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Chatterbox: Art imitating life


It’s no secret to anyone who ever watched the television series “Little House on the Prairie,” based on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, that, happy or sad, not one episode ended with dry eyes. When my children were growing up, television viewing was carefully controlled, but every weeknight at 5 p.m., we sat down for our daily cry with this impeccably written, beautifully acted and directed series … a dose of good, old-fashioned values.

It was common knowledge that the series’ final episode was the weeper of all weepers. Some of us knew that the actual set was used for the climactic ending. I had never seen it, until, tonight; it ended, literally, five minutes ago. It was, indeed, telling far more than just a dramatic, or even emotional, story. It was, as so many were, making a statement valid in the lives we live even now, every day in this nation, but none was ever as profound, and pertinent, as this one was … and none ever remained eerily timelier.

“Little House” is endlessly in syndication, but aired for nine years. In the concluding episode, the residents of Walnut Grove are devastated to find out that their land is not part of the Homestead Act. The script didn’t fail to clearly note, too, that the land had been stolen from the indigenous peoples, just as it was now being stolen from the settlers. Enlightened and heartbroken, the town’s people cannot argue with the powerful “big boys”; they’ve built their homes, farms, businesses, lives and futures on land that doesn’t belong to them. They don’t own the dirt that they brought to life and fruition, and their town would be taken over by a group of wealthy strangers who own that dirt and, now, dictated the settlers’ lives as well.

We’ve discussed this before, but constant reiteration of warnings is imperative for awareness. Still today, Americans continue to struggle as, systematically, the rich, powerful, and connected continue to take more and more of what the people have sacrificed to build, piece by piece. Just as the residents of Walnut Grove watched the powerful suits take what the townspeople had built through a lifetime, Americans, today, are watching more and more of what many simple people have legitimately earned the hard way, being surreptitiously stolen via dubious activity and slick legislation.

The less-heeled of this nation have always served and protected, dug deep, sacrificed, given ‘til it hurt, made do, and followed the rules, to build this country. Now, to our own detriment, we the people, too humble and too patient too often, are discovering and rediscovering a painful truth: too much of it America and its wealth was and is, surreptitiously, being sold out from under us, piece by piece.

We don’t own the land when we are working for a salary that barely covers the child care we need to just go to work, or when an insurance industry forces us to experiment with cheaper medications rather than renewing our proven prescriptions, or when we find out that our survival is brokered on the profit margin of our insurance corporation, dictated by a company representative who is concerned with stock value and knows nothing about medicine. We don’t own the land when our ability to keep our loved ones alive is a commodity.

The people of Walnut Grove watched their lives, all they had created, believed to be theirs, and what they had sweat and sacrificed for, taken from them for sheer profit. Like them, our hands are often tied and our options limited as we, today, watch that same thing happen repeatedly.

Many years ago, I chatted with a doctor who is a personal friend. He left the hospital and the work he loved, when a corporation took over that hospital. He sat in meetings whereat patients’ care was being determined by the cost of treatment ... factored into the hospital’s profit margins. He began to watch people, who could be saved, being left to die because it was just “better for the company’s bottom line.”

The climactic ending of the “Little House” television series was incredibly sad and the cast members legitimately cried on screen as Walnut Grove fell. Too many Americans, today, work to little avail; many struggle to just stay afloat, and many go under in America’s profit-driven apathy.

For we the people, this isn’t a script; The “Little House” finale wasn’t either; it was art imitating life ... our life, and that is as sad as America’s finale can get.

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