America Is Losing Its Soul

People often ask me why I appear to be so angry and cynical. The short answer is that I see things differently than others.

I was born in an era pre-internet, pre-compact disc, pre-cell phone. I was born in an era when the only lines people were willing to wait in was for food, unemployment checks and gas for their automobiles. I was born in an era where Americans built things. We drove around big cars. We drove around cars that were made of steal, not that plastic shit of today. I was born in an era where the grey smoke bellowed from the long stacks at the paper mills, the textile mills, the chemical companies. I was born in an era of some truly great television shows. My favorite show was “The Dukes Of Hazzard”, and my favorite part of the show (besides seeing Daisy in the red bikini), was the car. It was a 1969 Dodge Charger. It was named the General Lee, painted orange and had a rebel flag on the roof. I was too young to know who General lee was, or what the rebel flag stood for, but I knew what the Duke Boys stood for. “They were fighting the system like a two modern day Robin Hoods.” I was born in an era where the men would go to work dressed in a pair of slacks, a dress shirt, a fedora hat, overcoat and carrying a lunch pale. And it didn’t matter if the worker was an assembly man, truck driver, garbage man, or office worker. They took pride in the clothes they wore.

I was born in an era in which the neighborhood patrolman would take the time to know your name, and if you got in trouble your parents would know about it. I vividly recall my father waking up in the morning and heading out to the union hall in hopes of finding a trucking job to pay for living expenses. After a hard days work he would come home, eat, spend a couple hours with me and then go off to night school so he could learn how to speak English. I was born at a time when men were still walking on the Moon.

It was so easy to make friends. All you had to do was to go outside, and the neighborhood kids would come to you. They would ask you your name, where you lived, and if you wanted to play Cowboys and Indians. We would play until the street lights came on, then we would run home and wash up for dinner.

I remember my mother always wearing a dress to work. She used to make toys for The Hasbro Company, until the manufacturing plant shut down. Little by little, the grey smoke bellowing from the stacks slowly went away. In their place were erected fast food restaurants. My mother used to buy our shoes from Thom McCann, our clothes from Sears and they were all made in America. My father owned a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, and when he saved up enough money he traded it in and bought a new 1975 Chevrolet Chevelle. The Chevy wasn’t as nice as the Firebird, but it was big enough to fit his wife and three children.

Believe it or not, my dream job was to be a Butcher. And when I turned 18 I became one, at the grocery store that I spent two years working for. I learned how to do every job at that store. It was called IGA. Of all the jobs I ever had in my life, working at IGA was the best. However, it was bought out by Almacs Supermarkets. I was a butcher for 6 months until budget cuts. I was then bumped down to part-time status in the deli department, but when I was a butcher I was the best butcher.

It’s hard to see change happen when it happens, but when you see it–it can be painful. It can be discouraging. It could make a man or woman cry.

This past weekend, thousands–if not millions–of people witnessed Felix Baumgartner jump out of a capsule attached to a balloon from 24 miles up in the air. He managed to set a record for being the first person to break the sound barrier in a freefall skydive. It was a magnificent feat, because he wasn’t in an aircraft. When the excitement went down, it made me sad. I wished it was an American that did that mission. Sadly, it was an Austrian that did it on American soil.

A couple weeks ago I witnessed an unbelievable site. Here in Los Angeles, I drove around for miles to snap a shot of the Space Shuttle Endeavor riding piggyback on a NASA 747. I drove around for miles, but I managed to snap the perfect shot. I was so excited, but I didn’t have anyone in my life to share it with. I was reminded of my friend, Mary Webb Jones, on Twitter. Her husband worked for NASA in the Space Shuttle program. He had the greatest job in the World. He would seat the astronauts in the Shuttle, and he was the last face the astronauts saw before they were blasted off into outer-space. I tweeted her the picture, and I asked her to tell her husband how proud I am of the work he did in the Shuttle program. She replied back to me that she couldn’t talk to her husband about the program because it would make him sad. That made me cry. The last time I cried like that was seeing that Shuttle launch and land for the last time. This weekend, the same day that Felix made his historic jump, that same Shuttle was making a 12 mile trek through the streets of Los Angeles to its resting place at The California Science Museum. Thousands of people witnessed this historic event. Thousands of people, laughing, smiling and taking pictures. I was not one of them. I’m not much of attending funerals. The Space Shuttle was designed to perform missions in outer-space, not on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

We used to stand for something. We used to export stuff. We used to make stuff, and we used to consume the stuff we made. We are slowly and surely losing our souls. We are living in a Country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The American dream is not simply buying a house and a decent car. The American dream is waiting in line for a new iPhone or pair of Nike Air Jordans. The American dream is buying Chinese shit. We are losing our souls. We don’t stand for anything, and we fall for anything. I was born in an era where drinking from the garden house was a good thing. I was born in an era that punished the liars and rewarded the hard workers. Today, liars get their own television show and get to run for The Office of The Presidency. America is losing its soul. America is losing its soul to the corporations and low-information voter.

I spent the weekend watching 40 years worth of presidential debates. Many of the candidates were debating much of the topics that the current candidates are still debating. For example, they debated education, healthcare, medicare, social security, high-speed rail as well as finding a way to end war. However, in 2008 we were debating on whether or not we should torture people. America is losing its soul.

Many things in my life have changed, but some things have remained the same. I have spent my whole life living in a Country at war. The war in Vietnam. The war on drugs. The war in Iraq. The war in Panama. The war in the Falkland Islands. The war in Somalia. The war on terror. The war in Afghanistan. The war in Iraq (again). The war on the middle-class. The war on women. The only war that we said we were going to wage, but we never did–was the war on poverty.

People say that I’m angry. People say that I’m too cynical. And when they say that I tell them that I’m a dreamer. I dream of the day that the middle-class gets restored. I dream of the day that the American dream will mean something. I dream of a day when Americans are building stuff again. I dream of the day when I can buy a shirt, jeans and shoes that have the “Made in America” tag. I dream of the day when the federal budget is running surpluses again. I dream of the day when education is affordable for all who wish to seek it. I dream of the day when people will be smart enough to re-elect the best person for the job. I dream that President Barack Obama gets re-elected to a second term, and if he doesn’t I dream of what it would be like to live in Canada until Americans get some sense.