Monday, April 04, 2005

After Conservatism

John Edwards toured the Harambee Center on Madison’s south side Saturday morning. This family center (just across the street from my apartment) is located in what is arguably the poorest area of Madison. And that is why Edwards promote the fight against poverty.

I can think of no one of the stature of Edwards waging a serious fight against poverty who speaks the following:
“In a country of our prosperity, to have 36 million people live in poverty everyday is wrong, and we have a moral responsibility to do something about it,” Edwards said. “That’s exactly what I intend to do with all my heart and soul.” --The Badger Herald

And he is not only saying it, but doing it. He is now the director for a poverty center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In a post election interview with Charlie Rose which I saw, I was struck by Edwards discussion of poverty. I have not heard anyone of prominence addressing the issue, in such a genuine manner, in a very long time.

As someone who, in all honesty, is now poor and lives in a seriously impoverished neighborhood, I see daily the ravaging effects of poverty. I cycle between feelings of rage, despair and sorrow at what I see and experience. Rage that our leaders do not care. Despair that they ever will. Sorrow for my friends and neighbors who are doomed to this ugliness. We have abandoned whole groups of people, whole areas of cites, to a marginal existence.

And what is the opposite of marginal.....vast, boundless, expansive, limitless. In short, the very definition of America. Yes, America is big. We are big in every manner. We have an immense economy, a massive military, the most square footage, even the largest waistlines and... an enormous hubris. We are large in arrogance, conceit and disdainfulness. With Ronald Reagan it became possible to ignore poverty. Conservatism since has advanced an ever growing contemptuousness toward the poor that matured and has now metastasized to the body America. The evolution is complete. What comes after such evolution? The dissolution. As from the vista of the zenith one sees the nadir; the bankrupting of conservatism itself. With that dissolution is the hope for exposing the underside of America in every shocking respect for its' own good. The question now is how many more Americans will the conservatives take down with them. Poverty may well be a major issue again very soon, as many more Americans are bankrupted, as a result of the policies of conservatism.

I can not claim with certainty that Edwards is a visionary but I suspect he sees this transpiring. And this is why he talks of poverty at this time. He says he was inspired by the struggle of the less fortunate Americans he met while on the campaign trail. Edwards believes the poor are the ones we need to embrace, as much for them, as for the integrity of the American character as a whole. Perhaps you will think I place too much faith in John Edwards. But if his beliefs take hold, as the resolution to the dissolving of conservatism, then we may become a great nation, rather than a big one. Edwards will have been a visionary. And I will despair no more.--scout

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