By David Glenn Cox
I loathe the mundane, I also loathe the AP style of writing, it is an analog style in a digital age, which if applied correctly, drains all style and humanity from any written issue.
In the 1920’s and thirties, radio announcers garbed in tuxedo’s with cupped hand said melodiously, “Live from the Herbert Hoover ballroom of the Grand Testicle hotel, located in beautiful downtown Swamp Rat, Idaho we bring you, for your listening pleasure Kay Kaiser and his college of musical knowledge
I mention this only because I’m going to write an end of the year story, just like every fucking body else. (Take that AP). Normally, I wouldn’t consider doing it but this has been a rather exceptional year. The United States celebrated ten years, one full decade of needless and unnecessary war. Barack Obama dropped any pretense about being a Democrat and embraced corporate Fascism wholeheartedly. In response, the Democratic Party unofficially dissolved itself and joined hands with Republicans to embrace the Fascist, one Party state.
It has been one hell of a year for me as well; when it began I was living in a garage. Then I moved cross country from the warm and sunny South to the frozen North. I briefly visited Clear Lake Iowa where Buddy Holly’s plane went down with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valenzuela, I marched in the streets of the nation’s capital and I watched the sunrise over Freedom Plaza.
I sometimes sit in my dingy little room and wonder about it all, how long can I continue on like this? The answer comes back to me, how long can we as a people continue on like this? I’m living out my dream, I’m a paid writer and though my clothes are old and ragged, I’m doing it. I am living like a bum, but I am making it. I have completed my second book and I’m well on my way to completing my third.
Everyday, I come into contact with other Americans who aren’t making it, like me, they struggle just to get by and I wonder, what about their dreams? While I was in Freedom Plaza, I met several young people a hundred thousand dollars in debt with student loans and yet, their job prospects were no better than my own. They had mortgaged their futures seeking their dream; I am paying for my dream day by day.
I was on Greyhound bus late one night, shortly before Christmas and a young man struck up a conversation with me, He was returning from a deployment overseas and was anxious to see his children. He worried whether they would remember him. I assured him, that by the time he had been home an hour it would be as if he had never left. Then he explained, that they lived with their mother now, since he and his wife had separated. As we got closer to his hometown he began to proudly point out the buildings he had worked on. He was originally in construction and had joined the National Guard for the extra income.
“That was seven years ago and three deployments back” he said, as he talked about getting out of the military. “I really miss my kids,” he added. He was torn, in twelve years he could retire from the military but he really longed to just be at home, and to live a normal life, just like everyone else.
It is important for me to mention that he began this conversation with me, because as is so often the case in my life. These people seem to wander up to tell me their stories, which for me, at least, encapsulate the whole damn thing and I am the better for knowing them. This Native American man was at a crossroads, he was no longer young but nowhere near old. He was glad to be home but he missed his buddies, he wanted his old life back but was unsure if he could live in civilian society anymore.
He seemed to be a good guy, the kind that you could depend on in a pinch, but there was also a tenseness about him, as if he were uncomfortable in his own skin. You know, sometimes you begin to feel sorry for yourself, and then you meet others even worse off than yourself and through no fault of their own.
Just like millions of us they are just looking for a normal life, and they don’t want a pony or a unicorn, they want a decent job and maybe a day off once in a while. Instead, they face predatory banks and corporations and face falling incomes and rising costs. Of all of the hundreds of normal Americans I have come across this year only one had had a raise.
There was a time, back when I had a normal life, when I didn’t know anyone who had ever lost their home to foreclosure and now, I hardly know anyone who hasn’t lost their home. I think back most poignantly to a woman in Freedom Plaza who was thrown out of Obama’s HAMP mortgage program for changing jobs. After applying for the program and receiving a $400 per month payment reduction she was laid off by her employer. She managed to find a new job and had not missed or fallen behind on her payments when she received a letter from the bank.
Due to the change in your income status you are no longer eligible for the HAMP program. Effective immediately her payment returned to $1,100 per month. When she called the bank to inquire as to, just what the hell was going on she was told that she could requalify for the program but first… she would have to return the $1,600 in mortgage reductions she had received. The bank was also quick to note that there was no guarantee she would be allowed back into the program. In anger and disgust and almost near tears as she explained, this mother with two small children was turned down for food stamps because she made too much money.
So here it is December 31, 2011 and I sit in this McDonalds Restaurant in this trendy upscale neighborhood and watch two populations living side by side come through its doors. They are strangers to each other and can’t imagine the reality of each others lives.
One group suffering, with no immediate help in sight and the other conditioned to believe that the others misery is their own fault, as the question returns to me, how long can we as a people continue on like this? How long can we ignore the reality that is America for the growing millions?
I became involved with a Facebook high school group this year from my hometown of, so many light years ago. Some have been fond remembrances and others not so much, but it was a privileged high school and a privileged time and many have gone on to a privileged adulthood. They write about their trips to Europe and to China and I ask myself, would I change places with them if I could?
In all honesty, I can’t conceive of it any longer. I am of that other America, the America of food stamps, foreclosed homes and employment applications which ask, can you write in the AP style? Yes, I can and I can also draw stick figures instead of painting pictures. Our human emotion is they only sense which we possess which is voluntary, wealth and possessions cut us off from the true reality of the world. We become captives in the human zoo and when we roar it is from behind the bars and when we flap our flippers it is only to amuse the crowd.
As the new year begins, it begins for me with the knowledge that I am no worse off than any other American and that no other Americans are any better off than I. We are a people tragically lost and a nation lost, teetering on the brink of disaster and running headlong like lemmings often do and the only question left to ask ourselves is, where are we really going?
“We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”- Malcolm X