Is This The American Dream?

Increasingly, we are being forced to recognize the reality and repercussions of where this lockdown is leading us nationally, and even globally. In the name of “voluntary caution” we’ve hidden in our homes, striving to save our own necks or the necks of those we love. But the morning is rising, and when we throw away our masks, what will we see but that we have slit every other man’s neck only to still find blood on our own? 

For without the sweat of toil, every man is doomed to bleed. Self-preservation is worthless at the feet of paranoia. 

To speak of the economy has become as distasteful as the topic of politics; as if economics’ sole weight is money—pure gold wrought from greed out of the depths of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness. But just as politics can not be simplified to mean “shady business”, neither can one say that those who care about the future of humanity do not love those who are currently suffering. 

And yet … because of the fear of death, we have forced many into unnecessary and possibly irreparable suffering. 

I interviewed four small businesses.

“No matter what we do, the death rate is 100%. We pretend that we can dodge death, but we can’t,” says Blake, who is currently receiving unemployment compensation. 

Though their family business was deemed essential by the state of Washington, they have struggled to stay afloat due to many of their suppliers having shut down. “We have outstanding orders to install cabinets, but we just can’t do the jobs because of the COVID-19 situation. Prior to this, most of our business was flooring, installing cabinets, and such. Less than a third of our sales were lumber, and now that’s pretty much all we’re selling.” 

Out of seven employees, three are currently laid off, and the others have taken large pay cuts despite having to work longer hours. 

When asked if he believed this would affect him or his business long term, he said, “I am concerned. I am not the only guy or business that will need to play catch-up. Already, our business does not have a lot of wiggle room, and usually, this is our busy season.”

He says they own most of their business, but still owe some to the bank. Because they had bought more than they are now able to sell, they are in debt and are still unsure if they will or should apply for a business loan. 

“This is promoting division. There are those who are good and hide in their houses and those who are bad and think it’s a scam. It’s not really a liberal or conservative issue. It’s a thinking and not-thinking issue. And church leaders are a disappointment. They don’t have to force old people to attend. But they are afraid of losing their 501(c)(3) status. Our sheriff has said he doesn’t plan on enforcing anything at this time. And we have been ignoring all the guidelines to the best of our abilities.”

Blake says, “ I just don’t see how doing nothing has ever saved lives.”

Tara runs a pet-grooming business, but she was not deemed essential and felt compelled to shut. “But big corporate shops are still open, like Petco, because they sell dog food. I do not qualify for any government loans or grants because I do not have employees, not to mention the government ran out of funds anyways. But I am blessed because my husband still has work. And I am more worried about my clients and their pets.” 

“Though I am deemed non-essential, in a lot of ways we are very essential. We have clients whose dogs have skin issues and need specialized baths, and we have clients who are unable to properly brush their dogs causing mats and skin issues. And nails not being trimmed properly can hurt some older folks as well. Long term, if this continues, I will have to choose to shut down my grooming shop as I can’t keep paying rent and insurance.”

“I know a lot of groomers who are in horrible, difficult positions. I have a friend who has two shops and hasn’t been approved for any loans. I have chosen not to be open because I wanted to help flatten the curve. I also don’t want to lose my license or be fined. That would devastate our family. But for other groomers, this was their only income, and they are unable to pay their own rent and utilities and food. This is making some groomers take a tough choice and open up under the table just so they can survive. And there is the possibility of being fined up to $250,000, loss of their licenses, and jail time. There is already a groomer who has been charged with a misdemeanor.”

Nancy runs a cleaning agency in California called Sunny Maids. They were deemed an essential service, but because of fear of the virus, many of the cleaning services she represents have quit, and three-quarters of their clients have canceled. “There’s no more cash flow. And so far I’ve been denied loans because I am an agency, not an employer.” 

Next week she will have to decide whether or not to close her agency. “This has been a death warrant for all small businesses. We are drying up. Two months is too long.” She believes in the next two to eight weeks, due to farmers having to throw out produce and dump milk, that we will start to see famine. “The food chain has been interrupted.”

Nancy and her husband have lived on their farm for thirty years, but if they are not able to supplement their income they are at risk of losing their entire life’s work. “We had no electricity here for the first eleven years. We have suffered for that piece of property. And now we might lose it. But I’ve lifted my hands in the air. It is all God’s.”

But is it fair to blame all of this on a small virus or even a world-wide lockdown? 

Can we rightly say that our economy is ruined because of a sudden clog in the wheel? 

In my home state of Montana, small businesses are also struggling. My father’s favorite auto-parts store, CarQuest, is shutting down mid-April. When I interviewed the manager, Brenda, she told me, “We are not closing because of the virus. I have been the manager here for a year and a half. And before me, there were many managers in and out. It’s been a hard, stressful choice. Property taxes are high. Rent last year was $2,800 a month. This year it was $6,000.There was not enough inventory, and employees wanted too much. It just wasn’t evening out. I’m a single mom and have to keep working, but because of all this I’ve also had to sometimes bring my boy to work.”

When asked if she has a job lined up, she said she did, but that she was also sad to be leaving. But when asked how she thought the virus might affect the economy she said, “I’m worried, but it might reset the economy and force prices down.” 

And she is right that our economy has needed help for some time. In Bozeman, it is hard to find an apartment for under $1,800 a month. When looking at housing, there are no “affordable” options; you are looking at $350,000 to $500,000. We have spoken of how Trump has been good for the economy, but now we have a situation we haven’t seen the likes of since the Great Depression: inflation, fuel, housing, groceries, everything. 

We’ve believed that our economy is good and has been striving to live under a pretense of wealth that we were barely managing to contain month to month. 

And when the world collapsed for a single month, the economy showed it’s true value. 

We are not a nation of wealth, but of debt. We are not a free market, but rather we are relying on the benefits of government handouts and surfacing socialism. Many of us still have our deep cushions and are not fully aware of just how awful it is and will be. But more are starting to see and to feel just what is happening. 

Even CNN said, “There is no going back. There are going to be some permanent changes.”

My question though, is who gets to decide which changes remain?

Will we return to the principles of what it means to be free? Will we prove that we are Americans, ready, and willing to rebuild dreams out of nothing? Or will we wait at home as the government forms the truest socialistic nation this world has ever known? 

You are the one that gets to decide if your governor is your monarch or your public servant. You are the one who either determines his wages or pays your taxes. 

The economy matters because your future matters. But you may need to face your fear, lift your chin, show your neck, and raise your voice. 

Do you have what it takes to prove to the world that you are a descendant of those that left dictatorships to be a sovereign under their own rights granted by God alone? Or will you believe the lie that you are privileged to be forced to stay at home? 

The choice is yours. The path lies just outside your front door. You are the one that determines whether or not Blake, Tara, Nancy, Brenda, and their families will have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. 


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