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May 2015 • Online Edition

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Either Fix What’s Broken Or Pull To The Left | Print |  E-mail

by Paul Kashmann

We’ve all had the experience of a car that due to outside stress or advancing age goes out of alignment and starts veering to the right.

At that point, you may decide to spend the dough to have the vehicle properly repaired, or you may simply decide a band-aid will do, and pull the wheel to the left as you blaze down the highway, thereby maintaining somewhat of a straight path, and giving the illusion that there is, in fact, no problem at hand.

Pulling to the left. Always an option. Seldom the best one. When something’s broken, repair is the advised course of action because experience tells us that the problem most frequently will not heal itself, and is only going to get worse. And if avoidance is the path you choose, that modus will probably crop up in other areas of your life until your entire existence is patched together with chewing gum, duct tape and baling wire, and sooner or later the wheels will, in fact, come off the freaking bus, and that never portends a happy ending.

Me thinks we’ve been doing a whole lot of pulling to the left in the good old U.S. of A. since our founders settled our shores. While the oft-repeated promises of our Bill of Rights and Constitution would appear to create a land of opportunity for all where equality is a foregone conclusion and freedom of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is a birthright regardless of race, color, creed or national origin, my opinion of the reality that has unfolded would be “not so much.”

If by birth, good fortune, or a combination of the two you find yourself white, male and wealthy, you, sir, have won the lotto. The sky is truly your only limit. And nowadays, if you’re among the super rich, you can hitch a ride into space, so not even the sky can limit your trajectory.

But if you come up short in either of the three – race, gender or income – I’m afraid you have been, and will be, pulling to the left for the foreseeable future.

Yes, there are women of color who have come from poor circumstance and have hit the big time. But look at the percentages and tell me if you find balance. Peer inside the walls of Congress and the hallowed oval office, ownership of sports franchises, corporate board rooms and let me know what you see. You will find examples of exception to my rule, but the rule itself holds true. The scales still tilt overwhelmingly in one direction.

And I understand that at various times equal opportunity programs have shifted quotas so that some jobs, social programs, college admissions, mortgages and the like have been given to women based on gender, people of color based on race, and the poor based on (lack of) income. But look at the numbers. The tide is still flowing in one direction; if you’re swimming against it you know what you’re facing. That’s right. Pull to the left.

In 2013, after decades of women finally making their way out of the kitchen to demand their right to vote and to work, we have women on the Supreme Court, women heading major corporations, women outnumber men as registered voters and the glass ceiling is still firmly in place and men still stand in virtually locked arm at the top of the pyramid, and we continue to hear noise about overturning Roe v. Wade. In too many places men still tell women what they may do with their body.

Pulling to the left.

Ah, the environmental movement. For more than four decades those of us who believe humans have been abusing the planet and must learn to do better have written letters, attended protests, boycotted Monsanto, picked up litter along the highway, cleared debris from rivers, chained ourselves to old growth trees and stood in front of bulldozers. We’ve gotten a few bills passed, some progress made, a lot of unfulfilled promises about alternative energy being a commitment – and fossil fuels are still king and we face a climate change disaster that is more rapidly than we ever dreamed headed past the point where action may be too late.

Pulling to the left.

Every politician worth his or her salt will tell you our children are our future and we are so grateful to our elders that they are the light that will guide us – and the money is flowing ever-more dramatically into the hands of a smaller and smaller group of people (you know who) and education for our children continues to be underfunded, and Medicare and Medicaid programs continue to struggle for survival.

And the Congress that just can’t seem to find one good thing to say about the Affordable Health Care Act lives with a best of all worlds health plan and a lifetime pension all paid for with your dimes, while millions watch their health deteriorate because they can’t afford annual visits to a doctor and retirement is not even a dream worth dreaming.

That’s right, to the left.

And my favorites, the Republicans and Democrats. Polls keep telling a clear tale that Americans from all corners of the political spectrum want their representatives to put down the partisan posturing. And candidates campaign on their ability to “reach across the aisle,” and the Washington grid locks tighter and tighter and problems that beg solving are not being solved because personal power and political agenda is more important than government of, by, and for the people.

It is obvious I believe the system is broken and must be repaired. I really don’t know how that gets done. My honest opinion is that for the changes to be made that will bring social and economic justice to the under classes and attention to the issues that matter, a revolution must occur unlike any we’ve seen since those first boats landed at Plymouth Rock so many years ago. And I don’t know how to sail, and I’m not feeling up to chaining myself to anything right now. I’m not going to break into buildings and burn files.

The mantle of power must be borne on other shoulders and distributed more equally. Our founders may have thought they were setting our ship straight, but it’s been taken off course. Our democracy is an aristocracy and free market capitalism has been hijacked.

Don’t have the answer, folks, but I am clear we have a problem. I fear our ship of state may be in such disrepair that we are in fact on a course we may not be able to alter, and I don’t like the destination that lies ahead.

Like the bumper sticker says, “Where are we going, and what am I doing in this handbasket?”

Keep pulling, folks.

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