For a struggling middle class family, an American hug

Last night’s Frontline episode profiling two middle-class families who plunged into poverty through no particular fault of their own will do little to fix the problems faced by people who once were middle-class working Americans. But maybe it can help them feel less like failures.

The Stanley family, one of the families profiled, is at least getting a hug from America today after the matriarch of the close-knit group sobbed that she felt like a failure, after a lifetime of working hard and buying into the proposition that the only thing separating failure from success in America is the willingness to work hard enough.

Today, her eldest son, the only one who got a college education thanks to his parents’ willingness to put some of it on their credit card, held a followup chat online, and posted the family’s Facebook page:

Keith Stanley said his family had a meeting before agreeing to be part of the documentary to try to anticipate what would happen if an entire nation knew of their struggle.

For at least this afternoon, America’s middle class is being viewed in the way it once was: heroic.

  • Jake

    As a 32 year old who grew up in a lower middle class home, I feel like I have a good grasp on this duality. I grew up in a single parent home with my mom, and she never graduated college. She managed to grab onto a local factory job in the mid 80’s. It wasn’t a great job, but she stuck with it, worked hard, and showed up on time every day. It took awhile, but by the early 90’s, we had a modest 3 bedroom house (owned, not rented), plenty of good food, good health care, even a few creature comforts like cable TV and some local vacations every summer.

    I think about that now, and realize that what my mom managed to pull off would be impossible now. That time period of the late 80’s was the very end of being able to pull a decent “middle class” living without a college degree, just by working hard and showing up on time everyday without complaining.

    That’s not attainable anymore. Many of my friends graduated college 10 years ago, and yet many of them are still seeking a “career” while they bounce around from underemployment to seemingly promising jobs that evaporate eventually.

    That’s not the mark of the “Number One” country in the world, as they incessantly punch down our throats. It’s a second rate wannabe. The American Dream is dead. They put it in an antique picture frame and sold it at Wal-Mart back in 1993, for the everyday low price of $2.99.