As a professional truck driver with a background in International Relations, driving across the northern continent has had a profound impact on me. I see a lot of amazing things. And as the President so eloquently gives the world the word of the United States of America and promises that "all of our children enjoy lives of opportunity," I wonder about the lacking investments in humanity that I see before me: The week before last, just before entering Canada, I drove along the outskirts of Detroit. One of Tom Petty's greatest hit songs, Refugee, played over the radio as I passed a man pushing a cart alongside a highway exit. Cars sped by him at upwards of 55 mph as if he were not even there. Though I had only seconds to grab a more thorough glance, I was left in horrid disbelief that the stacked items in his cart were his--not purchased items, but his soiled life's possessions. He lived "like a refugee." On a later route, I passed through Chester, PA. To my dismay and disbelief, the rubble of homes that made fascinating photos in my journal and revealed 'interesting' American relics and ruins of eras gone by, actually had tenants. They, too, lived like refugees. Naïve, I may be, but the shock of realizing that there are Americans, who live like refugees hit me front and center. Our enclaves are getting worse. Where have we gone wrong?
The faces and demeanor of these people brought back two seminal moments of my teenage-years that determined the steps of my life: At 15, standing behind the Iron Curtain, looking at the solemnness of the people and duality of wealth for political officials, I made a clear choice to remain an American capitalist. I saw firsthand that communism was an economic theory that may have aligned with my values of sharing and caring for all community members, but in reality the philosophy needed people for implementation and its implementation was unfair and oppressive.
And by, at age 18, I chose to become a Republican. I believed that business and capitalism could provide opportunities for individuals to design their own outcomes and create positive community changes without waiting on government officials who often espoused dependency theories. If wielded correctly, capitalism could inspire something that had no name at the time, but was modeled by Republicans like Millicent Fenwick: we now know this malleable capitalist 'ability' as corporate responsibility and on an individual scale, social entrepreneurship. More succinctly, echoing President Barack Obama's most recent words, I truly believed that "economies that nurture entrepreneurship will flourish." But looking out at communities, including parts of New York and his backyard of Washington, DC, these areas are looking more like Cold War Eastern European communities and experiencing oppression very similar to it, which we then claimed to be totalitarian practices...clearly this was the outcry of Americans seeing the military presence in Ferguson, Missouri. So, as Republicans what are we doing? What are we promising to a crumbling nation that is beginning to show signs of an Eastern run state?
My current observations of the economic discrepancies that exist in our nation, also brought back a statement posed to me by a well-educated and well-spoken southern African dignitary in 2006. Upon seeing that there is little economic attention given to particular enclaves in our country, she asked, "Do blacks have a different government than whites?" My response to her, then--prior to seeing what I have now seen--was, "It would seem so, wouldn't it?" However, what I have observed now goes well beyond the ethnicities of any American. As she concluded, "my tribe" (Americans) has a very visible "type of apartheid." This economic apartheid that we choose to ignore and we choose drive by seems to be leading us to the same road that the East met in 1989--a crumbling wall.
However, in 1988, I returned to visit two Eastern Bloc countries. I witnessed that something had come alive in the people and that they were no longer prepared to tolerate a sedated economic life style. The desire for change was in the air. In seeing this new found desire in the eyes of Easterners, I wrote on the Berlin Wall, "Soon this will all be rubble." Of course, we are familiar with now widely spoken quote by President Reagan's well-informed and now widely repeated quote: Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall. But, the one thing I can say about life behind the Iron Curtain is that I never saw homeless citizens or citizens who lived like refugees in their own nation.
So, my final two questions to my party are how can we have such a great desire to see our current president espouse a resolute strength on foreign issues simply to satisfy our fascination with reminiscing about past leaders and simply to show the world that he 'appears' to stand strong on issues of foreign affairs, while he is standing on a sinking foundation? What is our contingency plan for the here and now? Though I am not writing on a wall this time around, I am writing it in a blog, "soon this will all be rubble," and not because the people will have decided they want change, but because so many of us have become blind and drive by the living ruins of our internal columns -- its people. Maybe my party didn't get the memo (see third link above): a government does have a responsibility to its people as well as its businesses. Even China, with its four Economic Development Zones test areas, had the foresight to compromise and invest in some form capitalism for its nation--its people--to flourish in the changing global economy. Maybe it is time for us to invest in some type of economic equalization 'test zones' -- maybe $75K per family instead of foreign wars -- in order to spur localized entrepreneurship and reinforce our American foundation -- particularly, since this foundation is 'our tribe,' whether light or dark, in the words of Tom Petty, our fellow Americans "don't have to live like a refugee!"