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Archive for November, 2008

News everywhere reports the dismal financial condition we’re in. But, there aren’t many reports about workers in the invisible lower middle class. As an employee of a union with nearly 11,000 members, I have witnessed what are called the working poor among our members. A large number of our members in a certain region are single moms with low paying jobs. Many of them have been coming to the union to request monetary help. These are known as hardship requests.

The cap on our public employee local’s hardship contribution is $500 and a growing number are given — without strings — to members every month. The sad fact is that even the full amount they receive is not going to help any of them very much. Besides having so little money to pay for the necessities, these people for the most part, don’t know how to manage the small amounts they have. But, they also get into some awful tangles that can’t be prevented, due to medical treatments, family death, abusive spouses, and so on. Increasingly, they face eviction and repossession. Often, it would take a lot of money to make all their creditors current, pay for shelter and transportation, put food on the table, and clothes for the children.

They ask for help from family, friends, and from anyone who can offer it. Nothing is stable or sure in their lives — most particularly, now. The bad financial consequences are beginning to be felt by the public agencies they work for. Thankfully, the agencies cut services, before cutting employees. Our union keeps an eye on the progress of budget cuts and steps in whenever the question arises as to how many and where should employees be laid off. We help our members, mostly without them being aware of it, by ensuring the agencies look for other positions that can be filled with the people they want to cut to avoid letting them go.

But soon, I expect the the other shoe to drop. The terrible force of a bad state and national economy will throw public agencies against the wall. To survive, among other actions, they will have to cut people loose. What will happen to these people who are barely surviving in the working world? What about their children? The reality of financial destruction for so many more has cast its dark shadow over all the working poor.

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This year, there were only my husband, son, and myself to celebrate Thanksgiving. We went to an upscale restaurant that we’d gone to on a past Thanksgiving. The food is good. The servers prompt and pleasant.

My husband has been ill for the past few days, though, with intestinal problems. So, he planned to eat light. He told the server he didn’t want to eat much. He ordered the turkey dinner — child’s portion. The server said, “What about leftovers?” We laughed because we thought she’d suggested SERVING him leftovers. When she realized this, we all laughed. Then, she offered to take a small plate to other diners around us to gather their leftovers for my husband.

She had a quick sense of humor and a hearty laugh we enjoyed hearing.

Her name was Carmel. I asked if her mother was a dessert lover and that’s how she got her name. She said that on the way to deliver her, her mother heard a singer on the car radio called Carmel Quinn. She told her husband that if she ever had a girl, she would name the baby Carmel.

At the hospital, much to her surprise, because a boy was expected, she did deliver a girl and happily named her Carmel. As they prepared her to leave the delivery room, the medical team made an amazing discovery. Her mother delivered a second baby girl! The unexpected baby was named Susie — for the delivery room nurse!

I thought that was a good story and was glad that the nurse’s name wasn’t Oscar.

It was a lovely dinner, made so much nicer by our server. We added a hefty tip to the check, although we didn’t intend it to be repayment for what Carmel had done to enhance the day for us. Thanks can be given for many things and we are thankful for what we have. But, we also give thanks for people like Carmel who touch our lives.

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After the long process and high tension of the election, I feel drained. And, kind of depressed. Probably the combination of emotions is caused from missing  the stimulation of daily news and crises and worrying about the post-voting consequences. There is a sense of rising anxiety over the forward direction in the case of the future president and in the passing of Proposition 8.

With the hopes, dreams and expectations of so many being voiced, I don’t see how Obama can meet them all. He hasn’t even gotten into office and is behind the curve of public expectations. Plus, there are people who are already taking serious issue against some of Obama’s beliefs — whether they truly know them or not. Will he have a chance to make changes with this type of pressure coming at him from different places?

In time, I believe gay people will be given the same civil rights that everyone else enjoys. But, it’s difficult to visualize just how they will get to that point. It seems all their battle tactics carry some type of backlash consequences. Furthermore, the gay opposition doesn’t have a real leader. It appears they have no cogent overall plan to attain their rights. Maybe these shortcomings will soon be remedied.

In both cases, opposition was born from a spontaneous expression of social unrest. We, the troops, are formed up and ready to follow. It will take a strong leader, respected by all,  to guide us through the long war that is bound to ensue.

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A couple of days after the election and there is talk of the Obama’s being the new Kennedys.

Not that I have a problem with that. It’s that there’s always a tendency to find a similarity somewhere in history, so we can grasp our present condition.

The present isn’t completely allowed to speak for itself. But, it’s comforting to know that the similarity is a positive one. Maybe looking back and comparing helps many of us accept what is now.

Although, history or not, some are not accepting. One friend mentioned “mourning” the outcome of the election. Then said the bright spot in the days following the election was that Prop. 8 passed.¬† I’m pretty sure that there are a multitude of good people who feel this way.

Yet, it’s ironic. We have finally accepted and voted for a leader from a group overcoming discrimination, and then voted to discriminate against another group. Why do we do this? Who’s in and who’s out?

Looking back again in history for a similarity — Is anyone reminded of those boys who cobbled together a clubhouse out of cardboard and painted a “NO GIRLS ALLOWED” sign on the door flap? Or the country clubs who have written “no Jews allowed” into their policies? So many other examples can be brought to mind, as well, ranging from the banal to horrific.

Again one must wonder, why did we do this? Why do we continue to do it?

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Today, I read an account in the paper of a woman who, because of the election, suffers. She has anxiety, and near panic. She can’t sleep. She spends her time on the computer reading election polls and news items about the election. This is me I thought!

Then, I read she is a Republican.

This gave me food for thought. Could Republicans be so terrified of Obama? And, if they are, I’m guessing the couple of years of the forwarded email about Obama being a threat to America — a Muslim with Muslim schooling and a Muslim name — may have led to this feeling of terror.

And, there has to be credit given to Palin for her contribution about Obama “pallin’ around with terrorists.”

Obama recognizes that people have been subjected to “politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope.”

If Obama wins, I hope that people will soon lose their fears about him. I want to see this country united again. I hate feeling that a mention of one party or another may cause anger to enter into a conversation or a relationship — even between family members.

Please, dear God, let it be as Obama has said: “We are ONE nation.”

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