This was my 8th trip across the country in the last two years. I spent hours driving and weaving through communities, teaching, traveling, learning, exploring and trying to really get a true grasp on the country we live in that is not censored by the biast of social media and the news.
What I continue to see is a country of significant economic, political, educational, ethnic and spiritual diversity trying to come up with solutions to the America ideal. I believe we don’t have a dream anymore. It is more a pervasive unrealistic standard for success through consumption. “I am because I have” kind of Philosophy. And the country seems divides along these lines with gaps in places getting wider.
The general message sent is the less you have the more you are seen as lazy, not educated, not worthy of much…. and in the more religious places even God will reject you. This motivates a kind of displacement and disenfranchisement of large groups of people struggling to get through each day. To add more stress to the situation. Resources are diverted to more “worthy” sectors of society… and these areas of poverty and struggle literally starve in all areas of life. Leaving them vulnerable to violence, addiction and poor quality of life.
I see this as I drive past the worn out places where industry thrived once in the past and people had good jobs. Now the signs are rusted and broken and the Dollar General store is the bright yellow beacon of survival in these areas. It’s the grocery store, hardware store, and go to place for your needs on the cheap. Everything in them is pretty much imported from places that took their jobs. An irony that is not lost on them.
You can see on the people’s faces the distrust of being sold a future that was never going to happen. This makes anyone who is different that comes into town a competitor for resources and the search for a super hero saviour a kind of spiritual mission.
Where there is some economic growth the big box brand corporate stores fill up the empty places. Making for long stretches of fast food, outlet malls and very little uniqueness. People become part of the corporate machine. Some will succeed and raise families. Some will get an education. They will be the one’s comfortable enough not to make waves. They will hold on to their piece of earth and sky and pray their children are going to be ok. Yet, they know everything is fragile. One illness, accident, or natural disaster away from complications of loss and grief.
The political climate is battling for the have-nots on one side and the protection of the privileged on the other. We have known for years that money buys power. Money buys wars. Money keeps politicians in line. Money lies. Money is not a standard for morality and decency…. yet today it buys you time to write a book and for the most part keep you out of jail for such crimes.
As I travel along the roads and through the towns, cities, and vast stretches of open land I am hard pressed to see a cohesive solution(s). So much needs to be done in order to turn the direction of this country towards a future that is acceptable for all the people here to participate in equally.
There will be some reading this that will argue we have that in place now. Yet, many of them have never stepped out of the comfort of their environment into the world to see what is truly out there. They travel in planes and avoid the places where they are told bad things happen. They will donate to the poverty, famine, natural disaster in another country and see what is here as not worth the investment.
I do see the resilience in people. Struggle creates inventiveness, making do and fixing things is pushing communities towards survival and sustainability.
It is happening at a slow process because many are not getting the full picture.