Earlier this year, prior to the Pennsylvania Primary, I wrote this blog post. With the midterms just 11 days away, it seems appropriate that I share it with my Broos. Elections matter, and in my lifetime I'd say that this one matters more than most. I ask that you vote your conscience, vote your outrage, or vote your hope. But please don't choose to sit this one out.
I’ve worked hard all of my life.
Most people can make this claim, so I’m not special. In life, I’ve experienced my share of ups and downs. Some of the lows were self-induced while others could be attributed to happenstance. The same can be said for the highs.
Except for one period of unemployment, I’ve worked continually since my first job at the local bodega at 14. As an adult, I’ve worked for some great companies, so my family has access to health insurance through my job. We live in a modest home with only two hundred and nineteen payments remaining on our mortgage. A number of payments have been late in recent years, but we’ve somehow managed to hang on. My 401(k) plan has even reclaimed some of the losses that it sustained during the stock market slump of a few years ago.
The American dream is possible.
As many would attest, making it through the last few years has been a struggle. Fortunately, for my family, we are not among the hardest hit by the faltering economy. When assessing my situation I can say, unequivocally, that hard work has not been the determining factor.
Lots of people can tell a very different story that begins the same as mine, “I’ve worked hard all of my life.”
Their stories, however, include things like:
- losing a job and their health insurance;
- getting sick and having to sell their homes to pay for their treatment;
- having the interest on their adjustable rate mortgages jacked up to unmanageable levels and falling behind.
If those of us who are not experiencing these nightmare scenarios are unwilling to pitch-in and help our friends and neighbors, I ask you, what is a country for?
What is a country for if good fortune is mistakenly viewed as self-sufficiency? Those who claim that results are determined solely by individual action are massaging their egos. The false dichotomy of this “cause and effect” argument prompts much of the irrationality and short-sightedness of the conservative ideology. I can recall many instances in my life where things could have easily gone another way, and there was nothing that I could have done about it.
People tend to project their circumstance upon others when making judgments:
- “I have a job, so why can’t she get one.”
- “I pay my mortgage, so why should the government help those that have fallen behind.”
- “I have health insurance, so I’m not paying for yours.”
To those people I ask: What is a country for?
Are we just a loose collection of people bound together by nothing? Is the idea of having a safety net so repugnant that every effort to strengthen it should be shouted down?
Had there been a Tea Party uprising in response to unfunded mandates like the wars, prescription benefits, and tax cuts that mostly benefited the rich, I would be able to take them more seriously now. To me, their message of fiscal responsibility is no more than a clumsy cover for their general displeasure with being out of power. Moreover, their message is often mean-spirited in nature and devoid of hope.
For the concept of unemployment benefits to be viewed as a bail out, is to miss the point entirely.
If we do not care for the fates of our neighbors, why should we continue the charade? One cannot love their country, but hate the people that are in it. Hard work helps, but hard work alone, as many of us know, guarantees nothing.
Do we really want to become a country where everyone is basically on their own?
If so, I ask again, what is a country for?