Updated 05:52 pm EDT, August 30, 2023

Published 11:49 am EDT, August 9, 2023

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

Lost Dreams

By Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta

Is it unjust to ignore white Americans' lost dreams?

By Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta

Updated 05:52 pm EDT, August 30, 2023

Published 11:49 am EDT, August 9, 2023

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

We are mistaken. We seem to imagine that losing our dreams to the wiles of bad luck or a shocking circumstance will provoke in us a pale lassitude that allows us to sink into a foggy sense of failure. Yet this sentimental bittersweet idea is a complete farce. When we lose our dreams, we rarely act like the tragic Ophelia, who wallowed in a world of lethargy and melancholy when Hamlet told her to suck it up and move on.

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

Instead, when most humans lose their dreams, intense, chaotic feelings of panic and red-hot rage surge out. When the bitter realization that a cherished golden dream is ripped away, there is a desire to act out, rage, and punish. For some of us, if our dreams burn away? Our instinctive reaction is to hate and want the rest of the world to burn with us. This is the forgotten situation that working-class and poor white Americans face as they lose their increasingly microscopic but all too real advantages in our society.

America is truly marvelous, even with the current cacophony of discordant and hypocritical voices screaming in disagreement. Through this maelstrom of emotion, it is almost impossible to discern between cold-as-ice facts and our slick, soggy ego-centric opinions. But a key question remains for all of us, regardless of wealth, gender, race, or culture. Why are working-class Americans so disillusioned? Why do they want the rest of us to burn?

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

There is a giddy romantic notion that the birth of America was founded on equality and fairness. We all are asked to imagine a group of adventurous and brave souls that boldly left a class-conscious and sneering gray Europe to live as equals in North America’s verdant, fertile colonies. It is a lovely thought, except for the inconvenient reality of many people like Anthony and Isabella. They represent the reality, if not the majority; they were two Ndongo West Africans enslaved and ignominiously brought over on the English Privateer ship called the White Lion. Ironically these non-whites arrived in Fort Comport in August 1619, 15 months before the officious and priggish travelers from the Mayflower.

But these poor enslaved people were only the most obvious tip of a terribly unjust society in the New World. Perhaps there was an original dream of starting new lives in the colonies that would forget the old-world prejudices. Maybe we did intend to narrow the economic and social distance between indentured servants, clerks, merchants, and wealthy landowners. But this never occurred. No one should be shocked to discover that a new rigid class system was ruthlessly enforced almost as soon as the newly arrived colonists brushed the lice from their hair. 

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

But to be fair, America mostly rejected the idea of inherited dominance by being born into a governing family. Instead, early North America was the accurate representation of capitalism gone mad. Of course, there were ludicrous attempts to enshrine privilege through elitism of some sort. Whether it was founded on religious bigotry or the self-deluded belief that some of the settlers came from a better sort of thief. But the cynical truth was that Europe treated the new world as a place to abandon the unwanted and disdained from their shores. We are all descended from European, African, and Asian trash. To deny this is to be amusingly pretentious.

Nonetheless, class distinctions were installed and then maintained through the right of land ownership. Land in the New World was the primary source of wealth, and people without land were cattle to be ridden and used. Thus, the stigma of being a “Swamp Yankee,” a “Peon,” or a “Slave” became set in stone. By the time of independence, the white underclass, the future enraged people we have ignored, were found just about everywhere in the new country. Still, perhaps they most conspicuously congregated in rural or less developed areas.

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

Poor whites without property spread west and south across the country. These people were hated by the elite and were described in some of the most unflattering terms. The term “white trash” was first identified in print as early as 1821. Understanding this background is essential because it helps explain where this current sense of fear, outrage, and self-pity originated. As our New World elites sat smugly in their city dwellings, unfairly looking down on their noses at their rural cousins, everyone still had a safety valve to prevent additional civil disturbances. That safety valve came in the form of enslaved African Americans and any new English-free immigrants that came stumbling onshore.

As long as there were unfortunates even worse off than poor whites, there was still an advantage to be nurtured. Strangely enough, during the civil war, poor whites were mostly unenthusiastic in fighting to maintain the rights of the slaveholding planters of the Deep South. At that time, all whites felt a sense of superiority against all non-whites but remember, you had to be reasonably rich to enslave people. It was not something a poor white family in western Virginia could attain. The heartbreak of today’s racial strife and suspicion is that it doesn’t originate from direct first-hand experience of blacks; instead, it comes from the suspicion and fear of blacks and immigrants being different and poor whites living in a bubble of homogeneity.

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan’s economic policies started the erosion of the dreams of poor white Americans. It is not only ironic but also tragic farce that our national memories distort the legacy of Reagan. He was, without a doubt, a very charming man whose sweet smile hid the paper-thin illusion that he was not a part of the elite. Reagan hid his cavalier attitude of “fuck the lazy and uneducated” as he presided over an unprecedented widening gap between the rich and everyone else. His term of office is well known in economic circles for declining wages and living standards for most Americans. 

His sweet-sounding lies undermined labor unions which until then had worked to protect poor working white and black families. His lies and racial profiling dramatically increased poverty, homelessness, and the normalization of racial contempt. Reagan was the man who gloried in the retelling of the fictional story of “Welfare inner-city queens” milking the system to own Cadillacs and have dozens of babies. To add insult to already grievous injury, Reagan led the fight to deregulate the financial industry, which provided us the warm, loving gift of the 2008 mortgage meltdown, credit loss, and globalization of the supply chain. Reagan started the economic landslide crushing poorer white Americans. Still, since then, every political and economic leader of both parties has embraced the values of greed, selfishness, fiscal irresponsibility, excess, and neglect.

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

Where does that leave us? Before Trump, Democrats, who were supposed to be bastions of the underprivileged and downtrodden, became intellectual elites that conveniently ignored that white working-class voters constituted approximately 30% of the population. That meant that over 100 million white people, a population bigger than the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy, were all given the proverbial finger by the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations for almost 20 years. 

To be just, these politicians had their attention taken away from poor whites by the “little” matters of Reagan-induced economic meltdowns, a sudden gasp-inducing realization that non-whites, women, and gays had been mistreated for at least 400 years, and finally, a new intense holy war with Islam.

It doesn’t matter. There is no defense for ignoring the dreams of that many people. Society and history isolated poor white Americans figuratively and literally. Think of Appalachia, almost completely homogenous with its gray dusty roads. Ubiquitous brown mud slathering people and possessions. Decrepit homes and cabins built not of wood or stone but of greasy white plastic and shambling overgrown gardens and fields. It is our obligation to educate and understand all our citizens, not just one or two subsets. Plato wrote, “Better be unborn than untaught, for ignorance is the root of misfortune.” The current climate of hate and discordance is what we are now reaping because of our ignorance of dreams and their consequences.

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

It is barely acknowledged that the rich, whether conservative or progressive, maintain a lightly suppressed contempt for poor whites and continue to use them as a political toy to be manipulated. Some conservative commentators have described poor white Americans as dysfunctional, downscale communities that deserve to die. Nice. But the reality is that the white American underclass has been isolated physically and emotionally and has unfortunately found solace in anger-fueled politics and the overwhelming “crank” epidemic.

Progressive analysis is no kinder to these people. The prevailing theory on the left is that the driver behind the rage, rising mortality, and drug and alcohol abuse among white Americans is despair over losing their advantages in the country’s economic order. The left is unsympathetic and potentially judges poor white Americans as self-pitying and should be more accepting of the loss of institutionalized privilege. Whether you subscribe to this theory or not, it is quite insulting and short-sighted. It suggests we continue to be ungenerous toward a huge number of fellow Americans, and they need to suck it up. This is a supremely unrealistic point of view that focuses on racial envy and the stance of ignoring 100 million American citizens.

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

J. D. Vance, who recently wrote “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” has some interesting thoughts. Vance’s family is comprised of people that remained in Appalachia and those that left for work in the Midwest and are still economically fragile. Vance, a conservative, is trying to answer the simple and understandable question of how things went wrong for his people. He wrote, “I am a hill person. So is much of America’s white working class,” he writes. “And we hill people aren’t doing very well.” He observes, “Sometimes I view members of the elite with an almost primal scorn,” and asks appropriate questions such as “Why has no else from my high school made it to the Ivy League? Why are people like me so poorly represented in America’s elite institutions?”

Many of us would look to how we conduct our lives as answers to these questions. The decisions we make and the paths we take significantly impact how our lives turn out, but it would be absurd to ignore the inheritance of our culture and families. We need to stop blaming and acknowledge that poor Americans deserve sympathy. Granted, with the rage of their lost dreams, poor white Americans make it very hard for the rest of us to demonstrate a generosity of spirit.

Public policy can help, but no unilateral government action can fix these problems. The government and corporations have presided over the rise of new monopolies, the effect of which has been to concentrate wealth in a handful of companies and regions. The government and corporations welcomed China into the World Trade Organization; more and more economists now believe that the move hastened the erosion of American manufacturing by encouraging U.S. companies to shift operations offshore. The government and corporations each did their part to weaken organized labor, which once boosted wages and strengthened the social fabric in places like the Midwest and South. More recently, the government has accelerated the coal industry’s decline on environmentally defensible grounds but with little in the way of remedies for those affected.

The lower classes have been disregarded and shunted off for as long as the United States has existed. But the separation has grown considerably in recent decades. The economy is more concentrated than ever in a handful of zero-sum-game decisions. The clustering is intensifying within regions, too. Since 1980, the share of upper-income households living with each other instead of being intermingled with more mixed-income neighborhoods has doubled. The upper echelon has increasingly sought comfort in prosperous insularity, withdrawing its abundant social capital from communities that relied on that capital’s overflow and consolidating it in oversaturated enclaves.

Photo Credits

Photographer: Flávio Iryoda
Model: Alleya Slagter
Modeling Agency: Posche Models
Fashion Stylist: Julianna Suplicki
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Anna Primac
Creative Direction: Mena Lombard, Juanita Garcia, Flávio Iryoda
Evening Gown: Yoly Muñoz Couture
Swimwear: Acqua De Luxe
Special Thanks: Tyler Molinari

We can’t ignore that white Americans in downwardly mobile areas feel despair, which appears to drive stark increases in substance abuse and suicide. Fatalism is apparent: Things were much better for poor white Americans in earlier times, and no future that maintains their advantages awaits them. The most painful comparison is not with supposedly ascendant minorities—it’s with the fortunes of one’s parents or, by now, grandparents. The demoralizing effect of decay enveloping the place you live cannot be underestimated. And the bitterness that Donald Trump has tapped into among white Americans in struggling areas is aimed not just at those of foreign extraction. It is directed toward fellow citizens who have become foreigners of a different sort, looking down on the natives if they bother to look at all.

There are no easy answers, and there is a dispiriting sense of failure in the USA. But there are paths to success if we cooperate as a nation and start forgiving, not just judging and hating. We cannot continue to ignore white Americans’ lost dreams, and if that seems unjust? Well, that is too bad. It is a population of 100 million people living in and amongst the city’s skyscrapers, dusty forests, and dry fields. They are not going anywhere, nor should they. They are a part of this country, and to admonish or punish them because they are so enraged that they want the rest of us to suffer misses the point entirely. CS Lewis once wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Whether justified or not, poor white Americans are in pain and rage from their lost dreams; the rest of us ignore them at our peril.

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