Shortcuts & Delusions: Running Down The American Dream

I have a great fear of death. It’s a reason why Woody Allen is one of my favorite comedians and filmmakers, as mortality is a constant theme in his movies (well, that and the child molestation!…J/K, those allegations have been thoroughly debunked…hell hath no fury like Mia Farrow scorned…). Ridicule is a great way to disarm something threatening, and I often make jokes when someone famous passes away. It helps to distract myself from the fact that someday my time will come, and I hope that when the Reaper’s cold, skeletal hand is upon my shoulder, guiding me to the Great Wherever, people will make a few wisecracks at my passing.

Funerals are second only to weddings when it comes to events I don’t enjoy attending. At least with a funeral, as opposed to a wedding, you’re not so drunk by the end of it (unless you’re Irish) that you have to get an Uber to take the rando you just met to a hotel on the outskirts of town to hook up with. Why do funerals have to be such somber affairs? I thought we’re supposed to be celebrating the dearly departed’s life? That’s why I don’t want people sitting around consoling each other when I go. I want a stand-up comic showcase send off; the whole thing, too, not just one act, but a host, a feature, and a headliner.

I often think of this Norm MacDonald bit, and this Paul F. Tompkins bit when someone famous, or somebody I know, kicks the bucket.

This is all a long way to go to introduce the jokes I made at the expense of Tom Petty. I put them on the Facebooks because I could not resist that Petty died from cardiac arrest and he fronted a band called The Heartbreakers. Enjoy!

“With Petty, Harrison and Orbison out of the way, Bob Dylan can finally claim the buried treasure of the Traveling Wilburys.”

“A preliminary autopsy report from the LA coroner’s office reveals that Tom Petty’s heart suffered extreme strain due to Stevie Nicks dragging it around.”

“Tom Petty has passed away from cardiac arrest. Petty, as you know, fronted a band called the Heartbreakers. We can only wonder what will be the cause of death of Julian Casablancas.”

I liked some of Petty’s songs. He’s one of those musicians that seemed like an American Everyman, just a regular down-to-earth guy who played regular old rock and roll, like Bruce Springsteen or John Cougar Mellencamp (I would lose punk rock points if I didn’t mention Mellencamp was the inspiration for the band Jon Cougar Concentration Camp). The only musicians to inhabit the American national character more than the aforementioned were those who made up The Band, which was quite the feat considering four of the five members were Canadian.

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Part of the American national character is found in the First Amendment, which contain the most important freedoms Americans enjoy. They are also the most constantly bitched about freedoms. Unless you don’t have electricity, you’re aware that one of those freedoms is being expressed by NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem. There is an unwritten rule that when the Anthem is played, you are supposed to take off your hat and stand. There has been no shortage of frothing at the mouth by those who view the players taking a knee as a sign of disrespect. The frothing has reached the point where Fox Sports has announced it will no longer air coverage of the Anthem, because if there’s one thing Fox (the home of Married…With Children and all things Seth MacFarlane) is afraid to show, it’s something in poor taste, hackneyed and derivative.

Not to be deterred, Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Jay Cutler released the following statement:

Fox Sports may stop airing the National Anthem so it won’t provoke its audience with the sight of my colored brothers kneeling, but that won’t stop me from continuing to support them in their right to protest racial injustice. Therefore, I have decided, in order to stand with my fellow Negros, I will kneel after every snap.

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A widely acknowledged part of the American Dream or national character is home ownership. The premise of this rather odd article is to explain why millennials seem uninterested in home ownership. The article was written by a millennial who is still feeling the consequences of the housing crash.

At the age of 24, making $35,000 a year working as an editorial aide at a newspaper, I bought some real estate: a 770-square-foot, one-bedroom condo in northern Virginia. This was in 2006, when the housing bubble was at its most distended. It was basically the worst time to buy a piece of real estate—especially in the DC area, where inflated prices are the norm in any market condition…

Looking back, it’s easy for strangers to armchair quarterback my path to financial ruin. I obviously wasn’t making enough on my own to afford the place, and my career choice, print journalism, has never been known for its robust earning potential…

While no down payment was required to buy the place, my parents did put down a $5,000 deposit that they recouped at closing. That’s not something a lot of 24-year-olds are able to do on their own. My parents also chipped in early with bills, with the expectation that I would take over completely within a few years. By 2008, it seemed like a sound strategy even as the crash decimated the property’s value, lowering it by roughly a third. I had a great year, making six figures thanks in part to an advance on my first book. Sadly, there was eventually an ebb to that flow.

I left a full-time editing job in 2015. I knew I was taking a risk trying to cover a monthly mortgage payment, among other bills, with income from freelance writing. Initially, I was making as much freelancing as I was at my prior job. Often, however, the glacial speed with which publications pay freelancers meant bills would come due before checks arrived, and I’d get dinged with $35 overdraft fees from my bank. The fees kept accruing, keeping me from saving any money even as I was ostensibly making enough to squirrel funds away. Then my freelance work started drying up early in 2017.

Yes, it is easy to armchair quarterback his path to financial ruin. That is because he admits to his own irresponsibility. He writes that he felt pressured by his parents into going through with the purchase, despite his own misgivings.

But he’s missing something else about home ownership and its relationship to the American Dream, and that is the idea of property rights. Though you are allowed to make renovations to your condo, and it is a space that you own rather than borrow from a landlord, you have significantly fewer freedoms with a condo as you do with a house sitting on its own parcel of land, and therein lies the value of a house. The equity value of a condo can never rival that of a house due to the inherent limitations of a condo. For regular working Middle Class people, a condo is not an asset that can subsidize retirement, and that is why the dream of home ownership should not include a conflation between the resell value of a condo and a house.

Owning a house is inextricable from the American Dream, because the American Dream includes being able to retire upon reaching advanced age, rather than having to work, as you await the cold, unforgiving specter of Death.

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And that’s the way it is, as far as you know.

This post was written by Dillon Eliassen.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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Dillon Eliassen is the Managing Editor of Being Libertarian. Dillon works in the sales department of a privately owned small company. He holds a BA in Journalism & Creative Writing from Lyndon State College, and needs only to complete his thesis for his Master’s of English from Montclair State University (something which his accomplished and beautiful wife, Alice, is continually pestering him about). He is the author of The Apathetic, available at Amazon.com. He is a self-described Thoreauvian Minarchist.

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