This country, like most around the world, has its haves and its have-nots. Only a blind fool would argue that those with money, influence, and the right skin color don't have it easier than those with none of the above. There's no official caste system in the United States, but there are two Americas — two judicial systems, two kinds of law enforcement, two healthcare systems, two tax systems, two educational systems, two voting systems, two media ecosystems — two kinds of democracy.
Our Constitution proclaims lofty ideals, meant to apply to all of the American people. But too often those ideals are circumvented by money and influence. Too often, poverty is a permanent position. Poor and under-educated people are useful to those in power, and can be more easily controlled — or provoked. They can be pushed around, kept in place by sub-standard pay and work conditions and lack of healthcare, kept in place by restricted voting rights, fewer voting locations, and cartoonish gerrymandering. Voting by mail? Don't be silly. That's reserved for important people.
Those without influence or power have few options for expressing their frustrations. Senators don't take their calls. Congressmen are at lunch with lobbyists. The people don't have lobbyists. Most in power pay little attention to the people, until things boil over.
The pot is beginning to bubble.
Governors and cabinet ministers and federal and state agency heads are not out of work, nor are they particularly or personally impacted by a disease that's ravaging communities, overloading our hospitals, shutting down small and large businesses of every stripe, putting millions out of work, and disrupting our children's education.
Too often, our leaders sound like Governor Mike Parson of Missouri, who said this week: "These kids have got to get back to school. And if they do get COVID-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they're not going to the hospitals. They're going to go home and they're going to get over it."
Because that's how this virus works. Nobody else will get the disease. Just the children — your children — and they'll be fine. Nothing to see here. Get your brats in school. And get the teachers and support staff in there, too. Shut up. Move along.
This attitude comes from the top, from a president who sees the opening of schools as the critical pivot point to opening the economy, the only chance he sees for his re-election. Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary who'd like to privatize the education system, echoes the president's sentiments. Open the schools. Or else. I am the boss of you.
I've got news for them: Schools are not going to open next month in places where this disease is running rampant. Those that do open in those areas will have very few kids and very few teachers. They will be battling quarantines, shutdowns, and disruptions every day. People will not risk their children's health, no matter who tells them to do it. Mothers and fathers can take to the streets, too, believe it or not. I've seen it.
The pot is bubbling.
Two systems. In one, convicted felons like Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort are escorted from prison in nice suits and allowed to serve their sentences at home because the threat of COVID is too great for men of their stature to be in prison. The thousands of others who remain behind bars, many convicted of lesser crimes? They're on the wrong side of the divide. Sorry. No power, no money, no friends in high places? Suck it up. Wash your hands.
Two systems. In one, the nice uniformed police officer pulls you over in your nice car and politely issues you a ticket — or a warning. In the other, you're tackled on the street by unidentified men in camouflage carrying automatic weapons and thrown into an unmarked van. No arrest warrant, no reason given. America!
I haven't seen the country this angry, this divided, since the late 1960s. The pot is bubbling. And the man at the top is preparing to turn up the burner, planning to put more unmarked, unidentified troops from Customs and Border Patrol in more American cities, hoping as hard as he can that protesters will come out to help make great television for the rubes who fear the scary BLM peril and the Marxists and the Antifa, and who love seeing them get beaten and tear-gassed on Fox News. Law and order!
We're living in historic and momentous times. The choice is coming for all of us. Stand and be counted or watch a wave of authoritarianism roll over us. Two systems. Two ways forward. One future. Our choice.