Washington. -- Every week I get hate letters and letters of appreciation, respect and even love. But what I remember longest are the messages that make me think -- about my role, about the state of my country, about the worth and survivability of mankind.
I'm thinking now of just three handwritten paragraphs on lined tablet paper from John Cassella of Durango, Colorado.
"Carl Rowan," he writes, "there is one and only one issue that has any real importance for the American people and that is:
"Who is going to own and control the vast wealth that the working class alone produces? Who will rule? The working class or the capitalist fat-cats?
"All other issues (i.e., affirmative action, welfare reform, budget deficits, etc.) are simply an intentional distraction away from the main question, and therefore meaningless dribble."
I have read and reread that letter with the realization that it says succinctly what the apostles of socialism, capitalism, communism, anarchy, dictatorship, democracy, totalitarianism and many other "isms" have taken a million books, edicts, sermons and screeds to say.
Mr. Cassella states correctly that in America the political wars over control of the White House, the Congress and, yes, the Supreme Court are fundamentally over who will control the nation's wealth and how it is divided up and ultimately used.
My first thought upon reading his remarks was to say that his question marks were wasted. There is no question but that no matter which political party gains power the people who already have money will control the wealth of America.
We have had a million debates in America -- some laced in claims of great fear by the privileged -- about the "redistribution of wealth." The enduring truth is that the wealthy stay affluent (and for long periods get richer), but the poor stay pitifully impecunious. "Redistribution of wealth" isn't even a hollow dream.
The debate in these years of Republican primacy is over nothing more than how many crumbs the rich will allow to drop to "the working class," especially the working poor.
Who will rule? Mr. Cassella, please note that throughout all the generations of debate about whether the unpropertied, women or ex-slaves should vote, no change took away power from the moneyed. In the current clamor for congressmen, governors and even presidents that "money can't buy," we see still that money not only talks in America, it rules.
Them as has gets; them as has not begets. That is not just the rule of capitalism. It is the rule in socialist societies in Scandinavia and Africa; monarchies from Britain to Brunei; communist countries including China and North Korea.
Political systems don't determine who controls a nation's wealth; those who control the wealth determine what the political system will be.
And that, Mr. Cassella, may be an immutable fact of human life.
Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.