What Our Parents Had

Ari Spool

Barack Obama is probably a pretty nice guy, and he's definitely a smart one, and all of the people that work for him are also smart. They understand that the person they are competing against would be catastrophic for this country, while they at least would try to make make life better and more equal for its populace. That's all easy to see. I'm not trying to say don't vote for Obama, because you should, because any result other than his re-election would be an affirmation of evil.</p>

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But there is one part of the Democratic Party platform that really rubs me the wrong way. The completeness of its rhetorical punch depends on conjecture that I find almost offensive. The first part of the logic is fine, but the second part is where it goes horribly, horribly wrong. It follows as such: If a potential voter for Obama believes in fairness for all Americans, then we should aspire to return to when America had an expansive middle class.

Now, I know what you are thinking: “That doesn't sound so bad! The middle class, when it existed, was when capitalism proved its value as an economic system! America was the best in the world!” In the narrative of the history of our country this is true. The history, as it is written, says that when America was finally able to build its suburbs and roads and highways in the '50s, and when every man had a job and supported his 2.5 children easily, that was when this country really proved its mettle and dominated over the Communists and so on. That is what it was like for the middle class, from Leave It To Beaver to the Cosby's, and that's the cheerful America the Democratic party insists we want to return to.

However, if you are not ignorant of the consequences of that lifestyle, then you should be pointing at your politician and asking “huh?” It's true that we should be searching for wealth parity, but the way America was able to (sort of, if you were white) obtain that parity the first time was a deleterious process, the consequences of which the children of young people like me (I'm considered a “Millenial) will still be trying to eradicate.

We don't even have to investigate as far back as the industrial revolution, although that's certainly where it started. The compulsive and materialistic acquisition of possessions that evolved into reckless consumerism? That was the American middle class. The expansion of human settlement, further and further afield, eradicating natural habitats and species? That was the American middle class. The evolution of our food into processed, non-nutritious goop for the sake of convenience? Yep, that was their fault. Plus, we don't even have to mention the example they set for the rest of the world, do we? The cul-de-sac subdivisions of India look eerily similar to the ones in America, and their climate control and two car garages have the same negative effects as they do in here.

Also, the goal of getting to this mystified middle level, even if you couldn't afford it, was part of why the recession happened in the first place. Remember all those sub-prime mortgages? Personal home ownership is one of the basic tenets of the capitalist system, but it failed our country once and it could do it again.

But the biggest problem I have with this line of thinking, this return to the middle class of yore, is its recursiveness. One of the promises of 20th Century America was that this was a country that kept moving forward. But now, apparently, all we can hope for is to return to the time when we could dream about moving forward. How disappointing.

I don't expect the Democrats to change their party line – judging just by the enthusiasm in my social media feeds surrounding the convention, it works, and let's hope that it allows them to defeat the shameless GOP. But a return to the America of the past, even if it were possible, isn't what the new families created during Obama's second term will need.

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