I have someone very close to me that is turning fifty this year. The recognition of this is disturbing to me. I am older and she will always be younger. However I realize that I don't recognize her as being younger any longer. Life has aged her, not just physically, but existentially. The struggle for her has been all there has been. Not to say that she hasn't had significant opportunity to enjoy life -- she has. Yet she has carried the struggle with her everywhere she has gone. Working two jobs, caring for a home, being a wife and raising two kids -- I am so very proud of her accomplishments. But, I remember the child, the little girl, the teenager. She has withstood the siege at an expense that can never be recouped.
America is broken. The postwar American Dream that I was brought up in, the archetype, the model, is long past. The American Dream has never been available to all. However, for the middle class there was an idyll. There was a time of graceful movement through one's life. There was a time of domestic tranquility: my grandmother's neighbor was a carpenter, his wife a teacher, they lived in a modest bungalow with one bathroom, built in the early 1930's, they had all they wanted, they worked no more than forty hours a week (the husband probably less because he worked at home and loved gardening and baseball), they raised two boys, they sat in their front yard in lawn chairs gossiping and shelling peas, he built Christmas decorations and birdhouses for the neighbors, she had bridge parties and quilting bees in her "front room", recipes and sewing advise were large chunks of conversation, drinking beer and soda in the front yard at night with the radio on listening to baseball games, swatting at mosquitoes, the street alive with neighborhood kids playing kick-the-can or dodge ball or throwing up rubber balls, trying to bring down bats and catch them in crabbing nets under new street lights -- and this was in the time of television.
Their house cost five thousand dollars to build. It sold a few years back for over three hundred thousand dollars and was torn down. A home of well over a million dollars was put in its place -- a hideous amalgam of badly done architectural elements, rendered in such a way as to achieve maximum effect at minimum cost; providing the maximum square footage, filling the lot with building from lot line to lot line, covering the sacred: the plot where the victory garden once grew, the well worn spot where he plied his craft as a craftsman and builder, the neatly defined flower beds of iris and azaleas, the place of the cherished door jamb that contained all the pencil marks and scratches that memorialized the growth of their sons, the burial place of the family dog that he had marked with a homemade tombstone of concrete and broken tile, The driveway of so many basketball games that he had formed and poured and finished himself after the original one cracked and powdered because of the weakness of the earlier oyster shell concrete -- the drive that contained his sons hand prints with scribbled, miss-spelled names and the comedic imprint of his wife's "big foot" with her first name written below it and his below that in a heart.
Great parts of American society had a grace about them. This is mostly gone and been replaced and coarsened by the struggle. This was the "American Dream" the Right yearns for. This is the American Dream that unbridled and unquestioned Capitalism has destroyed. The America of my youth no longer exits. The American dream is deader than a stinkin' doornail.