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Bernie and the Kids

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I’d like to make a plea to all my fellow Baby Boomers: listen to your kids on this one and vote for Bernie.

Why? The short version: he’s the only candidate at the moment that offers them any hope of salvaging their future.

What? Sounds a bit hyperbolic. A little too passionate. Kinda fanatical. Things aren’t really that bad. Keep your cool. Stay calm. Like Hillary. Not like Bernie.

And there you have it – the principal reason to vote for Hillary (according to the Hillary campaign itself): Hillary knows how to work within the system to get things done. Bernie’s ideas – like universal health care and free higher education and taxing the rich to provide essential services to everyone else – are just not practical and certainly not achievable. He’s just a dreamer.

Hillary is the ultimate status quo candidate – the classic “lesser evil” choice. She proudly owns it. Hillary has accepted that she can’t really make any significant changes, and she’s not going to waste time trying. She should be elected because she knows how to fight the kind of trench warfare that is all our system currently appears to be capable of doing. She proudly asserts that she will be able to win incremental gains, while she holds off the Republicans’ insane initiatives – and that’s the best we can hope for. She’s ready and willing to preside over the present gridlock and corruption. She promises to bring her garden hose to the forest fire that is climate change, and her sledgehammer to intractable problems of international relations, and by that I mean any nation who dares to oppose US hegemony.

The kids are tired of hearing it – the lesser evil thing, where you vote for someone who offers you more of the same crap they’ve been serving up since the 90’s but at least won’t be completely bat shit crazy, and you shouldn’t expect anything better.

They know they’re screwed. Most of them are saddled with student debt for the rest of their lives. It’s hard to find good jobs. More than half the people in the country don’t have enough savings to afford a major car repair. The very life support systems of the planet are morphing from benevolent to hostile, and we just brokered a climate deal in Paris that guarantees the planet will burn – and then bragged about it. The health care system is a preposterously expensive wreck. The candidates are falling all over themselves trying to prove who can throw more money at spying on everyone and killing more terrorists, with the net effect of just creating more terrorists (and refugees), while arming our domestic cops to the teeth to protect us from those 13-year-old black kids with squirt guns. We spend more money on prisons than schools. Our democracy is a farce. There hasn’t been a significant bill passed in decades that elevates the interests of the majority of citizens over the interests of corporations and the wealthy. And no candidate but Bernie is making any sense about any of it, if they even mention the big issues at all.

Granted, Bernie is no dream. He’s not all the way to where he needs to be. He still doesn’t seem to get that you can’t create a better future when you’re trying to run a world empire with military force. He’s still too cozy with the Democratic Party establishment, who are just as corrupt and controlled by the corporate oligarchy as the Republicans. His promise of hope could prove to be just as empty as the one Obama made.

But what his candidacy offers is the slightest glimmer of hope that the people can regain control of their own government and their future. Yes the glimmer is faint. Even if elected, Bernie won’t be able to pass any meaningful legislation for at least two years. A Republican Congress won’t allow it. But if support for Bernie can be translated into a movement that targets obstructionists in Congress, maybe after the mid-term elections we can begin to make changes that actually correspond to the reality that we are faced with. Granted, you can barely see the glimmer. But what other choice do you have?

You don’t have to be afraid that any of the current crop of Republican candidates will be elected President if Bernie is the Democratic nominee. The polls show otherwise, and the Republicans will nominate a candidate who is demonstrably dangerous to the well being of the nation and the planet – and therefore not electable. Hillary at best represents eight more years of inaction when time is running out on the climate, eight more years of military buildup at the expense of health, education and basic infrastructure, eight more years of the consolidation of the security state and the militarization of police departments.

My fellow boomers and parents, please look closely at this nation as it is now. Come down from your comfortable, reassuring, complacent, mid-20th Century perch and stop pretending that everything is OK and the USA is the greatest nation in the history of the world and all we’re really trying to do is bring democracy and prosperity to the world.

Stop thinking that this is just another election in a stable, peaceful, prosperous land that will remain that way forever if we just stay true to our noble (albeit purely mythological and rarely observed in actual practice) values.

Stop being so obsequiously thankful that at least things are not as bad here as “over there”. Lose your racial/cultural sense of superiority, which conveniently ignores that the advantages we enjoy are the direct result of 500 years of colonial pillage and plunder here at home and across most of Asia, Africa and South America.

Our current system of government, our culture, our treasured, hyper-consumerist way of living is broken, dysfunctional, and severely destructive. It threatens everything you say you hold dear and that the USA stands for. It clearly threatens the continuation of life on this planet as we know it (see the condition of the oceans and the rapid advance of species extinction). Admit that mere tweaks to the engine of destruction – to make it run better – will not solve our problems. We don’t just need an overhaul. We need a completely new mode of transportation, that doesn’t run on highways paved with oil.

Put aside the cynicism you have been encouraged to hold through 35 years of right wing propaganda about the ineffectiveness of government and the futility of political involvement – a cynicism Hillary reinforces at every opportunity and is trying her damnedest to exploit. Accept that this is nothing more than a privileged willingness to passively accept and ignore the devastating effects of our culture, economic system and current government on the planet and the future.

Put aside your “common sense” notions that programs like affordable education and quality healthcare are not realistic goals. These are not radical or impractical ideas. They are achievable and our children deserve them. We spend twice as much for our health care as other industrialized nations, and for the trillion dollars we waste every year we get worse health outcomes than any other highly developed nation. We obviously can do better. Our education system (and our method of financing it) has sentenced an entire generation to a lifetime of indentured servitude. How’s this for practicality: if all student debts were forgiven, the economy would get a huge boost. When former students are not sending off huge portions of their disposable income to pay bankers for the privilege of holding a job, they would spend that money on products made in the productive economy.

Remember how you felt in the 60’s and 70’s, when you believed the world was changjng for the better and you had your future ahead of you.

Now think about people under 35 today – they have their lives ahead of them, and at the moment they are excited that finally they see a glimmer of light – a crack in the fortress grasp strangling their future. Their view is tinged with the bitter awareness – that we never had to encounter while we were squandering far more than our fair share of the planet’s resources – that their future is severely jeopardized, and it is not getting better.

If they just get a whiff of their own empowerment, if they win a few battles, they may be inspired to struggle on to make the changes they need to secure a better future for themselves. They may not become as cynical as we have become, as resigned to our own failure to bequeath to our children a better world than the one we experienced.

Bernie might make that fight on their behalf. Hillary won’t. This is your choice. Are you going to help them or not?

Jeff Sher is a journalist specializing in the health care industry. He lives in San Francisco.

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