Four years ago, which may as well be a lifetime ago, we were talking about four hundred dollars. As in, what percentage of Americans are four hundred dollars from crisis. That that is the line between moving forward, and total disaster.
Asking for charity has less stigma than it used to. It still has a stigma, no question. But how many people do you know have been assisted by a Go Fund Me page - maybe set up by someone on someone else's behalf - to get them through a difficult economic time?
Socialism remains a dirty word, state-sponsored socialism. But we practice private socialism every day. Targeted assistance. I give my money to help the people I know. But it's not much. It's never enough. Imagine if we all gave to help everyone. But Americans don't want to help everyone, because we hate those other people.
Now, to family. Whether we're teaching Salesman or Glass Menagerie, we ask the question, what do we owe family? Do we owe them anything? What do they owe us?
Takacs has created a modern sit-com with Be a Mensch, a Jewish Glass Menagerie (complete with fragile unicorn) in which the eldest son is also faced to choose between his family and self-determination, dominated by a larger-than-life absent father figure. Only in this case Abram is not dreamily self-involved as Tom Wingfield is, but harshly realistic.
It's a coming of age story, one with a much more satisfying, if troubling, conclusion than Tennessee Williams's memory play.
Who should I read tomorrow?
Sources: Could You Come Up With $400 If Disaster Struck? Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR (4/23/2016)
The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans by Neal Gablet, The Altantic (5/2016)