David Brooks has written a compassionate piece about an older white Kentucky man who has lost his place in the world of work. In the comments section, this man is receiving advice about who to blame. But he isn’t blaming other people. He doesn’t have the luxury. He goes on trying to find a place for himself in the world. Working wherever, however he can. This is what he has in common with millions of people across the country. What changes will take place when this man joins his Latino and African American counterparts? When we stop the distinctions of urban, suburban, rural? Those without access to opportunity, to education, to work with dignity are living the same desperate story — wherever they live, whatever their color, whatever their age. There are two reactions to being written off and left out: rage or despair. We are seeing those reactions in violence and suicide. Heartbreaking neglect and destruction of human potential.
We could change this. We could stop vilifying one another. We could make wholesale meaningful investment in education and skills training across the country — across the distinctions of race, age and geography. We could stop thinking our people are the problem. We could act like the only future we have will be fueled by aspirations of our people. The hunger to earn, learn and belong is universal.