My younger brother, Danny, has a way of bringing me back to better times, the times of calmer and happier days of my youth. He's done it before. He sent me a note and a copy of an article written by Elaine Young McGuire entitled "Come out and Play" reminding me of those days. Her memories of her childhood brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Those were our memories too; my little sister's, brother's and mine. We did those things; walks to the Blue Bunny Store, the Pepsi and salted peanuts, the Moon Pies, kick-the-can, hide'n-seek, olly-olly-oxen free (I never knew what that meant), ready or not - here I come, cowboys and Indians, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob, "Kowabonga!", the Peanut Gallery, "plunk your magic twanger - froggy!" Andy Devine would yell on Andy's Gang, baseball in the middle lot and basketball with the hoop behind the garage (the ground was sloped so that the hoop stood fifteen feet for long shots instead of ten). I can see Danny now, with his eyes wide, grinning from ear to ear and his red hair standing in the wind, rushing to safe home base with me on his tail just fast enough so I wouldn't catch him. It was hilarious for him to yell, "I beat 'cha" and my how we laughed! There were no privacy fences so we had the whole neighborhood to run in. The basketball hoop is still there, but our old house is gone. There are still no privacy fences in my home town, but the theater is gone, there are no grocery stores anymore, the hardware stores are gone and the restaurants serving good hamburgers are gone; Kicks Cafe and Jones’ Cafe. Daddy would buy a sack full of hamburgers from Jones’ Cafe and we would all eat them around our kitchen table on Saturday night and laugh and talk and tell the stories of the week's events. Hope was strong and the future looked bright.
But then the tide changed. The nearest hamburger is in Princeton now, eleven miles away. The nearest theater is in Evansville, a 30 minute drive. The nearest grocery, hardware and all-around variety store is also in Princeton; Wal-Mart has monopolized shoppers for miles around, nearly the entire county, by undercutting prices of all competition. Princeton, once a robust middle-class city, is a small city of the poor. Trickle down actually became trickle up. Good paying jobs left America and people shifted from full-time livelihoods to part-time and contract jobs. The nine full-time employees paying to Social Security for every recipient in the 1950s dwindled to two even though the working population increased. Homemaker mothers that were the foundation of our great society were not respected and went to work to gain respect and to pay ever increasing bills. Politicians collaborated with corporate lobbyist to write free trade laws that sucked America dry (that great sucking sound from south of the border Ross Perot shouted about). Jobs were sent to Mexico before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ink was dry. Tolerant Christians became intolerant and clipped verses from the Bible to suit their own purposes instead of seeing the main theme of the Bible as a search for God and Justice and, by the way, God's search for us. They made their little verses into signs and posted them on their walls to justify their greed and disrespect to society. Somehow the crazy religious nuts of my youth, Falwell, Robertson, the Christian Broadcasting Network scam, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, became mainstream Christian thought. Helping the poor became the poor helping themselves whether they could or not, and if they couldn't – well, that’s tough. Opportunity dwindled. Hope disappeared. Marketers sold us the snake oil ideas of the free market. Greed became good. Competition became a good word and cooperation became a bad word. Important social programs became socialism. Saving became bad and spending became good. The rich became richer and the middle-class and poor became poorer. Family units broke down not because of those on the fringe of society but because the free market ideology undercut family security. Abortions became a focal point while infant mortality sky-rocketed and the United States became the 28th in the world in infant deaths because of a lack of health care. It became acceptable to send our youth to wars of choice and we glorify our hero solders and death. It became acceptable to trample on the U.S. Constitution. Prisons became the holding tanks for the unemployed with the United States having more imprisoned people than all other developed countries.
So… To all of you who inflict pain with your divisive agenda, your constant criticism and intolerance. To all of you who discriminate toward people. To all of you who put your own selfish agenda above those who are less fortunate. To all of you who collaborate with corporate lobbyist instead looking out for the public good. To all of you CEOs who squandered your chance to do good, destroyed many lives, and now want bailouts from those you took advantage of. To all of you who use the Bible to spew hate and intolerance. To all of you who spin and twist the truth and lie for your own gain. To all of you who suck opportunity and hope out of this country. Damn you to hell. Jesus has grievances against you. The tide is changing again. Your ways are gone. Perhaps my grandchildren won’t have as happy a childhood as I had, but maybe they will have a better and just future. I can only hope.