The End of Empire… and the Dream?

I happened across this article with accompanying video a week or so ago about a small town of around 300 in Nevada called Empire. It nearly completely dissolved due to the economy when U.S. Gypsum closed down shop. U.S.G. provided most of the jobs for the community and so when it closed it’s doors there was nowhere left to work.

I have a hard time with this. On one hand I am sad and feel rather sorry for the folks that lived in this town. I grew up in a small town myself, albeit a little larger with a population of around 4,000. My hometown was, and is, also dependent on such businesses which employ such a high number of the locals. In fact, this past few years has seen businesses shut down in much the same way and to the detriment of the town.

I can remember when I was just a young child how busy my hometown was. Downtown was still bustling with small businesses, even a Penney’s store, a theater, and a pet store that was owned by one of my neighbors. The Wal-Mart had just moved in on the outskirts of town and downtown began dwindling. Over the years it declined. The population dipped from over 4,000 (4,261 to be precise – strange how some memories just stick to our minds isn’t it?) to under 4,000 (currently 3,863 according to Wikipedia). I visited in 2007 and again in the early spring of 2011. It’s still the same little town, but not near as busy as I remember from my early days. If things don’t change I can see it becoming one of those ghost towns you hear about on the news, sorta like Empire, Nevada.

At any rate, I know what it’s like for a town to be dependent on big businesses. I do feel sorry for the people in Empire and for what they have experienced. I can only imagine what it was like when they got the news that the biggest business and primary employer was shutting their operations down there.

However, on the other hand, I find myself slightly confused. We live in America which boasts of being the land of the free and home of the brave. So many foreigners have come here from thousands of miles away seeking the freedom that we have and they have attended school and become doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc. They have found great success and continue to do so. Yet here in this small community of Americans we have so much dependency on big business that if big business leaves, the town has nothing. What happened to that freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness? What happened to independence?

Why not take this new found independence of a small town and turn it into something bigger and better than what U.S. Gypsum could ever have done? Let the community turn into a community where the people are dependent only on themselves and one another rather than a big business. If only a handful (or maybe two handfuls) of them were to start small businesses they could begin to experience freedom, liberty, and pursuit of happiness on a community-wide basis no? They could find independence and perhaps truly begin to understand what it really is.

We as a nation are facing difficult times. Money is tight for many of us. I suppose the big question to ask ourselves is do we want our nation to end up like Empire, Nevada? We can sit back and let the big guns continue running us into the ground or we can stand up and fight; work our tails off and break the grasp of big corporate business. We can turn these trials into something productive and restore our nation to it’s former glory. Let’s not allow the “American Dream” to fizzle away with the flame of hope, but rekindle it with good old fashioned hard work. Let’s reclaim our country and declare our independence.

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