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Working Class Hero?


There’s room at the top they’re telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be
If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

~John Lennon

When I think of a working class hero, I immediately think of Che Guevara. I picture the iconic image of him wearing his beret with the single star, the tousled hair, and a mustache desperately needing grooming. Close on the heels of Che, I think of Superman, the honorable protector standing up to bullies in defense of the peasants, the commoner, the villagers in the movie Magnificent Seven, anyone oppressed.

The image of a hero warms my heart, makes me wish I was Robin Hood, Zorro, Che, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, any of history’s heroes fighting for rather than exploiting the people. For many of us raised in the USA, our government was the Robin Hood saving the world from dictators and despots and Che’s Communism. Little did we know at the time.

Many of these heroes were not without blood on their hands. The blood of their enemies. Their own blood when they were assassinated. Freedom fighting sometimes means killing others. Freedom Fighter or Terrorist? It’s all about perspective.

In the case of Che, some historians say he was involved in butchery. Revisionist biographies highlight Che’s involvement in the execution of “traitors” and counter-revolutionary “worms” often without the benefit of trial. Che’s legacy is precariously balanced. Hero or Anti-Hero? Savior or Terrorist? Saint or Sinner?

As I pondered Che and his ilk, internally romanticizing revolution “Viva la revolución”, the image of The Donald popped into my mind. The Donald?

Yes, I tied Che Guevara to Donald Trump. Not in their ideologies, but in what they represent to the working class of their time, in their appeal to a proletariat feeling abandoned by the elite, the 1%, hoarding most of the wealth, wealth created on the tired and broken backs of the working class. A working class whose backs are striped red by the whips of government officials that pretend to care about them come election time but abandons their promises them when the people need government support.

Che & The Donald have similarities. Both came from wealthy families. Both held/hold political office. They both have blood on their hands. The Donald’s from sending refugees back to the hell they were trying to escape. The biggest difference being Che was a communist believing in distribution of wealth while The Donald is a devout capitalist dedicated to amassing personal fortune.

The Donald as a Working Class Hero? The Donald? Hero? Yes, too many in the Working Class, The Donald is a hero. And, like Che, too many, he is a villain. He is Snidely Whiplash tying Muslims, his version of Nell, to the railroad tracks. Those who idolize Che most likely detest The Donald. And vice versa.

It was mainly the working class that brought Trump to power. They worship him with the zealotry of the religious – blind faith – reason be damned. He surfed the cheers of the Rust Belt Americans, people who lost their jobs to inefficient processes designed to benefit employees instead of the customers, artificially inflated wages driving companies to access cheaper labor outside the country, advances in technology rendering much manual labor obsolete. He surfed their discontent right over the heads of the Republican establishment to win the party’s nomination.

The working class carried Trump into power under the promise of returning jobs, of draining the swamp of career politicians, of jailing politicians he labeled as corrupt. The latter two promises he has already reneged on and he’s less than three months into his four-year term. How do the zealots not see the wolf beneath the fleece cape? Why do they continue to adore the false prophet?

The working class bought into his myopic vision of American First rhetoric harkening back to the misguided isolationism of the 1930s. An ideology which, when we intelligently abandoned, led the US into the most prosperous phase of her history. Oddly enough, Cuba was also isolationist, however, they were forced into isolation when the US government ostracized the country and threatened economic sanctions on allies targeting the Cuban market.

Cuba, ostracized into a virtual Isolationist country, became locked in the 1960s and are still there 50 years onward. Let’s hope US isolationism does not lock us into the 2020s while the rest of the world creates realigned trade policies, without the US, allowing everyone else to prosper in a world market and the US becomes a bit player instead of a leader. It’s a void China is poised to fill.

I do agree the working class needed a revolutionary to help them taste a larger piece of the pie hoarded so long by the top 1%. However, isolationism is not the answer. The America First policy is as misguided today as it was in the 1930s and will leave us an island enjoying some short term gain and, once the international trade vectors realign, extended, if not permanent, long term loss.

An island can be self-sustaining only as long as it has internal resources. With the rates of US consumer consumption, the resources won’t last very long. We will need to turn to the world community we abandoned, hope they will forgive us for our selfishness, and ask them to allow us back in. It will be their chance to make us pay dearly for our folly. I foresee the US falling into a deep hole of debt, outrageous inflation, mass suffering. The people and their progeny will be in a much worse position than they are now. We, as a nation will struggle, will suffer. Could we be the next North Korea?

The tragedy of his misguided America first policies, if not quelched, will lead to suffering and the suffering will foment revolution. The masses will rise. The people protesting in the streets, today, are an early sign of discontent and it’s not even bad yet. It may not come today or tomorrow or even next year. It may not come from my generation, but it will come from our children or our children’s children.

We will, again, seek a working class hero, a savior to save us from our own foolishness. I hope we learn to look beyond our own selfish needs, see the big picture, the effects of change on the long horizon the next time around.

Sadly, we didn’t learn from previous isolationist attempts that we are not an island to our self. We failed to understand that we are a member of an interconnected global community. I hope we can learn from our mistakes this time before tragedy strikes.

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