The article (below) by Robert Freeman, sent to me and his family by my cousin, with a preface from him, was published on 2009 March 15th, but foresaw some of the things we are witnessing now as the election draws near next Tuesday (2010 November 2nd).
I have added a personal perspective, based on my three and a half decades as an immigrant in this
country (the U.S.A.).
Thanks for sending us this article by Robert Freeman, published, on 2009 March 15, on CommonDreams.org It is possible that Freeman is being too alarmist. But perhaps one should be alarmed. Those on the right will also note that socialist solutions, especially those attempted by the Communist parties in the Soviet Union, China and elsewhere, had also apparently failed, with economic problems and popular discontent, along with relentless pressure from the capitalist countries, leading to a de-facto embrace of local varieties of capitalism, along with active acquiescence to globalizing capitalism that enables capital flows, opens up markets and secures access to natural and human resources the world over, with big corporations increasingly dominant both nationally and internationally. (In the case of Russia and China, these mega-corporations are often the descendants of former state, and hence commonly owned, entities that were sold off, or simply handed off, to cronies of those in power.)
A significant fraction of the population of these countries (in particular, ours) is in agreement with this thesis. This has also been repeatedly hammered home by much of the media (claims to its liberalism notwithstanding). The entities partially or wholly owned, by the magnate Rupert Murdoch are examples. In this country alone, this includes Fox News, the Wall Street Journal (recently acquired and refurbished to attract a wider readership) and the New York Post (distributed for free in the public schools and widely read and believed, both by my fellow union members, whom it vilifies, and by our students). But these are flanked by both the traditional "liberal" media whose owners ascribe, though less fervently, to the same thesis, and by those like Rush Limbaugh and many others who have long used talk radio to broadcast more virulent versions of the doctrine to ordinary working folk driving to and from work, or listening at home.
Indeed, the populist mantle has, in this country, been, paradoxically, claimed by the right. What is left of the left appears to be either too disconnected from the everyday concerns of ordinary working people, and part of an affluent elite, or else completely shut out of the popular discourse by the so called "liberal media", that views them as too radical to be given a stage. Unlike the "populist" right, those on the "radical" left (many hardly radical by the standards of even sister capitalist countries such as Canada or those in most of Western Europe) have been unable to find resonances or build much support among ordinary working people.
When one listens even to John Stewart or his friend on the Comedy Show, one senses that they have, perhaps, contempt not only for the right wing extremists, but also for ordinary workers and their opinions, as well as for those further to their left. This may be because they have not mingled and worked enough.with ordinary people. So they attract a liberal, upper middle class or even affluent following, including those who are college students or college-educated with a broader perspective and better education than most, but leave much of the working population untouched.
Many of the actions taken over the past sixty years to appease (initially) the poorer workers in this country (many of whom later became relatively more affluent and so began to view those poorer than them in a negative light) and the minorities did not have any impact on the libreral elite who enacted these measures (such as welfare, food stamps, medicaid, equal opportunity legislation, the forced integration of the public schools, etc.) but did impact, and arouse resentment, some of it justified, among those who perceived themselves as being negatively affected by such measures.
It seemed to me from my observation of Obama's campaign that his "change" was wondrously lacking in specifics. It may have worked well as a campaign device on a population fed up with the bungling of the previous administration, and generally discontent (as it is even more now) with government, but it provided no consensus or mandate on which he could base his policies once in office.
Better to be honest about one's agenda, and fail to be elected, it seems to me, than to be vague about it and be elected. But others will disagree.
Anyhow, I felt at that time that his election would simply provide cover for the Republican right (and perhaps also those in the Democratic right, especially Whites from Southern states) to blame the economic collapse that was already quite predictable prior to the election (in broad outline if not in details) on Obama's administration, and so on liberalism in general.
Better, it seemed to me, for a Bush clone or like-thinker to be elected and carry out the Bush agenda somewhat further towards its logical conclusion, so the drivers, aims and ultimate consequences of this agenda would be better exposed to light for those who had been brainwashed for years and would not be convinced otherwise that they were voting and acting (as you write) against the interests of themselves and their children. But, given the pitiable state we were already in, including the two wars, others may vehemently disagree with me.
But note that the wars continue, with the one in Afghanistan escalating and spreading into the subcontinent (as I foresaw from the time of the Iraq invasion) and that the Obama administration has also been unable to stem the power of the financial and corporate sector, being, indeed, largely subservient to it, while it has been active in attacking the public school system, trusting again in corporate wisdom. Meanwhile, the economic collapse of the bubble that had been building from Reagan's time continues, with dire consequences for all.
I lived through the oil crisis of the 70's and the Iranian revolution and its taking of hostages from the American Embassy, which brought out a general "Anti-Arab" animus, which was, perhaps understandably, directed not against Arabs or Iranians, who blended in, in appearance, with certain sectors of the "White" population in this country, but rather against those who looked like me. Hence, the coarse epithets and beer bottles thrown in my direction from cars driven by drunken
students at the time as I waked the streets in Maryland near D.C.
And so it was that I foresaw, in the early 80's, as this country went into denial about its oil dependency and foreign debt began accumulating under Reagan (as I worked as a lowly yahoo in the World Bank, and so began to be apprised about economic matters) that another such oil-related West Asian ("Middle-Eastern") economic crisis might have much worse consequences for sub-continentals and others.
Also, I realized that, in any economic downturn, scapegoats are sought -- and immigrants would be a prime target. This country is perhaps more accepting of immigrants than many others -- being itself, almost totally, a country of immigrants (some perforce) and relying on new immigrants in multiple ways, including economically. But, in crises, logic and civility are often the first casualties.
Well, 9-11 came and went, and although some Sikhs (paradoxically!) were lynched, along with a few others, the rest of us survived. The Bush administration, despite all its wrongdoing, should be given some credit, as George W. expressly said that this country was not at war with Islam. That may have helped those of us who (whether we be Hindu or Sikh or Muslim or Buddhist or atheist) look different and perhaps close enough to the popular perception of the "Islamic terrorist" or his countryman. But now, we have Obama at the helm, and many even believe that he is a Muslim and/or is soft on Muslims as also on those of color. So there is a rising tide, unfortunately, in certain segments of the population, of sentiment against those who are of color, generally, and against those, in particular, who resemble the popular perception of a Muslim.
Latinos are also being targeted, as the economy sours and people see them as taking away jobs or as feeding on the government's social support systems. Anyone who has seen how hard many of the Latino immigrants have to work to survive, and the nature of the jobs they do, will see the mistake that is being made. Those who are undocumented are also ineligible for the social services and safety nets that many of us enjoy -- including even the earned social security and medicare of our old age -- despite having labored here for decades. But again, logic and decency are, too often, the first casualties in a crisis.
Given the current climate, I should not have been that startled when, coming home from work rather early yesterday (Friday, around 5 pm), trundling my rolling pack with its heavy load of binders of teaching material and student work behind me, and with my backpack with other job-related papers on my back, I was accosted (from a safe distance, by his measure) by a middle-aged individual, who flung curses at me and told me to go back where I came from.
I stopped in my tracks, turned towards him, threw out my arms in astonishment and said, "What was that about?" and kept waving my arms and mouthing those words as the "gentleman" retreated, glaring back at me every few steps. But I did not venture to run after him as I might have in my younger days -- not to indulge in any violence, but to enter, in my young naivete and hopefulness, into a frank, logical and civil discussion. No, that would not be prudent in these times -- and even less so, as these times proceed as I fear they will.
Thirty five years, and counting.
2010 October 30
But this article , written by an obvious "anti-right" , throws up an interesting conversation that follows the article.