obama's fault?

We need to learn to accept that you can't force gay people back in the closet.  You are allowed believe it's a choice.  You are allowed to believe it's wrong.  You are not allowed to legislate those beliefs.  Gays do not have to be married in your church, however two loving, committed, consenting adults are allowed to obtain a legal marriage certificate with no interference from you or your pastors.  You don't have to like it, but it has nothing to do with you.  It's none of your business.

It's time to start recognizing blacks, Latinos,  Semitic people, and Asians as human beings with equal value to you.  They are not out to get you.  They are not stealing your jobs.  They are not taking your tax money in welfare dollars.  They are US citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as you have.  They have families and loved ones to care for.  They worry about jobs and money as much as you do.  Maybe it's time to get to know someone who doesn't look like you.  Also, remember that your ancestors were immigrants too.  The "real" Americans were killed off in order for you to be here and call yourself a native.

Intellectualism is not the enemy.  Education is important.  In order to get anywhere in life, you need a good education.  This doesn't just mean learning the 3Rs.  A good education includes critical thinking and at least a basic understanding of how the world works.  Turn off the TV and read a book.  Go out and explore.  Try to create something just for the joy of creation.  You may find you go farther in life if you are curious and open-minded.

You must understand Roe V. Wade is the law of the land.  You don't have to like it and you also don't have to get an abortion if you don't want one.  You do need to accept the vast majority of the US population supports it.  Don't expect your elected officials to overturn it.  They use it as a wedge issue to get you to the polls, but they have no intention of following through.  If they came close to overturning Roe V. Wade, more proponents of the law would start flooding the polls and your representatives would lose their seats and they know it.  If you love children, it's time to support measures that help children currently walking this earth. 

Remember that "coastal elites" are just as "real" as rural whites.  I know I am privileged to have grown up in a place that had good schools and that I had a family that could send me to college.  It was purely an accident of birth.  I understand that.  I also have many of the same struggles you do.  I still worry about money and sometimes struggle to have all the bills paid.  I have family members who need extra care.  I had to finance my education and was in debt for many years over it.  I go to work, watch TV, eat dinner, and do many of the same things you do.  I am a human being, and I am real.

I am real.  You are real.  Let's work together to solve real problems with real solutions.   I can reach out to you, but will you reach out to me?

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