By Lynn Paris
For the first time in my life, I am really afraid for this country. I know there have been times in history that seemed incredibly bleak, times I’ve lived through. But I don’t ever remember a time when there was so much fear, so much anger, or so great a divide among the people of this country.
I understand the fear. Unemployment is close to ten percent, homes have been lost, lives have been irrevocably changed. Of course people without a job are fearful, even if they know the economy is better than it was, even though they understand that it’s far better than it would have been were it not for the Recovery Acts, bailouts and stimulus package. They’re afraid of what will happen to them and their families in the short term; they are frightened about the future.
My daughter is a perfect example. Seven years ago she made the decision to leave the instability of the acting profession (where she’d made a living for fifteen years) and go back to school to become a teacher. A secure and much more meaningful existence, she thought. It took her five years to graduate because she couldn’t go full-time: she had to wait tables to pay for her education. And she did it; she worked her butt off and graduated. In fact, she was hired right after graduating, before getting her teaching credential, to teach theater in high school; she was that good.
Then the economy went south and she was laid off, along with thousands of other teachers in California. But she plugged on. She went back to college to get her credential and spent all last year paying to be a student teacher AFTER she had successfully run her own classroom for a year. Despite all that effort, however, her timing couldn’t have been worse. The economy, terrible across the country, is even worse in California. So there she sits, applying for every teaching position that comes up, along with hordes of other unemployed teachers, all with more experience than she has. She and her husband live month-to-month, with no health insurance, a room-mate to help pay the rent and the hope that he can book enough gigs and she will get called to substitute teach so they can make ends meet. There’s no margin at all.
And they don’t have kids or own their own home. So as fearful as my daughter must be, and as frustrated, I can only imagine what it’s like for a couple with children or with a home that’s gone upside down.
But what I can’t imagine is why any of these frustrated, anxious, fearful people—who have every right to be angry with the way their lives and their dreams are being shattered—would blame that on President Obama or the democrats. They may have taken on too much. They certainly have not been as competent or effective as we all had hoped, but why blame them? My daughter doesn’t, and neither do millions of other Americans. If they are angry, they at least put the blame on the right people—the greedy financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies and big oil interests that put this country in the mess it’s in.
Mostly, though, they’re not really even angry. These people are moderates, or liberals, or just reasonable people who would actually like to take it down a notch, as Jon Stewart recently said. Take the anger and the hatred and the divisiveness down a notch and get something done. Take it down a notch and stop saying “no;” stop obstructing every chance they have for finding employment; stop rendering the middle class impotent and obsolete.
And what I really can’t imagine is why any of these frustrated, anxious, fearful people would turn to conservative republicans and/or tea party candidates for the answer to their problems. And yet, that’s what seems to be happening. Or at least, that’s what a spate of recent primaries would suggest. The candidates who have been winning have thrived on the fear, whipped up the anger and, using Obama as the scapegoat, have convinced large numbers of voters that they have the answer. Of course, it’s been made much easier for them by the ravings of the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, Palin (and a host of others on cable and in the blogosphere) who’s job it is to scare Americans into believing that the president is a dangerous, socialist, Muslim, anti-American and/or un-American extremist. If they can make you believe that, they can make you believe anything.
The truth, in my opinion, is that these candidates, the ones with the strident voices who are forcing out the few remaining principled republicans, have no answers. They have a movement with no policies, a movement that at various times has suggested that health care bill be repealed, unemployment benefits be stopped (even suggesting that they’re unconstitutional) and that social security should end. I’ve yet to hear what positive things they will do for the country; I only know they want their country back.
But wait . . . they have one policy; I almost forgot. They favor tax cuts. At least, they favor extending the Bush tax cuts, but not just on the middle class which makes sense, but on the wealthiest one percent of Americans. That’s right, all those conservatives out there who are so worried about Mr. Average Joe American, and so concerned about reducing the deficit that they would cut every entitlement program currently in place, are in favor of entitling the richest of us all. That’s what George W. Bush did with his cuts for the wealthiest one percent. He redistributed the wealth so that the middle class ceased to exist. And that’s what the conservatives and the tea partiers call taking the country back.
So I’m afraid for this country. I’m hoping that those who are moderate and sane and really grasp what’s going on will find their voices soon and stand up to this movement. My fear is that it will take the election of a whole bunch of tea party congressmen and women to make the American people see what the country will be like when they have control of it. . . and by then it may be too late.