We all think we live in the greatest country in the world. Millions of immigrants and aspiring immigrants to the USA also have and do believe this. And it is true in many ways. Those who have traveled in foreign lands may have a somewhat more nuanced sense of America. But we all know little about the vast but hidden corners of something else in this country. And I don’t just refer to black Americans. Many Americans of a variety of ethnicities and races live lives of quiet desperation, owing to many factors, some not their own fault, some decidedly their own fault. There is the old Victorian distinction between the Deserving Poor and the Undeserving Poor. It’s not certain the elites in Victorian Britain made this distinction in any meaningful way, however. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was one of the few attempts to recognize this problem and to seek to do something about it. For that effort he was called a Fascist, a Communist, and many other things — like a traitor to his class. Everyone should be a traitor to his/her class if anything is going to be done about real problems. Class, race, national origin, religion — they all work to obscure and conceal reality. We all live in something resembling a Potemkin village.

Norman Ravitch *62
Savannah, Ga.