Alexis Gerard Finger
Happy July Fourth?
How happy was this day for the one in six people who are on food stamps? How many teachers and librarians who have been laid off are applauding the decisions of their representatives in city, state and national governments that put the interests of the wealthy before the academic needs of their students? Surely students who depend on GED classes to help them get off welfare and possibly prepare for college weren’t celebrating July fourth. The elimination of the classes that were their hope to achieving dreams of financial independence have disappeared just like the bursts of color that quickly faded from last Monday’s night sky.
When the eight-year reign of disbelief and shame ended with Barack Obama’s election, there was such a feeling of pride and hope. It was a day worthy of celebration, high fives and tributes to the American people. Obama’s presidential inauguration represented the ultimate achievement of the dream that Martin Luther King, Jr., articulated in his famous speech — the dream that “[black children] will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
With a black man ascending to the highest office in the United States, we had achieved something so great that even John Adams, the most idealistic Founding Father, couldn’t have contemplated the idea in 1776. We showed that we were all willing to put our self interests aside for the benefit of our country. Thus, America’s reputation soared. To Obama’s credit, rather than flaunt his victory and the huge win of his party, he demonstrated his desire to be everybody’s president — black and white, rich and poor, North and South, Harvard and “school of hard knocks.” Perhaps at his own expense, he was determined to bring together Democrats and Republicans to find creative solutions to the economic problems that the Bush Administration’s culture of greed helped perpetuate and, at the same time, realistically address the educational, environmental and industrial challenges of a “flat” world.
Unfortunately, from the very beginning, his efforts have been met with disdain, repudiation, obstruction and personal insults. The oppositionists have shown little concern for the health and welfare of all the American people and the future of American competitiveness. The fact that our millionaires and billionaires are more concerned with their tax breaks and cheap labor costs abroad than helping their own people or the future of their own country is nothing to celebrate.
The beautiful fireworks accompanied by stirring patriotic songs may be a source of pride for the CEOs on Wall Street who enjoyed the view from their yachts or penthouse terraces, but for the law school, college and high school graduates who can’t find jobs, and the managers, educators, social workers, real estate agents and small business owners who are now forced to collect unemployment, such celebrations are sadistic jokes. The people who depended on the cancelled “welfare to work” programs that kept them off the streets and the homeless who have long given up hope may have been too traumatized to even know last Monday was their national holiday too.
Alexis Gerard Finger is an associate professor in the Department of English & Philosphy. She can be reached at email@example.com.