Economic inequality: Another view


I write this article, with the permission of the person described in it. It is his hope that those who read it will begin to consider how fragile our democratic republic is.

Not too long ago, my family and I met in the home of a family we were beginning to become fairly close to. While our children played together, we talked, and the conversation turned to politics.

Originally from Vietnam, the father had a heavy accent despite having lived in this country for over 30 years. Interestingly, he quickly expressed his reservations about President Obama’s policies. He confided that when he listened to the President’s words — particularly during his campaign speeches — it reminded him of the rhetoric the socialists used to take over his country. I laughed at first, but he looked at me with a stern face and firmly proclaimed that he was serious.

It was at that point that this wonderfully sweet father, and hard-working small business owner explained that after his country lost the Vietnam War, the socialist party seeking to assume political power began to use benevolent rhetoric like “economic inequality,” and how they would help “redistribute” wealth to ensure everyone was “treated fairly,” and help the nation recover from the devastating war.

Their rhetoric worked. The people conceded to allow the government to enact its promises. The father then explained he was surprised how quickly the government turned to an oppressive regime that caused his family to live in fear.

Because his father worked with the army in the previous government, my friend’s father was told he would have to go to a “3-day education camp.” This education camp lasted for 12 years.

During this time, however, his family — including my friend — escaped on boats along with thousands of Vietnamese, who became known as “boat people.” These boat people endured horrors and tragedies too numerous to describe in this column. Suffice it to say, though, despite nearly starving to death, and being stranded at sea with a broken motor for over 20 days, my friend still considered himself one of the lucky ones.

When his boat miraculously landed in Thailand, he said he felt like he was “reborn.” But when he came to America, for him, it was like “paradise.” Because, while he knew no English, had no money, and no home, he could now speak freely with his friends without fear of being reported. Moreover, he also had the belief that if he worked hard he could make his way.

Many years later, after working in meager conditions, and managing to graduate from college, he came to find a comfortable life here in America. And incredibly, years later, he would see his own father again alive and now free on U.S. soil.

Upon telling all of this, I could see a sadness and a fear in his eyes. Maybe it was the sheer memory of what he endured. Maybe it was recognizing the same rhetoric of the government being the agent of “economic equality” finding its way to his home here in America. Or maybe it was that he feared his beloved “paradise” could face a fate similar to that of his former homeland. I am not really sure.

However, as I reflect on his story, coupled with recent stories in the media, I must admit, I find it all unsettling. Just consider, for example, the case of the NSA spying on Americans and the IRS targeting of conservative groups.

Also with the extensive influence/control the federal government has on virtually every sector of our lives, and that the president now advocates for government being the conduit to bring about economic equality because, “inequality is the greatest challenge of our time,” there are remarkable similarities with my friend’s experiences in Vietnam prior to the fall of its democracy.

But make no mistake; it is not so much with the president or a political party towards which my heart grows concerned. It is with what seems to be a growing notion within the minds of many that America — though imperfect — is not a great nation.

America’s greatness lies not within a “benevolent” government that ensures “economic equality” for its people. Her greatness lies within the heart of her people, who, like my friend, did not spend their time coveting the riches of the wealthy.

Rather, they affirmed the ideal that through ingenuity and hard work, they can secure a brighter future.

The question now is, are we at a point in our nation’s history when this belief is no longer the case for the majority of Americans?

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]