Whatever Happened To The White Picket Fences?

I started writing this about fifteen years ago. It started with the first paragraph, typed out in the middle of the night after waking with an idea. I have many chapters outlined and words written. Trying to find it in myself to complete the writing and publish an eBook. I just need another eighty thousand words or so..

Chapter 1

Growing up in these United States we are asked, throughout our childhood, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question we ponder, put serious thought into and place much stress onto our fertile, growing minds. We are asked this question in school by overbearing teachers and at family gatherings by inquisitive aunts, “A doctor” or “A fireman” is the appropriate pre-programmed response. We have high aspirations when we are young. We have visions of the all American dream.  The perfect house, the beautiful wife, a couple kids in the yard and the latest cars in the garage; all surrounded by the perfect white picket fence in the iconic suburb. Cue birds chirping and dogs barking. 

But what are we supposed to do when that perfect dream doesn’t happen?  We work hard and think we do all the right things. What are we supposed to feel when one day we wake up and the foremost thought in our minds is, “Whatever happened to the white picket fences?”

I grew up in an orange grove suburb of Los Angeles, surrounded by ideals, it was the sixties, I was young and life was full of wonder. The biggest thought on our minds was what was for lunch or how my friends and I were going to get to the beach.  From time to time, as a young person, you are asked what you want to be when you grow up.  Innocently we tell of lofty plans of what we want to be.  When I was a young man I wanted to be a forest ranger.  I wanted to live and work in the mountains.  So that was my answer, “A Forest Ranger”. 

Then life sets in, you go through your teen years questioning. Ideals change. We change. But the core belief that remains the same is that we will grow up, fall in love, get married and start a family. And part of that dream has been to buy a home.  That proverbial place of our own where we can be king of the hill, master of your own domain. The American Dream. But it seems more and more that the dream has become tarnished. The American Dream as we know it has been the victim of a hostile takeover. Big corporations and corrupt politicians have bought and sold the dream to the point that it is on the verge of becoming a nightmare.

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.

We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be!

We all know things are bad — worse than bad — they’re crazy.

It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.”

Well, I’m not going to leave you alone.

I want you to get mad!

I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your Congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.

All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad. You’ve gotta say, “I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!”

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell,

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”

That was the famous speech given in the 1976 movie Network.  Even though it was done over forty years ago it resonates today louder than ever. In the movie, they show people all over the country sticking their heads out of their windows yelling “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!” That is exactly what needs to happen now. Where is the modern day Mr. Howard Beale who will take his bully pulpit and wake the American people out of their slumber and call them to action? It is time for us to all get-up, stick our heads out our windows and scream we’ve had enough! We’ve had enough of corrupt politicians sucking up to corporations who aren’t paying their share of taxes, we’ve had enough of so-called Trickle Down Economics. We’ve got to get mad then act, but we must act responsibly and with non-violence.  Act to improve the lives of the American worker and preserve the American way of life and the middle class. The American worker has been getting the shaft for far too long. We must all take a stance and save us from becoming the “Corporate States of America”. We must work together to bring about change through our collective power. We will take back the American Dream by rebuilding our communities.

As a society we are at a crossroads. Do we maintain the status quo and go on living as we are, becoming automatons going through the motions of life, or do we work together to bring about real change that benefits us all. Each and everyone one of us has the power, the capabilities to stand up and be heard. We all can do things to make a difference. In the words of Michael Jackson, it all starts with the man (or woman) in the mirror.

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