Not Exactly Pleased
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Not Exactly Pleased • Posted: Jun 05, 2016 20:33:33Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

What you see in the above photo, ignoring the unhappy faces, is an example of what many Americans once considered the “typical” American middle-class family. Perhaps even the majority of non-Americans entertained that same notion, having based their impressions on what was frequently seen within American movies and TV shows. And it isn’t hard to imagine that even the family pictured above thought the same. They thought that because all they had to do was look around and nearly everyone they saw looked exactly like them: white, middle-class, at least high school educated, and employed. But in fact, at the time that image was made, just under three years ago, the falseness of that impression was beginning to sink in, and sink in with a seriously jarring thud, sink into the minds of every single suburban and rural middle-class American. Hence, the displeased look these folks bear almost uniformly etched itself into the frustrated and befuddled faces of most suburban and rural middle-class Americans. The world they thought they lived in, securely lived in, comfortably lived in, enduringly lived in, was wearing thin like an old t-shirt or pair of jeans and a completely new reality was spilling in through the holes. Nothing so disconcerting, so disruptive of “normal”, had ever happened to this generation. Nothing comparable had happened to any middle-class American generation since the last World War and the Great Depression, with the sole exception of desegregation in the 1960s. But even then, desegregation had happened “somewhere else”, in the South, in big cities. Not where these people lived.

So, what changed? Jobs weren’t secure anymore. Earnings weren’t secure. An affordable life-style wasn’t secure. Prices went up. Disposable income went down. Things began wearing out, breaking, needing replacement, replacements that were no longer affordable. Saving became difficult. Paying down debt became difficult. Irritability increased. Tension increased. Worry increased. Then came an increased sense of competition from countries like China, India, and Mexico, and from immigrants of all ethnicities, legal and not. And finally came vigilance, vigilance against possible terrorism, and vigilance against someone breaking into their homes, their cars, their pickups, to steal what little they had left. And they began to feel that maybe it was time to buy a gun, maybe two or three guns, or even six or eight, and lots and lots of ammo. And that’s when everyone around them suddenly changed. They became not “just like me”, but suspiciously different, a possible threat, competition, maybe some kind of predator, or possibly just plain insane. No one could be trusted any more, no one.

And to whom have all those displeased, disillusioned, increasingly paranoid middle-class folks turned to for wisdom and reassurance? You guessed it, self-aggrandizing media personalities and quasi-religious hucksters peddling fantasized theories of threat and conspiracy. Send your money here. Place your money in the plate, please. Those people. White suburban and rural middle-class Americans did not sit down with their neighbors, similar skin color and not, to discuss things, brainstorm, plan, and act together to make changes that would benefit everyone. No, instead, they huddled in their homes and shared fears and suspicions with anonymous others over the Internet, disconnected themselves from their actual neighbors and from institutions built by their forefathers to help them weather hard times and forge an increasingly better future. Nearly every single lesson, lovingly and diligently taught by their teachers since junior high, about how this country works, and works for everyone if everyone participates, has now been forgotten. It’s as though a renewed intellectual darkness reminiscent of the Middle Ages has befallen them. They are without hope, without insight, without wisdom, without trust and diligence. It is as if all of cultural history has washed over them and through them and the only things that have stuck in their minds are fanciful nonsenses from advertising, dubious scripture, sensationalized movies, and vacuous pop songs.

These are the same people who elected a Congress that has no notion of what to do that might work, only what to object to because someone else may get the credit if it does work. These are the same people who will cast their votes in the next election, hoping that something will change if only disgruntled insistence is put forward with enough bluster and insulting bombast. These are the same people who must be out voted. I’ll say that again, these are the people who must be out voted. These are the people who, instead, must be invited out of their self-constructed fortresses of fear, invited to leave their weapons behind, invited to courageously join in an effort to remake all that has gone wrong in this world of ours so that all of us, not just the former middle-class and the rich, might enjoy something better for a very long time to come. These are the people who must be taught again how this country was meant to work, work through participation, work through finding a way to work together. These are the people. These are the ones.

Saturday, August 10th, 2013