Could we be next? |

Could we be next?

Hal Sundin
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As I See It

We are witnessing a firestorm of unrest in the Muslim world – first in Tunisia, next in Egypt, currently in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, and in the future, possibly in Jordan and even Iran. But what about right here in the USA? Could it really happen here?

The preponderance of those partaking in the populist uprisings that have sprung up in North Africa and show signs of spreading to Middle Eastern countries are the young adults, primarily in their 20s and 30s.

Through modern communication technology, that generation is far more aware of what is going on in the rest of the world, and is far better able to communicate their concerns, their dissatisfaction and their aspirations than was ever before possible in their countries.

The issues that are fueling their discontent include high unemployment, low wages, no voice in their government, pervasive corruption, and the pyramiding of a preponderance of wealth into the hands of those at the top. They are tired of being made the pawns of the powerful.

Do these issues sound familiar?

Here in our country, the unemployment rate for those in their 20s and 30s is at least twice the national average. Young people, who have invested four years of their lives in college – many of whom have incurred debts of tens of thousands of dollars – cannot find jobs that pay enough to cover just basic living expenses, with nothing left over to pay down their debts.

Many in this age group, who considered themselves to be in the middle class, have seen their jobs disappear or their incomes decline, dropping them out of the middle class into poverty and even homelessness.

They are struggling under an unfair financial burden in order to sustain tax cuts for the wealthy and full Social Security and Medicare benefits for those who really don’t need them. And they feel that no one is listening to them.

Twenty percent of the people in the United States possess all of the personal wealth, nearly two-thirds of which has been amassed by the top 5 percent. The remaining 80 percent have a zero net worth, fully half of them having a negative net balance. And half of the country’s total personal income goes to only one-tenth of the population.

How long will it be before the resentment of those who are watching the “American Dream” disappear from view reaches the boiling point? How long before they decide that enough is enough, and decide to do more than merely complain about it?

But, you say, America has a long tradition of democracy, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of differences via the election process. But do we still have real democracy?

In the 1890s, corporate monopolies and the “Robber Barons” ruled the country and hired goon squads or called in the National Guard to suppress protests against unsafe working conditions, the 60-hour week, and slave wages. Workers concluded that the laws of the land were there to serve only the wealthy and powerful, and disregarded the rights and interests of the people.

It was only the ascension of Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency, and his “trust-busting” actions and support of unions and their bargaining rights to achieve safe working conditions, shorter hours and better wages, that avoided an impending outbreak of labor unrest.

Is it possible that we could be approaching that level of discontent once again? Is our democracy failing an increasing majority of our citizens? The U.S. continues to go through the motion of elections, but more and more it is the financial and corporate elite who are running the country, and getting what they want. What the people want no longer seems to matter.

We are in danger of becoming a democracy in name only.

– “As I See It” appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at

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