The American people are being kept divided, distracted, and downtrodden. Divisions are usually based on race and class. Racial tensions and discrimination exist, of course, but they are also exploited to divide people. Just look at the current debate on the Confederate flag flying in Charleston, South Carolina, with Republican presidential candidates refusing to take a stand against it as a way of appeasing their (White) radical activist base. Class divisions are constantly exploited to turn the middle class, or those who fancy themselves to be in the middle class, against the working poor. The intent is to blame the “greedy” poor (especially those on welfare or food stamps), rather than the greedy rich, for America’s problems. That American CEOs of top companies earn 300 times more than ordinary workers scarcely draws comment, since the rich supposedly “deserve” their money. Indeed, in the prosperity Gospel favored by some Christians, lots of money is seen as a sign of God’s favor.
As people are kept divided by race, class, and other “hot button” issues (abortion and guns, for example), they are kept distracted by insatiable consumerism and incessant entertainment. People are told they can have it all, that they “deserve it” (a new car, a bigger home, and so on), that they should indulge their wants. On HGTV and similar channels, people go shopping for new homes, carrying a long list of “must haves” with them. I “must have” a three-car garage, a pool, a media room, surround sound, and so on. Just tell me what mortgage I can afford, even if it puts me deeply in debt. As consumerism runs rampant, people are kept further distracted by a mainstream media that provides info-tainment rather than news. Ultimately, the media exists to sell product; indeed, it is product itself. No news is aired that will disturb the financial bottom line, that will threaten the corporations that run the media networks, that will undermine the privileged and the powerful.
The people, kept divided and distracted, are further rendered powerless by being kept downtrodden. Education is often of poor quality and focused on reciting rote answers to standardized tests. Various forms of debt (student loan debt, credit card debt, debt from health care and prescription drugs costs, and so on) work to keep the people downtrodden. Even workers with good jobs and decent benefits are worried. Worried that if they lose their jobs, they lose their health care. So much of personal status and identity, as well as your ability to navigate American society, is based on your position. For many it’s lose your job, lose your life, as you’re consumed by debt you can’t repay.
Divided, distracted, and downtrodden: It’s a recipe for the end of democracy in America. But it also serves as a roadmap to recovery. To reinvigorate our democracy, we must fight against divisiveness, we must put distractions behind us, and we must organize to fight for the rights of the people, rights like a better education for all, less debt (a college education that’s largely free, better health care for everyone, and far less emphasis on consumerism as a sign of personal and societal health and wealth), and improved benefits for the workers of America, who form the backbone of our nation.
We can’t wait for the politicians. Most of them are already co-opted by the moneyed interests. Meaningful change will have to come from us. That is, after all, the way democracy is supposed to work.