Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kids These Days

I am hanging out in San Diego this week while my boyfriend is attending a conference here. That's right: I'm unemployed AND on vacation. As if sitting at home for four weeks hasn't been vacation enough. Actually, it's been painfully boring. I'm a recovering workaholic.

San Diego is beautiful, although California is a strange place. It's sunny all the time but never hot. Being a Texan, I consider 68 degrees chilly. Today I went to the San Diego Museum of Art and saw their Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit, along with some Fragonard, Tintoretto, Modigliani, and El Greco. I'm sorry, but I still think that Georgia O'Keefe is boring. I know that must be anti-feminist or anti-American or something. Art is in the eye of the beholder anyhow.

We ended the day relaxing in the hotel hot tub. Almost everyone at the hotel is apart of this conference the boyfriend is at. So it wasn't surprising that the other hotel guest was in on it too. Actually, his Dad was. He was an 18 year old with some sort of tribal something or other that covered his shoulder down to his elbow. Not quite original. He told us he'd been coming to the conference with his father for the past ten years, loved San Diego, asked what my boyfriend did for a living, etc.

Somehow we got on the subject of Iraq. I honestly did not bring it up. In fact, I refrained from commenting. Not a new subject by any means, but the boy's perspective was a bit of a surprise to me. He said we wouldn't even have had to go to Iraq if they hadn't blown up our beloved buildings. Usually, I am very vocal about such a subject but this left me speechless. I had nothing to say. State of total shock. Sure, he's 18 and probably doesn't listen to NPR but seriously? I mean there's a lot of speculation (CIA planned it, neo-conservative agenda, etc.) but that is all conspiracy theory. Not one of the hijackers was from Iraq and Fox News can't even refute that.

As we got up to leave (because of the deafening silence that had blanketed the conversation) he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a student finishing my degree in Political Science with plans for a Masters in Social Work. He replied "How boring". Ignorance is bliss honey, ignorance is bliss.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Land of the Free?

Sunday night I watched the fireworks at Randolph AFB here in San Antonio. How American, sitting on a blanket in a baseball field while the wind carried well-known patriotic songs across the field. As the finale came down, I could hear the Star-Spangled Banner and one phrase sort of struck a chord: the land of the free. I don't really feel free, do you?

Perhaps that's a terrible thing to say - after all, my own father is a Vietnam veteran and he suffered a lot because of his time served for this country. However, I can't help but feel locked into some sort of system, a system that works against me. I've done what I was supposed to. I got good grades in high school, went to college...a lot. I can't find a job. I'm hoping that my unemployment goes through and I'll get a check tomorrow, but for now I'm just waiting for something to happen. I've been quite diligent in my job search; job hunting is a relentless task. So far, no dice.

I'm not free. I am held down by credit card debt, by ever increasing bills, and by a job market that has tanked. I'd be lucky to get a job that pays $12 an hour right now. I'm trapped. I couldn't even afford to move to a cheaper apartment! The only thing I have going for me is my decision to go back to school and get more education because trust me, I've looked and the only jobs out there are non-skilled (i.e. poverty level wages) and jobs that require graduate degrees. The middle ground has disappeared along with the middle class.

Who are these richest 1% of Americans that control the rest of us and just who the fuck do they think they are? Democracy my ass. This is slave labor. Minimum wage is still under what economists agree is a living wage. Minimum wage in Texas is $4250 above the federal poverty level for 2010.

When I was a union organizer here in San Antonio I was shocked how many people I came across that couldn't read or write. It was embarrassing for them, but I knew why they were illiterate. It might surprise most people, but our poverty problem still causes 15 and 16 year olds to drop out of school to help the family get make ends meet. Such was the case with these guys.

Although "union" is such a bad word in the South, I think it's the only thing that will save us. I don't mean union as a entity that you pay dues to, but union as a group of people working toward a common goal. Goals such as a strong middle class, closing the gap between the rich and the poor, elevating people from poverty through education.

In business school you learn that to improve production you fix your weakest link in the supply chain. America's weakest link is it's inability to diminish poverty and our selfish nature to just look the other way. We forget that on our Statue of Liberty it is written: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." We don't need to look across the ocean for these huddled masses. They are in our own backyard and they want a way out of their slavery.