From the Last Vestiges of America’s Middle Class

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C. Coimbra photo

My grandchildren have wonderful parents, a comfortable home, and a good education. It’s what Americans strive for. I don’t know if I will live deep into my grandchildren’s future, but I do suspect that their future will be much different from what I experienced.

While my life was imperfect, there was always hope and opportunity. The only thing that hampered my future, was my personal lack of confidence. But that is not the point of this post.

My upbringing was solidly middle class. Church on Sunday with a Sunday dinner served in the dining room on a clean white tablecloth. Homemade chocolate cake for dessert. I saw the USA inside a rolling Chevrolet. Fundraising barbecues. State fair on Labor Day. Clear blue skies. Smog was something new in Los Angeles: “It’s when the fog and smoke mix together,” the adults explained over beer and baloney sandwiches.

Political rallies with us kids dressed in red, white and blue. We were Democrats who picnicked at Disneyland with our Republican friends. We liked Ike.  JFK a saint. When poverty and segregation lifted its ugly covers, Americans worked to change those wrongs. It wasn’t American to let this continue. The Civil Rights Act. The War on Poverty.

Tucked away from my world view, ideologues sited folly in this mid-century middle class well-being and common good. Meanwhile women unbound their mammaries, men grew their hair, citizens defied a useless war, and President Nixon got caught in a lie, and then kicked out of office. Denizens convened and swore that there was enough of this liberal crap running amuck in America. Values. Moral Majority. Loud mouth pundits. End tax. More guns. More crime and prisons. Fear. Loathing. Separation. Money for war. Nothing for education.

Unfortunately, for the now, and for who knows how long, achieving and maintaining middle class status in America is a fading dream. A recent New York Times headline, “Hardship makes a new home in the suburbs,” reviews the most middle of middle class regions, Los Angeles suburbs, where the possibility always loomed as bright as the California sun. Now some of the industrious sell goodies from their kitchens, and make just enough money to fill in where food stamps leave off. Food stamps? Yes. Former two-income households in newer tract homes fight for their dream regardless of low wages, jobs shipped to other continents, mounting bills, and a plutocratic gang of lawmakers who believe these citizens were not smart enough to reach the pinnacle of material wealth.

So, the woman featured in the NYT story who now makes popsicles to sell in parking lots, maybe bringing in $100 per warm day, earning about a $50 profit, is a slacker and unworthy of compassion and dignity, because the common good is a misnomer to a rising group of philosophical followers.

It wasn’t always that way for the popsicle maker. Three years ago, she and her husband lost their jobs. “We used to have a different kind of life, where we had nice things and did nice things. Now we just worry,” she told the NYT reporter.

Feed em cake! Twist the story. Falsify a new reality.

My head swirls with conspiracy plots, armed militia filled with questionable purpose, and the spin masters who toss about looming threats of Marxism, Hitler, Stalin, and firmly state that black is white, no matter how you look at it. And, oh yeah, let the free market fix it. The free market, however, is, now, another quaint and misused phrase funded by uber-billionaires that care-less for you, me, or the woman struggling to feed her family by making and selling popsicles after they took her job and sent it to Pakistan. She’s inconsequential, as are the men, women and children in Pakistan’s sweat factories earning poverty wages making stuff to sell in America and elsewhere. Profits are the point.

So I’d guess that my last sentence makes me some sort of socialist/communist/marxist. Balderdash! But that’s how some categorize one who looks from the heart and through the words of honored spiritual leaders. “Silly folk. Well meaning, but oh so wrong.”

It’s all temporary. But not really. How we live today will impact tomorrow. And this brings me back to my grandchildren.

I’m comfortable knowing that opportunity can be theirs because they have a leg up over the majority of their contemporaries. The trick will be assuring that they find their connection to the true riches in life: A healthy planet, understanding their heart and soul, and then take their education and make a stand that melds the good from both ends of life’s spectrum for the greater good of all through hope and opportunity.

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