An Effort to Feel Well as an American

Petrified_Wood

Sometimes, I listen to NPR while I work.

Eight hours of public radio on the daily is sending my political identity through loop-de-loops. I’m more feminist now than I ever have been, which other women have told me happens as you age. It takes some time to figure out just how ingrained the biases in society are. It’s unsavory to think about, and hard to accept.

Being a feminist  doesn’t make me a democrat or a liberal. I used to identify as libertarian, but I don’t know if that is true anymore.

When I hear pieces related to class on the radio, my political feels really go haywire. Journalists go on adventures into marginalized, minority neighborhoods, and do interviews with the people who live there, especially those who are trying to make changes for the better. They talk to lower class white people in rural Ohio, and ask them who they are voting for and why. And they do this with seeming heartfelt concern, passion. But, sometimes, I sense some condescension.

The people who speak on these radio shows are well educated. I don’t know for a fact that none of them have had a poor upbringing, but I get the feeling as I am listening to these programs, while they are talking about the insignificant, low class, low income, low education factory worker (ahem: ME), they are, in their own heads, speaking of an “other”. Maybe the people of color who live in those neighborhoods feel this way too, maybe they feel like, “Oh look, that’s nice, some white guy has shown up to do an interview to make himself look like a caring person, then he packs it up and goes home. That’s cute.”

I’m not saying that these journalists do not truly care about the plight of the poor. I just wish that we could speak for ourselves; that we would not be not so helpless. The community needs to stand up and speak for itself, because there are without a doubt people smart enough, in any underprivileged community, to be able to communicate with the world at large what is going on there. The journalist just visiting the underprivileged neighborhood is really just slumming. They may care, but who they care about inside of their own heads is not an “us,” it’s a “them.”

Why aren’t there more articulate lower class people speaking out for themselves? To be a journalist, you have to be educated. Being educated means more than getting student loans or grants or scholarships. It means being supported, to be a student you need community. Illness, children, and even sabotaging family members can get in the way of a person struggling to attend school. If your family members have never been to college, they cannot help you to navigate the system of financial aid, to understand what will cause you to lose that aid, or what may be pitfalls of unnecessary debt. If a poor person manages to earn a bachelor’s degree, it is worth less, and does not mean that a network is in place to assure that an individual will reach their highest potential.

You need credentials to speak, with authority, not as a guest, on the radio. I think that too many members of society walk around thinking that you need credentials just to justify your existence. What does it even mean to reach your highest potential? I don’t know a single person who would prefer living on welfare to working. Is it too much to treat members of society, who work in jobs that don’t require education, with respect?

Last week I heard some economic blowhard journalist talking, in a very snarky tone, how manufacturing jobs “are never coming back.” Oh really? Apparently this guy is a psychic. I understand why so many of our goods- and even services- are being rendered over seas: Americans want to be paid a decent wage and don’t want to be worked like a slave. It’s wonderful that our history has included a few high points, and labor laws are one of the things I think we, as Americans, can be proud of. Americans need to push it to the next level. Our society should demand that we have goods produced locally if reasonable, because it does not make sense that crap made thousands of miles away costs less than if the same crap were made down the street. I’m not talking about things that are purchased for the sake of craftsmanship, that’s different, (and should be addressed too, but that’s a separate issue) but the main concern is the bulk of the goods bought and sold in our economy. If you can have a factory continents away, employ workers and buy materials there, and somehow still save money shipping the final product all the way over here, then more than just a few people in this supply chain are getting the shaft. And those people are the workers who are used and abused in countries that don’t bother to have labor laws, as well as the Americans who don’t have it in them to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a bartender, and would just like a decent job, with decent hours, and decent pay.

Donald Trump may say that he has every intention of making that happen for us, but I don’t trust him not to get our country blown to smithereens. Hillary Clinton has some nice blurbs on her website about increasing the number of factory jobs with some kind of program… but I highly doubt that if she gets elected that she will ever actually address the issue while in office.

It’s not really up to Trump or Clinton to make these things happen for us. It’s not up to the snotty journalists on NPR. Do you know who listens to news journalists? Rich people. They even brag about how affluent their audience is! Society acts like there is some kind of sin associated with being “blue collar.” Happiness doesn’t just magically happen for rich people, or for educated people. Those folks are not “better” or dare I say it, worth more, than someone poor and uneducated! Being a good and decent person matters more- far more- than being book smart or wealthy.

 

 

A Poem, Life on the Fritz

I came across this poem while looking through my writing. I was living in a hotel room, with my sister, just after a stay in the hospital.

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Sitting in the bathtub. Hotel bathtub motivation. Hotel bathtub meditation. Living day to day, hand to mouth, the old
cliche.

Trying for the right thing. Telling myself it’s going to be alright, no matter the outcome. Any job will do. Spending more
because we have less. Settling for less because we want more. Connecting the dots from then to now, and desperately
wanting it to make sense.

God please let us get this apartment. God please show me the way. Does it make me weak, that I don’t like making certain
decisions for myself? Being self possessed usually gets me into trouble. My choices often don’t work out the way I intend.
I learn from the mistakes, but if mistakes are my teacher, and they are bound to happen, does it really matter which
direction I let the river take me in? Paddling against it is tiring, and it stresses me out. I don’t want to drown.
Is it too much to ask, just to want to stay floating?

Certain things will not do. Certain people must stay. While we choose who to commit to, others are lost in the choice.