Long way to go for the more perfect union

Forrest Johnson

Now that we’ve had a Fourth of July military parade and a glorification of the patriots by a draft dodger president perhaps it’s time to take an honest look at the State of the Nation. I figure we can pat ourselves on the back all we want but the fact remains we haven’t lived up to the dream of a more perfect union as eloquently spoken by Abraham Lincoln.

In my simple mind the efforts to create a more fair and just society are often thwarted by the same folks who toot the patriotic horn of the economocracy and sing the song that we’re better than anybody else and don’t you forget it, the folks who wear the flag pin on their lapel and have a pretty good thing going and don’t want to lose it.

Yes, society is a complex space when you have 326 million Americans trying to get along and have food on the table when the top one percent own half of the wealth. 
The road map called the Constitution doesn’t define how fair the society will be, doesn’t guarantee the democratic experiment will be fair to all. It is a road map with an unknown destination. The road map allows us an earnest and lawful way to decide who we want to be as a people but it certainly doesn’t guarantee fairness for all, doesn’t guarantee that we will have clean air and water, doesn’t guarantee that we’ll take care of the elders and the young, the poor, the meek. It guarantees us a civil way to map out our wishes as a nation, a civil way to create a society that doesn’t ignore our past as we create the future, a civil way to create a more perfect union.

Now we have to get back to business on the task Lincoln lost his life over. 
I’ve heard folks complain that people spend too much time knocking our way of life and putting the good old US of A in a bad light. You know, they don’t want to hear about the fact that we stole our way across a land already occupied by many different societies, that we built an economy for several hundred years based on slave labor and working class that was enslaved by the robber barons for another hundred years or more. Folks tend to forget the struggles of slavery and labor, the farmer, the miner, and native peoples. The turn toward a more perfect union can’t absolve the nation from its past. We will never get where we’re going when we forget the wars and the coups and the shameless support of dictators in pursuit of our own ends.

I will now close my trap.
I will offer a few suggestions.
Jefferson envisioned an agrarian society of farmers and the working class, a base ingredient for a democratic republic. Of course, Jefferson seemed to enjoy having things both ways as was the wont of the educated gentleman class of the late 1700s and early 1800’s. They had the privilege to create lasting documents that guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the landed gentry, ideals we hold dear to this day but still struggle to share with all.

Most of today’s farmers have been corporatized, indentured to the bank and the company that makes the seed and the chemical fertilizer. We row crop food products not food, food products that lead to ill health and rising health care costs. The family farm is gone. A family can’t live on a small farm and compete with the industrial farming method that runs our agricultural system. Jefferson wold likely reel in shock if he came back and walked the fields of Virginia in 2019.

Not long ago I heard the motto for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. I couldn’t believe when the ad said “Feeding the World, Protecting the Land.”
Pardon me? Row cropping corn products that humans can’t eat and are grown for Pepsi Cola and Frito Lay, our vehicles and cattle and hogs. The end result for much of western and southwestern Minnesota has been groundwater contamination and dead lakes and waterways due to toxic runoff. Matter of fact, over 90 percent of lakes and streams in that region are impaired due to agricultural methods in use in the early 21st Century.

The farmers have all become Republicans, Trump supporters, a far cry from the early days of the Farmer, Labor Party when people who worked on the land actually understood that they were indentured to the grain elevators, the milling companies and the railroads.
Our legislators mill about and pay homage to the hard working farmers and refuse to understand the basic inequity of the industrial farming system. Rural communities have been ravaged by the change toward industrial methods that need fewer and fewer workers farming more and more land. 
I always like to go to the Agriculture Building at the Minnesota State Fair. The seed exhibit is one of nostalgia, the walls lined with seed bags from from independent companies that existed in small towns across Minnesota farm country. There were hundreds of small, local seed producers not long ago but today, two-thirds of the seed supply worldwide is controlled by four companies. The same is true for chicken and beef production and the toxic agricultural chemical industry.

Bigger is not better.
Bigger has decimated the landscape and emptied many rural farming communities.
Jefferson, that genteel Founding Father and slave owner, would have reeled in shock to see what his dream of an Agrarian Society had become. We’ve got a long way to go in our pursuit of the more perfect union.


Next week: Health care, education, 
racism and the environment.