Write about what you know! Keeping it Real
BY: E.T. SIMON
"Write about what you know," is the single most important piece of advise instructors in creative writing/poetry courses give their students. Good advise even for Opinion Pieces. Thus, today I will write about the crumbling of America as I see it from right smack in my front and back yard, and about the underdogs (including myself) who now populate it.
Ten years ago when we moved into this neighborhood this was a working class neighborhood; an ethnically mixed one too. Mexicans, Hondurans, Brazilians, Haitians, Cuban, Hindu, Chinese and Americans, White and Black from different States in the United States resided. This mix was made up of different educational backgrounds as well, but for the most part people got along enough to say "hello," "good morning," or, "how are you?"
Pipe fitters, plumbers, surveyors, roofers, pool caretakers, pressure washers, store clerks, house painters, elevator techs and installers, medical office staffers, teacher aides, county employees, city workers, handy men, senior citizens, aviation career people, dye-and-tool makers, fishermen, landscapers, and hopeful people whose pockets had money in them to pay their rent or mortgages, to put food on their table, to buy hot dogs and fireworks for their kids 4th of July celebrations, toys for Christmas and birthdays, and here and there for some special night out with the family.
Kids went to public schools. Public schools offered music classes, arts and crafts classes, drama courses; you know, a well rounded curriculum where kids could learn something other than a rote memorization of ABCs, or 2+2s and of the regular grammar and science courses. They offered courses which helped them develop their thinking abilities, their cultural appreciation of differences and gave them a rounded education.
Over time something akin to a hand grenade hit this neighborhood. It had it sink into an imperceptible despair at first. A despair which is now quite visible.
The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy had a lot to do with it. His raiding of the national coffers to finance his invasion and occupation of Iraq and his military occupation of Afghanistan, the bank bailouts he started and Obama continued all of which contributed to a depletion of Federal funds coming to the state, of the state passing them on to the counties, the counties passing them on to the cities, jobs being cut from city and county roles, and the ensuing tanking of the economy in general.
As jobs were being lost in a tanking economy, pipe fitters were laid off in a slow market which drove construction to a near halt. Engineering firms had no new projects with which to keep themselves afloat; surveyors, drafts people, technicians and others also were put on the chopping block. People who had no jobs had no need to call roofers, or plumbers, house painters or pressure washers because they had no money to pay for those much needed services. City and County began to cut social programs and support services much needed by the community
Many lost their livelihood. People defaulted on their mortgages; almost overnight countless of houses emptied out. Tent cities came into existence at the poorest edge of the town. In other instances families bunched up together in one household in an effort to survive the financial storm. Storefronts, too, along the main drag of town became empty for sale lots. The whole strip which had previously held car dealerships, clothing stores, furniture stores, pool services stores, restaurants, all were closed out, row after row, after row. The business end of town looked more like deserted city.
As the recession continued property values declined. Banks desperate to have their foreclosed on mortgages taken off their hands began to have short sales. Savvy foreign investors began to purchase the homes or condominiums, in bulk, at a fraction of their cost.
This part of town, being a blue collar neighborhood now in decline was overlooked by these investors who knew there were no potential profitable returns, or value appreciation to be had here. Not for a long time and if ever again. Slum lords saw their dreamland open up, however, and they too bought houses in bulk, right and left, at less than a fraction of their cost, till their heart and greedy pockets were near experiencing pleasurable orgasms.
Slum lords have filled the houses in this neighborhood with whatever rift-raft can get government financed rent. The rift raft doesn't really care about the neighborhood. It is not now uncommon to go out any time of day or night, see someone walking with a cell phone in their hands, watch how a passing car stops, a window opens, the walker with the cell phone approach it, the car window roll down, the hand of the cell phone caller hand something to the driver, the driver hand something back to the cell phone caller and then each go on their way.
A clash has hit the neighborhood. Not so much a class of cultures as a clash of values. The rift raft respects not the property of others and generally walks the streets of the neighborhood with a taunting attitude.
In the meantime the people who were here when we moved in ten years ago and who are still here are still trying to hold on to their property, and thanking God for the jobs they still have and their incomes which hardly cover any expenses anymore.
The neighborhood is now a real slum. People have become divided. Haitians stay to the Haitian group, Blacks stay with Blacks, the Hispanic crowd stays within its own subgroups: Puerto Ricans with Puerto Ricans, Hondurans with Hondurans, Mexicans with Mexicans, and White Americans stay with Whites Americans. People were friendlier before. Hardly anyone says good morning anymore and everyone minds their own business. The words of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich have found their way to the heart and soul of at least one soul who now likes to call the police when the number of people in a house exceeds the limit of people she thinks ought to be in the house, or call Immigration or the Border Patrol if she thinks anyone in the neighbor is here illegally.