I generally avoid talking about politics. I have been known to walk out of such conversations. Am not very good at remembering the facts behind my positions, and I have an irritating ability to see both sides of most issues, so I have a difficult time debating. But lately it has been on my mind a lot. I have a very good friend who has become a Tea Party supporter (leader in our community, anyway), and my best friend is a strong Democrat. My job revolves around social issues. I can’t help but think about the intersection of socio-economic status (SES) and politics.
I keep hearing the Tea Party people say they want a return to old-fashioned values, like the founding fathers had. Let’s consider that. Are we talking about the founding fathers who kept slaves, and who believed you should only have the right to vote if you were white, male, and a land owner? Are we talking about the values of the 1950s, when they still had laws to prevent the poor and non-white from voting? When everything was segregated based on the color of your skin? When women were expected to stay home and take care of the children (whether they were good at it or not), and when people were put in prison or mental hospitals for daring to love someone of the same sex?
My best friend said it more succinctly than I will be able to remember it, but it went something like this: The Tea Party wants to destroy the unions, and make it impossible for anyone but the rich to go to college, because they want to destroy the middle class. If we return to the days of a huge class of working poor, very little middle class, and the rich, we can start having sweat shops here in the United States again. Everyone will be desperate for jobs. And the rich corporations won’t have to ship their menial labor overseas, and deal with running rough-shod over the laws of other countries (such a bother).
One of my favorite movies is “Kate & Leopold,” with Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan. It is a romantic movie about a Duke coming forward in time, falling in love with an executive in marketing research, and then having to return to 1876. It always makes me wish I lived in a less stressful time. But less stressful for whom? In 1876 there was a HUGE class of working poor; children died in sweat shop labor; there were no laws about domestic violence; health epidemics killed thousands of people; people died young (50+ was considered old); white people were actively killing Native Americans and taking their land; women often died in childbirth, and a large percentage of children never made it to their 5th birthday. Maybe 1876 was a better time for the rich, but it certainly was not for 90% of the people.