Classes don’t need to stand divided

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Don Delillo is well known in the literary community for his parody of modern American culture. His debut novel, End Zone, served as a mirror for the American public to observe how the Cold War and the military industrial complex invaded every aspect of American life. The character Alan Zapalac noted that “I kept seeing the same word everywhere I was. Store windows. Leaflets in the streets. Advertising space on walls. I kept seeing it for about two weeks. MILITARIZE. It was everywhere — printed, written, scribbled, chalked on walls. I didn’t know what it was all about.”

While this observation was written with the Cold War in mind, it is shockingly reminiscent of the current state of American society. We are not militarizing in order to fight another Cold War or World War III. We are embroiled in a war much scarier and perhaps even more determinant of our nation’s future — class war.

Perhaps classism is inevitable in a capitalist society such as ours; however, in recent months, feelings of resentment between the rich and the not-so-rich have reached dangerous levels. The recent Occupy movements springing up around the country have forced the government and society as a whole to come to terms with a myriad of issues — including the ever-increasing income gap, the steadily rising amount of student debt, the shrinking job market, and the inefficiency of our health care system — and by extension the animosity between people of different economic statuses.

However, these strong emotions do not need to end in violent uprisings à la Egypt or Yemen. Through communication and compromise, we could resolve the issues that so bitterly divide our nation. This involves, among other things, each class understanding the nuances and difficulties in the lives of those in the other classes.

As Kyle Henson stated in his article “Flat tax is in alignment with founding fathers’ vision of United States,” the wealthy should be seen as role models in this regard. He states that it should be the “1 percent” that sets the precedent for understanding “how the other half lives.”
To begin with, the notion that Horatio Alger’s bibliography is a suitable medium to learn how to succeed needs to be dispelled immediately. The fact is, “working your butt off” does not in fact always lead to success. You could be a single parent of two trying to get your kids through school and trying to hold down several jobs, or you could be a college graduate with over $20,000 of student loans trying to support an ailing family member without health insurance, or you could spend your entire life serving in the military and come back to a nation with a failing economy that is unable to provide you with employment.

The fact is, there are innumerable reasons why people live in poverty that have nothing to do with the choices those people made. So if you were lucky enough to be born into a family that could ensure your education, was rich enough to make sure you never had to support anyone but yourself or graduate with a substantial amount of student loans, and was well connected enough to guarantee that you were hired directly after graduation, then congratulations, you get to be rich. But you did not get there by “working your butt off” — you got there because of the same factors that are keeping others, who may be working even harder than you, from living comfortably.

In addition to that, government welfare programs such as unemployment benefits, Medicaid, and Medicare are not “handouts,” as Henson so derisively deems them — they are necessities for people who are not rich enough to afford a number of essential needs.

Henson stated that American citizens should only be guaranteed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, yet he fails to mention how these programs save lives daily and thus allow people in poverty to live freely and, if luck be with them, pursue their dreams.

Horribly misguided ideas such as these are more unpatriotic than any Occupy protest or piece of “socialist” legislation that the Obama administration is considering passing. It is hard to comprehend how a population that is so focused on maintaining a mindset of an “American” economy can so completely abandon the idea of social justice — the idea that we have so proudly touted as the American way.

Dressing up as Occupy protesters at Halloween parties, showering protesters in McDonald’s applications (fun fact: this past National Hiring Day, McDonald’s accepted less than one-tenth of applications), and degrading the unemployed and impoverished undermines the sense of solidarity that this nation was founded upon.

There is only one way to prevent the sentiments of mistrust and resentment from escalating any further without tarnishing the reputation of the United States — reconcile our differences and stand, once again, as a united nation. They say that money makes the world go around; go look at a dollar bill. E pluburis unum — out of many, one.