So let’s take a look at the scourges facing “Middle America” today. I put that phrase in quotes for a few reasons. One, because despite its on-size-fits-all denomination, it, like most similar categories, is hardly monolithic but is as varied as the kinds of cereal offered at the local Wal-Mart.
Two, because it, like the dodo of millennium past, is a vanishing species and thus deserving of quotation marks. And third, because it seems that until that particular slice of Americana – whatever that is – experiences a phenomenon, it’s not a reality in the “real American” psyche.
Anyway, let’s list the plagues currently befalling that swath of America that a dwindling number of people can honestly lay claim to. In fact, given the fact that so many millions have slipped from their lofty if tenuous perches in middle class-dom into lower class-ness, “Middle America” really just describes white folks who are neither in the top 10% economically nor the bottom 40%.
And these folks are dealing with that trifecta of woes: lack of living wage jobs, lack of access to affordable education, and addiction – massive addiction destroying lives, families and communities.
This triumvirate is reminiscent of the Ghost of Christmas Past that leads to criminalization, up close and personal familiarity with the old adage that “men leave” and a growing hatred of the existing power dynamic controlling the society.
The story is repeated across those parts of the country slapped with appropriately depressing yet descriptive names like the Rust Belt – but given the huge disparity between the haves and the have-nots, Rust Belts are cinched around every part of this country.
But isn’t it odd that the widespread criminality, cyclical in-and-out of jail rhythm that accompanies the addiction culture; the ubiquitous use of food stamps and deadbeat dads jailed for non-payment of child support – isn’t it odd that as long as the majority of people struck with these afflictions were Black or brown people, all was just fine in Middle America.
So now that slurs like “welfare mom,” “food stamp cheats” and “generational dependency” are being flung at used-to-be middle class white folks, it’s a national epidemic.
Forgive those who’ve been living that particular slice of American pie for, oh, a hundred fifty years or so, for not wringing their hands in sympathetic angst.
Forgive them because they may not have noticed a pattern here – much like you may not have noticed their plights until you shared it. Just as those in power ignored the suffering they created then, they are ignoring it now.
Welcome to the Club of the Unimportant. Membership is free ‘cause that’s all its members can afford.
And one of the many ironies is that the current wave of anti-establishment distrust found its voice in 2016 by supporting a billionaire frat boy because he could understand their pain. Why anyone would imagine that a man – who has assembled the richest cabinet in the history of the nation – would seek to destroy the very crony capitalism that made him and his peeps their billions in the first place is beyond belief.
As Middle America is ghettoized, and the wealthy elite smoothly transition to ever more rarified environs, ask yourself a question: who benefits from an uneducated, unemployed, poor, addicted and divided populace?
It ain’t Middle America.