Truthout - September 22, 2019

"Whether it is opiate addiction in Appalachia or entrenched inner-city poverty, isolated and isolating pain has destroyed lives. The social strain of failing at the “American Dream” has left millions in despair; they don’tvoteorhope. They need a new role in a new world."

We had a direct existential threat with…Nazi Germany,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said at a 2018 event. “We chose to mobilize our entire economy…. We have to do the same thing in order to get us to 100 percent renewable energy.” She was promoting a Green New Deal, but her war analogy eerily fit our current political situation.

The left is facing a two-front struggle: On one side is capitalism wrecking the planet; on the other, a rising fascism stoking people into a fever of racism and xenophobia. How do we face this?

The Green New Deal can help us fight both crises — global warming and white supremacy. The mass mobilization that democratic socialists like Sen. Bernie Sanders call for demands a deep transformation that is cultural and economic. It can help end the cycle of violence in poor communities of color and help end “deaths of despair” in poor white ones. It might even ease white anxiety about a multicultural future. The Green New Deal, or a similar project, has the potential to bring society together in order to face humanity’s greatest enemy — a catastrophe of our own making.

American Endgame

Tent cities. Boarded up homes. Homeless families sleeping on church pews. Gang violence. Whether in the 2013 opioid documentary Oyxana, studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on inner city trauma or in the U.N.’s 2017 report on poverty, we see the destruction that is for many what is left of the American Dream.

Whole swaths of white America, afraid they are being left behind (by capitalism), have channeled their despair into drug misuse or rage. In 2015, researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton discovered that since 1999, an increasing number of middle-aged white Americans have been dying from suicide, drugs like opiates and alcoholism. They called them “deaths of despair” because the cause was not just the presence of drugs but the absence of social connection. Many people living in small towns saw no future, no jobs and no way out. Friends died. Family died. They were numb with fatalism.

For others, instead of destroying themselves, their rage turned outward and they vowed to destroy the liberal America that they believed had betrayed them. White supremacist violence made headlines in 2017’s Unite the Right Rally and 2019’s El Paso mass shooting, but they were the tip of the iceberg. Beyond those acts of public violence, the FBI made arrests on roughly 100 domestic terror plots between October 2018 and late July 2019 alone. Meanwhile, 11 million white Americans hold an “alt-right” worldview, seeing themselves as the victims of a rising tide of people of color and the liberal elite who empower them.

And yet the masses of people of color do not hold political or economic power, and suffer even deeper, generationally entrenched poverty. Even with the recent decline in the poor from 39.5 million people in 2017 to 38.1 million in 2019, the effect of legal segregation and real estate red-lining led to neighborhoods of color becoming locked in cycles of violence and loss. Although gang violence has decreased in recent years, gangs still spray the streets with bullets, sometimes aiming at a rival and killing children in the way. Black Panther Huey Newton called this nihilistic rage turned inward “reactionary suicide.” The pressure of poverty and hopelessness explodes in the faces of those who are already its victims.

Whether it is opiate addiction in Appalachia or entrenched inner-city poverty, isolated and isolating pain has destroyed lives. The social strain of failing at the “American Dream” has left millions in despair; they don’t vote or hope. They need a new role in a new world. ...
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