America is a “sink or swim” culture.

Most other western democracies have discovered that making sure everyone has access to affordable health care and that people don’t face homelessness within days of losing a job makes for a generally happier and mentally healthier population. On the other hand, America remains paranoid about some ill-defined “socialism” that will take their guns and eat their babies. Anything the smacks of help or empathy is tossed out, beaten down, sent to the landfill.

So America continues its rugged, hyper-individualistic “sink or swim” attitude, thinking this makes everyone “tougher.” Being tough is the most important thing. Empathy is for sissies.

But not everyone gets the same sink or swim. We’re treated very differently based on our financial or ethnic status.

The rich are gently nudged into the kiddie pool. They stand in the water for a little while, just long enough to get wet. They’re pulled out and given even more money as a reward. They’re praised for not drowning, held up as examples for everyone else. They’re given an ownership share of the pool.

The poor are thrown into the middle of the deep 15-foot side, as far away from the edge as possible. Those who have a little more money, from what used to be called jokingly “the middle class,” have been lucky enough to pay for swimming lessons, so many of them make it out. The wealthier among them have the added help of floatation devices.

Those with less money are forced to learn how to swim right then and there. The whole time people are screaming at them for not knowing how to swim. Those that manage not to drown and swim back to the edge are then shoved back in repeatedly until they get tired and can’t swim anymore. When their dead bodies are pulled out, people spit on them for “not having gumption.”

Minorities have cement blocks tied to their feet and are tossed into the deep. When they drown, people jeer them for being lazy. “Shoulda pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps like the rest of us did!” they yell.