Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: American Capitalism Not Worth Dying For

To be sure, I realize there are many things in life for which people should risk their lives. When I turned 18 and no longer needed parental consent, I joined the U.S. Naval Reserve. It was during the Vietnam era. After six years of (admittedly never dangerous) service, rising to the rank of petty officer third class, and a stint at Officer Candidate School, I received my honorable discharge.

I swore an oath then to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, with my life if necessary. Defense of family, honor, faith, personal safety: there remain many situations today in which I’d be willing to give what President Abraham Lincoln described after the battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest of the Civil War, where soldiers gave “the last full measure of devotion.”

The American economy, or capitalism, is not one of them. In fact, I wouldn’t go across the street to save Donald J. Trump’s government or economy.

All over the country these days, some white folks mostly are in rebellion against government-mandated stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

They want to quickly open the economy back up, after a few weeks of mandatory quarantine and social distancing has put 26 million people out of work, almost overnight. Some of those folks claim that being quarantined to stem a worldwide pandemic is akin to submitting to Communist authority. How silly.

Many of those folks clamoring to reopen the economy (which will never, ever be the same) rally under the Confederate battle flag. Wrong.

One Republican state legislator even recently wore a Confederate flag face mask during a legislative session in Michigan. Brazen mockery of social distancing.

Another Republican member of the U.S. Congress went so far as to fix his mouth to say out loud that the vigorous revival of the economy is, in fact, more important than protecting the lives of people, especially the elderly.

Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.) told radio station WIBC-FM Indianapolis recently that he’s willing to push the good life over a longer life.

“It is always the American government’s position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life, of American lives, we have to always choose the latter,” he said, arguing that looming economic losses are far too severe to continue sheltering-in-place designed to limit the person-to-person spread of coronavirus.

Hollingsworth’s sentiment has been expressed before. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggested last month that American seniors should be willing to risk their lives to the virus to preserve the economy.

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for its children and grandchildren?'” Patrick said March 23 on Fox News. “And if that is the exchange, I’m all-in.”

But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recoiled. “My mother is not expendable,” Cuomo said. Neither am I, a grandfather.

See, things have never been that great for Black people like me, and I’m not prepared to willingly go back to the end of the line for that failed American dream of robber-baron capitalism. I understand that folks are desperate to earn a living like before the crisis, but why would any worker today be anxious to rush back to working for $8, $10, even $12 an hour, far, far below a “living wage”?

The wealthy donors to Trump raked trillions of dollars off the table, within days of the federal stimulus enactment, and they want everyone else to meekly go back to their assigned places at the bottom of the economic heap. Sorry, Daddy Warbucks, it ain’t gonna happen that way. This is a new day.

When they had a chance to do right by the freed slaves after the end of slavery, the government refused to give the freedmen the 40 acres and a mule they were promised. Then, in a political shuffle to stay in power, the federal government withdrew U.S. troops from the rebel states, leaving Black people at the mercy of the Ku Klux Klan and other night-riding terrorists, and whites beat Black folks back into the dust and stole everything they had. My own family in Mississippi was robbed of land.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, these wicked people have been busy rolling back every “safety net” protection, Social Security, etc., that benefited mostly whites, in order to drag the country out of the Great Depression. Now, they think their money is more important than the people who earn it for them.

Those folks will come to learn they are wrong, and their house of cards is doomed to fall.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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