A few years ago the people who invent buzz words and phrases stole the title of a horror script I wrote and used it to describe something that already has a perfectly good name.
The Brain Drain was going to be a film about an elite team of zombie commandos sent to kill an evil zombie terrorist whoíd harvested every human brain on the planet Ė the script assumes that in an alternate and ironic and awful future, humans could be reduced to the role of cows Ė using a super vacuum called ďThe Brain DrainĒ as a way of starving the free zombie world and leveraging absolute power to himself. The story is loosely based on a rainy Saturday night when the family wagon broke down and we were forced to sleep behind a Flying J in Frackville, Pa.
Then some hack decided ďThe Brain DrainĒ sounded like a clever name for the latest ďtrendĒ of what amounts to youngsters leaving home to find decent work and restaurants that are open after 10 p.m. And it stuck. Man has it stuck. And itís taken the blame for just about everything. High taxes: brain drain. Bad roads: brain drain. More crime: brain drain. Global warming: brain drain. Unrest in the Middle East: brain drain. Forgot to use dryer sheets: brain drain. A case of Beaver Fever after a case of Old Milwaukee: brain drain. Buffalo Bills blowing it, again, against New England on MondayÖ Iím not actually sure if this brain drain. I am a life-long Bills fan, and think of the team and the city as modern manifestations of Job, from the Old Testament. We suffer, a lot. We have faith. We endure.
Any hopes of turning my Brain Drain into a movie died. Studio executives donít want something that could be confused for a heady documentary and really, really disappoint people when they found out its not. I offered to change the title Ė† to Gangrene Berets Ė but they didnít budge. Said they werenít feeling the zombie-on-zombie combat scenes. Although groundbreaking, it would be almost impossible, they said, to make re-animated corpses that are moaning, firing automatic weapons spastically into the ground and trees, and awkwardly pawing at each other in the woods look intense, or scary. The undead just arenít any good at fighting. I can accept that.
What I canít accept is the notion that people Ė young and old Ė leaving their homes in search of better lives is a trend that is new and troubling. People have been walking the planet in search of something cool since they could chase seals across berring straits, part red seas and run out of potatoes.
So what if the kids are playing kick the can a little further down the street these days? Big deal. Thatís our nature. We find. We use. We get bored. We move on. Sometimes our travels take us further out. Sometimes they bring us closer back to where we started. We go where thereís room and where weíre welcome. Most of the time without even thinking, like osmosis it seems. Or like a ride on a spinning wheel, maybe.
What do we care, anyway? We raise our kids to want out, donít we? That thereís nothing for them in this town? So we make sure they all go off to college. Well, every FASFA loan is a hot air balloon ride out of town. Not because colleges teach you to hate where your from Ė although some do, and some teach you to hate who you are, too Ė but because they show you, because itís their job, that there is more green grass on the other side than you could ever explore. They teach you, whether itís true or not, that you should head for that greener grass and that itís been waiting for you. They teach you to see life from a different perspective, with a completely free and open mind. Follow the wind. And thatís just what you learn in your dorm room with a towel stuffed under the door. Wait until class!
Staying home isnít good enough anymore. Many of the ones who do resent it. Not because their lives are bad, but because our culture dictates that itís unusual not to leave. Theyíre here, but unhappy.
Itís not like New York state does itself any favors, either. The big and corrupt government experiment has failed, will continue to fail.
Need proof? Just look at the children. Itís not a Brain Drain weíre fighting. Itís the American Dream. And most kids are off in search of it. Like people have throughout time, they just didnít call it that.
There is one thing about our young seeing the world thatís in our favor: The world usually ends up being a one or two-bedroom apartment in Hoboken. If world seekers ever get tired of $8 beers and the lousy drivers, Chenango County might not look so bad. The may flock back, or for the first time, to the land of restaurants that close at 10 p.m.
Some more rawhide to gnaw on: Itís not like there hasnít been dummies joining the exodus. Plenty of chuckleheads have lumped their way into the crowd of bright, youthful migrants. Remember that when you start cattle-calling for their return.
The smart ones will come back, if we want them to. Some smart ones will stay, if we want them to. Not all of them. Not all of them are meant to. They might have to contribute their talents to some other nice town whose turn it is for help and prosperity. The spinning wheel. The American Dream. We, Americans, should be happy it is still alive. No matter what, we shouldnít give it the title of a crappy movie about the undead.