The question that is continually asked of me, especially amongst my European friends: Why are Americans continually voting for these conservative, corporate mogul politicians? Good question.
A few months ago, at Uppsala University in Sweden, a lecture was given on Jane Austen and the subject of poverty. The speaker, Professor Mona Sheuermann from Oakton College Illinois, spoke on the late 18th century upper class perspectives regarding poverty and how these perceptions of the poor impacted Austen's novels. The lecturer focused on the impact specifically made by a religious writer of the time, Hannah More.
Hannah More was generally viewed as a philanthropist of the late 18th and early 19th century. Her writings were meant to help the lower class cope with their everyday struggles and encouraged them to be grateful to God for what they had.
As I listened to the many pieces of advice that was doled out from Hannah More, I became rather agitated as it reminded me of similar things I heard during my under-employed days in Chicago.
I recall being told to be "thankful" for the crappy health insurance coverage I was given (that required me to pay $1000 deductible if I ever dared to walk into an emergency room). I recall being told that I should "count my blessings" for being able to attend a university even though it put me into an endless hole of debt with no promise of a career. I was told that I was "lucky" and I had a bright future, though there will be no government funded retirement left for me.
Now overseas, I am baffled by the questions posed to me: "Why would a lower class citizen vote against things like a National Health Care when it would directly benefit them? How are these Republicans able to keep the lower class votes? How is it possible that the Tea Party is so popular?"
When it comes to appeasing the middle and lower class conservatives, like Hannah More, the U.S. Republicans cling to a well-worn doctrine: We should be thankful for living in a country with "Family Values".
Stamp "Family Values" on a campaign and you got a very large percentage of voters - rich and poor.
Many people will hear this term "Family Values" without really understand its implications. "Family Values" is about as rhetorically ambivalent as "Terrorism". There are some frightening similarities of how these terms are used in political discourse.
"Family Values" for most Americans means something along the lines of a 1950's family: Abortion is abhorred; Evolution is a joke, mass is on Sunday, 2.5 kids, a Chevy in the garage and God Bless America.
What's great about "Family Values" is that there is no link to any particular religion, though it's understood that Christianity lies just beneath the surface. The most frightening part about "Family Values" isn't its link to Christianity, but how many Americans have refused to separate Church and State.
Yet, isn't that one of the initial reasons of why our ancestors floated across the Atlantic?
The fact remains that many U.S. voters are easily manipulated by this fear of losing "Family Values" and they definitely do NOT consider the overall national or global impact. Yes, a Republican politician will more than likely do whatever he/she can to maintain "Family Values", like for instance, refuting gay marriage. However, is prohibiting gay marriage really that important when your unemployed daughter with a high fever won't go to the hospital for fear of a $2000 medical bill?
The only hope is a mass epiphany. The minute the conservative poor reject this doctrine and realize that voting specifically on moral values is what keeps them from sufficient education, decent wages and even basic medical treatment, only then will change be possible.
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