I'd like to suggest that citizens are all members of their national
community and nations are in turn citizens of one global community.
The amassing of great personal wealth allows for insulation from one's
community that I don't think ultimately makes for a strong, secure,
functional nation. Along these lines, my own borderline lower middle
class finances make it possible for me to insulate myself from, say,
those starving and dying in the shantytowns outside Nogales, a mere
120 miles south. So American attitudes about wealth have also by
extension isolated and insulated the US from being a more participant
global citizen. We were perhaps shocked awake by 9/11, but in my
opinion immediately put back to sleep again by promises of war and
It seems to me we aren't as a people given to any regular and
sustained awareness of events and realities around the world. Small
pockets of starry eyed citizens occasionally band together to fight
hunger, human rights violations, injustice and oppression in "other"
places. But generally, if it isn't at our doorstep, it's not our
This applies within the island nations inside the US as well. Behind
security kiosks and gates, in countless enclaves of wealth for which
no account must be given and which, as a culture, we idolize, any
sense of connection is lost. The wealthy have their own rules, their
own justice system, their own ideas of scale, their own ideas of
fairness and citizenship that are fundamentally, culturally different
from the rest of the population. The more I traveled around the US and
lived in different places, the more exposure I had to this insular
reality. Because my employment has been as a teacher of the wealthy,
I've only been able to afford to live in neighborhoods that were
liminal, on the border between wealth and poverty, yet had a lot of
experience of the values and culture of the rich, "liberal" and
"conservative" alike. It seems to me there is a point at which
quantitative differences become qualitative, at which one no longer
lives in the US at all.
The other island nations are within our borders too, "red-lined"
bombed out urban war zones, rural poverty and scarcity we don't often
shine a light on or even think about. Cities like LA, Philadelphia,
NY, Boston and even towns like Santa Fe offer jarring contrasts
sometimes in a matter of a few blocks. Poverty, hunger and suffering
of our own citizens used to be a popular theme, used to provide a
rallying cry of some kind for those who saw injustice and wanted
equity. In my opinion, it seems that these realities are now just not
very good television, just too dreary and boring to sell newspapers.
You'd think we won the "war on poverty" if you hadn't seen poverty
yourself on a daily basis. It's like the War in Iraq: we can't handle
pictures of coffins, even if they are draped in flags.
So it is that I roll my eyes and think GMAFB when those that got talk
about how unfair it is to be asked to give. "I'm the best steward of
my own wealth, thank you" is really just an excuse for continued
unaccountability, irresponsibility, disconnectedness, insularity.
"Government can't be trusted to solve problems" is an absurd
statement, given the emergence of essentially socialist democracy
since the Great Depression. Real social problems, actually solved by
that old much-hated gummint. Imagine an American historical landscape
over the past 75 years if pure free market capitalism had been adhered
to, no New Deal. My vision of that is wars, uprisings, violence,
destruction, anguish, revolution. "You just want to throw money at
_____________" is a childish dodge. For example, regarding education.
I'd sometimes hear folks spending $27,000 a year on their child's 7th
and 8th grade years dismiss "throwing money" at public education. 9
times the average per student expenditure, in that case. Seems to work
for you and your kid, I'd want to say, but wouldn't. When do we hear
someone say "You just want to throw money at terrorism, you can't
solve the problem that way." Never.
Anyway, we live in the world. If we don't take responsibility for the
gestalt, it will come around and kick us in the ass.