Keeping up with the Joneses
The decade following World War II was a prosperous genotype of the culture of American consumerism. The invention of television and the subsequent advertising spawned a society of image. Big cars, prefabricated homes in subdivisions, appliances… and the television became badges of success and prosperity. Men went to work and women baked cookie cutter gingerbread men and pot roast for 2.5 kids. Neighbors had a Collie named Lassie that shat on a green lawn behind a picket fence. Perfect flesh and blood of America. Music hiccupped tunes to pop culture and fashion spread like butter. Ideals curved to conform and adhere to a message of democracy and freedom.
Inside their hearts, people were trapped. Religion held a heavy hand where trump was eternal damnation if you strayed from the norm of the messages trickling through the collective morality and ethics of society. Then the genius of evolution spurred an onslaught of deviation in their offspring. The ‘normality’ of the roles manifested depravity and the desperation to eschew bore a cultural sneeze.
Wake up and smell the coffee
The sixties were a time of liberal fire. Revolution rained at home for Civil Rights and the Government grew a voracious appetite for instilling fear in the name of Communism. The wrath of God was no longer effective. The threat of nuclear proliferation was significantly more frightening. People built bomb shelters and watched the sky. The propaganda fear of change fear of losing America and how great it is, became a mantra that would be the frayed beginning of the tear that would eventually separate the ideologies of this country.
Then there was the war my father fought in. Those who could not buy their way out were sent to preserve freedom and prevent the domino effect of Communism through the third world. Covert operations began and seeds of change were encouraged in teetering countries. At home, hippies protested and smoked pot. “Stop the War!” The hippies cried. Then they spit on soldiers returning home and called them ‘baby killers’. Empty stares met eyes diverted to apathy and anger.
Live and let live
From emotions came a push of destruction. Aerosol everything and convenience dominated the consumer. Fast food companies saw exponential growth and profit. Prepackaged packaging filled landfills. The environment sighed acid rain while industry pushed for pollution. Folks remained aloof toward the undertow of current events. Concerned with the directions of living they lost the peripheral vision of life. Goals became limited in scope, money festered worry for the every day man. Inflation was growing and wages remained low. Alcoholism and drug addiction became a social plague for people to scorn. Times were tough. Disease and poverty were the harps only broken bows could play. This was the Age of Aquarius and all the flower power in the world couldn’t make things smell good in America.
I was born in 1974. Cupid cried, Time rowed his boat and Victory drooped her wings.
Where’s the beef?
American culture trembled into the eighties with the momentum of a cartwheel. The economy was stretching and ends meat was butchered by a New Role in the global village. The Iron curtain was waiting for the play to start. President Jimmy Carter was plowing through an economic struggle of fear. The nation was overworked, tired, scared. Recession made small town farmers and business owners mortgage their lives to put food on the table. Subsidized housing projects in the big cities ignited class struggle and economic despair.
Ronald Reagan chased the woes away with the arms race. By accumulating and measuring nuclear power, the vast abscess became absurd. People began to take notice and fear subsided. America grew with their big box mentality. The strip malls began to look the same and people everywhere were able to utilize an idea marketed to them. The best part was that it was cheap.
No such thing as an atheist in a foxhole
After we put the hurt down on Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, America settled in. Aside from the dot com boom and bust, the economy was stable. The genocide in Rwanda was awful and we were sorry we didn’t help. America still cared even if it didn’t know where Rwanda was or if Hutu and Tutsi were types of hats. When warlords took over Somalia and divided it up, we sent troops to ‘keep the peace’. The result was a movie called Black Hawk Down where Somali men are referred to as “skinnies”. In places where many Somali immigrants lived, they encountered an ethnic backlash from African Americans and Whites. Resentment on all sides festered.
I lived a pretty great life in the nineties. Of course, I’m a white male from a suburb my parents aren’t divorced. I could expect a good life. I was in college for the first half and had a well paying job for the second half. I lived in a city and had a car. I barely knew.
I barely knew geography and the people that lived in those far away places. My degree was in ignorance and shame. The smidgen of smarts and passion I did have was muddied with media dribble and regurgitated untruth. My servitude to the culture I was born and buried in had cramped my primordial growth.
When you slap a hysterical person in the face, one of two things can happen; one, they get tunnel vision and rage on despite rational pleas, or two, they snap out of it befalling shock and embarrassment and apologies. What fate to shed the trite commonplace. Shake off the cobwebs and breathe in a new day. What fate? Realizing grief, not being able to rewind to fix things, is a reckless procedure to the soul. The soul should be full and grow.
The soul of this country has become a hollow shell. Our cultural icons are limited to corporate logos and the celebrities they employ to influence the masses. How sad that some jerk in marketing discusses statistics about my demographic, how very sad that I am a demographic. I look around and see. I want to close my eyes and forget disbelief. This isn't the life I wished for, but it will be.