This strangely titled article purports to speak to a familiar universal experience—what remains after a migration. As one who migrated, I recognize the territory.
My journey began in a thriving medium-sized city of wealth and opportunity. Everyone worked, banks lent money, men built businesses that provided employment, children played in the summer without much supervision, homes rarely stood empty during the day, the fine arts were produced in all sorts of forms and venues throughout the year and people went out to enjoy them, and families came together at punctual meal times.
The order and freedom allowed young people to dream about their future lives. My dream was pretty general. I thought it would be cool to live in different regions of America—to spend a couple decades in each of them and enjoy the full American experience over the course of my life. In large part this dream came true.
In the expanded time perception of youth when the clock moves way too slowly, one gets the impression that things are more permanent than they are. But the city of my halcyon youth could not stop time, and would not preserve that ideal combination of people and elements that surrounded my place in it.
People and capital always move. External forces create new opportunities, and diminish the potential of old exploits. Things change.
Regionally, my home area is more wealthy than ever, but the distribution of wealth, property, valuable real estate, and jobs throughout the region is all new. Except for service jobs—of which many more exist than before—the nature of capitalized skilled jobs in the region bears little resemblance to the factories that formerly dominated the region’s employment.
I have no reason to doubt that material shifts of this fundamental nature happen throughout America and the world. What happened to my home town region happens everywhere in the world, constantly.
I am lucky to have the option for nostalgia over the simpler time I grew up in. Someone who had a misfortunate childhood probably does not look back so fondly. It fascinates me that children today may in the future consider this time as the simpler more nostalgic period, and may even want to preserve it from whatever chaotic future they find themselves in.
It also fascinates me when people migrate to an area and adopt a nostalgic view of that area with an objective to return that area to the stasis of the nostalgic view they found there. It happens a lot in Elbert County.
People take a drive through here, see the trophy ranches owned by worldly billionaires, and develop a false foundation for nostalgia that does not reflect the hard scrapple circumstances of existence those who tamed this place endured. No one in their right mind would choose to return to such difficulties.
The romantic trophy ranches built with today’s money earned from other places are not relics. They are new, just as the current business climate in my original home region is new and bears little resemblance to what happened there in the past.
We cannot freeze time in a place, though many devote themselves to the pursuit. For young people looking to experience all the world has to offer, there is probably no more effective way to get them to leave home than to try to prevent change and growth.
Returning to the Rothman article that spurred these thoughts, the author seems more interested in connecting the alliterative labels: “dying,” “defunct,” “despair,” and “dystopic” to “Trump voter” than he is in adding any insight about the ebbs and flows of people, capital and economic activity in America.