Op-Ed: No American Left Behind

by Vicke Kepling, Green Party Candidate for Missouri State Representative, District 135

We have all been affected by the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19). Many of us have sheltered in our homes, dealt with the related fears in our own individual ways, and experienced both positive and negative reactions.

At first, I worried about the possibility of loved ones being harmed or even killed by the virus. I self-comforted with food and my favorite soda, Coca-Cola, from which I normally abstain. On the positive side, I was ever so grateful for increased time with my son and family members. I had time to consider my life and to analyze how I had previously spent my days. I went from the busy-busy-busy, go-go-go lifestyle of a political candidate to hanging out, teaching my adult child how to run a household, sewing face masks for hospitals/others, playing my ukulele, organizing everything, completing my first will, attending meetings digitally through Zoom, and realizing what is and is not important to me.

The virus is still here, and we are transitioning to life with social distancing and uncertainty. Schools, universities, governmental agencies, businesses, industries, and other entities are unsure how to plan. No one knows if the virus is leaving for good or if we will have a resurgence in the fall or even years to come. All we know is that we do not know and that we must look to science as we attempt to balance safety and livelihood with risk and effects of the disease.

We, as individuals, community, state, nation, and world, have a rare opportunity to alter our future in a way that benefits ourselves, the people, and planet as we move forward. Our old normal does not have to be the new normal, and positive change on any level affects the whole.

Never in my lifetime has there been a stronger argument for Democratic Socialism, a governmental system that prioritizes people and planet over profits. Capitalism would still exist but would be less extreme and more compassionate and caring. The mantra of “maximizing shareholder wealth” could theoretically be replaced with “maximizing stakeholder wealth” with that wealth including livable wages for workers, shorter work weeks, public healthcare, expanded education, food and shelter for all, support of a healthy communities, and respect for our planet and natural resources.

The rich can continue to be rich, but no American should be left behind.

Capitalism results in inequality and classism; that is a fact that we do not often consider. Extreme capitalism in recent decades has resulted in extreme inequality of wealth, rising poverty rates, people working longer hours to make ends meet, and general economic insecurity. Our government, which determines this inequality and insecurity, is being controlled by forces that prefer profits to the wellbeing of the people and planet. That has to change.

COVID-19 may be the best opportunity we have to move towards a more caring and sustainable system. We must step back and envision what kind of world we want moving forward. Will we continue to work, learn, and participate more digitally from our homes? Will we spend more time with our families? Will we finally move away from fossil fuels? Will we lessen our need for thoughtless consumerism with resulting pollution?

It is up to us and the powers that be. I hope for the sake of future generations that our collective vision is a good one.

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