As Denzel Washington playing Malcolm X would say, “America’s been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray” into thinking we could all be wealthy if we worked hard enough. At worst, everyone could become part of the middle class. In reality, far too many people are living paycheck to paycheck, aka the “working poor,” or living out on the streets. Where is the financial security that the generations before us once held? These are some of the central questions at the heart of the documentary Americonned by writer/director Sean Claffey and co-writers David Pederson and Christopher Seward.
In the U.S. alone, the movie says that “there has been an upward redistribution of over $50 trillion from the bottom 90% to the top 1% over the last 40 years.” This disparity has dramatically eroded the middle class and led to mass homelessness. Politicians and judges have paved the way for this with rulings such as Citizens United, where politicians do not have to disclose how much money they are being paid off and by whom. Unfortunately, the system is rigged, and normal people don’t have much of a chance.
Americonned follows everyday people such as Amazon worker turned activist Chris Smalls, who was fired for fighting to unionize workers at the mega-corporation. The documentary shows how important unions have been in providing workers with liveable wages and basic human rights throughout the history of the United States. It’s no surprise that in modern times unions have been getting crushed as the rich get richer.
“…dramatically eroded the middle class and led to mass homelessness.”
We are then introduced to working moms Ana and Christina. They are just trying to live day by day with what little means that they have to get by. Christina openly talks with her young son about the possibility of having a heart attack due to all the stress and how the family would have to fend for themselves in that scenario. Another family is shown sliding down from the middle class into poverty after the father loses his engineering job, so they must move away and be torn apart from the human connections they spent years building. It’s heartbreaking that the “American Dream” has become a nightmare to far too many people.
Jenny DePaul, the founder of Project Kind, is a prominent contributor to helping in the fight against homelessness. We witness her doing all she can by giving out food and necessities to those in need. She says the homeless problem has gotten so out of control in recent times that it’s difficult for her to keep up. Is this the kind of world we want for future generations?
Americonned shines a light on the grim reality we’re facing as a nation and tries to offer solutions. It reminds me of a book I read in a sociology class in college that left a considerable impact, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. She’s a journalist who took low-paying jobs nationwide and documented her struggles in the book. It was written 25 years ago, and things have only gotten much worse, as shown in this film.
Watching Americonned leaves you feeling like anchorman Howard Beale in Network, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Real change will not happen until enough influential people experience that feeling, but as the film shows, we can all play a part in helping our fellow humans.
"…shines a light on the grim reality we're facing as a nation..."