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Five Mile Town and the Big Smoke; The De-industrialization of Anerica
Once bustling downtown, now nearly abandoned by commerce.
I went to Twelve-Mile Town the other day. I wanted one of those thick, juicy cheeseburgers that can only be had at Ralph's. If I had craved pork chops, I would have journeyed to Seventeen-Mile Town and ate at the Red Door. But it was a cheeseburger I craved, so to Twelve-Mile Town I sojourned. The nearest outpost of civilization to my retirement abode is Five-Mile Town but it has few amenities. It has a town square, like its more prosperous neighbors but little else. Ice, milk, and bread are the only necessities I procure in Five-Mile Town, other than spiritual sustenance at the local Southern Baptist Church. It's kind of sad to go there.
Five-Mile Town's town square is more of a remembrance of things past rather than hoped for future prosperity. The remnant denizens of Five-Mile Town used to travel daily to the Big Smoke, the industrial center of the region some fifty miles distant and hard against the Mississippi River. Those days are gone. Gone too are the steel mill, glass factory, metal products factory, and corrugated box plant which used to employ nearly everyone in the entire region.
Everyone car pooled or rode shuttle buses to the Big Smoke. The post-war prime of Five-Mile Town, and its economic alliance with the Big Smoke, was during an era when gasoline could be had for 35 cents or less per gallon. The denizens of Five-Mile Town were very frugal and even 35 cent a gallon gasoline prompted conservation efforts like car pools and shuttle buses.
In those days, they were the children of the Depression and survivors of World War II, the Greatest Generation, who found the promise of the American Dream in the union jobs found only in the Big Smoke. They had stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima and Normandy; had become Rosie the Riveter while the boys were away fighting fascism; and all they wanted was a decent wage, a modicum of job security, and hope for a better future for their children. The union jobs of the Big Smoke provided those things and fueled the growth of something called the American Middle Class.
Henry Ford, industrialist
Today, their sons and daughters, the Baby Boomers of this era, face a far different struggle, both economically and ideologically. Gone are the glory days of the Big Smoke and a thriving Five-Mile Town. They fell victim to things called Globalization, the de-industrialization of America, and a New World Order. The hard-won bright future of the Greatest Generation is not nearly so bright as they had hoped for their Baby Boomers. And what of the offspring of the Baby Boomers? What about Generation X? What does the future hold for them?
Will the robber-barons of today be more kindly, more magnanimous than those of yesteryear? Perhaps some day we can ask Eugene Debbs or Clarence Darrow that question. Until then, we will have to rely on today's robber-baron's inherent profit motive to offer an economic future for America's working class. That will only last if the working class remains content with ever lower wages, shrinking benefits, and less job security.
And why shouldn't today's working class be content with such things? At least they have a job. Besides, if they attempt to have a stronger voice in the workplace they will face more importation of foreign workers (illegal aliens), more exportation of jobs (outsourcing), and less political clout (money = political favor).
After all, subsistence farming is always an option. And then, perhaps some Domestic Aid dollars could be wrested from the mountains of Foreign Aid dollars continually flowing out the U.S. door. But that probably won't happen. Unlike the people of every other nation on the planet, the U.S. government expects its citizens to rise above every challenge...even sellouts by their government's collusion with international Big Money interests.
Perhaps it is time for a new political reality to be imposed upon our government. A third-party reality that is based on what's best for the great masses of working-class America.
Dallas Wilkinson is a novelist, satirist, and social commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.