WE v. ME

The perennial contradiction between “we” and “me”—a basic human tension with vast social, cultural, and political differences and dimensions—lurched violently toward an exclusive “ME” in our country in 1980 and the “Reagan Revolution” with its racist dog-whistles, its opposition to any concept of collectivity or the “public,” its weaponized individualism, and its anemic, libertarian definition of “freedom.” “Public safety” became “own a gun;” “public education” became a product to be bought at the market place; “public health” was reduced to “take care of yourself.” The word itself—“public”—in some contexts became consciously coded racially: public welfare, public housing, public aid, public transportation. US v. THEM. Saint Ronald Reagan, godhead of the Right and the icon to whom every Republican leader bends a knee and genuflects piously, famously said this at his inauguration: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” That’s the dogma we are suffering now.

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