In these times of unrest and uncertainty, we must look within ourselves to find that seed of what makes us great, what makes us strong, what makes us Americans.
The world is moving faster and we find ourselves more and more disconnected from the life we once called the American Dream. A life our parents and grandparents built with the hopes of leaving something better for future generations. Have we squandered that dream? Have we pushed ourselves to be faster, richer, better that our neighbor that we no longer know them or even ourselves?
The news media, internet and political leaders would have you believe that we are now a global community. Nice words, but are they true? We have always been global by the sheer fact that we all live on planet earth but we have never been a community. Not in the sense as to a community working together for the betterment of the whole. The helping of one another towards our common and individual goals and certainly not in the idea of getting along despite our differences.
Over the past century, we have seen a careful, and possibly calculated, division of our population become more and more precise. World War I showed American soldiers the world. Suddenly they saw what was out there and how others lived away from American shores. An influx of immigrants passing through Ellis Island brought food, music and languages of many cultures to this melting pot of humanity. Now came the difficulty of how to control that bubbling stew.
Enter the motion picture industry. Before the war families had received news and entertainment from their radios. A single box in the living room made us laugh and told us of all that was happening here and around the globe. It was informative but limited. Movies brought us into large theatres where we were lulled into a complacency for a couple of hours as we were transported away from our hard, dreary lives and day to day travails. We could escape even the Great Depression for a little while by going to a movie.
In December of 1941 Pearl Harbor was bombed and we found ourselves embroiled in a second World War. WWII was larger, broader and more difficult that the first. We listened to the President on the radio, saw the news reels before the serial or cartoon before the movie and saw and heard what they wanted to show us. The boys came home from war but they had seen even more than their fathers had during the first war. The world had grown smaller once more and the American people were learning what was happening across oceans. They came back to their main streets, apartment buildings and city parks and they talked to each other. Something had to be done.
Suburbia was born. We were moved away from city and town centers into individual homes. We were moved off of porch swings and stoops and given backyards with fences. We were taken from towns and put into neighborhoods. To make sure this idea stuck and we remained in these homes, we were given television. We were entertained and informed in our living rooms. The newsreel before the movie went away.
Those that were too young to fight in WWII found themselves in Korea fighting with a far different style of war than their elders had fought. The children of the men and woman that fought and kept this country going during WWII learned from their parents and when they began to question things, they were given the distraction of color television. The men who came back from Korea joined their families in the living rooms of suburbia and did not discuss what they had seen or done but instead watched the brightly colored images on the box in front of them.
Then America entered Vietnam. A war that divided the country and divided many families. The soldiers that came home were damaged and, in many cases, reviled. But these men talked and protested and made people hear what they had seen and done. They also confronted the government as did the hippies and many other groups of the time. Something had to be done. Sex was the answer. The government loosened laws restricting the showing of adult films in public and the boom of the porn theatre was born.
In the decades that followed, the American public has been given more and more in the way of technological advancement that has aided in further isolating us from one another. Cable television expanded our at home viewing and the introduction of video rental kept us out of the theatres. We were no longer gathering in the large numbers we had before.
The internet provided access to information we sought out before in libraries and newsstands. We didn’t seem to care that a lot of it may have been inaccurate. We sat in front of our screens and read. Porn moved to the internet and took us out of those theatres as well. Email was introduced and many stopped sending a handwritten note or making a phone call.
Cell phones let us feel connected and mobile but phone calls got shorter with the fees and having to carry the phone. The phone companies took away many fees but gave us games to play on our phones. Let that call go to voice mail or better yet, just send a text. Communication became shorter.
After 9/11 we saw Americans unify as they had not done for decades. They spoke to each other and helped their neighbors. This was a backward step in the isolation of America. Enter social media. Social media had been around for a few years but really exploded in the early 21st century. Now you could call anyone a friend. You didn’t have to call, text or visit you could just like their post and they would know you cared. Do you know your neighbors? Who cares look how many people follow you online!
Now as we all sit in our individual homes during a global pandemic, we work on reconnecting. We wear masks and cannot smile, hug or shake hands. The state of how isolated we have truly become in apparent to many. Once the world returns to normal, we may not know what normal is but there will surely be some technological advancement to work on isolating us once more. Is that the new normal or should the new American Dream be to gather with friends in a park and actually talk as people, as a community?
About the Creator
Writing can be therapy, insanity or both. Here is my mind, my dreams, my fears, my thoughts, my life laid bare to share with you. Enjoy the journey into what is at once my blog, diary and world, and don't forget to tip your guide.