As we share stories of our fathers today, I would like you to join me in a journey, back to a time when the title father meant something quite different. Back to a time when a man who held a job could support a family. Back to a time when a mother who chose to work did so for her own pleasure. Back to a time when this nation was strong, her people lived mostly in comfort, and her goals were to lift up the children of the next generation through education, health care, and good nutrition.
My father would recognize this current incarnation of America only because it would trigger memories of an earlier time when none of these goals were even a glimmer in the eyes of a down trodden, struggling mass of men and women, victims of the greed and deformed egos of a hand full of those who are never satisfied. Yes, my father was born during the last Gilded Age.
Things were much the same in the late 19th century as they are today. Obscene amount of wealth were controlled by a very small portion of the population. "He who bought the ink made the news", (With apologies to Ben Franklin.) Government was sold to the voter as the enemy of her citizens, and Congress was bought and paid for by those who only wished to play Monopoly with the lives and wages of "the little people".
My father used to say that the unique confluence of circumstance that produced the Gilded Age, and the "Great Adjustment" which followed, could never happen again. He believed that America had learned that she could not allow the needs of psychopaths to run unchecked. "We have laws, and regulations now, which protect working people from the great excesses of that period", he said.
"We have built highways and bridges with our tax dollars and our own sweat. We have connected the east and west coast with railroads and telephones. We have labor unions that protect the interests of workers. We have created the greatest middle class in the history of the world. We have defeated the greatest threat to our way of life. What can possibly challenge us?", he lectured over dinner.
My father was born into a family of Original European Settlers; that miscreant gang of misfits, geniuses, and thieves that escaped religious persecution by sailing for the New World to create a free and equal society. He was very well educated, wealthy, and a true gentleman in both behavior and deed. Courteous, generous, and caring, he was an astute observer of politics and society. He died believing that America had actualized the dream of men and women through out history. He would be astonished at how quickly we have let it all slip away.
He would be horrified to learn that a family of four must hold 3 full time jobs that pay minimum wage, just to survive.
He would not understand why we have let Eisenhower's interstate highway system decay to the point of near collapse, never expanding or improving it, while the traffic demands continue to grow.
He would never understand why the railroads were dismantled in favor of trucks for interstate hauling.
He would shrink in disgust as hard working men and women were told to train their Indian or Chinese replacements and then box up and ship their machinery to a foreign site. He would never understand why America was dismantling her industries and selling her security to others.
He would be repulsed at the industrialization of medical care in a model that eliminates the physician and makes the corporation the determinate of who, and how, illness is treated. He would cringe at the replacement of medial research, which for 200 years has beaten back the most devastating of human diseases, with the race to provide a faster, more expensive, treatment for heartburn.
He would not understand why Ronald Reagan was allowed to terrify unions with the PATCO firings. He would quail at the failure of working men and women to understand why unions benefit everyone.
He would reject the notion that taxes are an evil, to be avoided, or eliminated. He was a wealthy man who believed that every man and woman had an obligation to pay for the government that protected the weakest among us, and served the common good.
And, perhaps most troubling to my father, would be question of why we were putting up with this deconstruction of the America he loved.
Why do we, as individuals, accept that our "credit score" is the single most significant indication of our success as citizens?
Why do we fall victim to the ideation of strangling the government? How do we suppose that any nation can survive with an impoverished citizenry, an economy that siphons off all of the wealth it produces, and a view of international cooperation that drives wage earners to the subsistence level?
Well, you get the idea. This brilliant and gifted man who survived the last Gilded Age and the Great Depression which inevitably followed, who assisted in the defeat of Nazi Germany and Militaristic Japan, who watched this country grow and thrive, would mourn what we have done with the legacy he hoped to pass on.
And it's our fault.
We began by trying to "Keep up with the Jones", we thought we had to have every Ronco gadget on the sparkling screen. We failed, yet again to learn from history, and were seduced by the con men, and Ponzi schemes, that misdirected our attention, our educational system, and our culture, from the hard lesson that rules and regulations are the only things that keep the greedy and power obsessed under control. That a strong government that enforces regulations designed to protect the environment, the food supply, and the access of all men and women to good jobs, is the bedrock of a free and just society.
One of the most moving scenes in a modern motion picture occurs when thousands of men stake their claim to freedom and justice by declaring, "I am Spartacus". They were declaring that we are all in this together. That if we do not stand, united, against the powers that would destroy one man, we will all be destroyed.
I know my father would stand, and proudly declare, "I am Spartacus".
Will you? Will you just stop playing the games that are dismantling the greatest experiment in self-governance ever devised.? For, that is the only way to stop this entire system from collapsing. Just stop playing their game. You can not win back America any other way. If we don't bring them to their knees they will destroy us...