The Hoarding of the American Dream

We hoard people.Closet our elderly in nursing homes, minorities to the other side of the tracks, the working poor to apartment complexes. We box them up nice and pretty and say, this is your place, and if you don’t like it, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and solve your problems, but in the meantime, we’ll embroil and entangle your life in a social welfare system that won’t allow for you to buy the boots.

I am not a rich man, I live paycheck to paycheck, in an older middle class neighbor comprised of repetitive ramblers in a small town along the Mississippi. It’s kind of a bucolic life, peaceful and quiet, lights go out at 10, everyone works for a living. There are no minorities in my neighborhood, they’re relegated to the older homes, the ones with clapboard siding and showing their age. The poor are congregated in conglomerations of apartment complexes where drugs are dealt with occasional gun play. We have several retirement communities, well kept, maintained and full of the elderly who slip, fall, mandating a visit from someone who cares, if they have that someone.

The larger city across the Ol Miss ain’t any different, just on a larger scale.

Twenty some years ago, we lived in an apartment. With 3 little boys! That was a trip. Across the hall, a young banker and his schoolteacher wife. Down the hall, an auto mechanic with his family. All working to climb the ladder known as the American dream. Most of us succeeded for the most part. We still have Apartment complexes like that, and they even have minorities, people of color, living in them. Unfortunately, we also have complexes where drugs rampage through the occupants lives, where police calls are daily occurrences and the truth is, those people will only move from one complex to another. That is their life. There’s way too many of them. They are essentially a prison without escape.

At face value, retirement communities, nursing homes and independent living facilities are good ideas, good ideas where we relegate their care to strangers making minimum wage. The cost is outrageous, and for most, any assets they have are gone in a matter of months. My mothers rent is raised annually, can barely afford the home healthcare she needs, and she’s charged incessant fees for a toilet overflowing, a smoke alarm going off, or losing her keys, or a parking space, or a garage. It’s not that families don’t care, it’s that we don’t really have much of a choice, our hands our tied. We do the best we can.

I don’t have the answers, I don’t know if there are better choices out there. But I do know this, we segregate people in this country. We worry if an African American buys the house next door, the value of my house will go down, if a poor family moves in down the street, the neighborhood will degenerate.  And we don’t have the time, the money, the space, the emotional responsibility to take our elderly parents into our homes.

It just strikes me as wrong.


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