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Bye, Bye Miss American Pie (Part II)

It appears we’re losing our country and communities and there may be nothing that can be done about it. We have met the enemy—and he is us. Not ISIL, Putin or Muslims.

I make this point with absolutely no political overtones or implications whatsoever. Right, left and center views are all just about irrelevant in the decline I’m witnessing. Solutions are offered from all angles of the political spectrum but, if anything, politics may be exacerbating the fall of our nation.

Many of us, I believe, sense that the America we loved and treasured may be fading fast. As we go about our daily lives, trying to eek out a living, hustling and bustling amidst all of the cookie-cutter fast food chains, banks and assorted retail conglomerates that seem omnipresent, we occasionally might recall a better day.

A day when “shop local” was real and not a platitude used against big business. A time when young people played pick-up ball games in the yards or streets of neighborhoods where people knew each others’ names. A time when love of country meant more than bumper stickers on foreign made cars. Perhaps we hear a certain song and recall those “good ol’ days” and feel a slight pang. Perhaps…

But then the iPhone goes off and it’s back to reality. A reality that is totally commercialized, desensitized and processed. One has to live in one’s time, I suppose.

As just some small, sentimental and personal examples: I recall in my own youth, coming of age in the 1970’s, playing with toys made here in the United States, learning football and basketball with my friends in a yard, field or court, having Christmas carolers bundle up and serenade our neighbors, eating homemade hamburgers at the little restaurant in Apple Ridge Shopping Center in South Jackson…the list could go on and on.

I try, desperately try, to give my own girls a sense of that type of community and innocence in their young lives but it’s a hard task in today’s world. I find myself battling a rotting, mass-produced culture, made either in Hollywood or China, absolutely bereft of quality. We have given our economic sovereignty over to a Communist dictatorship and our sense of values to Tinsel Town and the results are all around us: as our jobs dry up so do our morals appear to evaporate, as well. Life appears to be just as temporary as the cheap toys bought at the chain store.

Can Republicans save us? Hardly. For the love of the dollar our fine “conservative” friends sell the nation out at the drop of a Made In China hat all the while hypocritically pushing “family values.” It’s all about Wall Street, the almighty dollar and the Pentagon war machine as far as the GOP is concerned. And Democrats, cowed and awed by the big money on the other side of the aisle, have forfeited the claim to stand for the working man, instead focusing on sensitivity and other Postmodern issues that sound nice but, ultimately, do little to help our nation.

Glenn Beck? Rachel Maddow? Hacks. Performers. Let’s boost the ratings while being outrageous and boasting one’s sexual preference as a philosophical qualification. Our political dialogue has become so tepid, mean and senseless—in such a short time—that it stuns me. Whatever you may think of them, Noam Chomsky and Ayn Rand were/are INTELLECTUALS. These bozos passing off as political commentators today wouldn’t know a Boolean syllogism from a Nissan commercial. And the thinkers today who do know the difference are, for the most part, silenced.

Even here in Jackson the decline seems to permeate. We must fight it, we must try and highlight the positive, as I tried to do for many years and some local media do in their own advocacy manner, but we must also be honest: there is much work to be done. I wonder if the clock is on our side.

The South Jackson I grew up in and loved as a youngster is decimated. Decaying. Heaven knows there are people trying to make it better and I love them for it. In spite of their Herculean efforts, that part of our city appears lost. I took my girls to the Jackson Zoo recently and was shocked at the decay of the surrounding neighborhood.

A friend of mine, who grew up in Jackson as well, made the same observation to me in an email. No one seems to want to talk about it, though. It’s scary. The Zoo itself is still trying to hand in there, as are a few of the businesses left in South Jackson, but I’m so afraid that the fix may be in.

Money left this part of Jackson in the 80’s mainly due to racism (which is what “White Flight” really is) and it doesn’t appear that needed capital will ever return. Upwardly-mobile African-Americans don’t seem to want to live and work there, either.  It may simply fade and rot, a forgotten part of a once wonderful part of our city.

What is taking place in South Jackson is going on all over the country according to reports I read and friends I talk with. The great Midwest—and other parts of our country—is drying up as the jobs have all gone overseas with desperation and decay filling in the empty spaces. President Obama, entering office on such a wave of hope, enlists the aid of the same old Wall Street insiders to help guide the economy and…nothing changes. How can it? Money rules the day. It is the God. Actually, it is the Mammon.

I don’t want to write this. I am so saddened by what our country, state and city seem to be coming to. We are all very connected today, for example, but do we really talk? Do we really love? Do we really reach out to people—friends, family…strangers—who need us? Since when did a text or email become more acceptable than a human voice or a hand, a touch?

The quest for goodness, for decency, for real business involving a handshake and the offer to help or provide, must continue. There is no alternative other than death.  I plan on continuing the fight—which it is, make no mistake—for the sake of my own well-being, for the better of my community and as a blueprint by which my children can live their lives. I do so with a heavy heart, though, and an intellect that tells me we may just be riding the wave.

Writing this, I sit alone. My children are away from me. My life didn’t quite turn out exactly as I had planned or hoped and most of that is entirely my fault. But I will continue to move forward as best I can, propelled mainly by memories of a better day and a time when our country and our city were OURS. A time when family, values, decency, civility were real, tangible qualities of daily life  and not prostituted political buzzwords used to sway or incite. A time when disagreement could be polite and informative. A time when communities were self-sufficient and supportive of other communities. Another time, indeed…

I continue the fight by promoting great businesses and entrepreneurs (of which there are still many), trying to shed led on the inane comments and observations made by the “blame first” alternative crowd in Jackson and writing editorials and commentaries that I believe contain true and worthwhile thoughts for intellectual honest people to ponder. And I’ll continue that fight, rest assured.

John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulder” just came on the Music Choice channel on my television set— tuned to the 70’s channel, naturally. My thoughts returned to a young Jack Criss, Jr., nine years old, living in a real community, safe, secure, happy. I hope my children feel that way tonight also. When they’re with me I sure try to make sure that they do—even in these very different times.

As for that other 70s troubadour Don McLean’s ode: the levee is indeed dry. I hope our nation—and we as a people—have the courage to refill it with the American spirit that was once the envy of the world. We have nothing else to lose—but so very much to gain.

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Jack Criss

Jack Criss

Publisher and Executive Editor at BAMSouth.com
Jack Criss is the Publisher and Executive Editor of BAMSouth.com and owner of Criss Public Relations. He is a 30 year veteran of the business publishing industry as well as a former talk radio host, lecturer and author of "Ready, Aim, Right!" (Quail Ridge Press, 2004) and the forthcoming "The Great Greek Philosopher: Aristotle For Young People" (DagKat Press, 2017) as well as a work of teen fiction, "Book Island" and the non-fiction title "SuperfloUS: When Mediocrity Is Enshrined And Civility Fades." He was born, raised and currently lives in Jackson, MS and is the proud father of Katie and Dagny.
Jack Criss
Jack Criss
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