Asset Value in Mexico, 1800-2000

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Unlike both the United States and Canada, Mexico (New Spain) represents the negative impacts of economic development over the last two centuries. While the macroeconomic patterns of absolute wealth growth are apparent, the concentration of this wealth in a single location (Mexico City) as well as the massive loss of natural resource capital (starting with the Baja peninsula and extending east and north, in addition to losses across central America, South America, and the Caribbean) reveals the extraordinarily deep problems with gross domestic product as a measure of economic development. In contrast, asset value analysis reveals the contradictions of capital accumulation clearly in the uneven processes of Mexican national industrialization.

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In 1800, New Spain was part of the declining Spanish empire which had consolidated in the late sixteenth century. Given the specific political context of the emergence of professional economics as part of the patterns of late nineteenth century European imperialism and American global industrial ambition, nearly all Anglophone scholars have lost sight of the dominance of the Spanish (and Portuguese) imperial systems in the western hemisphere prior to 1750. At the heart of the Spanish New World was the plantation colony in Havana, Cuba. Worth nearly $2 billion (inflation-adjusted) in 1800, it was the dominant agricultural market, rivaled only by San Domingue prior to the Haitian Revolution. The century of strife and economic collapse that defined Mexico, Central America, and South America after 1820 is often misunderstood as a series of struggles for democratic independence. Asset value analysis helps to foster an understanding about the conflict of imperial systems across these geographies where conservative investors often retreated from the forces of industrialization in the nascent United States, especially after 1865. Mexico and the former provinces of the Lusophone New World provide a limitless terrain to better understand the limitations of free market ideologies. It is precisely their histories as local fiefdoms that preserved arbitrary governmental authorities through a mask of religious justification that shows the horrors of Thomas Jefferson’s (and Andrew Jackson’s and Abraham Lincoln’s) hagiographies of agrarian democratic republics.
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At the start of the twentieth century, the success of American foreign investment in Mexico shows the capacity of capital to create a massive urban infrastructure in Mexico City. Unlike Havana, American investment in physical infrastructure was not constrained by the immediate presence of the Caribbean sea and surrounding hills. Mexico City was a late nineteenth century vision of industrial sprawl. The downtown hosted numerous banks and natural resource extraction films, especially in coal and oil. Notably, the emergence of public utilities (centralized fresh water, waste water, subways, and electricity) did not occur. This fact limited the market growth in central Mexico and reinforced the local political fragmentation that defined the entire region. The asset growth to $43 billion was significant for the immediate area, but lagged significantly behind both New York and, the more comparable example, Toronto. Mexico remained a state more committed to its agricultural roots with only small flashes of disorganized industrial investment in 1900. The weakness of this political economic structure led to massive financial collapse after 1920 and no signs of real recovery for five decades.

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Mexico in the late twentieth century became an outlet for continental economic consolidation. Where Canada became an extension of the New York, Philadelphia, and Boston macroeconomic system, Mexico became a source of labor for the Sunbelt post-industrial systems represented by Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Miami, and Atlanta. Worth approximately $700 billion in asset value over the last twenty years, very little metropolitan development expanded in Mexico beyond its capital city. Even the array of smaller, resort towns remained peripheral and dependent on foreign investment and tourism. Yet, very few of the displaced working families from Canada and the United States took advantage of the potential opportunities of migration to Mexico in response to globalization. As a result, despite significant economic growth, Mexico remained the smallest of the North American economies. If working families, labor unions, and small businesses better understood asset value, Mexico could experience similar economic expansions that defined the industrial Midwest and the financial revolutions in both eastern Canada and the American sunbelt.
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One final note. The Caribbean economies (and smaller related nations in South America) present very interesting opportunities, especially in the context of climate change. More attention to these nations and their economies would open doors for economic autonomy for working families throughout North America.

Asset Value in Canada, 1800-2000

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While most of the advanced national economies around the world use the United States as a benchmark for commercial development, this commitment carries ideological baggage and methodological limitations that must be addressed. Asset value analysis reveals the social and geographic costs of macroeconomic theory, especially in the case of the United States. The contradictions of using enslaved Africans as both currency and infrastructure simultaneously is only one of the fundamental problems. Over time, this specific error was replicated during the process of industrialization in terms of immigrant labor populations as well as the manipulation of consumer networks over the last seventy years. An examination of the Canadian processes of commercialization reveals that there are other ways to approach market growth.

Canada (really the remainder of British North America) in 1800 covered the eastern Mississippi river valley, the Great Lakes region, with core settlements stretching north and east from Lake Erie to Nova Scotia. Over 95% of the physical infrastructure for the nation laid within two miles of a lake, river, or ocean. In 2010 dollars, the asset value of the country was just over $2 billion – barely 2 per cent of the United States at the same time. The core of early American commercial growth was Montreal (though a dozen smaller towns also contributed). In this pre-industrial setting, the importance of converting natural resources into physical infrastructure was everything. Canadian towns were little more than military installations to protect limited commercial activities in timber and furs.  This pattern persisted through the nineteenth century, limiting any fundamental movement towards industrialization and minimizing larger-scale patterns of urbanization.

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By 1900, Toronto had emerged to emulate its American neighbor to the south – New York City. Canada’s political independence gave it a nominal claim to the western territories and introduced the possibilities of expansion across the Pacific Ocean. Its national asset value exceeded $152 billion. While this measure shows evidence of growth, the market expansion is anemic compared to the major world powers of the time (United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Japan, and Russia). Canada remained a small, stagnant, rural economy on a national scale with little physical or financial infrastructure to reward industrial investment. Toronto grew largely as an extension of the Buffalo metropolitan area, creating a “twin cities” effect similar to Philadelphia and Camden (or San Francisco and Oakland) at the end of the nineteenth century. At $36 billion in asset value, Toronto surged past Montreal as the economic center for the country. It became the first densely urbanized center in Canadian history and became the model for its commercial growth over the next century.

 

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The main story of Canadian market expansion comes in the second half of the twentieth century. The emergence of the United States as a global superpower during the Cold War against the Soviet Union required the consolidation and protection of North America. Canada reaped the benefits of increased American military and financial investments in projecting its political authority around the world. In the early twenty-first century, 90 per cent of all Canadians live within 100 miles of the United States border. Further, 70 per cent of Canadians live in major metropolitan areas. The process of rapid industrialization and digitalization of the Canadian economy is a direct result of $1.7 trillion of direct private investment from the United States since 1946. Toronto, and later Vancouver, were the most direct local beneficiaries of this investment in terms of asset value. By 2000, Toronto’s asset value reached more than $1 trillion, while the Canadian national economy became a leading global partner worth $7.27 trillion. The massive economic growth of the twentieth century may foreshadow the kind of commercial expansion that the United States experienced between 1880 and 1920. If Canada can create better transportation and communication networks while attracting increasing numbers of skilled immigrants, it will be the key to geopolitical stability in both Asia and Europe in the twenty-first century.

 

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Asset Value in the United States, 1800-2000

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United States, 1800-2000

As demonstrated in “The American Economy” (2016), asset value analysis provides the tools to quantify the scope and scale of economic development in historical context. The initial world asset map revealed the concentrations of natural resources, physical infrastructure, and human capital around the world in 2012. The data sets demonstrating the evolution of global capital since 3500 BCE reveal the flaws in the neoliberal politics of late capitalism as well as the fundamental flaws in economic concepts like GDP. Using asset value provides an institutional investment praxis to create new forms of sustainable wealth creation that restore a global sense of common wealth that has been distorted for five centuries.

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In this first snapshot, analysts can begin to understand the creation of the first (un)free markets in human history. The United States in 1800 stopped at the Mississippi River, and over 80% of the physical infrastructure for the nation laid within fifty miles of the Atlantic coast. In 2010 dollars, the asset value of the country was just over $119 billion. In comparison, Apple (as a corporation) is worth almost one trillion dollars alone in 2018. The core of early American commercial growth was Philadelphia (though Charleston was also very important). In this pre-industrial setting, the importance of converting natural resources into physical infrastructure is immediately apparent. The geographic features of the southeastern Pennsylvania region enabled the rapid creation of a thriving commercial center, surrounded by a variety of residential neighborhoods. The rigid geometry of the roadways reflected the idealism of a revolutionary generation in pursuit of a democratic society that rejected the privileges of imperial monarchy.

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However, by 1900, a starkly different architecture shaped the booming, industrial metropolis of New York City. The consolidation of the continental United States, including the new acquired territories of Cuba and the Philippines, showed that the practices of free markets could incorporate the ambitions of industrial empire. The United States achieved an asset value exceeding $2 trillion by this point. That figure is roughly a quarter of the asset value of the United Kingdom at the same time, and approximately a third of the Australian economy in 2012. The emergence of massive national corporations, especially banks, railroads, and oil companies, caused the local asset value of New York City to reach $129 billion, dwarfing Philadelphia’s dominance a century earlier. The central control of assets through New York firms only trailed the power of London’s economic reach at its Victorian peak. Across the United States, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Dallas followed the model that New York symbolized. The core of American asset value at the start of the twentieth century sustained small industrial centers like Newark, Trenton, Camden, Baltimore, Norfolk, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Detroit in addition to these larger cities. While Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx consolidated into the modern New York City, commercial and residential infrastructure remains concentrated along the East River. Long Island and the northern suburbs remained distant hinterlands in the countryside.

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Over the next century, transportation and communications technologies would utterly transform the landscape and metropolitan design of the United States and the world. Foremost in this unprecedented revolution were the automobile and the television. They were the keys to the commercial emergence of the United States as a world superpower after the end of the Second World War. The United States was the unchallenged leader in the world economy by 2010 with over $123 trillion in asset value. New York remained the largest of the metropolitan economies within the country, worth almost $4 trillion in asset value. The second largest economy in the world was Japan ($20 trillion), and a dozen American cities were worth at least $1 trillion. Hundreds of American cities housed economies as large as Philadelphia has been 200 years earlier. In the specific case of New York, the emergent design of its economic system became known as the ‘megapolitan’. In lay terms, the region between Boston and Washington, D.C., became a massive city – the richest region in the world. Ten other megapolitans existed in the United States by 2010, and there were twelve more worldwide. Human capital became the distinguishing feature of megapolitan growth as service industries like medicine, finance, and software engineering became the dominant industries for growth in the twenty-first century.

Astonishingly, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, achieved a personal net worth of $139 billion in 2018. A single person today is richer than the wealthiest city in North America was a century earlier. This process is the accumulated power of (un)free market capitalism. By 2100, there will be a person worth a trillion dollars (or, perhaps, it will be measured in Bitcoin by that point). They will likely control the accumulation of personal data through social media, or, more likely, detailed genetic profiles of terrestrial life (human, animal, and plant) for both experimentation and marketing. There are even suggestions to repeat the colonial processes of the nineteenth century beneath the sea and across the solar system. Neoliberalism will commodify every cell and atom, every asteroid and planet, in the name of efficiency and productivity unless a revolutionary commitment to balance and dignity occurs.

United States, Asset Value, 1800-2000

 

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PLANNING FUTURE CITIES is the essential text for students seeking to comprehend the power of Planning History.”

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THE LONG VIEW: A Forgotten Legacy

W.E.B. DuBois built the world you live in today.  Brick by brick, concept by concept, he tore down a world dedicated to colonialism, segregation, and exploitation.  Who was he?  Sadly, too many people will ask this question with flawless sincerity.  The United States Congress essentially erased him from the public record because he stood for peace in an age of multiple wars.  DuBois’s academic and intellectual accomplishments would fill this entire newspaper for years, if they received the coverage he earned.  In brief, his career began before the Presidency of William McKinley and ended just before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  While the world celebrated Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford, DuBois refined Frederick Douglass’ concept of universal human equality and developed the global political agenda of democratic self-rule.  His most recognized insight was the exploration of ‘double consciousness’ — the idea that within a single person there was a self-image and an awareness of how other people saw you.  The distinction between the internal and external perceptions of a person could utterly destroy an individual, especially when the difference between the two visions involved the idea of race.

 

However, another keen insight came from his work, “The Freedom to Learn,” in 1949.  DuBois asserted that the right to learn was the most difficult achievement humanity had won in 5000 years of struggle.  Consider that.  More than the Jeffersonian rights to life, liberty, and property, the right to learn was most valuable.  In the long process of human beings exploring different form of civilization as we moved from religion to enlightenment to science in pursuit of greater freedom, learning was never a right.  For DuBois, this achievement was a product of the American commitment to public education in the late nineteenth century.  Education was no longer the exclusive domain of the wealthy or the devout.  Everyone could learn.  The content of the education could certainly be debated.  Which lessons were most appropriate for which people?  Still, the fundamental claim that everyone had a right to more information built the conceptual foundation for the schools, libraries, and colleges across the world.  Indeed, it is the premise behind the widespread information sharing we do with websites like Wikipedia, Youtube, and Google.

 

Who carries the torch today for increased freedom, education, and a better world tomorrow?  Salamishah Tillet and Aishah Simmons have led the way in giving greater voices to women around the world in their work “No! The Rape Documentary” and its related projects.  Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Marc Anthony Neal, Marc Lamont Hill, Dawn Elissa-Fisher, and Marcia Dawkins have all established the ways hip hop music transforms societies towards democracy.  Mary Sies, Thomas Sugrue, Robin Bachin, John McCarthy, and Julian Chambliss have applied these lessons to understanding architecture, environmentalism, and metropolitan growth for more than twenty years.  We are all inheritors of DuBois’ unparalleled intellectual legacy.  From his work on The Philadelphia Negro to The Souls of Black Folk to The Crisis Magazine to Black Reconstruction (of Democracy) in America, DuBois was the voice that invented an America and a world that stood for justice and equality in ways inconceivable when his career began.  If we want the best world in the twenty-first century, we must teach these lessons and engage this work in ways that have been too rare over the last forty years.  DuBois is the touchstone for establishing the best human principles for the future.  There are literally thousands of interpreters of his work throughout secondary and higher education.  When all Americans rediscover and embrace these ideas, we will have taken another step towards achieving the beloved community.

The Long View: Worst Case Scenario? Expect Success.

My first meeting with the Trump coalition came before my fifth birthday. It was in 1977. Disco was the music that energized my family’s television on the weekends, but it was a mark of shame – the Devil – in our neighborhood. Country and gospel offered legitimate expressions of faith, humility, and perseverance in my neighbors’ minds. In that atmosphere, I learned why I lived where I did.
If you know me, you know the powerful impact William Harris had on my life. He was my mother’s “god-brother” – a specific form of affective kinship that protected him from most of the harm which would have otherwise shaped his life. His mother, Ariana, was a migrant farm worker who knew my mother’s parents. My mother, as a child, often babysat William – despite his being seven years older. William was developmentally disabled, physically and intellectually unable to live independently. He was thrown out of school in the early years of the Great Depression because the other children laughed at him. After years of working in potato fields, after Ariana and her sister, Pearl, died, William moved in with my family. Shortly thereafter, my family moved to the neighborhood where he had grown up. It was a rural delivery route where his ranch house (built in large part by my mother’s support for Ariana) sat 300 yards back off the main road – hidden behind a migrant labor housing site.
William became my older brother. Like my mother before me, I helped him wash, get breakfast, and do chores around the house. He often told me about the ways he and his family struggled to survive the harsh realities of Jim Crow segregation in New Jersey. As I made sense of these stories, I asked my mom questions like, “why was William thrown out of school?” The one that changed my life was, “why did Ariana live back behind all of the other houses?”
In 1958, despite changes to the New Jersey State Constitution to provide legal protections from racial and ethnic discrimination in 1947, white families in western Monmouth County remained very comfortable with the traditional barriers to racial equality that had evolved after the final enslaved African Americans became free in 1865. While formally segregated sites like the Court Street School in Freehold gradually changed to include white children, the larger institutions of government and commerce only made limited concessions to include black voices in local politics. There was no functional participation of African Americans in the region’s economic growth. Now, that possibility has been foreclosed for another generation.
When Ariana saved enough money to acquire a plot of land to build a house, her white neighbors feared that her family’s home would reduce the value of their houses. So, they raised a pool of money and purchased a larger plot behind the migrant labor site. They sacrificed to hide the spectacle of a black woman homeowner from public access. The fact that she was able to pay the property taxes on the lot, as well as build a larger ranch house on it, was never meant to be part of the equation. When my family moved there, we became inheritors of both a gift and a curse. The gift was the legacy of rare, African American property ownership in a community steadfastly hostile to black dignity and wealth. The curse was the unspoken recognition that the accomplishment came at the cost of accepting an invisibility – a politics of respectability – as the only, flimsy shield against dispossession and violence.
Never has that film felt thinner, more transparent. The compromised system of the Electoral College will likely deliver Donald Trump and Michael Pence to the Office of the Presidency of the United States in January 2017. The moment to rehash the successes and failures of the campaign season has passed. The occasion now calls for immediate preparation for the changes that will unfold over the next two years – at minimum. It also is an opportunity to see the indelible long-term impacts the new administration will likely accomplish.
Millions of activists and political operatives have started organizing campaigns to limit the powers of the White House over the next four years. In this way, they hope to stage public outrage against new policies and executive orders until they can shift the political composition of the federal Senate or House of Representatives. Both tasks are difficult changes to make in 2018. However, the longer goal is to cultivate a society that resists the politics that the Republican Party rode to victory since 2010. American resistance to government expansion animates nearly every public institution from town councils through the Supreme Court. The Obama coalition believed that they could show that good government might erode that cultural resistance. Hillary Clinton’s campaign showed that the effort to create inclusive democracy has never been more popular in American society. It was simply not popular enough right now.
If the remnants of the Obama coalition could learn to organize at the local level, none of the immediate changes in policy over the next four or eight years will last. There will be suffering, though. Beyond the obvious efforts to register Muslims and deport undocumented Mexican immigrants, the increase in surveillance and incarceration of all Americans (especially African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and poor, white Americans), and the reversal of legal gains for women and the LGBTQIA communities, the turn towards the economic strategies of the George W. Bush presidency will be more severe. In fact, these changes will resemble a broad governmental effort to overturn all of the political reforms accomplished since 1932.
The First and Second New Deals, under President Franklin Roosevelt, created the core promise of a stable, social safety net for the first time in American history. From 1932 to 1941, the Congress acted forcefully to stabilize banks, provide old-age insurance, stimulate industry, create new infrastructure, and provide direct employment. While industry did not grow in those nine years, the suffering of individual poverty never returned to the extremes of deprivation seen between 1930 and 1932. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s legislative agendas, led by the most reactionary body of Republican officials since the Dixiecrats in 1966, promise to return the nation to the laissez faire economics of 1924. It is an attempt to resurrect the industrial protectionism of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. Leaders in the White House like Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon have their eyes on an even earlier target – 1876. It would be a world without the Fourteenth Amendment where the only equality in America exists among the several states. The Confederacy will have won its greatest victory.
Such a reality remains beyond the scope of the new administration for now. Yet, the desire to undo the New Deal, and prevent any future steps towards a true Reconstruction of democracy, has never had greater voice. In this recognition, citizens who supported Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton must measure their strategies and tactics carefully to advance the work that the Reconstruction Republicans and New Deal Democrats never undertook. (Sadly, the multiple incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens’ Councils mastered this approach.) Any political mobilization to defend and expand progressive and liberal milestones must ground themselves in private organizations, regional business interests, and local government. It is a lesson of the nineteenth century labor politics that built the most successful socialist movement of the early twentieth century behind Eugene Debs. If the voters for Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders organized successful campaigns over the next year for local elections in places like Cambridge, Massachusetts; Prince George’s County, Maryland; and Oakland, California, the tide of change could rise to reshape major races like the campaign for Governor in New Jersey. The politics of protest are critical, but fundamental, transformative resistance must be grounded in steady, daily activism to create new systems of local government that better serve individual families.
In the short term, observers must expect the Republican administration to accomplish much of their proposed agenda in the next two years. The fundamentals of the economy are strong; the effort to deregulate will promote an immediate rush of new bubbles in the energy, healthcare, and industrial sectors. Low-interest rates will finally have a framework to stimulate infrastructure spending especially in states where the Republican governments dominate. An aggressive push to isolate and destroy terrorist cells like ISIL, in conjunction with efforts to dismantle Iran, will cause defense spending to surge. The immediate rush of capital into a system that the Obama administration managed for stability will create a perception of affluence that the Republicans will use to justify their choices across every media platform.
Projecting corruption, dysfunction, and failure does little except make these officials stronger when the predictions are wrong. Expect some success from this unified government through 2017. Stay critical of the shortcomings and false promises. In the long battle to protect the major victories of human freedom, the immediate protests and public outcry must yield to steady, sustained analysis. Better candidates will emerge from the effort to serve every community more effectively. A national government predicated on gerrymandering, voter suppression, and public deception will collapse.
However, the politics of outrage surrounding the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina will not suffice to change public opinion next time. The leading images of the Obama coalition and the voices of the Clinton campaign will not persuade the moderate voters of the rural North and Midwest to reject Donald Trump. It is a time to lift up a new generation of John Browns, Thaddeus Stevenses, and Helen Kellers. The spectacle of white respectability, in service to a progressive agenda, is the key to a short-term political reversal. Only then will the opportunity to secure the safety and stability of all people be restored.
Former Federal Reserve banker and GE Capital executive Michael Silva recently gave a public presentation about the mechanics of the global financial system. His discussion demonstrated why so many people supported the Trump campaign. In many ways, their energetic mobilization reflected the support for William Jennings Bryant in 1896. Silva talked at length about the ways that leaders like Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Tim Geithner saved the world economy through ingenuity, humility, and determination. The audience responded with respectful skepticism. Questions focused on the repeal of Dodd-Frank as a regulatory structure and the errors of Janet Yellin in overlooking asset quality as a measure of macroeconomic stability.
At the heart of the conversation was a fundamental misunderstanding. None of the people in the room understood the main point of Silva’s presentation. In describing the differences between the Bear Stearns and AIG bailouts, specifically in contrast to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, Silva emphasized the betrayal of basic banking principles on an unprecedented scale. The markets compounded this betrayal by overreacting against an entire category of assets — money market funds — in September 2008. Most importantly, the solution was a public-private partnership in creating a unique investment vehicle to supply liquidity to multiple sectors of the global economy. In a room full of bankers and financiers, no one questioned global market fragility and the arbitrary nature of the solution.
Billions of people worldwide relied on three men in a room to invent a fiction to restore market confidence. The unwieldy, conglomerate structure that no one can adequately manage is now the most significant line of defense against the excesses of the new American government. For the people who chose this leadership, uncertainty is the only truth. For the opposition, the certainty is the unprecedented extent of surveillance and suppression for the foreseeable future. Beyond this moment, we need a world of cooperative self-reliance that defies the savagery of global capitalism.
Having lived in places committed to the intersectional dominance of patriarchy, heterosexism, white supremacy, and rural capitalism all of my life, I know the country that the Republicans want back. It is where a little boy with physical challenges knows peonage, yet thrives because his mother and god-sister gave him the miracle of a better home. It is where women defer to the dominant men in their lives, staying quiet enough to not be neglected or beaten. It is where gays, lesbians, and transgender people live in iron maidens, dreaming of closets where they can hide. It is where Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists keep themselves silent in public, preferring flight to ridicule, shame, and abuse. It is where immigrants, American Indians, and African Americans shuffle quietly through their days, expressing only humble gratitude at the crumbs they’re offered to avoid deportation, incarceration, and murder.
It is a world that must never exist again.