Land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I'll stand by your side
You'll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there'll be sunshine and all this darkness past
...
Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
...
I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing
                                                                                 —Bruce Springsteen
When I think of the stark choices that face us this November, I will admit that I can't help but be a bit overawed. The forces arrayed against justice and fairness are vast, well-funded, and desperate. To paraphrase Yeats, a new America is slouching towards Bethlehem, and what shape it will take—rough beast or something nobler—is still very much up in the air, to be decided by what we do here, now, in this moment.

There are times when I think it's too much. It would be so much easier to relent, let them take it all back, just as long as I can be left alone to live in peace with the ones that I love. I'm not a possessive person; I find it easy to let go of things when the times dictate that course of action.

Then I lurch myself out of that entropy. We could just give up, say that the task is too hard, the opposition too well-equipped. We could hope for the best. But the best won't happen if we lose this war. The America that will be born will be a rough beast, the exclusive domain of a very few. The irony is that most of the foot-soldiers arrayed against us won't benefit from a Koch Bros. America; they are the expendable cannon fodder of a cynical war, and will be under the thumb of the ultra-rich every bit as much as we liberals.

We won't be allowed to live in peace, because there will be no peace, either at home or abroad.

Abroad, militarism will run rampant as the victors go full throttle with the project of empire. You can see this in the just recently released Ryan budget, which slashes domestic programs in order to feed the military machine. There will be no multilateralism, no building of coalitions to deal with global problems; the world will again be divided into power blocs, with the only thing joining them being a well-founded fear of subjugation to US interests. Bombing Iran would be just the start, as a President Romney or a President Santorum seeks to reassert unilateral US hegemony. It may very well turn into a case of "We are at war with East Asia. We have always been at war with East Asia."

At home, the politics of divide and rule will be brought to a fever pitch. What the 1% fears the most is that the middle class sees that its security lies in making sure that the poor have a fair shot at success; and that the poor of whatever ethnicity band together, casting aside racial and ideological divides and demand that their society stop neglecting them, stop tossing them aside as so much chaff, to be ignored when not openly oppressed. To prevent this, the victors will work even harder to make the vanishing middle class fearful of the poor; and once you descend from the middle class to the ranks of the poor, the politics of resentment of the "Other"—which is a broad enough term to accommodate a wide variety of villains—will keep you from thinking about the real reasons for your predicament. That and the fact that people will just be too consumed with survival to worry about the larger picture, or even acknowledge that it exists. America will be a Randian paradise of selfishness; precious few will benefit.

Fear is a great motivator. But, in the end, it's a negative motivator. It saps your energy, worry weighing down on you. Our opponents are driven by fear. But what they fear is what gives me hope.

They fear an America which strives to be a more perfect union, where all of its citizens have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of who they are or from whence they came. I don't fear it; I welcome it.

They fear an America which accepts its responsibility to its citizens, and no longer leaves them at the tender mercies of the market. Call it socialism, call it social democracy, call it basic fairness; whatever term one uses frightens them, because it takes a lever of control away, that of economic uncertainty, where one is too worried to leave a job because he'd lose his health insurance, which could bankrupt him should the worst happen. That uncertainty, and all the baggage that comes with it, works to the advantage of our opponents; they fear it going away. I don't fear it; I welcome it.

They fear an America which no longer imposes its will on other countries. That dries up the military Keynesianism which has driven much of the US economy since the end of World War II. It dries up the funding from lucrative contracts handed out by the governments of states beholden to the US "security" umbrella. And it hits at a psychological level: that of the end of the superpower which can get anything it wants solely because of its military might. It destroys the fantasy of manly, aggressive action, even though the leaders of our opponents usually manage to find some way to avoid service for themselves or their children. They fear the end of the empire and the re-establishment of a republic. I don't fear it; I welcome it.

They fear an America no longer divided against itself, and where divisions can't be used to keep people at each others' throats. They fear a country where white is no longer against black, immigrant against native born, gay against straight, man against woman. They fear an America which embraces all of her children—sinners and losers and lost souls, the high and the low—and holds them all as precious, as deserving of respect as the mightiest of the mighty. They fear an America which shucks off another of their levers of control. I don't fear it; I welcome it.

Which America will prevail? Fear makes one panic; hope makes one think and plan. If we should have learned anything from the events of the past few months, it's that our adversaries are fully, completely panicking. We must rely on the clear sight of hope. I'll always bet on it.

All aboard.


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