Showing posts with label flyover country. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flyover country. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Going to college doesn't guarantee a middle-class lifestyle

 When I was a kid, my family would mark the holiday season by driving to Oklahoma City to do our Christmas shopping.

We always made three stops. We would drop by the Sears store, which was a treat for me because it had escalators, and popcorn was always popping on the first floor. Popcorn and escalators! I was in heaven.

Our family would also visit Brown's Department Store, one of those old-fashioned multi-story affairs in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City.  Brown's had elevators--not escalators, and each floor was devoted to one or two retail sectors--menswear, womenswear, appliances, etc.

We usually had lunch at Beverly's restaurant on 23rd Street--one of a family-owned chain of eateries specializing in "Chicken in the Rough," which meant fried chicken in a basket of french fries, accompanied by delicious rolls that I could slather with butter and honey.

The Fosseys were a frugal family, and my parents drove a Chevrolet as an emblem of our sober lifestyle.  If we ordered Chicken-in-the-Rough, my brother and I would split the plate. We each got one piece of chicken and a handful of fries.

I associate all those places with my family's dogged aspiration to be part of the middle-class. But Brown's Department Store is gone now, Sears is gone, and Beverly's is gone.  And perhaps that is appropriate because the American middle class is fading away, just like the department stores and family-owned restaurants.

Jason Del Rey, writing for Vox, wrote that department stores and the middle class are dying together.  According to one prediction, more than half of all mall-based department stores will close by the end of next year. 

And the middle class is shrinking as well.

"Since the Great Depression began in late 2007," De Rey observed, "the vast majority of income growth in the US has gone to high-income households, squeezing middle-class households and altering the way they spend money." In a 2018 study, the Deloitte consulting firm reported that "the middle 40 percent of the country saw its income shrink in the previous decade, while $8 out f every $10 in income growth nationwide went to high-income households" (as reported by Del Rey).

If you considered yourself to be a middle-class person ten years ago, it is a good bet that you don't think of yourself as middle-class today. Our income doesn't go as far as it once did, and we no longer expect our incomes and lifestyles to improve.

Not only is the middle class seeing a decline in income, but it also sees a decline in its status.  Middle-class people once lived in the Heartland. Now they live in flyover country. Middle-class people once took pride in their patriotism.  Now the media elite label that patriotic instinct is as white nationalism.

And if America's middle class is dying--and it is--our nation's colleges and universities have their fingerprints on the dagger that stabbed it in the heart.  Millions of American young people are taking out student loans in the naive hope that a college degree will improve their economic status, but they are being scammed.  

The biggest rubes are the ones who get degrees in the soft majors--liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, ethnic studies, etc. After spending a lifetime in academic settings, I see now that degrees in these fields were always dubious. But at least history majors were forced to write essays and familiarize themselves with some of Western civilization's significant events.

Now, most students get As, and the professors are too lazy to read term papers. The broad themes of our American heritage have been repackaged into ethnic studies taught by card-carrying members of the cancel culture.  

Tragically, young people are taking out student loans to pay for this gibberish. When they graduate, they are saddled with unpayable debt, and they can't get a job that pays a middle-class wage. 

So if you are one of those people who went deep into debt for a degree in Inequality Studies and find yourself working at McDonald's, this is my advice. When your former professor shows up and orders a Big Mac--the one who taught you nothing useful--spit in his burger.






Monday, November 9, 2020

Was the Good Samaritan a Cajun?

When I was a child, my family were 80-proof Methodists. Every Sunday, I would wriggle into my little plaid sports coat, adjust my clip-on bow tie, and head to Sunday School.  

Looking back, I think Sunday School was good for me. My Sunday School teachers were all women--mostly young moms. We sang lovely children's songs--"Jesus loves me, this I know"--and we listened to the same Bible stories hundreds of times. 

I especially liked the tale of the Good Samaritan. What impressed me most about this biblical character was his generosity. He spent his own time and money helping a stranger who got mugged out on some lonesome highway. I knew I would never be as good as the Good Samaritan, but he became my ideal.

Let's face it. We don't meet many generous people today. Very few people will stop to help a mugging victim. In fact, many Americans want to defund the police--the people we pay to protect us from muggers.

Indeed, a lot of Americans have become muggers.  I'm not talking about the hoodlums who lurk in dark alleys. I'm talking about the bankers who take a cut from every financial transaction. I'm talking about university professors who do no useful work but have lifetime job protection. I'm talking about the politicians who fly around in private jets and stir up racial strife. All these people are muggers.

But last weekend, I went deer hunting up in Claiborne Parish near the Arkansas border. There were nine of us at my friend's deer camp, and about half the group were true Cajuns.

No one shot a deer that weekend, but no one was bummed out. We spent time in the woods, and in the evenings, we shared fellowship and a meal together.

No one argued about who was entitled to sit in the best deer blind. In fact, everyone offered to take the worst blind. No one argued about how to split the ticket at the Mexican restaurant. A couple of guys just picked up the check. No one worried about who might be drinking someone else's beer.  If there was beer in the fridge--well, buddy,  that beer is for you. 

If someone writes another modern-day version of the Bible, I hope the Good Samaritan will be called the Good Cajun.  And instead of loaves and fishes, Jesus will hand out gumbo and jambalaya.

As we start the third decade of the 21st century, America is becoming a nasty place to live. Thank God, there are still a few good-hearted Americans, some cheerful Americans, and some generous Americans. A lot of these good people live in Flyover Country, and a good many are Cajuns.









Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lady Bird, the movie, sends an insidious message about elite East Coast colleges (Spoiler Alert)

Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig's  new coming-of-age movie, has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. But it is an insidious movie, which delivers a treacherous message that self-fulfillment can be found at an elite East Coast college.

Christine, who calls herself Lady Bird, is a discontented California girl who attends a Catholic high school in Sacramento. Her mother doesn't understand her, the guy she is sweet on is gay, and she cheats on her exams.

To make matters worse, Lady Bird's parents live in a tiny ranch-style home, with only one bathroom. She self-deprecatingly tells her boyfriend she lives on the wrong side of the tracks, an insult he guilelessly passes on to her mom and dad.

Sacramento bores Lady Bird, which she dismisses as "the Midwest of California." She longs to escape California to go to college on the East Coast.   Although several elite schools reject her, she finally get accepted to a fancy college in New York.

But the school is expensive. Her father, who comes across as a genuinely nice guy, recently lost his job; and at his age, he is unlikely to get another one. Lady Bird's mother, a nurse, works double shifts at a hospital to make ends meet.

But Lady Bird simply must go east to college, so her dad refinances the family home to cover the cost. The movie ends with Lady Bird in New York City, where she lies to one of the first guys she meets and tells him she is from San Francisco.

What a piece of crap! Any young woman who allows her out-of-work father to refinance the family's pathetic little house so she can attend a snooty East Coast college is a self-absorbed jerk. Although the movie is pitched as a young woman's heroic quest for self-fulfillment, it's really just a gratuitous insult to flyover country, which the filmmaker expanded to include parts of California.