Pierre Trudeau once said to an American audience, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant … one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”
The United States has built one of the most powerful empires the world has ever known. The founders created an ingenious system to allow for free enterprise while also protecting the democratic rights of its citizens.
They’ve faced some dark times, yet our neighbours to the south always found a way to pull through. When they needed them, great leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt stepped forward and brought the country through the crisis.
The U.S. is again facing a crisis.
Since the Ronald Reagan era, income disparity has increased and life for ordinary Americans has become more difficult. Wealth and power have become concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. The American educational institution lags behind other developed countries, and life expectancy is dropping in the nation that was once the envy of the world.
The U.S. society that emerged from the civil rights era full of hope and optimism is becoming less and less tolerant. Genocide Watch, which assesses active and potential points of conflict in the world, concludes that the U.S. is at Stage 6 of the 10 Stages of Genocide.
In other words, they’re at the stage of polarization, characterized by polarizing propaganda being prevalent in the media.
The problem in the U.S. isn’t the structure of its democracy; it’s that power is in the hands of too few people. Though there are officially two main political parties, both are controlled by the power elite. And both promote policies that will continue to make rich people richer, and poor and middle-class people poorer.
These corporatists also control the media and public opinion polling companies. So it’s very difficult to get a clear idea about what’s even happening in U.S. You can only hope to find credible information from much smaller and far less influential alternate media sources.
There’s a glimmer of hope for improving the standard of living of ordinary Americans, to the level of citizens in other industrialized countries. It those countries, people enjoy free health care, a living wage and excellent education systems.
A progressive wing of the Democratic Party is supported by growing numbers of Americans. The problem is that corporate America is doing all that they can to stop them, as evidenced by the obscene sums of money being spent to keep Bernie Sanders from gaining the party nomination as their presidential candidate in 2020.
Corporate Democrats don’t seem to realize they’ve lost the trust of the American people. Many voters were so disillusioned by the lack of progress during the Barack Obama years that they either voted for Republican Donald Trump or stayed home on election night in 2016.
Trump may be a corporatist but at least he’s honest about it. He doesn’t pretend to support human rights while he’s passing policies that benefit only the rich.
If corporate Democrats have their way (and as looks likely), Obama’s vice-president Joe Biden will be their presidential candidate in 2020.
But many observers doubt Biden can generate enough trust from the American people to defeat Trump.
Four more years of Trump will be as disastrous as the election of Herbert Hoover over Roosevelt would have been in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression.
It might even be much worse.
Perhaps it’s time for Canadians and citizens of other progressive countries to speak more openly in the media about the injustices faced by the common person in the United States.
Americans deserve the same rights we have.
And we need to remember that any instability in the United States will impact us all.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.
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