Friday, July 4, 2014

Not much to celebrate this Fourth

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/
Credit: Beverly & Pack, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Independence loses meaning when you’re not working


Before I begin, I want to express my greatest respect and admiration for those who have fought for this country, who have sacrificed their lives, or were willing to put their lives on the line, to preserve our freedom.

You did not fail.

I fear, however, that many others have, from the citizenry to corporate America to those we have elected to public office.

That is why I find it incredibly difficult to celebrate a holiday centered on the theme of our nation’s independence, when in fact we live in a nation where much of the citizenry has been left little more than indentured servants. We’ve sucked fast to the empty promise of an American dream that’s really a marketing gimmick to get people to spend, not save.

As I enter the final weeks of unemployment and face the prospect, for the first time in my life, of applying for welfare, I am having a difficult time looking ahead to the coming year in a nation where bigotry is acceptable. Nor do I look forward to the automatic condemnation some pronounce on people like me, victims not of laziness, nor drug abuse, nor disobedience at work, but of an economy that has left many of us out of work with few prospects for the future, and businesses so intent on next quarter’s profits that they apparently no longer know how to plan for long-term viability.

Nor do I look forward to those "clever" (I mean bigoted) Facebook posts in which some express their belief that people like me should pee in a cup before being considered eligible for government assistance. I am, after all, poor, and cannot be trusted. I would venture to guess that these are the same people who, upon seeing my Hispanic friends, are inclined to conclude “illegals” — you know, because painting with a broad brush is completely acceptable.

And I do not look forward to the condemnation for owning things that I purchased when I was gainfully employed. You know what I mean — those emails some people like to send around or post on Facebook in which they point to that bastard wearing $60 Nikes as he uses food stamps to pays for groceries. You know, because poor people secretly are wealthy and can afford these things, or they must have stolen them.

I’ve already been criticized for having a laptop computer that my parents gave me after my first layoff so that I could write my resume and the daily cover letters I send out with it to potential employers. I’ve used this laptop to work from home while juggling four part-time jobs during much of 19-month period it took me to find a full-time position after my first layoff in 2010.

If I sound bitter, I am.

I never wanted to be laid off, nor did I do anything to deserve it. I’ve been a hardworking, loyal employee in the past and will continue to be again some day, if I am lucky.

Not working is a moment-by-moment source of frustration, not to mention an ongoing source of humiliation. Each day I try to network, write cover letters, and apply online for jobs with little more than an email acknowledging that I’ve applied, seldom a notice that I’ve been rejected, and never any feedback about why I wasn’t called in for an interview.

For my ultraconservative friends who think unemployment is a generous thing, I defy you to request to be laid off and find out how little it really is. Then watch with such immense frustration as your pantries diminish that you begin skipping meals from time to time to make things stretch more for your kids.

I’d venture to guess the same is true of the 9,474,000 Americans the Labor Department lists as unemployed in June. The raw total carries greater impact, I think, than the relatively meaningless jobless rate often reported on TV and radio — that rate, by the way, is 6.1 percent.

So I sit here at my computer, taking a break from my daily job search to listen to the occasional crackle of neighborhood fireworks and to reflect on a holiday called Independence Day, in marked contrast with my dependence on a government in which I have had no faith, as well as assistance from my parent, which soon may count against me and my family if we are forced to seek public assistance.

I don’t want a damned holiday. I want a decent job.