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As the welfare state decays, public libraries become sites of social trauma

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While we wring our hands over Trump’s subversion of the rule of law, the great national unraveling continues. The country teeters on recession. The factories he promised to save shutter and farms that were thriving when he took office face foreclosure.

Almost twenty years of a robo-war on terrorism and obscene tax cuts for the wealthy have left us deeply in debt even as our basic physical infrastructure fell into a state of disrepair. Public libraries have become a bellwether for our empire in decline, as a lack of social services has led to many libraries becoming de facto social agencies. But librarians are not trained as social workers, and many have come to suffer invective and even violence that they don’t deserve and never asked for.

Deeper Than Tick Tock Politics

So, it’s not just the things the Trump junta is doing, but what needs doing and is not getting done on Main Street. A nation as large as ours does not just fall in its capital and the decline that precedes its collapse is not easily evident in four-year election cycles.

By the same indicia we apply to the rest of the world’s nations we are in trouble — but our national hubris blinds us to the warning signs all around us.

The U.S. Census’s latest American Community Survey documents that wealth inequality, as measured by the gap between the nation’s poorest and wealthiest households, is the widest it’s ever been in the last half-a-century.

Meanwhile, the average life expectancy for Americans is on the decline for the third year in a row — the first time that has happened since World War I.

The Slide Is Wide And Local

The rate of suicide spiked by 33 percent for ages 15 to 64 between 1999 and 2016, to a level not seen since World War II. The rate of suicide for young Americans 15 to 24 years of age jumped 30 percent between 2000 and 2017.

While all the TV cameras are set up for live shots in the marble hallways of our nation’s Capitol, the story that is being missed is the misery playing out at our local public libraries where as many as an estimated two million homeless Americans spend some major portion of their day.

In and amongst this marginalized population, are people........

© Salon