Monday, October 03, 2011

Guest column: Lunch anyone?

By Jerry Gettinger, friend and friend of the blog

I was invited to lunch by an acquaintance the other day. I had not known this person very long. The occasion was a gathering of people who shared a communal interest. Those that were there had a common look… a look of resignation and fatigue. There was not much in the way of small talk; I imagine chit-chat had all but left their minds some time ago. I looked around the room and saw that most everyone just sat and waited, as if they had done this before and often. One person told me that it took almost an entire day to get her unemployment check. Paying the babysitter did not leave much in the way of spending money. Not if you want to feed your kids. Her husband worked two jobs. Still that was not enough.

Denny’s was gracious enough to let us use a private room. As the server took our orders, I glanced up and saw that people were concentrating on the price, not the food…the right side of the menu. No one ordered a big lunch…a plain hamburger was the usual, and for some, that was a stretch. Maybe I read too much into the body language. However, it seemed that ordering was difficult; I imagine it was the fact that eating out was a luxury that was seldom enjoyed. A different occasion that came about only recently.

My host had been out of work over 18 months. That was not unusual. We were asked to introduce ourselves and say a few words about why we were here. The stories began to take on a rhythm. “Worked for a company for 12 years, got laid off with 2 weeks’ pay,” or “the regional came in, called a meeting, said the company was relocating to Mexico, apologized, and left.” Strangely, there was no anger from anyone, from no one but me. When it was my turn, I began speaking in a soft voice, almost a whisper. I’m not comfortable speaking in front of a large group. But then, as I began to recite why I was there, my voice began rising. “They are ruining my country, they take and never give, one word is never used, “Compassion.” By the time I finished, I was shouting, and so was everyone else. Yelling and clapping! “Yes, yea that’s right they have to be stopped.” I was astounded at how angry I was, passed anger, actually enraged and passing the emotion on. Fury started coming out. And so it was with many of the others in attendance.

Do not misconstrue what I have said. These are good people, the kind who would pick up a five-dollar bill you dropped, they would pick it up, and made sure you got it back. After all, you might need it to feed your children. I finished talking then lunch was brought in. I could not eat. The people with whom I was eating were the kind that made our country strong and resilient. They dutifully paid Social Security and maybe, during a war (and there seemed to be many wars) purchased savings bonds. These were the same ones who were told that they would have to forgo part of their social security because...well you know the story. I wonder what they thought when they hear about someone on Wall Street making $25 million in one year with their husbands working 3 jobs and college is unreachable. They have been so beat upon; they don’t have the strength left to fight. “What do I do now? I do not have anything left. They won.”

The sad part is, they have won. They won, even though it wasn’t much of a battle. There wasn’t much left. Our representatives don’t represent and our clergy tell us that we have to die to find God, and honestly, what has God done for me, anyway? The richest people produce nothing but money…and begat more... for themselves. They conduct themselves with impunity, thumbing their nose at laws. Laws are for people of color or those without money. Education is out of reach. I cannot better myself without an education, but I cannot afford an education: you have priced it out of my reach. And so, I will flip burgers at McD or work as a cashier at a big box store.

This country lied. It said we would have the same opportunity as the person next door. We did not. Once they became powerful, they made certain that we would have no chance of achieving anything. There is nothing left to do but hope for the best. Every pol sounds the same; every leader promises then lies when he (or she) discovers how easy it is to live off the voters. Just promise every two (or six) years and you can relax and enjoy life forevermore. Remember “and they lived happily ever after.” Maybe someday! It is almost too late. Too late to take it back. The dictionary defines restore as…v. re’store 1. Give something back. 2. Return something to its previous condition

Join me. Come with me on a mission, a quest, what the dictionary defines as an adventurous expedition. Come help me pull our country away from the evil and return it to the goodness it once was. This is still a democracy and we still can vote change. We must take action or else all will be lost. The country is still ours to take back.

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