2018: We Still Have a Chance

BELL VIEW--My grandfather, Larry Fogarty, fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He didn't volunteer -- he had a baby at home -- he was drafted and he did his time. I doubt he ever thought of himself as a patriot, and he never gave any indication that he felt he was part of some special generation of Americans. He just did his job and never talked about it. When he came home, he joined the Chicago Police Force and never exhibited much desire to do anything more than cash his paycheck and watch the ballgame. The War took all the fight out of him and quenched any thirst he may have once had for adventure. 

He was part of a generation that came home from WWII and got to work. His generation has gotten a lot of credit for winning the war and coming home and building the greatest country on Earth. The funny thing about the Greatest Generation is that most of the people who built the great post-War American Middle Class never saw themselves as heroes. They were just people who wanted a fair share and a safe place to live out their lives. 

The Greatest Generation was not particularly enlightened -- in fact, they made sure to exclude a good portion of America from the dream they were building. They weren't heroes. They weren't activists. They weren't social justice warriors. They were just ordinary people. At least the ones I grew up around. 

But they weren't suckers. 

My grandfather and millions like him worked for the next forty years and they took what they had coming to them. Their wages, access to credit, equity in their homes, and their pensions didn't trickle down from above. They sat down at the table with the big money and bargained for every penny. 

My grandfather was no liberal -- he worked as a detective in Mayor Daley's ward, and he policed the hard color line that ran down the middle of Chicago's South Side. My grandfather probably would have agreed with many of the same things Donald Trump believes. But he would have seen Trump coming long before election day, and there's no way he would have handed over his piece of the American Dream to a grifter like Donald Trump. 

I keep wondering what happened to common sense -- even among the benighted white working classes. When did Americans become such easy marks? When did farmers stop worrying about the environment? When did working people give up on collective bargaining? When did parents decide they didn't need to hand over a better world to their kids? 

America has turned the government of the people, by the people, and for the people into a cheap game show -- where the only thing that matters is your side winning. But that's not the only thing that matters. People keep telling me I need to get past the hatred I feel in my heart for those who would flush the whole experiment down the toilet. I need to find common ground. We need to move past a world where 51% counts as a victory. 

Looking ahead to 2018, I don't have much hope for the government. But when I look around at regular people -- when I get back to the South Side and the kind of people I grew up around -- I have to believe they won't let themselves be taken for a ride forever. 

I think politics is a sucker's game -- and the super-rich who own the government have decided to take everything that isn't nailed down. But the people who care about things: families, children, decent jobs, education, the air we breathe and the water we drink, the farmland, the wilderness, the oceans, the elderly, veterans -- these people are the vast majority of the country. And if we can organize them according to their own best interests, we have a chance. 


(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.)