How many "wake-up calls" do we need, people - how many broken levees, drowned cities, depleted food pantries, people dead for lack of ordinary health care? We approach the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century in a bleak landscape cluttered with boarded-up homes and littered with broken dreams. ... Why don't we dare say it? the looting of America has gone on too long, and the average American is too maxed out, overworked, and overspent to have anything left to take. We'll need a new deal, a new distribution of power and wealth, if we want to restore the beautiful idea that was "America."
We could let this nation continue to fall apart, of course - dividing ever more clearly into the gated communities on the one hand and trailer parks and tenements on the other - until we eventually become one of those areas of the world prefixed by the mournful word former.
But I like to think we could find in our hearts some true ground for unity, some awareness of a common condition and collective aspiration. Maybe we could find it in an effort to restore America's lost glory - the beauty of our land before all the fences and sprawl, the respect we once enjoyed from people around the world. Or maybe we need to find it in the common threats we face, not only from the human enemies that our foreign policy has been breeding so prolifically but from the global challenge of climate change and shrinking supplies of water and oil. And maybe, someday, we would even regain the confidence to extend that sense of unity and connectedness to all of our fellow human beings, wherever they may reside on the planet.
~ Barbara Ehrenreich, from the introduction to This Land is Their Land, 2008.