OPINION: Presidential Politics – It’s All About the Ladder

Paul Ryan/Chris Maddaloni, Getty Images

In the United States it often seems as if we are caught in a tidal wave of continuous political rhetoric. Negative campaign ads and angry comments from politicians leave American citizens in a wave of confusion and anger.

Whether it is on the local, state or federal level, as citizens we are bombarded by an unending stream of political “reality.” While politicians drum up support for their causes, we the people attempt to balance political “reality” with our own realities.

So what is the point of political rhetoric? It’s simple as a devious Public Relations plan: distract, enrage, and demean. We need not look any further than the long Presidential election season we’ve been stuck in for more than a year.

Who can blame them right? If you divide the minority among its self, you slow or stop progress. In this country the one way that a majority is actually a minority is economics.

No matter how Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan frame the controversy, the United States ranks as one of the worst in world in wealth disparity. In Mississippi, where I live, this disparity is painfully apparent, but thanks to “wedge issues” like my right to marry, the 2nd amendment, abortion, immigration, etc,. we often are too angry at over-blown issues to see the culprits of our pains.

When I think of the American socio-economic situation, I imagine a tall ladder that rest against the Columbia Center. Rising 76-stories, it would seem that the ladder affords room for many to climb. In theory, given that stamina, heart, and will of the climber, there should be little external inhibition to a climb to the top.

However, at the top of the building life is worry free. Worry has been replaced with unlimited security, breathtaking views, and affords the 1% of the climbers with exclusivity. Along with the exclusivity, the height above others attempting a climb to the top allows for isolation. Those at the bottom look more like ants than humans. Number one goal of being on top is to stay atop no matter what.

A few stand on rungs near enough to see the lip of the roof, and will do anything to get there. They protect both their top rungs, and the roof they have never seen. Hopeful, if not steadfast, that they will see what they protect one day.

Then there is the middle class. These people are packed on the middle rungs on the ladder. Though they live comfortably, it comes with hard work and security is fleeting. Their hold on those middle rungs is tenuous. They live one raised interest rate, one lost job, one medical bill or one student loan away from failing helplessly down the ladder. Though some days the skies are clear, and they can see the top of the building- the ladder’s end- they are often too busy to do anything more than fantasize of the life on top. There are always more pressing family, economic, and personal issues to deal with…

Then you have the bottom of the ladder; the “ants” the 1% look down upon. Their lives…our lives… are filled with worry, and a lack of security or comfort. Minimum wage jobs barely provide adequate housing, much less food, healthcare and/ or childcare. While there are some resources to help, those resources are constantly debated and demeaned by those atop the building. Thus a mindset is born: “nothing is given that will not eventually be taken away.” When we look up we see the whole of the ladder, every rung is visible yet we don’t have the time to do much more than attempt to survive. The ladder haunts us, like the constants of bill collectors, eviction notices, poor educations and the depression that comes from it all. Some step on one another just to get to the second rung, while others simply give up. There is little hope that those 70-plus stories will be climbed.

Safely atop (or near the top) of the building, the ones on top devise ways to divide those below them; ways to “slow or stop their progress”. Economically, they create “bubbles,” raise interest rates, and increase the cost of living to apply pressure to those below.

Socially they use “wedge issues” like LGBT rights, abortions, patriotism, and God to divide those below among themselves. Key words like “barbarian”, “homosexual” “welfare”, “God”, “liberal,” and even historically sacrosanct figures like are Forefathers are thrown down as weapons of division with each word’s intention being to strip those below of their humanity, subjugating them to a label.

The middle rungs are made to fear the lower rungs. They tell the middle that the bottom doesn’t need food or clothing, and that they are stealing from the middle. They divide the middle and bottom by distractions and wedge issues allowing them to move up, or remain atop unhindered, while those on bottom half fight against one another.

Though this analogy is a simplification of the socio-economic crisis that the United States is facing, the lessons and the solutions are the same. To achieve socio-economic equality in the United States two things must happen. First, the 99% not on the roof of the building must cease to look down to cast blame. Instead, we must begin looking upward to find the cause of the problem. Second, we must no longer allow “wedge issues,” key words, and political rhetoric to divide us among ourselves.

Whether lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, black, white, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Jewish, poor, middle class or whatever other label society might subjugate us into, we are all Americans. We are all humans! We all have inherent needs, similar wants, and the ability to feel emotion. These epic divides that supposedly prevent understanding are nothing more than well placed mirages in the desert of politics. Untrue, the only purpose they serve is the upward mobility of those who crave power and money over peace and humanity.

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