It is easy to get discouraged. Global warming. Tax cuts for the rich, and social services cutbacks for the rest of us. A court system that props up the rich and powerful. Labor unions weakened by a partisan court ruling. And, then there’s our commander-in-chief.
The system is rigged. It seems like the worst of times. But throughout American history, it has often seemed like the worst of times until it wasn’t. Starting with Valley Forge, where the only thing that stopped American soldiers from deserting in a seemingly impossible situation was their lack of shoes, Americans have repeatedly found themselves in impossible situations. The War of 1812, the Depression of 1893, the Great Depression of the ’30s and World War II. The list goes on.
My parents lived through the Depression and World War II. My father, who worked in the steel mills before the war, went to college and became a doctor on the GI Bill. During the post-war period, Americans experienced a thriving middle class. The Greatest Generation of my parents believed in the power of government to make their lives better.
In 1973, when I first started working for an alternative paper, we felt it was our job to report that there were problems in paradise. We wrote about how our political leaders were lying to us about Vietnam. We wrote about civil rights, how black Americans were not even allowed to vote in the South. We wrote about the environment and how leaded gasoline was destroying the air we breathed. We believed that if we could reveal the problem, we could fix it.
In 2018, everyone is aware that there are problems. What needs to be revealed is that we have the power to fix it. There are really good people currently working to make things better. And they need our help.
The Radical Right, led by the Koch brothers and their ilk, have effectively planned a path for America that leads us to a polluted world, with little worker protection, run-down schools, limited health care and an ever-increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.
However, we can organize, vote and take America down a different path. In the upcoming November election we will have an opportunity to make positive choices. In Sacramento, we need to support Measure U to fund much-needed city services. In our region, we can help take back the House by sending Tom McClintock back to his home in Elk Grove. We can fix our broken roads by supporting the statewide gas tax.
Government still has the power to make our lives better. Here in California many good things are occurring that need our support. Child Protective Agencies are developing foster parent programs that work with the biological parents. The state is reforming bail and sentencing protocols which will put more justice in the criminal justice system. CalPers is working to make health care more affordable and rational. CalRecycle is adopting ways to handle our trash that will do much to protect our environment.
We can make change. We can make things better. Throughout American history, people believing they could create change have done so. We have outlawed slavery, enabled unions, expanded the number of people with access to health care, created environmental protections and instituted gay marriage.
We need to organize. We need to vote. We need to act.