Come one, come all to the modern Great Depression

Darren D'Altorio

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, children of all ages, step right up to the grand stage known as 21st century America.

A beautiful production is ahead, people, truly one for the ages. Be patient, try to remain seated and please refrain from throwing tomatoes, rocks, grenades or roses till the end of the show.

The spectacle about to take place is of much importance to the livelihood and prosperity of the American people. It is something that commands attention and respect. It demands peeled ears and wide eyes. It requires the audience to leave all complacency, conformity and preconceived notions of the American Dream at the door.

Folks, settle your stirring. Calm your voices. Sit back, relax.

Let the show begin.

Standing in a stagnant mud puddle is Joe Six-pack. He was the Midwest success story before the storm hit and before his nightmare came to life. Foreman of the factory where he worked, father of two children, husband to a dirty-blonde-haired wife, Mr. Six-pack had the life. A two-story home with a two-car garage, a black lab, an above-ground pool, boxes full of tools in a shed in the backyard – these were his possessions, his prizes, his life’s hard work materialized.

Sitting in a high-backed leather chair in an office overlooking Central Park is Benjamin Deep-pockets. He is toiling on the Internet, tearing through web pages of stock quotes, bond prices and index reports. Pieces of his hair, still bloody at the follicle, are littering the desk where he sits. His eyes sink, following the real-time graphs of the Dow Jones. He thinks about what he will tell his boyfriend when he gets home, that all the money they set aside to accrue value in the stock market so they could have a proper wedding is nearly gone. It’s been reduced and depleted by the invisible market forces Deep-pockets thought he could control, given his Stanford education and financial prowess.

Lying in respective trenches are Lupe Fence-jumper and Johnny Patriotic.

Johnny is in Iraq, listening to the report of fully automatic weapons and feeling the chilling breeze of ammunition whirring past his Kevlar helmet.

Lupe is in a nowhere border town of South Texas. He is cut, clavicle to hip, from hopping the razor-wire fence that separates the desert graveyard of Mexico from the rich soils of American jurisdiction.

These men are on separate sides of the world, rolling in the same dirt Mother Earth has to offer, fighting for the same dream.

The dream was born by the Constitution. It was bred in bloodshed, war and revolution. It was lived by people who thought walking the extra mile, over jagged rocks and across endless plains, was worth it. Generation after generation of people walking hand in hand with the dream turned the vague notion of limitless prosperity, directly proportional to hard work, into a promise, a guarantee that the title “American” certifies one to live out that dream.

Decade after decade, war after war, through inflation, deflation, stagflation and depression, the dream kept breathing and beating along with the footsteps of the people who flocked to this land because they believed in the system here.

Well, the system is broken. Therefore, that promise is gone.

Joe Six-pack feels alone. The winds from the tornado blew his steel tools all over the great, downtrodden plains. Those winds took his home and his cars. He and his wife are left with one child, the other hasn’t been found in the rubble once known as their home. Natural disaster insurance, they have it. But it provides no comfort or solace. It’s just another sunken cost at this point.

Deep-pockets feels abandoned. All those consumed college credit hours, learning the nuances of the financial spider web called Wall Street, short-changed him. He thought he had it figured out, his life, his plans. He was in control. Now, he is being controlled by a red-lined graph printed on the front page of every newspaper in the nation, illustrating the wrecked futures and retirements of baby boomers.

Fence-jumper feels secure. Clutching a knapsack of personal possessions against a gaping wound, he just has to make it, past the police and border patrol, to the nearest free clinic for treatment. He is in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But bravery comes before freedom, and it’s time for him to learn that the hard way, or at least try.

Patriotic feels proud. He is on the front lines of altruism, defending freedom for people he doesn’t know and will never meet. With every returned fire, he feels one step closer to the goal, completion, home. But he just keeps shooting and shooting.

Addie Polk of Akron, knows all about shooting. The 90-year-old woman shot herself twice in the upper body as sheriff’s deputies circled in, attempting to evict her from her foreclosed home. Her loan, which she defaulted on, was completely pardoned by financial institution Fannie Mae, a beneficiary of the $700 billion bailout.

Grasping onto life in a hospital room in Akron, Polk has comfort knowing she is debt-free. And it only took a suicide attempt to get her there.

The American Dream has folded.

Will people across the nation start shooting themselves simply to live according the doctrine of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Has consumerism and capitalism consumed the people? Has the American Dream become a suicidal tendency?

This is the modern Great Depression. Darren D’Altorio is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].