Watching the 2012 CNN special on "Heroes" brought to mind the changes we are seeing in America and provides some answers to where we are headed if we keep following the pattern set by the Tea Party. CNN presents the annual program, emceed by Anderson Cooper, of portraits of people fighting poverty, pain, and disunity across the world.
The program demonstrates what happens when government takes (tax) money from the people but doesn't use it to take care of its people, i.e. no medical treatment for the poor, no schools for the poor, especially for girls, the boys trade their school books for street life, ignorance of basic information like knowing how to swim can create a vulnerability to death by drowning, and drowning in a sea of ignorance because the young can't read.
Rape becomes gang sport, forced prostitution becomes a first and last resort for girls without education as a means to an end. Getting an education is a luxury for the wealthy. In some countries like Afghanistan, the Taliban kill, maim or destroy girls trying to get educated. In America, the Tea Party is trying to turn society upside down. We watch as school district after school district shuts down class after class. The kids trade books for guns. Tax money is available for probation but not for education and graduation. Parole Officers and prison guards replace college counselors, art teachers, music teachers and science teachers.
On another front, and rather quietly, even court houses, known as the great equalizers, are closing, even making justice a luxury. All of this is happening because the redistribution of wealth is moving from those on the bottom and in the middle to those at the top. Seventeen American families own over forty percent of America's wealth. Governor Romney hides his wealth overseas in the Caymans, and other countries, to avoid paying taxes in America.
What people don't seem to understand is that their taxes go to pay for the public schools their children attend. We can make them better. Our tax dollars pay for the roads we travel and the medical treatment we need at all ages of life, especially as we get older. We all watched in horror as fire fighters, in more than one American city in the past few years, let people's houses burn down because they hadn't paid their local taxes. The schools are becoming dysfunctional, and many are closing, because not enough tax dollars are dedicated to education.
America's Taliban, called The Tea Party, want to close the Department of Education. They would shut down public schools that were designed to educate thousands, in favor of vouchers to educate a few hundred. Think about that. They are called public schools for the public. Voucher based /Charter Schools are for a few hand picked students who, supposedly, will be trained at the expense of the masses. Guess who will be the targets of the masses left behind? Us!
Now there will be three classes of people in America: (1) the truly privileged who send their children to private schools because they can afford it; (2) the charter school students who may or may not get a better education; and (3) public school attendees with its social promotion-based education and a violence riddled system replacing an earned status education where you pass to the next grade, learn a marketable skill, and/or graduate based on passing grades that you earned, rather than social promotion and your age. Seems like that method which used to work is now too expensive, say lobbyists like Grover Norquist, the National Rifle Association, and other conservative money controllers. They feel it's easier to build more prisons which are the ultimate private Charter Schools for so many of our children, especially our Black boys.
It's just a matter of time before this class society will bear poison fruit like in Haiti, Bolivia, or other third world countries. We will have a larger share of the recipients of the Heroes awards because we will need heroes to cover the mistakes we chose to make and fund.
Maybe we don't need more taxes, but we surely need to change the direction of where the tax dollars go. We need to stop directing our tax dollars to making wars and stop trying to shut down social equalizers like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. We need to stop directing tax dollars to quasi-private (charter) schools and private insurance companies and oil companies (subsidies), and get back to an America where we help each other.
I am reminded of the words of Father Martin Neimoller, a prominent Protestant pastor, who was a foe of Adolph Hitler. He said, "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me."
If you think that the message of Father Niemoller is far fetched and does not apply to today, think about it. Aren't the Tea Party members calling those of us who support the Obama programs, Socialists? Aren't they working on shutting down trade unions? Aren't they working on setting back progress in health care, conservation, education, race relations, sex and gender relations? Can you say, "Susan Rice?" Which group are you in? Who will be there to help you when they come for you? Heroes are needed to help to move us forward again.