Questions and Answers

By Story of America Team

What does it mean to be an American today? In what ways are we divided as a country? Why do you think we are so divided? What unites us as a country?

Johnathan-Jeffers.jpgWhat unites us:

  • The media which feeds us variations of one officially approved story.
  • The isolation of living in a huge country that is distant from most¬†of the rest of the world, which colors much of our world view.
  • Debt ‚ÄĒ which keeps most of us bound to the economic system.
  • Economic uncertainty and associated fear ‚ÄĒ of losing livelihood,¬†security, home, healthcare, retirement.
  • Public education ‚ÄĒ which prepares us fundamentally for a life of conformity.
  • Complacency, apathy, depression, anger. The feeling that one cannot do¬†anything. Suspicion of those who do.

What divides us:

  • Propaganda, disinformation, ignorance. That we are not all dealing¬†with the same ‚Äúfacts‚ÄĚ and that our system of education leaves most¬†people unprepared to either analyses the facts in front of them or¬†render critical judgment of the interpretations spoon fed to them.
  • Hierarchy ‚ÄĒ the fact that your boss can fire you, but you can‚Äôt fire him.
  • The power of the few to disburse or withhold all things of value.
  • The ability of some people in charge to use this to divide the rest of¬†us by putting us into competition with each other over what are mostly¬†meaningless differences in status and position. The ability to make¬†the rest of us compete over resources that they intentionally make¬†scarce.
  • Income inequality and inequality of power.
  • The denial of the fact of economic violence ‚ÄĒ the gut knowledge that¬†when someone takes away a person‚Äôs livelihood they have committed an¬†act of violence against them, but that we all pretend its not so.
  • Fabricated blame and fear ‚Äď It‚Äôs the appeal to the fear of the other¬†used to manipulate. Identity politics that blames hardship on brown¬†people, teachers, public sector workers, foreigners, welfare queens,¬†immigrants, feminists, Latinos, homosexuals, Muslims, the Chinese,¬†unionized workers etc.
  • Failure to place blame and accountability appropriately.
  • Racism, bigotry, jealousy, fear.
  • What I call the fascist impulse ‚ÄĒ the need that it seems some number¬†of people always have to try to force their way on everyone else ‚ÄĒ¬†from politics to religious beliefs, to economics.
  • Break down of the rule of law. We no longer even pretend to enforce¬†our laws on those in power. The fact that the rule of law as a high¬†principle has been eroded in our society and so many of us are¬†sanguine regarding indefinite detention, kill lists etc. and cynical¬†about the lack of prosecutions for torture or bank fraud. We tolerate¬†politicized courts.
  • Break down of democracy and electoral politics. We tolerate voter¬†suppression and electoral fraud, exclusion of third party candidates¬†from our political process, and bribe money being made legal in our¬†electoral process ‚Äď all turning our polity into a partisan football¬†match.

What should unite us:

  • Our basic human needs for shelter, food, comfort, health, love,¬†family, community, fulfilling occupation, education, aspiration and¬†spiritual fulfillment.
  • Compassion and solidarity.
  • Our common interest in seeing that we are all taken care of, have our¬†basic needs met, and have ample opportunities to grow and contribute,¬†and are able to live lives free from abuse and privation.
  • Our desire for our own personal freedom which should extend to¬†protecting the freedom of others within the bounds of not trampling on¬†the freedom, rights, and well being of others ‚ÄĒ life liberty and the¬†pursuit of happiness.
  • The pressing need to deal with our environmental issues before we¬†cause levels of hardship that we do not want to deal with.
  • Our common understanding of justice.

How were you, your family and/or community impacted by the 2008 financial crisis? What are your living conditions like today? Are you hopeful about the future? 

My family made it through the financial crisis with only minor setbacks. My living conditions are exactly the same as they were. We own a home. We work. Our kids go to a public school that could be better, but is okay. We generally have enough. The main impact on us from the crisis was fear and insecurity. The worry of losing employment. The inability to really seek other employment. I was angered at the hardship that so many people had and that so little was done about it.

What are your fears? What are you dreams? What do you think are¬†some solutions to our nation’s challenges?

From my perspective the problems coming out of the crisis are the same as we had going into it. The shock was apparently no wake up call. People are looking for the same job creators to create jobs, so that they can work again, probably harder, and for less money. People accept this as the natural order of things. The squandering of our valuable human capital is and has always been appalling. The perpetuation of the system as it was just means that in the next economic shock, once again millions will suffer.

I have several fears: Austerity seems to be the order of the day, and¬†at some point I think even Americans will have to wake up and when¬†they do they are going to be angry. The summer of Occupy Wall Street¬†was just the first shock. I expect a national temper tantrum when¬†things get to the point where denial is no longer possible. Another¬†economic collapse, starting in the banking system seems inevitable¬†since none of the issues have been addressed and the banking sector¬†has consolidated even further and use of unregulated derivatives has¬†expanded again. I am afraid of an environmental crisis driven by¬†climate change that will affect everything ‚ÄĒ food supply, water¬†resources, the economy, political stability across the globe. I am¬†rather pessimistic.

My dream would be to live as a free person, a member of a community. To be able to do work that is meaningful. To use my talents and energies for things that actually do some good for my fellow human beings, create beauty and well being. I do not see this happening. I have mostly squandered my working years and my energy making more money for people who are already millionaires. Most people do this. I hope that this is not the kind of life my children will have, or the kind of world they will find waiting for them as young adults.

The solutions that I would offer:

  • To break up big banks and mega corporations via antitrust laws.
  • To create public investment in social entrepreneurship, and worker¬†owned and managed cooperatives and small business development.
  • To make business entrepreneurship and small business creation easier¬†with public investment, and supporting institutions. Create public¬†venture capital to serve the start up market that is ignored by the¬†private VCs. Create business incubators.
  • To create a worker‚Äôs bill of rights protecting security, and¬†implementing workplace democracy.
  • To enact policies aimed at full employment.
  • To eliminate the money from our politics altogether.
  • To make intentionally lying for political propaganda purposes a crime¬†like criminal fraud.
  • To institute national healthcare system.
  • To invest in our public education and make university and post-graduate education free (Austrian Model)
  • To start taking the transition to renewable energy seriously with a¬†Manhattan Project like focus and investments in our public utilities.
  • To commit to drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • To start to investigate and prosecute the powerful and wealthy for¬†their crimes and hold them accountable, and punish them, not just the¬†companies they work for.