You don’t need to be rich to live the good life. The good life is more a way of life. Not to sound too trippy but “it’s a feeling, man.” Sort of like the peace and love shared by Deadheads swaying to Jerry, or classic rock fans to Hendrix at Woodstock.
You can’t always explain why you feel a certain way. You just do.
That’s how it was for me growing up. I just felt good about my family. I liked my friends and life was good. But we weren’t rich. And it didn’t matter. We didn’t talk about our place in society. We were middle class and our place was a small single level cape in Mattapoisett.
We were a happy family.
We went on ski vacations. But we didn’t fly-first class to Vail. We drove ten hours to Quebec. Because in the 80s, the dollar went even further than the ten-hour ride.
Disney World? Check. Did it. More than a few times. But we didn’t fly first-class. Heck we didn’t fly at all. We drove. In our camper. A 21-foot refrigerator on wheels. Winnebago called it the Brave. They somehow knew you had to be to own one.
I remember the Hoop Dee Doo Revue, tubing at River Country and breaking down on the George Washington Bridge on the way home.
One of the happiest days of my life was seeing how happy my dad was when he said to us on the sky gondola at Disney “this is the best place in the world for kids.” He believed it. We did to.
But today that happiness in families seems to be fleeting because the middle-class is shrinking.
In his book, Ship of Fools, Tucker Carlson talks about the middle class of the 80s, and how it wasn’t unusual for this huge swath of lower to upper-middle-class Americans to cross paths at McDonald’s, check in to a motel, or drive long distances for a vacation. It’s what you did.
But times have changed. And not in a good way. Because the middle-class is vanishing—the feeling that our kids will do better than us.
Today it’s the elites calling the shots. I use that word elite not as a compliment. Hardly. It’s the elites running Washington and the nation’s boardrooms, and it’s a diminished middle-class paying the price.
We can talk until we’re blue in the face about the loss of small-town America. But if the elites in America don’t understand the country you grew up in, how will they ever? How do you explain a feeling to a group so numb from another face lift they can’t feel their lips, never mind your feelings?
Who has time?
Here’s an example. Most of my day is spent working with investors like you. The rest of my day is spent with my family. And when I’m not working I’m with them at their games, at home or the occasional vacation. I didn’t work in the town I grew up in like my dad did as a realtor or my mom teaching sixth grade. I went to Babson, got a job at Fidelity and worked in Boston.
I didn’t have time to forge relationships in my new hometown because I was working all the time. There are only so many hours in a day.
The problem with this is all of the time my family spent developing working relationships in my home town were basically gone. All of the time I spent in Mattapoisett for example going to school and being with friends was the past. But when I would go to the post office as a kid with my dad, he knew everybody.
“Hi, Randy” someone would say to him.
“Hey, Joe, how are you today?” he’d reply.
I remember asking him how he knew so many people in town, and he would tell me it was from his work. And then he’d tell me all about Joe. How do you explain what a 5,000 piece jig saw puzzle looks like talking about the intricacies of one piece?
What my parents and others in town had was trust, or at least an understanding of where one another stood on certain issues. It’s something that’s created over many years. Time is a most valuable commodity.
The backbone of America is our small towns and our small business. But it begs the question, how can they thrive when no one knows each other? When there’s no time for trust to be developed over living together for a lifetime.
That is at the root of Tucker Carlson’s comment about a country measuring its greatness through GDP. It’s idiotic. Because it leaves behind so many Americans.
Tucker is speaking from the heart about a feeling that is lost in America.
He’s not coming from the right or left, he’s talking about right vs. wrong. The abandonment of our small-town roots is wrong. A small group of elites ruling our government and corporations is wrong. They don’t relate to you and me. They fly private to their private ski mountains and turn their nose up to Disney World and call their Americans fat and stupid.
Tucker is making a case that’s more about Woodstock, man, than common stocks. Poverty doesn’t cause instability. Envy does. And the election of Trump and the reelection of Trump is a message to the elites.
But so is the socialist groundswell. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hits the same nerve as Trump has hit. It’s called the screw you nerve, and it votes. But who wins in AOC’s Green New Deal America? Certainly not small towns or businesses.
What Tucker is fighting for every night is for small town America, where you don’t have to be rich to live the good life. It’s a feeling that our country was founded upon. It may not be easy to explain, but it can be explained. Some might call it love. Somehow our founders were able to get that feeling down on paper.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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