I hate to break the news to all of you “old duffers” and newer “conservative Republicans,” but Ronnie Reagan was dead wrong. Following his “less government less regulation” for the last 40 years has been a total failure. Oh, we saw immediate prosperity through the ability to pass present costs to future generations (massive deficit spending), but once we drank the Kool-Aid, we were hooked. Even George H. W. Bush was not able to bring sensibility back into our halls of government when he attempted to compromise and pay for what we demanded from government.
For 40 years the outcome has been degradation of party cooperation, ethnic and religious separation, the transfer of government power to the corporate world where money talks and bigotry, hatred and a basic loss of empathy and compassion exists. It is OK if Mexican farmworkers, “legal” or “illegal,” barely get enough to sustain their family as long as they continue to do the work that we won’t do for ourselves. We asked them to come here but then abandoned them and will not give them a living wage or the means to the American Dream.
We enslaved a whole group of people because their skin was dark, then we fought a Civil War to free them and then enslaved them again with our Jim Crow laws and prison work gangs, thereby maintaining white supremacy. Personally, we might have given lip service to how unfair this is, but did we actually do anything to change the balance?
Let us call Republican conservatism what it really is. That is, “What is in it for me and how can I best ensure that my piece of the pie gets bigger and to hell with everyone else?” If you are a “professional” — doctor, lawyer, banker, corporate executive, if you are white with well-to-do parents who could help in early years, if you have a job that is not “essential” where you can work from home, you are probably doing fine right now, but what about the future? Our country being led by Trump and governors like Governor Dunleavy can only continue us into decline.
The only way back is if we truly become one. One Nation Under God. We are not whites, Blacks, Hispanic, and Asians. We are Americans, the melting pot of the world. Let us start acting like it.
So let’s start solving our problems. First is COVID-19. We need to stop its spread and get our schools and economy running again. It will not happen if people are afraid and our health system is overrun. Kids need to be in school more than we need a beer at a bar or are inconvenienced by a mask. We can support small businesses and their employees long enough to get to where Europe has achieved with their low numbers if we trust our government and our expert health professionals.
What has held us back so far has been the desire to be selfish, combative, and in general just down right stupid. Freedom does not allow us to yell “fire” in a crowded theater or to be free to harm others with the possibility of death just so we have our freedom to not be inconvenienced. We, as a people, have freedom to do more than in most countries, but we also have the freedom from being harmed by those individual freedoms.
Secondly, we must recognize that we do not have just a racial problem in America. What we have is an economic equality problem that has persisted and made us all winners or losers based upon our ability to be born to the right parents and the social advantages derived from this fact. If we are winners, we tend to think that what we have, we got from our own endeavors, which is not true. If we are losers, then we look to blame others, especially those who don’t look like us and are in authority.
The real solution is that we need to act like the real blended family that we are. That our rich relatives, our corporate and professional institutions, and those who are the big winners, start paying until it seems like it hurts a lot, but this is their only path to their own prosperity. They must step forward and support the whole family for the well-being of us all in the family and help those in the family that are less fortunate find paths to a better, less racially divided America. If they do these things, then we will all win, prosper, and America will be great as never before.
That is the path out of this mess.
Ed Linkous lives in Fairbanks. He served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly from 1987 to 1989.