For years, I wanted to believe class warfare was not a reality in America. That every American child was born with the same opportunity, and that one could get ahead simply with a determined work effort.
I'd like to thank the Republicans for setting me straight on that.
See, I've seen a lot of Americans struggle through to put food on the table. Long hours, poor working conditions, and bosses who essentially threaten them with their jobs if they make too much noise about it. I've seen labor laws openly flouted on a routine basis, with bosses backing down only for the employees with the knowledge to stand up. I've seen those same employees fired for suspicious reasons when they communicated to their coworkers the rights that they did have.
And the whole tradeoff to working those jobs was the imaginary ladder that would somehow get you to the top, to a place where you could stop working second and third jobs and envision a comfortable retirement.
But as the economy has gone cold, I've seen many families with dual two income earners in the household. Their lives revolve around work, and leisure is an unimaginable luxury. They've dug a debt hole so deep to fill society's expectations of what they should have that they will never dig out. Fully 25% of Americans will never realize a positive net worth, and it's reasonable to expect that number to grow.
But where the rubber hit the road on this one was the last election, when GOP contempt for these individuals became clear. They weren't talking about families living on welfare benefits, they're talking about the working poor, who they continue to portray as "parasites" and "victims". These people who spend their lives on a treadmill are being told that THEY are the problem with America, and that if we would only tax them more and the wealthy less, everyone's lives would be better. This while Republicans continue to fight tooth and nail against increases in minimum wage (an intellectual dishonesty on their part, as the longer they continue to pay the same wage, the lower that wage becomes in real dollars; that's Economics 101).
Somewhere along the way, I realized I couldn't be a part of that. I was being ordered to betray the people I know who've worked so hard just to get by, in defense of a Republican ideal that deems the wealthy to be good and the poor to be bad, and reinforces it through societal fairy tales.
Make no mistake about it: what's going on right now IS class warfare. And the stakes are exceedingly high. But don't confuse yourself with who fired the first shot.