Just a few words about a great book.
Chasing The Red, White, and Blue: A Journey in Tocqueville’s Footsteps Through Contemporary America, by David Cohen.
My alternate blog-title was "Disparity, but not Despair-ity" but I settled on what you see above.
One thing this book says loud and clear is that the once direct relationship between hard work and the American Dream has never been more fragile.
Things have changed, and are ever changing!
Cohen's book shows us that for some, the American Dream is alive and well... but for a far greater percentage of Americans, the dream has become a nightmare. This work is a real eye-opening 20/20-like expose, and one that reads like a freight train blasting through myth.
The word "chasing" in the title is an accurate description of the pace.
The premise is brilliant and engaging.
Cohen, an award winning British/South African journalist comes to America to retrace the 170-year-old steps of Alexis De Tocqueville, writer of the famous treatise "Democracy In America".
The itinerary includes New York City; Flint, Michigan; The Ohio River Valley; The Mississippi Delta; The Deep South; and Washington, D.C.
Cohen diverts from Tocqueville's original journey only by adding California, the new frontier and command center of the information age.
What struck Tocqueville most, back in 1831, was the "equality of conditions" among the Americans then. This, and "self-interest, properly understood" were Tocqueville's greatest impressions and formed the basis of his praise of the American way of life.
Cohen is an expert on Tocqueville and is well-versed in the great man's journals. As he makes his way across America he interviews a diverse sampling (in my opinion, a well sought-out cross-section of the haves and the have-nots) and compares these findings against the fulcrum of "equality" Tocqueville described.
What does Cohen find?
An ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots!
He finds that Tocqueville's work is full of unqualified conclusions and summary statements that do not possibly reflect the general populace of America in the last half century.
Beyond being out dated and inaccurate when applied to modern times, it's questionable whether it was even all that accurate at the time it was originally written. By marginalizing his findings on blacks and Indians, Tocqueville trivialized them. By failing to qualify his conclusions he helped to perpetuate an idealized view of an America that he never saw.
Tocqueville's findings are further skewed (says Cohen) because the people he interviewed were not a balanced group. Not an unbiased cross-section of "Americans" at the time. They were always successful, professional elite (privileged aristocrats of the time) always male, and always white.
Cohen wants to avoid a similar mistake this time around, so he rides the buses to find the pulse of the common man/woman. Every indication seems to point toward a widening gap between the rich and the poor in America, and the author tells the story in an engaging, (humorous where appropriate) way. There is a section where he sends fictitious e-mails to Tocqueville and I just loved this section. The whole book is a gem, and no part lags.
By the way, it is just as NOT anti-American as it is NOT pro-Anything Else... it is just disturbingly truthful.
Amazingly, in spite of the facts, it shows that the American spirit is alive and well... as I mentioned above, there is unquestioned disparity, but not despair-ity!
But perhaps the prevailing message of this book can be expressed by the guy right there in Chapter One, the chapter on New York. There was most assuredly a time [and not that long ago] when any American would have said that a million bucks would be enough to quit working forever. This guy in New York though, he says, "Twenty million and I'll walk."
That's how far we've progressed along the "wealth" continuum... some people honestly feel that they will need twenty million before they quit chasing the red, white and blue!
How much would it take for you to quit working forever?
And if your answer is, "I would not quit working for any money because I love what I do for a living," I just want you to know in advance, I may be forced, upon reading such a response.... TO HATE YOU!
Cip, the Vocationally -Challenged Blogger