This has been one of my greatest fears and I wonder if we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. I am afraid of the volatile mix of disappearing pathways to achieving the American Dream paired with an increasingly armed American public. We see too few living wage jobs, barriers to getting a good education, increases in poverty, increased shaming of those who don’t make it in the highly competitive American economy, elected officials serving the elite and turning their backs on Americans who struggle. As communities and individuals wrestle with the challenges of closed factories and limited prospects we see increases in depression and addiction, more towns with pitted roads and falling down buildings with slim school budgets and slashed social services. We see that the cheap food people turn to to fill their bellies often leads to illness and people face the daunting task of getting health care that could have been avoided in the first place.
Contrast this with a segment of the population being richer than ever, certain cities in the right locations with the right industry mix thriving where money is flowing and any pleasure one might want to experience is just a cab ride away. Imagine driving through these places seeing the fancy clothes and fancy cars and seeing first hand that some people “have it all”. Imagine working in such a city, serving the highly successful food, cocktails, waiting on them at sporting, music or other entertainment events and then going back to your own struggling neighborhood or town. How does that feel?
So what happens when our young people feel kicked down by circumstances outside of their control and feel locked out of the pathways for success don’t make it? They can turn inward and feel the shame of not being “good enough”. Or, they just might look outward for someone else to blame for their pain and seeing that the game is rigged against them turn their frustrated rage on others. As we have seen time and time again when guns and rage are combined, things go horribly wrong.
I don’t pretend to think that there easy answers to the path we are on but I do wonder about these things. What would happen if the multi-national US corporations would bring jobs back home to employ their fellow citizens? What would happen if they re-shored their earnings and paid their taxes the same way that our very small business does? Would cities, states and towns have more funds to invest in fixing roads and shoring up their schools? And to those leaders of multi-national corporations who are also renowned philanthropists, I ask you this: “If you have accumulated billions of dollars to give away, was it really ever necessary to build your factories overseas in the first place?” Though your spirit of giving is appreciated I think if you asked people, they would far rather have a living wage job and earn their own money to take care of their family than to be a beneficiary of one of your grant programs. And if parents could take care of their children, lift them out of poverty and those children look forward to prospects of a decent job themselves some day – maybe, just maybe we would see less depression, less addiction, less rage and less gun violence. It certainly would be a good start.