The American way of life that seemed so timeless and invulnerable in our youth has radically changed. Gone are the halcyon 1950s and 1960s when the future seemed bright, and young men and women seemed to have every opportunity to have lives as good or better than their parents lived. Optimism and prosperity have since declined, community spirit has dwindled, and the middle class that emerged after WW II is in decline. Cultural institutions and educational achievement have steadily declined, and the environment has come under new and growing stress. As never before, strains of fundamentalist Christianity have grown more virulent, challenging mainstream law, medicine and science.
The age of abundant oil and cheap energy is gone forever. Some twenty-five years after the Vietnam War, America has drifted into a seemingly endless and intractable cycle of military engagement. The federal debt of the United State has swelled to alarming levels, and anger, cynicism and fear have increasingly infected public discourse. The income and wealth gaps between the very rich and the middle class have grown exponentially, and today, incredibly, the extremely wealthy elite are seeking complete control over government functions and institutions, positioning themselves to take over America and demolish the freedom and prosperity of everyone else.
These developments clearly go well beyond what we might have expected to be normal growth and change in our lifetimes. For example, one of our debate topics in high school was “compulsory arbitration of labor disputes.” The quest for an appropriate balance between the power and the rights of employers and employees seemed a well-established aspect of American politics and culture. The balance has tilted steadily in favor of employers since then, however. Private sector unionism declined steadily over the past 50 years, and today we are witnessing an attempt by Republican governors and legislators, funded by a small handful of billionaires, to eliminate all collective bargaining rights of public sector employees.
Along with many in our generation, we’ve become increasingly concerned for our country’s future, and for the well-being and economic security of our children and grandchildren. We intend to thoroughly investigate the decline that has taken place in America, its causes and effects, and the means by which the wealthy few impose their will upon the many in a democratic society. We hope greatly to increase our own understanding, and to help inform and alert other Americans, for ominously it appears that soon the last vestiges of the land of opportunity and freedom we once knew and cherished, and thought would survive indefinitely, could disappear forever.
“I live here. There’s nowhere I’m going to go. So I have to help.” – William Young, Jr., a retired Army sergeant who patrols his Detroit neighborhood as a volunteer. Quotation of the Day, New York Times, 3/26/11