Naming the Struggle

Naming the Struggle

If class is the key to history, here in America it is a secret key, at once central and unsayable. Informing so much of our national life, it is at the same time the social divide we will not permit ourselves to mention. From the banalities of Titanic to the pious equations of the neoclassical economists, we are believers all in the national myth of opportunity; we can conceive of class in no other way than as a temporary setback to be overcome with a winning smile, a particularly servile manner as we arrange the plates on the table, a diligent judiciousness choosing our lottery numbers.

Add to this the national myth of pastlessness and the American problem with imagining class becomes even more acute. Who cares how things got to be the way they are? Of what concern to us are the problems of workers a hundred years ago? Alien to notions of boundless future opportunity and subject to the American disease of instant forgetting, class has become the story of persecution that somehow never catches the imagination of contemporary audiences; the drama of struggle and justice denied that only rarely makes up the plots of Hollywood movies. Class conflict is, almost by definition, a conflict that Americans forget.

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Lima