“…American has been relying on the convenience of a class system since the good old day in Puritan Massachusetts… How else does a society know or govern itself if not with guidelines shaped by some form of class distinction. In the United States the organization is for sale, made with money instead of an aristocratic birthright the favor of a king or the grace of God.” (“Ignorance of Things Past,” Louis Lapham, “Harper’s,” 5/12 )
His comments gave me pause. After reading his essay, I had to agree with his assessment that, believe it or not, the country is headed in the right direction, after all. Slavery is gone, sweatshops and child labor are gone, the rights of the handicapped are recognized, women have more rights, the Klu Klux Klan hasn’t lynched anyone lately, the U.S. Army no longer exterminates the Indians, (though there aren’t many left), we’re trying to give health care to everyone, and the definition of a family has been extended to include gays and lesbians. What’s more, some of the current oligarchy, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, seems far more enlightened than the robber barons of old. And our growing sense of obligation to the planet is a measure in our favor. If America fails to remain a super power, so be it. Talk about a class system. It is we who have gobbled up much of the earth’s resources. Let the people of India and Brazil and Africa have their day in the sun.
Lapham admits the country is going through a great change, particularly in the area of demographics. If statisticians are correct, by 2042 white Americans will be the minority. That’s bound to shake things up a little.
“Democracy,” the author reminds us, “assumes conflict not only as the normal but also as the necessary condition of its existence.” (Lapham, pg. 31) I agree and until someone invents a more equitable system of governance, I’m happy to endure the debate.