In the last years of her life, my mother had pulmonary fibrosis and was tied to an oxygen tank. I loved my mother but felt sorry for her and deeply regretted my inability to help her. I rushed to North Carolina to be at her side when I thought she was about to take her last breath.
I feel the same way about the federal government, which I love only slightly less. I love it because it not only put me through graduate school with National Defense Fellowships but supported my research in Yugoslavia and Russia with three Fulbright-Hays Scholarships.
When I had a stroke, it paid $300,000 for my surgery and rehab (via Medicare) and when I had a heart attack, it paid for my double bypass. When my wife and I fly to Colorado to visit our sons, it makes sure no suicide bombers board the plane with us after the disastrous failure of private security companies on 9/11.
The US government provides advance warning of hurricanes and disaster relief after they strike. It provides swift interstate superhighways, safe harbors, and railways between major cities.
But my government now suffers from bad press. Reactionary Republicans have convinced some of us that government is not the solution to our problems but is a problem itself. Republicans have harped on this false claim for decades.
I love this country for its uniqueness. It is not a nation like other countries; it is a "melting pot" of many cultures. It holds a lovely bouillabaisse of many racial types that, for the most part, work harmoniously. Only those of us of European origins cannot get along with those of other races—or even ourselves.
The major problems our country faces come exclusively from corporations and the greedy oligarchs who own them. They have established a system of lobbying that operates on legalized bribery and extortion. They pay lobbyists enormous amounts of money to undermine the government, tilting it in their favor. In Washington today, there are two pharma lobbyists for every congressman, House and Senate.
The media corporations have demonized the working class and the organizations that support it. When was the last time you saw a union leader on TV or heard one on the radio?
The socialist and communist parties are strong union supporters. From the 1920s to the 1970s they had candidates in every presidential election. Communists like Angela Davis and leaders of America’s socialist parties were at least occasional guests on talk shows. Norman Thomas, who attended Bucknell University, was the socialist candidate for president in six consecutive elections from 1928 to 1952.
To repair our government, we need liberal and progressive programs to reestablish its independence from economic and financial powers: campaign financing, election and redistricting reform, fair vote counting, gun regulation, automatic voter registration, obviation of the electoral college.
Impossible, you say?
Remember the 1980s when we could only call someone on a clunky telephone attached to the wall by a wire? If someone would have said then that in 30 years we would have a telephone with a multifunctional clock, still and movie cameras, that could place thousands of newspapers and stores before our eyes, give us weather, stock market, and other reports, make mathematical calculations, on which we could type letters and send them to our friends, show us the directions to wherever we were going in any country on Earth, that was wireless, and could be held in one hand (!), we would have laughed just as hard you must be laughing right now at the thought of the daunting task of repairing the federal government.