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Thinking about an American Rennaisance

This is more than a mid-life crisis

By Shanon NormanPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 9 min read
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Commercial Art pays the bills more than poetry these days

I do not deny that I am a big fan of money. I do not deny that I have envied those who made or saved or inherited more money than me. I do not deny that I think money is the safest form of power that humans can trade with. Money gets a bad rap most of the time. Even religious fanatics have put down money at some point when their faith was tested or they were at some spiritual crossroad. Some vagabonds don't hold on to their identity or association with money. They will wander freely like no-name beggars and they prefer that lifestyle. I never wanted to be anyone but me fully knowing that I am born from money and was raised with all the notions of a society of economy. I watched many westerns where the cowboys and indians would fight for land or women in some terratorial battle. I've seen films and shows that have depicted the theme of "this town's not big enough for the both of us" or some John Wayne type Sherrif taking over and kicking out the trouble-makers. These are not just silly movies to me. They represent American civilization in symbolic and spiritual ways and they have touched my soul furthering my belief that a money-less civilization is not one that I comprehend.

I had a nightmare once. I was trying to see a doctor at a hospital and I couldn't find any medical professional who believed in the Hippocratic Oath anymore. I thought I had been shipped to light years in an alternate universe because the people I was asking for help were looking at me with these notions as if I was an alien from another planet. I sat in the lobby of what I had thought was a hospital, and there was a bronze statue of a man in a doctor's coat with a huge smile on his face as he was reading a book titled "Economy". I just sat there and stared at that statue and the bronze man seemed to tell me that all I had learned in America (in public school, private school, and the school of hard knocks) had been some kind of illusion of civilization meant to make fools out of the hopeful and naive believers of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It seems that when the forefathers wrote such idealistic principles (probably stoned on some really fine fresh American turf marijuana) they saw a future that would be secured for ANY individual to live without the dogma or slavery imposed by some parental or tyrannical reign. Money was to be the source and power to assist and secure such ideals. America grew for 200 years into whatever it is now because millions of people from other countries and born here believed in these ideals that the forefathers promised us. I chose to wake up from that nightmare where a bronze statue sits laughing in a hospital at the economy of society in the country I call my own where I was born and where my blood, sweat, tears, pain, and money have all paid the price for believing in the promises made by the creators of America.

I have lived in America for half a century. Those idealistic documents were drawn up over 200 years ago, yet they ring true and seem just as important today (at least to me) as they would have back then. I've seen many many sad and tragic things in my 51 years of being American and living in America for all of those years. I have only traveled outside of my own country twice - once to Mexico, and once to England. I thought those countries were so different from America when I was there, but that was over 30 years ago and I had not seen that much of America yet so I didn't have much to compare it to. Today I don't think Mexico or England (and maybe not any country) is really that different from America. The feudal wars exist everywhere I've gone and it seems that the main differences I've noticed in my travels are just language barriers, cultural styles, religious practices, and environmental issues such as farming, weather, and pollution. Besides that countries are just people trying to survive the best way they know how and many of them have seen it the way I do -- That is to say that money and the economy were supposed to secure the safety of civilization, not create some Apocalyptic war zone or Armeggedon-style animosity simply by dividing citizens with labels of HAVES and HAVE NOTS. The propaganda that has infected me and so many other supporters of America and the economy has been brutal and terrible and so difficult to clear out and sanitize.

I did a lot of walking when I was back in my home state of New Jersey in 2020. I did not have my own car, but I didn't mind that while I was there because New Jersey (especially in the areas where I was staying) has a lot of pavement and sidewalks and seems pedestrian-friendly. Plus the weather there is very pleasing to my senses and I enjoyed my walks rediscovering the home of my childhood that year. Some people think the urban areas of New Jersey are "ghetto" and/or depressing, run-down, abandoned-looking, or dirtyish. Having spent a lot of my growing up years in Sunny Shiny Clean Florida, I understand why they would say that about New Jersey's cities. Florida is a CAR state. Michigan was once a CAR state. Now Detroit looks like it got hit by a bomb. Abandoned and sad and mostly ghetto. That could happen to Florida or any shiny clean place where you feel safe and secure. Do you think Michigan or New Jersey always looked ghetto? They can burn books and flags and tear down statues but they will never be able to convince me that these states so in tune with the Empire State (New York) were always ugly and ghetto-style. That was not the vision they had, nor was it the dream they upheld with their hard work and contributions to the economy.

I recall going by bus (the orange school bus) for an hour ride from the newly developing suburb of Brandon, Florida to Ybor City in 1984 at the age of 13. I rode the bus from a mostly white neighborhood for an hour to the ghetto neighborhood in Ybor City to attend 7th grade at Booker T. Washington. I looked out of the windows as I sat on the bus seat and saw what Floridians called the "ghetto". It didn't look "bad" to me as I was accustomed to dirty run down and abandoned looking buildings that I had seen in North Bergen, New Jersey. But the Floridians had a totally different viewpoint about it. Brandon was clean and family oriented and people bought property and houses and tore down orange groves so that we all could be perfect like The Cosby Show or the Cleavers. The Nuclear Family knew what sanity and America was about. If you didn't get a mortgage, you couldn't call yourself a real American. If you didn't call that abandoned poor ugly urban area the "ghetto" then you were not on the right mental track for success as an ambitious go-getter American who would know all the glory and luxuries of American wealth and royalty. This was the propaganda and I thought that was the "normal" that we had to embrace in order to achieve success with the American dream. Yet I never stopped to ask anyone who considered themselves American, "What exactly is the American Dream?" Some had given some grayish answers like "The house, the car, the wife, and 2.5 kids." -- Which was the basic modern definition of the Nuclear Family. Yet through the 70s, 80s, 90s, and into the new millenium I have only seen minor and brief glimpses of the success of the Nuclear Family as opposed to the tremendous sights I've seen about ghetto life, poverty and crime in America, and financial disasters that have occurred over and over again in city after city from sea-to-shining sea. It's enormously depressing. Florida has ghetto-style areas. In St. Petersburg they call it SouthSide. In Tampa, anywhere off Nebraska Ave or Dale Mabry. In Orlando, just follow the OBT Trail. Remember that bumper sticker that read "Shite Happens" --- well I should sell you a new bumper sticker that reads: "Ghettos Happen" because I've seen one in almost every town or in or near every city. Why? How?

Why didn't the Florida Housing Authority want to help me when I told them I was worried about becoming homeless? Was it because I was white? Did they only want black people in the Projects? Do you remember when you first saw the Projects being built? I do. I thought they were beautiful and I was jealous. I couldn't believe my white mother had to work two or three jobs to put us in White Suburbia and bus me to black ghetto school while all that tax money was paying for the black people to live in a free building just because they were poor and black and we couldn't get that because we were white and privileged. Their new Project building looked better than what all that work and money were paying for us to live in. I resented that. It was made even worse when I saw the Project building turn to Shite after only having been in use for a decade. A brand new building, perfect, free, and lovely gone to Shite and looking ugly and ghetto in less time that the Twin Towers stood strong.

Now I have a Ruin Porn obsession. It began in New Jersey as I spent many days living out of a storage closet or squatting in any abandoned building I could hide in. I started looking for these kinds of abandoned cities and buildings online and got more and more fascinated by the images that other travelers were so apt to share with my morbid curiosity.

It may not seem sensible at present. Today in 2022, I'm safe. I'm sheltered and not homeless. Not because the Housing Authority ever helped me --- I think it's laughable how RACIST the H.A. is. This Ruin Porn obsession is more than a Mid-Life Crisis philosphical approach to my ending up in terrible debt and with very limited resources even though I am a college graduate. I used to be so proud of that accomplishment. The first woman from the foreigner family to have achieved higher education. Now I'm a Felon on Social Security and I thank my lucky stars every day that I have that much and that I don't live in the Housing Authority ghetto building.

Yet I share this small one-bedroom apartment in a duplex with some guy who sometimes acts like he's my husband and sometimes acts like he doesn't even know me or care about me. I suppose that's typical of marriage, but this past decade of knowing him and sharing my life with him has felt anything but typical. He has provided a roof and for that I suppose he can call himself a man; But I am not happy, not satisfied, especially considering I still do not feel that we have accomplished or are living the so-called American dream. More like the American Nightmare.

As I watch the You-Tube video tour of some traveler who shows us the view of some of the worst ghetto neighborhoods that he had the pleasure to see with his own eyes, I am fascinated and my Ruin Porn obsession is solidified. Again, this is not a mid-life crisis thought process. This is a bitter survivor of American propaganda who is looking at the country I call my own with New and Improved Vision. I spent too much time trying to prove that I could be Successful, or that I was definitely not Racist, instead of looking beyond all the bologna that the media and other fools were feeding me. This Ruin Porn tells the TRUTH about my country. That's why I'm obsessed with it. It may be sad or ugly to look at, but that kind of TRUTH after over 40 years of suffocating on BullShite, is extraordinarily REFRESHING.

businesseconomyhumanitypoliticspop culturetravel
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Shanon Norman

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