For the middle class, the U.S. standard of living has decreased significantly since it’s early-70s peak. [give stats]
And the American middle class is, literally, dying. Not only is it shrinking in percentage terms [stats], it is also undergoing a disturbing phenomenon where illness and death are increasing in middle America. [cite article]
People are losing hope, in other words. And predictable emotions accompany hopelessness, primarily anger and fear. Which quickly morphs into suspicion, resentment, hostility and even violence. We see it in racist posts on Facebook, in support for politicians who want to build walls and who are quick to identify scapegoats (immigrants and Muslims, maybe?). Fearful citizens cling to angry leaders who encourage them to embrace solutions like austerity and small government that benefit no one but the leaders. It’s a never-ending death spiral.
The alternative is never easy, which is why you see it so rarely. It is never easy to impart hope to the discouraged or peace to the agitated; far easier to rile people up than to calm them down. But our faith asks us to be peacemakers. The message of the Cross, unlike the shouts and echoes from talk radio, is one of peace and hope and deliverance from fear. And that message can also extend to our approach to culture and politics, when we refuse to demonize other races or nationalities, and when we are not afraid to build society in positive ways rather than exploit fears for monetary gain or political power.
We are the country that once extended the GI Bill to our veterans, and created Social Security for the elderly. Can we do no less for this generation of hurting neighbors?