I went out to pick up a load of manure at Vito’s this afternoon, and on the way back, I listened to NPR’s Talk of the Nation about StoryCorps, which is on the road in Roanoke, Virgina recording stories about “hard times.”
One of the stories they aired, about a single woman with six kids who would save up her one paid sick day a month for the whole year and use the money to buy toys from the Salvation Army for her kids at Christmas, drove me to tears. She said (I’m paraphrasing), “I never told them it was from Santa Claus ’cause I didn’t want no man taking credit for what I worked for.”
A lot of those stories about hard times gone by contain an element of triumph, of love, of community, of dignity. The audience (including myself) was clearly moved by them. But it occurred to me as I was driving and listening that as much as we as a country cherish those stories of old times, even if they are hard times, there are many fewer sympathetic ears for those hitting hard times right now.
Last night, when I blogged about socialism, there were some ferociously negative comments about people (and I was accused of this as well) wanting handouts–wanting something for nothing–wanting to do nothing and get paid for it. It was like Grapes of Wrath and the disdain piled on the Oakies. I think if that first commenter had been within spitting distance, I’d have gotten very wet.
It’s funny that, while we can listen with nostalgia to stories of hard times gone by (even if we ourselves haven’t experienced them), we can’t, as a nation, seem to recognize that for a lot of folks, the hard times are now. We can sit and listen to stories of the Depression, when impoverished and hungry people, driven off their land, were accused of the very same crimes some of my commenters accused me of last night.
How is it that we’re not feeling a very strong sense of deja vu?