What does it mean to be an American today?
It depends on your outlook. To some, having a job with a good living wage and job security along with time to spend with one’s family is all that is needed. Others believe that to be American is to rise as high in station as possible to live out the American dream in luxury and comfort. I believe in the former.
In what ways are we divided as a country?
Wedge issues are used by the politicians to create fears in the electorate. It is the old strategy of divide and conquer. By keeping the populous divided, it is easier for the political parties to maintain enthusiastic support for both sides. Without animosity, there wouldn’t be discord pushing voters into each of the parties. When a natural disaster occurs, everyone bands together. It is to the politicians benefit to have everyone forget this fact and choose sides. It is okay to show the differences for different issues but demonizing the opposition leads only to division and intolerance. It’s okay if the people get all riled up once in a while. That’s what we do. What isn’t okay is when an elected official stays that way. They are elected and have the responsibility of governing.
Why do you think we are so divided?
Our nation has desensitized itself from the need for community because of technology and the ease of reaching out beyond each local community. Neighbors live on isolated islands and sides have been picked for this issue and that policy, thus causing a continual grudge match between opponents. No longer are we a people striving to build communities to raise their children and live the American dream, but one that relishes the fight against an antagonist as opposed to the enjoyment of each others’ company.
What unites us as a country?
Our history of our soldiers fighting for our freedom, from the days of the Revolutionary War until today, is shared by every American. We share this freedom and security that is given to us from all of the soldiers that have fought and died in wars, and no matter what differences each may have, this truth is always evident. They cannot have fought and died in vain because they did not fight, and are not still fighting, for one political party, for one racial class or for one specific religion, but for all Americans.
Most of us, except for our Native Americans were all immigrants seeking a better life with freedom and dignity. From our beginning, America’s immigrants have always had a hard time being accepted by the previous immigrants that were already here, and each successive group has infused our country with energy and a vibrancy of spirit. We all must realize that this is what has always made America great and to never fear this change. We truly are a melting pot.
How were you, your family and/or community impacted by the 2008 financial crisis?
Because of a medical condition, I became unemployed and without insurance, so the financial crisis did not affect me directly. In 2010, I began having a serious problem with my health and I was diagnosed with chronic disease that affected my thinking on the job and my ability to drive to and from work because of the pain I was enduring.
However, I remained upbeat because I was fortunate to have a college degree in history to fall back on, so I began to use it doing research for a new writing career that I had always planned on doing when I retired. There are so many people today that are also having to start new careers as well.
I began writing to help bring change to a divided nation, and seeing the loss of jobs and the political rhetoric of the people calling others un-American, in my area and the country, kept me focused on getting the histories remembered and the facts highlighted. I was trained to do this in college so I believed it was a good cause for my efforts, and even though I have a disease that affects my body, I could still use my mind to show others that we were all Americans. And for me, my efforts have been a very rewarding way for keeping up my spirits.
What are your living conditions like today?
I had moved back to Kentucky from Orlando, Florida in 2008 because both of my parents health was failing and they needed my help. Soon after moving back, I found a good paying job working at a business that was a thirty-five minute drive, and with the death of my father in 2009, I quickly found out that my disease could be triggered by stress which could cause very painful flares and the inability to keep food down which caused me to lose a lot of weight. Nearly having a couple of wrecks while driving to work, my wife and I decided that I could not continue working because of the dangers.
When my mother passed away in 2011, I was devastated and it took me a while to recover. My disease went into overdrive and I began losing a lot of weight and many in my family were very worried for me. Fortunately, after going to many different doctors since 2003 to find something that would help me with my medical condition, I found one doctor that prescribed a medication that I haven’t tried before, and soon after, I began having an easier time with eating and gaining weight, and as long as I didn’t overdo it and exercise too much, the pain went away.
Are you hopeful about the future?
After finding this new medicine, I have a new outlook on life. I soon learned that I could think more clearly which helped me with my writing. I have only optimism for my writing career now, and if I can become successful at it, I will have found a job that I truly loved, and that is a rare thing to find.
What are your fears?
I fear the partisanship and division in the country will lead to the diminishing of our communities. It seems our nation has desensitized itself from the need for community and dialog. Neighbors live on isolated islands and sides have been picked for this issue and that policy, thus causing a continual grudge match between opponents. No longer are we a people striving to build communities to raise their children and live the American dream, but one that relishes the fight against an antagonist as opposed to the enjoyment of each others’ company.
What do you think are some solutions to our country’s challenges?
We have had populist grassroots movements in our county’s history many times along with a divided populous at other times, but after the 2012 Election, it appears there is a large block of the population that is ready for our government to work together and govern. They want less fighting and more productive solutions for those that are struggling in the United States, and this is a very promising sign for better things to come. They stood up by casting their vote against the big spenders that are trying to buy legislation and the elections, and they voted against rhetoric and obstructionism for political purposes. A message has been sent and if we all stay vigilant, the forces that try to separate our nation will fail.
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