JULY 29 JOURNAL ENTRY: Just finished reading the fiction by Kristin Hannah titled The Four Winds. A hardscrabble account set within the period of time of the last century in America called, aptly enough, the Dust Bowl. The period just following the crash of ’29 and the Great Depression became a decade of scourge upon the land. Of course the ravages of this third decade of the 20th century are well documented and etched in our grandparents’ memories; although many of our young people today most probably know nothing about it.
As is Hannah’s style, the descriptions of the jagged edges of everyday life in the midwestern and southern United States is brutally portrayed by her detailed wordsmithing. The great migration to California, the land of milk and honey in the bountiful farm fields of the San Joaquin Valley required a harsh determination by the destitute families who came there with nothing but the rags on their backs after having held on to their farms back home for as long as they possibly could, out of pride and loyalty to the land. Beaten down by the wind and lack of rain, the arid desolation finally drove them West to the promised land.
The main character, Elsa Martinelli, is a dull, overlooked personality whose light begins to shine when she marries the erstwhile son of an upstanding, hard working Italian family, wheat farmers in her small Texas hometown. She learns about the freedom and loyalty of a loving stalwart farm couple, and bears two children with their alcoholic, idealistic yet unmotivated son, who cannot bear the hardship as time wears on. He leaves in the night, abandoning his land and family and is forgotten in the pages of the rest of the book. It is the struggle of Elsa and her young son and daughter to survive which fills the pages of the remainder of the saga. And the light that begins to shine bright through her in the strength and courage she displays in the face of the dire, life threatening challenges of 1936 America during the Great Depression which dovetails into America’s reluctant entrance into the second World War in the 1940’s.
In the last half of her book, Hannah treats the issue of discrimination; the living conditions of the migrant farm workers trapped in the cycle of debt in the ‘labor camps’ or banished to squalid living conditions in outskirts of towns, living in tents, open air or makeshift camping out of trucks and cars which brought them to California. The author brings up the specter of the organizing of the workers and their families by the communist party “Workers Alliance” and they buck the big money farm owners , and stage what would probably have been one of the first wave of strikes demanding fair wages for California field workers.
This story, yet another depiction by Ms. Hannah of life and times which seem eerily similar though distinctly juxtaposed in many ways, points in striking ways in my mind to the state of our country here in the second decade of the twenty-first century. By that I mean, a state of turmoil and chaos across the land in a variety of cultural and political arenas. Though we are facing extreme strife and the challenge of a worldwide virus out of which political policy was made which has destroyed the American as well as world economy, this challenge appears much more to be a man made one than the extremes faced in the 1930’s in America during Roosevelt’s administration.
We live, in 2021, in a time when we enjoy a plenty and a prosperity unheard of in any time in world history. We want, really, for nothing and even our poorest enjoy an unprecedented standard of living, here in America as well as worldwide. (I refer you to Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress for all the graphs, charts and stats on this) So, when we look at the disruption economically as well as the cultural and social upheavals we are currently experiencing, the times of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression may seem to mirror those in which we currently live, yet they are vastly different.
There are a couple reasons for this disparate reality in my opinion. For one thing, the twentieth century evolved within an America which embraced a hard working American society whose people believed in God and country. A country, in fact, into which they had immigrated in order to gain that freedom to live in the faith of their choosing and to work to gain economic freedom and prosperity.
Secondly, the twenty-first century has unfolded with extreme prosperity and advanced technology within an overwhelmingly secularized, progressive society. I would go so far as to say spoiled and narcissistic to the degree that greed has become the god of our culture and our political class. There is no shame in relying on the government dole, for those who have fallen through the cracks, while there is no shame in the crass disregard for any type of moral compass on the part of our technocrats and our unabashed ruling elite class in our corrupted political and bureaucratic structures.
The only stark similarity is the entrance in spades of Marxist communism, disguised as socialism, as it’s dark hand takes over our institutions and reshapes, “fundamentally transforms” as Obama declared, our beloved land. Our young people appear ripe for the picking, and we are smack dab falling into yet another turn-of-a-century tumult of destruction. This time, the responsibility of the culmination of the chaos falls on we the people ourselves. We have allowed the Dust Bowl and Depression of the 30’s to come to fruition in the form of tyranny in our own time. The tyranny of Marxist socialism.
I hope you read Kristen Hannah’s latest book. It was, coincidentally enough, written and published in 2020, during the height of the lockdowns driving the economic chaos of that year and beyond.
Feedback welcome, as usual. Your French Frog