Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

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Hands Across America

  

I have a friend who is involved with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Group, which was started in 1966 by the iconic musician and activist Pete Seeger in response to his despair over the pollution of the Hudson River. Today, the organization is still thriving, and during the spring and summer, the schooner Clearwater sails down the Hudson, bringing the message of activism to thousands. On Saturday, my friend was going for a meetup with other crew members of the replica 19th Century sloop, and I was lucky enough to tag along. There was a pot-luck dinner, great conversation, and some old-fashioned folk-singing. I found myself feeling very comfortable, even when events turned hippyish. Who can resist the beat of Native American drumming?

Many at the meetup were preparing to attend the big march in Washington D.C. protesting Trump’s inauguration. A few said that they would be unable to go to Washington for various reasons, but Clearwater cleverly found a way for  everyone to show their support. A large protest banner was laid out on a table, and those who knew they couldn’t attend created a handprint by pressing their ink-painted hand onto the cloth.

This isn’t slacktivism; it’s symbolism. These individuals will be present in Washington, their hand raised high for all to see, even if they aren’t physically marching in the street. Not everyone has the ability to march. Everyone does their part in the way they can.

I’ll be marching in New York. But I know many of you will be marching in Washington and Los Angeles and Chicago and Raleigh and Miami.  When I go on Facebook next week ready to go into Manhattan to march, feel free to post a photo of YOUR HAND in my Facebook comment section, and I will know you are there with me. I will be doing the exact same thing with you, our hands together in friendship, love, vulnerability, and strength.  Let’s watch out for and support each other.

Losing Things

So far, in 2017, I’ve been losing things

I lost the close relationship of a woman.

I lost the comfort of looking up to a President who beamed with decency and intelligence, as a new administration takes shape, in the likeness of a serpent.

Three days ago, I lost my umbrella, leaving it on a bus.

Two days ago, I lost my hat, leaving it on a train.

Yesterday, I lost my identity, or at least my wallet, pickpocketed in the Times Square subway station. In my wallet were my credit cards, my library card, my insurance card, and my driver’s license.  

Today, I took a break to see a matinée of the award-winning film, Moonlight.

Later, I discovered that I lost my second hat of the week, this time leaving it in the movie theater.   When I called the theater’s lost and found office, they said it was gone.  Was I losing my mind?

“There is nothing wrong with me,” I told myself.  “I am distracted.  Between the personal and the political, I feel lost.   I’m not ready for the new year yet, and my mind is rebelling against its existence.   

I grabbed a  strong cup of coffee, then went to the New York Public Library to get a replacement library card.  I glanced around at all the books on the shelves. Thousands of books stood silently, lined up like Napoleon’s soldiers waiting for action. From Knitting for Dummies to A Guide to Authoritarian Governments to the Kama Sutra.  So much to learn, so much to do, so much to fight against, so much to love and protect.

The librarian handed me my new library card. My name was written on it.  It was my first new proof of my identity in 2017 since my wallet was stolen.

I was now ready for the new year.  I had no choice.  With only my library card and twenty bucks in my pocket, I stepped outside into the winter cold to buy a new hat and umbrella.

Sixth Grade Mind

At the end of sixth grade, we all received an autograph album so we can sign our goodbyes to our classmates before we headed off to the great dark and dangerous unknown — junior high.  I found my “autograph album” yesterday  in my closet, and it was fun reading again, especially the page where I listed my favorites.  

I can only imagine my sixth grade mind’s thoughts as I scribbled in my answers.

My Favorite Author: Agatha Christie

“I don’t read children’s books like the other kids. I read adult books like my mom. I read Agatha Christie. She is an adult writer.   I am an adult reader.”

My Favorite Book: Murder on the Orient Express

“My favorite book is “Murder on the Orient Express.” Of course it is. I love trains. I have a train set, and when I am on the subway, I imagine myself on some really fancy train, like the Orient Express. The Orient Express is as fancy as they come. You can sleep on the train and they serve you steak and lobster, like at that fancy restaurant in Long Island where the waitresses dress as pilgrims. The Orient Express goes from Egypt to Europe, and all types of fancy people go on it, Dukes and Duchesses, and millionaires. Hercule Poirot is also on the train.   He  is a famous detective.  He is way smarter than even Columbo. This is his hardest case ever! But he watches, and listens, and puts two plus two together, and he figures it all out. You will never guess whodunit. If you’ve ever played Clue, this is a book you HAVE to read.

The novel is also educational.   It teaches us an important life lesson that I will remember forever. If you think logically, using your little grey cells in your brain like a detective, you will be able to figure out anything. Nothing is too complicated for the human brain to understand if you think hard enough. Life is like math, 2+2=4. I will always remember that. Think hard enough and you can figure out the answer, so everything will always be perfect.”

My Favorite College: Harvard

I have never seen Harvard in real life because I have never been to Boston.   I have only seen Harvard  in that movie that my mom likes where the college students fall in love. But I know that I must attend Harvard for college. It is the best. Even though I am only in sixth grade now, I must prepare myself to get into Harvard now, no matter if I have no fun until then. Because once you get into Harvard, you have everything. The rest of your life is pure happiness. You sit on the lawn and read books with smart guys in glasses and play Frisbee with pretty girls with long hair.  If you go to Harvard, your parents are so proud that they tell all their friends, “My son is in Harvard.”  Over and over again.   And when I come back from Harvard to Queens and go back to my sixth grade class, Sharon will want to be my partner in the dance festival. “Oh, Neil, you are back from Harvard!” she will say. “I would love it if you will be my partner for the dance festival this year. I wish I knew you were going to Harvard in sixth grade, I would have become your partner and we would be married by now. But now we can get married because you went to Harvard.”

My Favorite Profession: Lawyer or Author

I would like to be a lawyer and fight for civil rights and against those who try to ban books and say there is no evolution. I’m always in social studies coming up with a question where the teacher goes, “Good question, Neil.” I can do that in court. I will be logical as a lawyer, like Hercule Poirot as a detective. I will say, “You say blacks and whites should not go to the same schools, but WHY do you believe that? Do you have any proof why it is bad? Aren’t all children just children?  Do you know the words of Martin Luther King?  Don’t we all bleed and laugh and cry and learn? Why shouldn’t we go to the same schools?” And everyone will stand and cheer.

Maybe I’d rather be an author instead of a lawyer.  My uncle is a lawyer and is divorced, and my dad says he drinks too much. I’m not sure I would want to go to court everyday or wear a suit.  I don’t want to get divorced or drink too much.   An author may be better because he sits at home all day and writes stories, like Agatha Christie, and everyone just loves you all the time. And as an author, you can make A LOT OF MONEY!! Girls will want to be with me because I will have so much money.

My favorite motto: Do Onto Others as You Want Others To Do To You

This is my favorite saying. A famous rabbi once said that the entire Torah can be summarized by this saying. You don’t like being beaten up or mugged, so you shouldn’t do it to someone else. If someone is sick, bring them the homework. That is exactly what you want, right? If everyone follows this plan, then everyone is nice and happy. Of course, just to be logical, I might not want to beat you up because I follow my motto, but you might still beat me up, because you don’t follow the motto. Then, I’m not sure what to do. That screws up everything. But I think eventually, as society advances, we all will be good to each other. It is the way of history, like landing on the moon — progress!

How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Move On With Your Life

***Written on Christmas Eve.

If you’re in pain, searching Google on the subject of  “How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Move On With Your Life,” and you ended up here, at this blog —  tough luck, my friend.

You’ll be getting no advice from me.

Oh sure, I could spout some obvious clichés about seeing friends or focusing on hobbies, which is what you were probably expecting, but c’mon, you already know that shit, right? You don’t need me to repeat it for your benefit.

Believe me, I was once like you, and I don’t mean five years ago.  I mean FIVE MINUTES AGO when I was searching Google for “How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Move On With Your Life.”   And what did I find?   Mostly poorly written advice columns that seem to exist solely for internet traffic. Yes, a few of these posts were written by writers once heartbroken themselves, but the trauma was always back years ago, when these individuals were naive and immature, and who now are self-actualized adults able to share their experiences as experts to help others, if you buy that.

Let me say it again, just in case you are still reading this.   I cannot help you.  I am useless for that.  I’m expert-less.   I’m in the same situation as you, and only making things worse by the minute.  I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, which is already a loaded time for melancholy.   I’m sulking, boring my friends, and annoying my ex with too many emails. Everything wrong.  

What I can share with you is that, just a few minutes ago, I was  searching for a post exactly like the one you are reading right now, written by someone who was hurting NOW, as he wrote it, so his words had some urgency.   I wanted to find someone who I could relate to, so I could say to myself, “Look, there is another person feeling like a desperate idiot. Maybe I’m normal after all.”  

Now, I know how the internet works.   You might be reading this ten years from now.  I will probably be completely happy by then, married to a wonderful woman.  But the words that are on this page will exist here forever in pain, in full nakedness, the NOW still alive, in 2026, as vividly as it was on Christmas Eve, 2016.   Feel the anxiety and tears flowing from my fingertips into my laptop into the internet and into your consciousness.   I know how you feel right NOW.    Feel it.  Cry if you need it.  

I have no advice.

You might be a teenager dealing with first love.   Ha Ha, that’s the worst.   I’m not a teenager. I’m a mature man who has been around the block and endured a few breakups, even a divorce.  I’m gonna break it to you now.   You will  make the same mistakes when you are my age.   If you are sixteen, as I once was, you are going to be shocked to learn that at fifty, you’re still going to want love and sex.  You’re never going to be able to completely control your emotions.   That’s right.  Your parents still want to be in love.   Your parents like sex.   A lot.   Live with it.  

I’ve been lucky so far to have avoided the severe post-breakup misery that we see so frequently in movies, plays, and books. My divorce was hard, but there was a long stretch of on-again, off-again separation with us that created more of a slow-burn than an amputation.  With other girlfriends, it was mutual, or the obstacles seemed so overwhelming that we cried, then accepted the inevitable.  There have been friends who I’ve lusted after, and Tinder dates who have rejected me.  I’ve always managed to overcome the disappointment pretty quickly.   I’m good at making sure that logic always takes precedence over emotion.

My current situation is unique.  I’ve never been where I wanted more from a woman, but the other wanted to move on.  It sucks. 

I can’t verbalize exactly why this feels different, but I can feel it in my bones   We were friends for a long time, and constantly chatted and called, several times a day.   Social media is great for instant access, but has its dark side.  When you break-up with someone, you are forced to see the tweets about her new boyfriend.  You have to be a strong and adjusted man to find joy in the romantic happiness of your ex-girlfriend when you are still feeling emotion.  

Again, I can give you no advice. There is no one to blame. I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve been super-hard on myself.   It is Christmas Eve and I imagine everyone is happy except for myself.  What did I do wrong?   Maybe I can change her mind? Maybe I should just call her, as a friend, just to say hello? What if her boyfriend is there? Wouldn’t that be awkward? Maybe I should do it anyway?

This is all crazy.

But it also normal.

Maybe you are doing the same sort of shit.

That’s why I googled “How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Move On With Your Life.” I wanted this post.   Not someone trying to sell me an e-book, but to hear another temporary basket-case expressing the exact craziness that I felt.  

What do you do when you lose not only a girlfriend, but someone who has been your best friend? How can she — so quickly — find someone else?  Didn’t “we” have any meaning?

Sorry, suckers. No answers.  I only have the same questions as you. 

Time heals.

OK, so maybe I just did give you some advice there.

Say it again. Out loud. Time heals.   You don’t believe it. I Know you don’t believe it.  I don’t believe it either, and I’m the one fucking writing it. But it is true.  Because I believe in science. And this is science talking.   I believe in climate change.  I believe the earth goes around the sun.   So I have to believe that time truly heals.  

OK, here is another bit of practical advice. Block her on social media. For now. Maybe soon, you can become friends again.   But right  now, it’s going to be so hard to see her words and photos.

I know you are  thinking that it isn’t necessary.   That this is for the weak.  That you aren’t a crybaby pussy. That a real man can endure it.   It’s only Facebook.   Just forget it. You’re not being weak by blocking her on Facebook for awhile. You’re a fucking human.

In the beginning of December, I blocked my very first person on Facebook. It was a Trump supporter. It was a big deal to me because I’ve always taken pride in listening closely to those who I disagree with politically. This guy, however, was getting personally insulting. After much thought, I decided that he crossed a sacred boundary, and I blocked him.

Now, at the end of December, I am blocking my second person,  for a completely different reason. I miss her, and our daily texts and conversations, and it is too painful to see her with someone else.   I’m glad she is happy, but hate it at the same time.   Sorry, the truth.  Emotional truth.  

You should do the same. Block her.   For now.  

As for other advice on “How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Move On With Your Life?”

I have nothing.  

Good luck to you.

2016

Imagine a Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s about a beautiful and scrappy Southern single mom who falls for a city slicker who lives in New York City.  He says that he is a writer and photographer which apparently doesn’t mean the same thing in the North because it doesn’t require making a real living. Still, being an aw-shucks optimist, she thinks that he is the bee’s knees. He actually adores her too, but whenever he finds himself in a real relationship, he always has one foot mired in doubt. He constantly says stuff like, “this is too complicated,” “we live in different cities,” “we don’t like the same movies,” and things like that.

Eventually, our Southern heroine gets fed up with the New Yorker’s negative thinking, and as Christmas approaches, through pure serendipity, she meets a divorced Southern gentleman who only lives ten minutes from her home.

He is perfect. He loves the same football teams as her son and he can whip up the best fried chicken in minutes. Most importantly, he knows how to treat a lady. They make plans for Christmas together.

Meanwhile, back in the city of the birthplace of Trump,  the evil city slicker,  a complete ne’er-do-well with the carpetbagging black heart of a true Yankee, is suddenly awoken with jealous feelings. He sends her emails trying to make her feel guilty for finding her own happiness, attempting to manipulate her with the fancy words he picked up at some Ivy League university. What will our heroine do? Who will she choose? The true and honest local boy with the heart of grits, or the fast-talking neurotic big city jerk who only wants what he can’t have?

I think we know the end of that movie. I mean if it is a Hallmark Christmas Movie and not some Martin Scorcese film.

That was my 2016.  I am the villain.   Which usually is the best role in a movie.   But not in real life.

 I didn’t blog that much.  I have no blogging recap like in the old days.

That was my 2016.

Oh, yeah, in November, I went to Hillary Clinton’s Big Election Night Ball at the Javits Center where she was to be crowned the next leader of America.

That was my 2016.

Also, I took a lot of photographs. Some came out good.

But I’m healthy. My mom is healthy. Most of my friends are healthy.  And I’m still friends with the Southern girl.  So, it wasn’t that bad.

The Eleventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

Happy Christmahanukwanzaakah!   Welcome to the 11th annual holiday concert!

It was a tough political year for many of us, and there is much uncertainty in the world.  But let us remember that camaraderie and music are important forces for good.   They can inspire us, touch us, and lead us into battle.   There is work to be done in 2017.  Our system has failed many, especially those that are already marginalized.    One non-profit organization fighting for justice in our educational system is Being Black at School.  

Being Black at School is a national nonprofit advocacy organization focused on addressing the complexities of being a Black student in the American education system.   Our mission is to utilize data and policy analysis to foster a movement for schools that are safer and more equitable for Black students.

Please help them by donating what you can.    You can read more about their mission on their website.

Happy Holidays and enjoy the show.  

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photo by Karen Delaney Dino

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Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun performed  by Eileen of Eileen Chong

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photo by Bonnie Stewart of The Theory Blog

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The Peace Carol performed by Elly of  BugginWord 

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photo by Erin Cooper

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A British Christmas performed by Noel Katz of  There’s Gotta Be Music 

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photo by Pam of Outside Voice

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Joy performed by Elizabeth Robinson  (Kizz) of  117 Hudson and Sara Stopek

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photo by TL Roberts

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Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah  performed by Angela of  Fluid Pudding 

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photo by Carol of Buttercup Counts Her Blessings

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Christmas, Don’t be Late by Veronica (with help by Kacey Musgraves)

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photo by Louise Gleeson of Late Night Plays

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Madre Tierra performed by Charlie Miller with Danny Miller

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photo by Deborah Grinter of Blossom Bombs

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Hark the Herald Angels Sing performed by Lara Bolte

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photo by Laura

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Sugar Plum Holiday performed by Jenny Kelly and family

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photo by Jane

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Los Angeles Jingle Bells performed by Ellen Bloom of LA is My Beat

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photo by Maggie Christ of Magpie Musing

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Across the Great Divide performed by Tamar Jacobson and Tom Jacobson

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card from GK Khalsa

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River by Joni Mitchell performed by Anne Riotto

photo by Loukia of Loulou’s Views

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Auld Lang Syne performed by Elisa Camahort Page  of SheKnows Media

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photo by Lotus Carroll

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God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen performed by Tina Rowley

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photo by Martin Karaffa

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Happy Xmas performed song by Marty, Kevin, Christopher, and Colin Long

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photo by Jessica Rotenberg

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We Wish You… performed by Alejna of Collecting Tokens and family

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photo by Judy Carrino

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Black and White performed by Neil Kramer of Citizen of the Month and Junius Harris

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photo by Karen Rivers

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Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013  2014  2015

See you at next year’s event!

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NYC, The Five Boroughs, the 2017 Calendar

 

I’m always curious about what the kids want for Christmas and Hanukkah each year, so I’ve been talking to a lot of my friend’s children, asking them, “What gift are you hoping Santa Claus brings you this year?” I was expecting the answer to be some trendy Japanese Pokemon/Furby type toy, so I was shocked when your kids answered in one voice, “This Christmas I want a 2017 Calendar of New York City Photos!”

I many not have kids of my own, but I care a lot about your kids, especially about making them happy. I’m assuming you want the same for your children. They ARE the future. That’s why I’m offering these NYC photos of the five boroughs for only $16.99! Not $17. I’m beginning to understand how business works. Only $16.99!

You can buy this NYC calendar on my ETSY SITE.   Tell me what you think of my oddball choices of  NYC photos, not one skyscraper or famous site in the bunch.

 

Announcing the 11th Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

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 In 2006, when this annual concert started, it was a celebration of the  internet.    Blogging was an avenue for the sharing of personal stories.   Even if you lived in the most isolated rural town in Alaska, you found yourself, through online storytelling, befriending black bloggers in Baltimore, gay bloggers in Los Angeles, and Jewish bloggers in New York.   Christmahanukwanzaakah  was our buzzword for our changing world — one of inclusion, diversity, and empathy.

We were naive.   As our virtual world grew, the problems of the real world flooded in, and eleven years later, when we thing of the internet, we think of the worst aspects of society — the  hate, bigotry, and trolling.  

In 2008, we voted in Barack Obama, the first African-American president.   In 2016, we voted in Donald Trump.

This year’s concert is not just a celebration of the season, but an affirmation of the moral underpinning that connects all religions and creeds –

‘Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.’

Yes, we love to share our stories and photos with our friends, but we also need to remember to protect each other, speak up against the bigotry that poisons our nation, and make a difference, no matter how small.    

Especially now.  

This year, for the first time, I will be asking for  small  donations, both from concert  participants and viewers, for “Being Black at School,”  a brand-new national nonprofit advocacy organization focused on addressing the complexities of being a Black student in the American education system.

I wanted to end the concert last year because I thought we all had enough of “blogging” as we knew it.   We had moved on to more practical ways to connect with others.   But I get a feeling that we all could use a bit of love, joy, and community this year.   And singing.  

Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013  2014  2015

This year’s concert will take place on Tuesday, December 20, 2016  right here online.

It is time to hear YOU PERFORM!   YOU are the CONCERT.  That gives you about a month to work your magic.

Interested?  Sign up in the comment to perform.    You don’t necessarily need a traditional blog to participate, but at least have an online presence in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Snapchat.   Be part of this long-running tradition!

Concert FAQ:

1.  Create a video (or audio) file of you performing a holiday song.  If you need technical help, ask me.

2.  You must be performing in the audio or video.   Don’t cheat and have your cute kids doing all the work.

3.  You can sing, play an instrument, recite poetry, dance the Nutcracker, or write a symphony.

4.  Once completed, post the video on a place like YouTube and send me the link. Or just send me the file via Dropbox or email, and I will post it on YouTube.   Try to get me all files and links by Monday, December 19, 2016, the day before the concert!  That gives you plenty of time to be creative.

5.  If you are too afraid to sing a song, send me a holiday photo to decorate the concert page.  It could be of your tree, menorah, or plain ol’ winter solstice if you are a heathen.

6.  The comment section is the sign-up sheet.    By signing up, we can see who is performing what, so we can avoid having ten versions of “Jingle Bells.”

7.  Most importantly — don’t be intimidated if you can’t sing.    We like to laugh at you.

Join us in the longest-running holiday concert online — The Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, in it’s ELEVENTH blockbuster performance!

Skating by Vince Guaraldi performed by Angela Reiner Downing of Fluid Pudding

The Election of Donald Trump and the Hallmark Christmas Movie

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I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, but after it became clear that he wasn’t going to be the nominee, I instantly backed Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton, an accomplished and intelligent public servant, was the obvious choice, compared to Donald Trump, an incompetent demagogue who used hate as his campaign message.

Last week, I waited an hour to get tickets to the big Clinton Election Night Party at the Javits Center, where the symbolic “glass ceiling” would finally be broken. I was excited to be part of history.

On Election Night, the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood around the convention center was chaotic, as thousands of Clinton supporters and the mainstream media crammed into an area blocked off by armed police officers. Those who had general public tickets, like myself, were sent to the back entrance to airport-style security. A few campaign volunteers grumbled about being stuck with the regular folk when VIPS, in their Wall Street suits, were guided inside without waiting in line.  But, all in all,  we all felt like we were on the same team, confident in a Democratic victory.

By nine o’clock, we knew Trump was going to win. The crowd turned to the brightness of their iPhones in a desperate attempt to distract themselves from making eye contact with others. It was heartbreaking.

In the subway going home, you could feel the gloom in the claustrophobic underground air. A homeless man sitting alone in the corner was screaming at his demons in Spanish. The darkness outside the windows grew ominous as the metallic screeches of the train’s wheels pulled us further into the unknown. I asked myself, “How did this happen? “How did Donald Trump become elected when we were so sure that Hillary Clinton was our next President?”

When I returned home, I was too wired to sleep, but too anxious to watch the news. I needed something stupid for entertainment, television as innocuous as possible. I went to my DVR and found my choice.

Every year, around this time, the Hallmark Channel starts showing their annual Christmas movies. These “feel-good” cable movies are hopelessly corny, like the type of network “movie of the week” starring B-list actors that felt outdated even back in 1975. But like many things lowbrow, people like me have turned them into an ironic guilty pleasure. I’m even involved in a Facebook forum where we dissect each new Christmas Movie premiere on the Hallmark Channel. These movies have become so popular, that Hallmark has even started to show them as early as October! I had recorded a few last week, so I picked a rerun that I missed. On election night, with Donald Trump now as the president-elect, I watched a Hallmark Christmas movie.

One of the reasons these Hallmark Christmas movies have achieved a cult- like status is that 85% of these films are the same story told in a slightly different way. It’s amusing to watch the writers tell another yarn from the same basic plot. The protagonist is someone from the big city who travels to a small town in Middle America for some nefarious reason. It can be a real estate guy who wants to turn the “old mill” into a Chipotle, a self-absorbed actress who returns to her roots for some photoshoot about her origins, or some snooty marketing executive who wants to sell off the family farm after her father dies. All of these urban characters have disdain for these boring small towns. They are blind to the fact that they are unhappy in NYC/LA/Chicago and that their big city fiancé or fiancée is self-absorbed and unfaithful.

You know what happens. The protagonist falls in love with the small town values. He/She falls in love with a cowboy/waitress/farmhand. And he/she pays back the small town by saving the mill/the farm/the Christmas parade.

The myth of these Hallmark Christmas movies has nothing to do with the Miracle of Christmas. They are about America. Big cities and small towns need each other, and learn from each other. The big city is more trendy and knows how to get things done in the outside world. They can teach the small town citizens about modern art and rap music. The small town can teach the urban dweller how to fish/hunt/farm, and most importantly, how to live in a loving community where people care for each other.

This pop culture myth of big city/small town, and their need for each other, has been part of American culture for two generations, especially popular after the Second World War, in which the country was required to be unified, and American soldier stood with American soldier, bonding together to save our country.  Our most popular Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, is about a small town man, George Bailey, who dreams of moving to the big city and living the exciting life, like his big-shot, college-educated brother. Instead, he is trapped in a crappy old town, living in a drafty old house with a broken staircase. But what is the final message of the film? Yes, George Bailey’s brother become a war hero, but it is George who saves the town and America’s values from Mr. Potter. George is as important as any soldier. He didn’t march into Berlin, but held the fort at home. Bedford Falls, and George’s values, is why America was fighting.   Small town values. America’s cities were important to this country, but if we let them create the values alone, we get the darkness of Pottersville.

Big city and small town must coexist or else America ceases to be. The big city is America’s muscle and brain, but the heartland is American’s heart.

As I’m watching this Hallmark movie on Election Night, enjoying this absurd romance of a lonely prima donna fashion editor from New York and a hard-working cowboy who’s wife had died, I ponder the mythology of the narrative. The myth of the big city and small town needing each other, learning from each other, was a myth that allowed us to live in the same country, to believe in one America. But as we started to watch different TV, get our news from different outlets, and follow different leaders, this all changed. The cultural interaction stopped. The cities grew more diverse and prosperous, but ignored any of the issues in the small towns, stereotyping their fellow Americans as fat racist losers who only shopped at Walmart. The small towns, at least the ones which declined as we shipped off jobs abroad, retreated into their comfort of white supremacy and anger at the elitism of the establishment. Hillary Clinton felt it was useless to woo small town America, especially in the Rust Belt. Donald Trump exploited the anger of small town America by spreading his vision of bigotry and racism.

We all discovered the real truth about our country today — the big city and small town now hate each other. Both Hallmark Christmas movies and America need a new myth.

Orange is the New Autumn

orange leaf

woman with dog

woman with popsicle

woman in harlem

woman in car

tourists in nyc

orange city

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