Are we losing our America?
It sometimes appears that our communities are faltering badly, irrevocably, and that very little can be done to stop the slide.
I make this observation with absolutely no political overtones or implications whatsoever. Right, left and center views are all practically irrelevant to the apparent decline. Solutions are offered from all angles of the political spectrum but, if anything, politics may be exacerbating the fall of our nation.
We all know that the middle-class is shrinking—it can be witnessed prima facie all around us. Any trip to the grocery store or gas station instantly demonstrates the decline of a dollar’s worth. A given night of watching the evening news lets us see just how violent our world has become. The list of tragedies goes on, unfortunately.
Because of this, many of us 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, we occasionally might recall a better day. A day when “shop local” was real and not a platitude used against bigger business. A time when young people played pick-up ball games in the yards or streets of neighborhoods where people knew each other’s names. A time when love of country meant more that 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 with no fear, having Christmas carolers bundle up and serenade in the neighborhood, eating homemade hamburgers at the little restaurant at Apple Ridge Shopping Center in South Jackson where I grew up. Memories of a much different time, certainly.
I try desperately 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—like most other parents—up against a rotting, mass-produced culture, made either in Hollywood or China, absolutely bereft of quality or worth. We have surrendered much of our economic sovereignty to a Communist dictatorship and our sense of values to Tinsel Town—the results are all around us. As our jobs dry up so, too, does our moral compass appear to go askew.
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” or “nation building.” 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 touting sexual preference as a philosophical qualification. Our political dialogue has become so tepid, mean and vacuous in such an alarmingly short time—it’s appalling and stunning.
Whatever else you may think of them, as just two examples, Noam Chomsky and Ayn Rand are/were INTELLECTUALS who represented their respective and opposite ideologies with measured arguments. Those 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, kept out of the public arena—reasonable discussion doesn’t bring in the big Nielsen numbers and top-dollar sponsors.
Tune out the racket called “information” today and proceed to take a look around your own city and town. The aforementioned 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 appreciate their work. In spite of their Herculean efforts, that part of our city appears lost while the rest of the city suffers through incredibly bad and persistent infrastructure and crime problems.
The “money” left that 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 Jackson is going on all over the country according to reports I read and friends I talk with regularly. The great Midwest—and other parts of our country—is drying up, with so many jobs and opportunities having been sold overseas leaving huge gaps with desperation and decay filling in the abandoned 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.
In spite of all of the problems, our quest for goodness, for decency, for a fair trade involving a handshake and the offer to help or provide, must continue. Business is the standard and the model, I believe, by which we can sustain and support our communities, respectfully and rationally promote our values—even if they are disparate—and, by so doing, contribute to the America that is still ours. For the time being. There is no alternative to action; giving up is not an option and simply RE-acting is too exhausting and counter-productive.
Business shares some of the blame for the ills I’ve referenced. So do we as individuals, for too often allowing our lives to be taken over by the mores and trappings of commercialization. Business, however, can be the great redeemer and equalizer when allowed to function freely and properly as a vehicle for mutual benefit and the trading of values.
Business brings out the best of us when it acts—and is allowed to act—as what it properly should be. In today’s mixed-up mixed economy, where regulations spin suffocating webs and laws become barriers instead of protectors, running a business can be daunting and confusing, drawing in characters instead of creators. Nonetheless, as a still semi-free and productive outlet, the marketplace— not the government—remains our best hope for a prosperous and civil future.
We can never go back—even if we really wanted to. But we can certainly move forward, taking with us the tangibles that made the America of yesterday better than the one we are currently living in.
I plan on continuing the fight—which it really is, make no mistake—for the sake of my own well-being, hopefully for the betterment of my community and as a blueprint by which my children can live their lives. Many others out there are doing the same and it is their fighting—your fighting—that sustains us. We can’t afford to just ride a wave; for the sake of our country and those coming after us, we must make a splash.
We have to continue moving forward as best we can, propelled by memories of a better day and a time when our cities—our country—truly belonged to US. A time when family, values, decency and civility were real, highly-visible qualities of daily life, not just prostituted political buzzwords used to sway or incite. A time when disagreement could be polite and informative. A time when communities were self-sufficient yet also supportive of other communities. Another time, indeed. But a time that could—and must—return.
John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulder” just came on my computer’s music station—tuned to the 70’s channel, naturally. My thoughts returned to a younger me, nine years old, living in a real community, safe and secure. That’s how we all want our children to feel tonight—and every night. That’s how we want our country to be again.
As for Don McLean’s ode: the levee is indeed close to being dry. I hope our nation—and we as a people, especially business people—has the courage to refill it with the American spirit that was once the envy of the world.
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