Today is a very sad day, the American Dream is dead.
So today at work I found out that a 30+ year employee of the college had died, her name was Cleone. She was the prototypical lunch lady in many ways and worked as a cashier in the cafeteria. She was older, probably in her 60’s and worked hard for what little she was making in her job. She was a very nice woman, although she routinely put up with a lot of lip from students, staff and faculty she kept a generally positive attitude.
I usually buy breakfast at the cafeteria on Thursdays and she would be working the register, we’d stop and chat for a time and we always made each other laugh. Hell, occasionally she’d even cut me a break on the price of my breakfast burrito. She was a nice person; it makes me sad to know she won’t be there this Thursday morning.
What makes me even sadder is the realization of how many people in this country, like Cleone, work right up until the day they die. Good people, hard-working people who cannot afford to retire because of the realities of the costs of housing and health care. The American Dream is dead, we were told when we were young that we could be anything we want. We were shown a model where you go to school, get good grades and work hard and you’ll be rewarded. Your company will give you a gold watch and a nice retirement check, you’ll be able to take cruises or go fishing, Social Security and will make up the difference. You’ll be taken care of in old age between Medicaid and your retirement benefits.
Conservative commentators like to tell us that the reason people like Cleone are in the position they are in is because they just didn’t work hard enough, or weren’t motivated enough. If you believe them, anyone with wealth in this country is essentially just better than those who haven’t achieved it. There are no twists of fate or unfortunate circumstances, if you work hard you win, if not you lose. Bullshit to that, my buddy Cleone worked hard and she lost, the asshole commentators in their suits and ridiculous hair are not better than her, or you, or me, do you hear that Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck.
The dream is dead and Cleone is just one of the first wave, there are a lot of baby boomers who will make out fine, but my generation, many of the people I grew up with are heading for Cleone’s fate, hell, I may be heading for Cleone’s fate, like I said when I started, it’s a sad day today.