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For the past few decades, the American Dream has become a nightmare for many in this country.  For them it is a dream deferred, so elusive has become its reach.

Undoubtedly, most of you are familiar with F. Scott Fitzgerald's quintessentially American novel about the Roaring Twenties, The Great Gatsby.  With its themes of extravagance, self-centeredness, opulence, deflated idealism, greed, disillusionment, and relentless (often, illegal) pursuit of material success, the novel defined how the 1% conducted themselves in the 1920s.  Fitzgerald convincingly demonstrated that lacking a moral foundation and sustainable values, the means used by some of his characters resulted in a perversion of an earlier, achievable model of the dream.  Money was the new god and those who knew best how to process and manipulate it - regardless of the lives ruined and pain inflicted upon others - became the new Caesars.  If there were countless, innocent victims along their paths to power and glory, well, that was just collateral damage.

So it is today.  Almost a century later, you would recognize the sentiments expressed in this 2012 article from the Guardian newspaper

The Great Gatsby and the American Dream

The American dream comes true for just 1%: for the other 99%, only discontent and bitterness await, ressentiment on a mass scale. More than 15 years later, the Marxist critics Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer used a similar image of the typist who believed she would be a movie star to reveal the American dream as a rigged lottery that no one wins but everyone plays.  Today, almost 100 years after "The Swimmers" appeared, the Occupy movement has clenched its fist around the same angry realisation that we are all the 99%, not the 1%.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future, that year by year receded before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

In one of the most memorable concluding lines in American literature, Fitzgerald reassures us in The Great Gatsby (p. 189) that when everyday life inevitably throws us a few curve balls, how we conduct ourselves in times of adversity helps to overcome a problematic past and unlike Jay Gatsby, realistically get a bit closer to our dreams.  These may yet be attainable in some form for a few of us.

Prior to the great financial collapse of 2008, most Americans felt that if they played by the rules, diligently paid their taxes, and engaged in good citizenry that they, too, would get a fair share of the national economic pie while faring better than previous generations.  For the past almost six years, however, this economic downturn and sluggishness has ruined countless lives.  Because of systemic - rather than personal - failures, millions have lost their jobs, houses, businesses, and other sources of income.  Family ties have been weakened or, at the very least, severely strained in one way, shape, or form.  Hope has been replaced by despondency and despair.  Fear of the unknown has been widespread and an uncertain future awaits the unemployed and underemployed with millions discouraged and dropping out of the job market.  Let's not forget them.  

In the 1920s when Fitzgerald brilliantly captured an important moment in time in this country's history, there was virtually no social safety net for the poor.  Even in this day and age, governments will only do so much for the needy amongst us.  Yet, in their darkest hours, Americans have always retained some sense of optimism and extended others a helping hand.  Economic conditions will, our political leaders tell us, improve over time, but we are not there yet.  Until the dawn of that day when economic misery gives way to prosperity and human suffering is significantly diminished, we must, to the extent possible, take care of our own.

Two recent diaries detailed the numerous family health problems faced by a longtime member of this community, tonyahky.  

As you can read in these diaries, with a very ill child, facing a life-threatening medical condition herself, losing her job due to illness, and living in less-than-desirable conditions, black mold in Tonya's apartment has exacerbated an already serious situation.  A months-long effort by Aji, Kitsap River, and others on Daily Kos has resulted in a long-term plan which should alleviate most of these problems.  It requires a bit of money, but we are all keeping our fingers crossed that this community will come through for her.

Tonya herself put up this plea for assistance.  Her story is heartbreaking and in spite of heavy odds stacked against her, she is pushing forward to provide security for her children and herself. To paraphrase Fitzgerald, she is beating on against the swirling, dangerous currents of life.  

This is her story

 photo FBAvatarSketchofTonya_zps2aa87d02.jpg

As many of you know, I have been very sick over the last several months. Last summer, I was diagnosed with a large fibroid tumor and was told I would need a total hysterectomy. While hospitalized for the hysterectomy,it was discovered that I also had autoimmune hemolytic anemia, due to what was likely lupus, and that I had a serious lung infection which caused permanent damage to my right lung. So I was placed on steroids and given a blood transfusion to treat the anemia, and given some powerful antibiotics to treat the pneumonia. After returning home from the hospital and having a lot of tests done, the doctors' suspicions of lupus were confirmed--and I was told that we need to move, because the mold in my apartment may have been responsible for the lung infection I had, and that it may be aggravating my lupus symptoms to boot.

My children have also had a lot of respiratory illnesses since we have lived here, so no doubt, the mold in this place is hurting them too. And of course, the landlord won't fix it.

However, you can't move if you don't have money--so I went, as soon as I believed I was able, and found a job. Just a few weeks after I started working again, I passed out at work, and was sent to the hospital--where it was discovered that the hemolytic anemia had returned--and I would need yet another blood transfusion. The doctor told me I am going to have to be on steroids and some other medications for the rest of my life in order to keep the lupus under control.

So now, I'm trying to raise money to help me and my children get moved out of this apartment and into a mobile home I found, and to help us get some bills caught up that I am behind on, like our electric bill. In addition to being clean and safe or us to live in, the mobile home will be a little less expensive to live in--so with the income we already have coming in every month, we won't have to worry about getting behind on bills as much.

Thanks everyone for any help you can give us.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to have healthy children; possess a college degree, even post-graduate degrees; hold steady jobs, or own businesses; and perhaps be privileged enough to have inherited some money, we should count our blessings and consider ourselves lucky.  Many of our fellow citizens have absolutely nothing. Even with lots of people enrolling through the Affordable Care Act, millions more remain ineligible and will have to survive without health insurance coverage.  It is not too much of an exaggeration to assert that they are one major illness away from economic catastrophe or bankruptcy.  A bit of bad luck here and there and many of us could as easily be in that unenviable position.

It will probably not surprise you that every time we make an appeal like this, it is almost always for a female community member.  The reasons should be obvious to anyone who follows domestic politics - even on a casual basis.  It should not only be a policy concern for legislators, but outrage everyone with a sense of decency and fairness.

How You Can Help

I hope that you look within your heart to contribute as much as you can.  I am appealing to the better angels of your nature to do so as every little bit helps.  As detailed above, the goal of this fundraiser is to raise $5,000 for Tonya and her four children. We presently stand at under $1,500.  If we could get close to that goal by tonight, that would be fantastic!

PLEASE DONATE GENEROUSLY.  Here's the DONATION LINK for Tonya and her kids at gofundme.  Thank you.

If you're unfamiliar with it, you can read more about what GoFundMe is and how it works.
Is there a fundamental difference on a human level between the haves and have-nots in society?  Actually, no - as Author George Orwell pointed out in Down and Out in Paris and London, written in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression

In reality there is no such difference. The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit. Change places, and handy dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Everyone who has mixed on equal terms with the poor knows this quite well.  But the trouble is that intelligent, cultivated people, the very people who might be expected to have liberal opinions, never do mix with the poor.  For what do the majority of educated people know about poverty?  

The embedded video of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" is a haunting version by Odetta and Dr. John.  This video updates its relevance to the poor and disenfranchised prevalent in our nation today. Based on a Russian-Jewish lullaby, it was written in 1931 during the Great Depression by Yip Harburg, who was later blacklisted during the McCarthy era.  When first performed, the song was considered by Republicans to be anti-capitalist propaganda.  

Please help Tonya and her children as much as your circumstances permit.  If for some reason you are unable to donate through gofundme and would like to mail a check to her, please email to get her mailing address.

Thanks again for your generosity now and in the past.

Originally posted to Community Fundraisers on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 03:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, Support the Dream Defenders, An Ear for Music, Protest Music, DK Poli, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, DKOMA, Electronic America: Progressives Film, music & Arts Group, RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, Hunger in America, Kossacks for the Homeless Person, My Old Kentucky Kos, and Appalachian Journal.


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