I grew up in a small town in central New York in the 80's and 90's. I look back fondly on that time and for many years wanted to return to where I grew up. I think the moment that changed was when I returned for the funeral of a dear friend who was lost to suicide, driving around after calling hours and seeing empty windows where there had once been stores, houses that had once been well kept now falling apart. On that gloomy day I realized that I could physically return any time but that the place I remembered and loved had changed almost beyond recognition, shrouded in a dingy hopelessness that infected my lost friend's heart.
It is hard to have hope and sense of purpose when you are unemployed, or the place you work is constantly downsizing or laying people off. How can you be optimistic that things will get better if you are working as hard as you can (if you can find work) and the best outcome you can hope for is to stay in place a little longer. That pattern has now been at work for decades and it is no longer possible to keep up appearances. There is no way to conceal or dismiss miss the slow motion destruction that turned not just my town or county or state but huge swaths of the entire country into ruin.
I'm a perceptive person. I've always enjoyed observing the world and figuring out how things work. I thrive on taking that knowledge and using it to create new things or solve problems. I'm not a sit-down-and-take-it kind of guy. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the fate of my town and all those like it and realize it didn't have to be this way. The current state of affairs in the cumulative effect of a lot of bad decisions and it fills me with burning anger to think that when given the chance to choose a better future so many have chosen selfishly instead.
Living in such a twisted system it often feels like life takes turns burning us then beating us flat. Sometimes it feels like torture but if nothing else my message is that in the hellforge of our struggle we are not being destroyed. Unbeknownst to our tormentors we are taking the shape of a deadly sharp sword that will cut through the lies, the empty promises, the greed and the bullshit that seek to keep us from building a world we actually want to live in. Those who benefit from the current status quo will fight viciously to keep it, but we will win and in the heat of that battle we will reforge America.