OMAHA, NE – Staring out the window of his home, seven-year-old Billy Tanner, sits silently, sipping his strawberry lemonade thinking about how good things used to be, back several years ago when things were simpler.
“It’s not like it used to be, you know?” said Tanner as he watched a neighbor play with a dog across the street. “A couple years ago the world, America, was better. Everything was better. Remember? Remember how we played? Remember how we could walk down these streets and feel safe? Feel good? Now… now things are different. Now I have to work twice as hard to have to play as much as I did three years ago. I spend three quarters of recess worrying about how much money I have in my pocket and if it will be enough to pick up a pack of (Mountain) Dew on my way home. It didn’t use to be like this.”
Tanner says the years have not been kind to him and as he gets older he finds himself wishing more and more that the world was still like it was several years ago.
“See that girl there? The one across the street? We used to play tag and I’d try to put a frog in her shirt. But then we turned six and suddenly I’m not allowed to do that anymore,” said Tanner. “When I walk past her house now she just calls me ‘Billy Bo Billy’ and goes on about her business. She doesn’t have time for me. No one has time for me.”
Work has also been hard for Tanner to come by as more neighborhood kids set up lemonade stands and an influx of new children take the limited number of yard work jobs.
“Jobs just aren’t there. I used to be able to pick up well paying chores around the house but then a couple new kids come along, a brother and a sister come along and they start taking some of my jobs,” said Tanner. “Now I’m lucky if I make more than two dollars a month. That’s not a living wage. Don’t even get me started on all the kids moving in to this neighborhood, from god knows where, who are setting up lemonade stands. We should build some kind of wall around this neighborhood to keep new kids out. A couple years ago we didn’t have as many kids here and remember how nice things were? Remember how much safer we felt? Now feel like I can’t walk down the street without some other kids getting in my face looking to cause some trouble. I heard about a kid yesterday that had a water balloon thrown in his direction. What kind of world has this become where a kid can’t walk down the street without fear of a water balloon landing within several feet of him?”
After a recent argument with his parents, Tanner was grounded for three days. His punishment also included restricted access to his PlayStation.
“My parents took issue with the fact that I won’t let my brothers play with my iPad. They say that the iPad is for the family and that it was my brother’s turn to use it but that iPad is mine. It used to be mine and now that’s just one more thing that my parents and this world has taken away from me,” said Tanner. “So what did I do? I hit my brother. I hit him with the damn iPad. It was his fault. If it wasn’t for him I’d have that iPad and I wouldn’t have been grounded. A couple years ago that sort of thing didn’t happen. But now I get grounded all the time and I can’t play my PlayStation. It’s just… I just wish I could go back. Back to a couple years ago. Things were simpler then. Things were happier then. I… was… something then. God I was something.”
While he is several years too young to vote, Tanner says he thinks America needs a new direction.“You ever notice how it’s cloudy all the time and wind cuts to the bone. Summer use to last forever and now it’s gone by the time I play my third little league game,” said Tanner. “We need a new direction in this country. We have to get things back to how they used to be. Back two years ago. I was happy then. We were all happy then.”