It is frightening that large populations of the American public are so willingly persuaded by the political and religious carnival barkers whose only lectern is a talk show on radio or television. If we are to believe that nationalized test scores reflect the skills of American children to read and write (and I don't) then we would have to admit that Sesame Street and children's programming was wholesale failure when it comes to helping children with the three 'R's.
A letter responding to an opinion piece in the New York Times written by Timothy Egan called Working Class Zero caught my attention. Mary Romeo responded to Timothy's confusion as to why so many Americans advocate things that adversely affect them.
Neither of my parents graduated from high school. My father went to work at 12 to support help support his mothers and sisters after his father died — he worked on a milk truck and sold chewing gum at the subway stations in East Harlem — and, during the depression, my teenage mother was for a short time the sole support of her parents and three younger siblings. All four of my grandparents had been immigrants, and all four died before age 60.My parents too never graduated high school. My mother an atheist with only an elementary school education. My father a Catholic who as a teen joined the Marines to fight in WWII and worked in a factory all his life. Yet no one in my family was ever brain-washed into believing the kinds of nonsensical fictions that pass for facts that can be debated.
In the nineteen fifties, my uncles became union members. My mother, an office worker, benefited from ILGWU contracts at the department store at which she was employed. All had good hourly wages, benefits and retirement pensions and, as a result, my sister, cousins and I grew up in decent surroundings and attended college, and our parents had comfortable, if not affluent retirements. I have graduate and professional degrees from an ivy league college. We all became middle class.
Despite their lack of education, my parents and their siblings never engaged in the ignorant, delusional and hate-filled behavior that I have witnessed among right-wing working class protestors over the past few months. They were not civil rights activists — theirs was the wrong generation for that — but they were not racists, either. African-Americans worked side by side with them in the transit, sanitation, police, carpenters, longshoremen’s and other unions, and my family respected that work and those fellow Americans by whom it was performed. Nor were my parents, aunts and uncles deluded as to their best interests. They also knew, as my mother often told me, that “The Republicans were for the rich people; we’re poor, and we vote Democrat.” They knew those who were on their side, and those who were not.
I have witnessed the ecnomic decline of people like my parents with horror and dismay. Even more troubling has been the descent of such working Americans into an ignorance that my parents never knew — a decline abetted and encouraged by the Republican Party. There appear to be no progressive organizations in our era that can harness the anger and despair of the working class so as to help rather than harm these good people. Instead, we have crazy talk show hosts, corrupt politician, and the cynical corporate interests that finance them.
Were it not for unions and other progressive movements, my parents’ generation would have never climbed out of the numbing poverty that killed my grandparents, and my own generation would not be enjoying those middle-class benefits that we now have. Who will rescue the working-class this time around? President Obama is trying, but the forces of reaction and greed bar his way, and there is no organizational structure — no working class movement — to help the poor save themselves.
It is a heart-breaking, frustrating situation. Last Saturday, I watched working-class America march itself into perdition.
— Mary Romeo
It is as if a psychiatric ward of severely brain damaged individuals were set loose upon society and we are too polite to suggest treatment. And not only do we fail to treat them, we invite them into our town halls so that they can guide our civics!
The media has become a powerful teaching tool for this population. What's troubling is why the same medium is so ineffective with teaching kids reading, math, and critical thinking skills.
A Rachel Maddow interview with Frank Schaeffer offers some clues;