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davidthegnome

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Member since: Wed Jan 26, 2005, 12:35 PM
Number of posts: 2,470

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The Conclusions of a Working Class "Taker"

It's been one of those nights. One of those nights up here in Northern Maine, when the roads are so poor that it's almost absurdly masochistic to drive anywhere. Yet every day and night, I drive thirty miles to and from work - some times (like tonight) the roads are so terrible that I can't drive any faster than 35 MPH, even with my "snow tires". Lots of drivers, even up here, are crazy enough to go 55-65 - they're the ones you usually see on the side of the road, screaming at their phones for having no reception and hoping someone will come along to help (I do - when I can.) This post isn't just about the weather though...

Someone told me today that the poor (like me) are a drain on society's resources. That we are lazy, that we only survive off of the good works and charity of others. I kept my silence (because, given the circumstances, it was necessary) but I have a few things to say here, that I hope will encourage others - as they do me.

The working poor are fucking heroes. We take the work that no one else wants to do, the dish-washing, the house keeping, the janitorial work. We work in sewers. We are serving your food at restaurants AND fast food joints. We're building bridges, we're repairing roads, we're fighting wars. We go to ridiculous heights to wash windows. We run our asses off for minimum wage or slightly better. Without us - not only could society not function, but all of our high and mighty rich people would have to clean up their own shit, for it is through our labor, through our daily toil, our dedication, that this world continues to function.

I may be so poor that I have to live with my parents, but you know, there's no place else I'd rather be.

I may be mocked, insulted, looked down upon by many members of the opposite sex for still living with Mommy and Daddy, but you know what? That's okay. They don't know what they're missing - because, when you hang with me, you hang with my whole family.

My mom is the best dancer I know - and she is also the best nurse I know. She works fourteen hour shifts as a nurse - and has been doing so for more than thirty years. When people are sick, or injured, or in pain - she gives everything she has and then some to care for them. She prays with them when they ask her to, she holds their hands - she even dances with them. She does this even though she suffers with depression and anxiety issues. She's a god damn hero.

My dad works for a hospital too - he's the man behind the scenes, writing grants begging for money that is desperately needed. If not for men like him, we would have no veterans clinics, we would have no clean hospital beds. We would have no hospitals. No matter what he has to do, or how long, or how hard he has to work (often 80 hours a week or more, even in his sixties) he keeps pushing with a passionate (and compassionate) dedication that would put a religious zealot to shame. His positive perspective, optimistic nature, and friendly manner gives inspiration to people all over our small community. My dad is a god damn hero.

There are many wonderful people in my life - but these are the best damn people I know. The most generous, the most compassionate, who have stood by me even when anyone else would have walked away. No matter what they have suffered, or how many knocks they have taken - they held on, they survived, they pushed forward for a better tomorrow for their family, and ultimately, these are the kind of people that make the world better for us all.

They're working class too. Without people like them, this world would be a mistake - life would be a mistake -. It's the working class that made this Country what it is, it's the working class that gave us the world's strongest military, the world's greatest economic wealth. It's the working class that brought us medicare, Medicaid, social security, food stamps - it's the working class and the fact that we give a damn. Politicians may have written the legislation, but we were the ones who twisted their arms and held their feet to the fire until they did so.

All of us, who are willing to work for more than just ourselves, for more than just the bottom line... are god damn heroes. And if you're struggling right now, if you can't find or don't have work - then understand, we're working for you too - and doing everything we can to make things better. It's one hell of a fight we've got on our hands, but as long as we're still here, we haven't given up.

Right now things are hard - it may seem like profit has won out over everything, like money is, essentially, God. This is not so. It's those of us that suffer, struggle, and toil every day to make the world a better place... that truly run this world. NOT the 1%, but the 99%. Without us - everything - falls apart. You can't eat money. Money doesn't cook your food, or set a broken arm. It doesn't plow the roads, it doesn't teach the difference between right and wrong, it does not heal the sick. Nor can it create beautiful works of art. People do these things. People like us.

The true power on this earth, resides within the hearts and minds of the working class. The true nobility, the true "wealth". When we all come to realize this fact, there will be a reckoning for those who have put their love of profit over their love of their fellow human beings. That time is coming... and we will not be ignored. We will not be denied.

In closing... I salute you all. If you're here, still giving a damn in spite of how hard things are, if you're here, trying to make the world a better place... then you're a god damn hero too.

That's all I have to say about that.
Posted by davidthegnome | Sun Jan 26, 2014, 12:04 AM (66 replies)

I come from a family of Educators.

Primarily English teachers - two grandparents, a sister, a father who went to school for English, but was never allowed to teach in the more relaxed manner he had hoped to.

So I think I can safely say that I know the value of education, and I will say that it is a great and wonderful thing. I had never been so optimistic, so hopeful, so full of energy and enthusiasm as the year I was able to finally enroll in college. The idea that, finally, after years of struggling through depression, overwhelming financial struggle and so on... that I would finally be able to move forward and live better, was beyond uplifting. It was the difference between night and day - between hope and despair.

Strange that it was only last year, it feels like it was so very much longer ago, as if I were a younger, happier, more inspired person. I suppose I was, when it comes down to it. After nearly a decade of spending all of my time either working, or locked up in my room reading, I was finally out among the world again, I re-entered society in a way that moved me more than I can say, that inspired my writing to greater heights, that led to members of my family who had given up on me starting to believe in me again. I can't tell you what it's like to be told by someone who long ago gave up on you as a lost cause, that they are now... "Very proud".

I read the works of Horace Mann - and was inspired by them. I read the works of more modern academics like John Taylor Gatto - and argued passionately against them. I wrote essays that never earned less than an A - and I had not been in a classroom, had not known formal education, for more than a decade.

It was student loans and pell grants that enabled me to do this - along with significant help from my parents in getting started. I lived in a tiny apartment (more of a slum, really, it was all I could afford) that I loved, I bought the cheapest furniture I could find from local thrift stores and Catholic charities - and I think I made it look good. I, who had long been a miserable, hopeless person, had changed so completely that old friends did not recognize me anymore. I had some measure of independence, pride, self respect.. I believed I had a future.

That dream slowly came to an end. The economic devastation of this modern time, was the key factor in what brought me back down. There were no jobs available that I could work with my school schedule. The work study positions were all taken up more quickly than I would have thought possible - and I was on foot. Every day I would walk a few miles, filling out applications and hoping for a phone call. I did this for months... with the belief that, sooner or later, it would pay off. It didn't. There were too many applicants, too many struggling people - and some of them pushed even harder than I did.

Ultimately, what happened was that I ended up owing money, in addition to student loans, that I could never hope to repay - and a significant amount would have to be paid before I could apply for another semester. There were so many days and nights when I could barely afford to eat - on some I just didn't, if I got lucky, my Father or sister would occasionally take me to lunch. When I did shop, it was at dollar stores, and I survived largely on some of the most terrible junk, processed food imaginable. You wouldn't believe how far you can go with tap water and a twelve pack of ramen... not something I suggest... ever.

I remember standing in the financial aid office, begging for more help... I remember it taking every bit of determination and will power I had, not to break down sobbing like a child when they told me there was nothing they could do.

So let me say that, for the vast majority of us... hell, for anyone who is willing and able, college is a wonderful thing. Higher education is fantastic. It is just not affordable, for the vast majority of us. You can give it everything you have (and then some) and still end up just like me. Back home with mom and dad, working for 8 bucks an hour, no health insurance, no friends, no social life. My life is divided, primarily, between working, reading - and frequenting sites like DU, searching for hope, an escape, something to lift me out of my state of depression.

If this noble pursuit of higher education, of knowledge... if this is the sort of dream that should be available to all (as I sincerely, profoundly believe it should be) then something must be done. I do not know what the solution is - but I believe it lies somewhere within our priorities and principles, that we might realize that educating our people is more important than draining them of every dollar, or every working hour we can get out of them. Perhaps we might realize that a more educated populace would benefit our society as a whole - through, in turn, educating our children, inventing things, coming up with cures for diseases, or music that blows the mind and inspires the heart.

It's all about the money, Warrior. Even our system of education (particularly higher education, which doesn't really have a "free" option that I know of) is largely a cog in the machine of capitalism. The problem is... perhaps, ultimately, capitalism itself. When profit comes first, everyone loses. I know. I've lost almost everything - if not for my generous family, I'd have nothing at all. Not even a place to live.
Posted by davidthegnome | Mon Jan 20, 2014, 09:13 PM (4 replies)

Is Resistance Futile?

Good afternoon, DU, from Northern Maine - this is my third frustrated post in the last week, which is rare for me, as for years I have mostly been a lurker. Perhaps I have become too angry or too sad to remain silent any longer.

Lately I have been spending most of my free time here, reading about what is going on in this Country - and to some extent, in the world at large. Every day it seems, there is another disaster, another reason to rage and shake our fists at the heavens. Somehow... it is finally becoming too much for me. I have always believed deeply in the value of compassion, generosity, kindness... in the end, these, I believe, are the things that truly matter. I have often been humbled by how much of this I have seen here from the wonderful folks who share this forum. I admire you all for your passionate struggle to move forward against all odds - I admire you all for your kindness, for being human beings who somehow, manage to still give a damn.

With this being said, it is with an overwhelming sense of futility that I write this afternoon post, perhaps in the hopes of inspiration, perhaps hoping that someone will give me a swift kick to inspire my motivation once more. Or perhaps, just to share my thoughts and feelings with people I like and respect - as my social life is largely nonexistent, being an introvert who lives in an isolated area.

This morning, when I woke, there were three messages on my answering machine. Even though I live with three family members (my parents and a sister) they were all for me. This could have been a good thing, right? I mean, maybe someone wanted to hang out, maybe it was a job offer, or a nice young lady who wanted to get to know me better. No, it was calls from two collection agencies and the local bank that holds my car loan... time to pay up, Mr. Gnome.

It can be frustrating, it can be overwhelmingly depressing to be working poor in rural America. But this complaint isn't so much about my own life or circumstances... it is about my feeling that the game has been rigged, that we are living not in, but "under" an America that has been sold to the wealthy elite.

Arne Duncan is on record as having said that the best thing that happened for New Orleans education - was hurricane Katrina. This is the President's head of education. What the hell, Mr. Obama?

Net neutrality has been destroyed, giving corporations and internet service providers even more power than before.

Someone who works for the NSA is probably reading this post right now, scratching his ass, and wondering if he should do something about these pesky liberals.

Drones are now being permitted to fly the skies of our great Nation, perhaps to combat crime, perhaps to gather data on citizens, perhaps because their programmers got tired of playing video games. Who knows? Anyone have a laser gun?

In another state, a ruling has recently been passed that demands that those who receive TANF - and might possibly take drugs (as indicated by answers to a questionnaire) take a drug test for the enormous wealth that is given to them... For 140 dollars a month per family, or 67 dollars a month per individual. This is done to the sounds of loud applause from many republicans and democrats, who are so very angry at what they call... "takers", or "bums", or words that I will not speak of here.

Our Military Industrial Complex is more powerful than ever, pumping out the weapons of war to solidify our control over the most important resource of the time... oil. A President who once warned us of the power of the MIC must be rolling in his grave.

The conditions of the working poor are terrible, all over this great Nation. Minimum wage and slightly above minimum wage is what the masses must live with, all while working for corporations that are eager to pay less, to destroy unions, to purchase politicians and ultimately remake this Country in their own image.

Unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed have been cut, denied, shattered by an arrogant, wealthy, ignorant bunch of pigs in Congress. More people must go hungry, more cannot afford their rent, the braces their children need, the surgery Grampa needs.



I could go on for a very long time, but will stop there, as I expect everyone gets my point. My question is... has resistance become futile? Is it possible for us to turn things around? I do not mind working hard, if there is a point. I do not mind struggling, suffering, bleeding and crying, if something is to be gained for it. Yet the harder I fight, the more I rage against the cruelties, the intolerance, the plight of the poor and working individuals and families... the worse it seems to get.

Hope is a hard thing to destroy - but what's happening here, to the people of this Country that I love, to the Nation my ancestors bled and died for... is slowly crushing my hope. How do we fight back in a way that matters? Is resistance truly futile now? Is our democracy going to die, at last, with a whimper and not a bang?

Forgive the depressing nature of this post. I am just... so very tired, and dreading the prospect of working another night for cruel people who are far richer than I am, for far less money than I deserve. Like many millions of others in the same situation, I've just about had all I can take.
Posted by davidthegnome | Thu Jan 16, 2014, 12:15 PM (29 replies)

Just another ordinary day in paradise.

I woke up this morning, to the sound of rain falling outside my window. Soft tapping on the metal roof of my family's home here in Northern Maine. At first it was nice, the gentle, rhythmic sound of the rain. Then I abruptly realized that it meant the road would be even worse than it had been yesterday - which was already very icy. You see, the driveway is on a slight incline that is covered with about three inches of ice. Despite buying fifty pounds of ice melt and tripping all over the place trying to create walking space, I still have to wear these "grippers" (rubber shoes with spikes in them that go over your shoes) to get up and down the driveway. If I tried to park in it, I'd never get out, so walking to the end of the driveway is necessary any time I want to go somewhere - as my car is parked in a very slight spot just off the side of the road.

As I have on many days, I'll choose my steps with great caution to make my way to my car. Then, even more carefully, I'll attempt to drive down the three miles of the road I live on to reach the highway. Last Saturday I went off the road four times just making the attempt (I had gone maybe a mile, at five MPH) and had to call in to work - the Boss wasn't happy, but there was nothing I could do. Now provided nothing happens and that I can somehow make it to the main roads, I should be able to make it the thirty miles to work. I wonder some times though, how people without snow tires fare. I had to borrow 450 dollars for mine, and I still can barely make it anywhere.

In any event, I'll eventually (hopefully) make it to work at a semi-local hotel. The knowledge that I have bills that are overdue will be dragging my heels, the knowledge that I'm making eight dollars an hour will be filling my head with thoughts of disaster... what if the car breaks down? What if I get sick? No health insurance, can't afford even the day off from work I was forced to take on Saturday. What if I get fired? My boss is increasingly angry and stressed lately - and does not hesitate to yell and threaten. It is very easy to make a mistake when you're working with computer systems, answering phones, and generally trying to manage the front desk of a hotel without breaking anything.

When I woke this morning, there were tears in my eyes, as there are on most mornings - I don't know if it's a sleep thing, or just the knowledge of another ordinary day that makes me sad. Perhaps the feelings and thoughts I normally shove down somewhere dark inside of me emerge at night and are slow to leave in the morning as I groan my way downstairs to make coffee.

The place that holds my car loan is calling every day - I'm a month behind. I have to decide this Friday if I want to beg my parents for help, or take my computer back to the rental place, as I can't afford both payments. If I miss another day of work, poor road conditions or not, I suspect that I'll be let go, which will make the issue moot as I'll lose both.

There is an overwhelming feeling of depression and anxiety that slows my steps even more than the caution of (literally) walking on ice. While I'm giving it everything I've got to shrug off my sadness, just getting ready for work feels like climbing Mt Everest.

I share all of this here because I wonder how many of us feel the same way. There has to be something better, a better way to live, something to inspire hope, ambition, motivation.

Earlier in my youth I sought a way out of this working class misery, thinking perhaps to become a monk or some such thing, as I'm given to quiet reflection and love to read. What stopped me is the fact that I'm agnostic, or perhaps "gnostic" is the proper description. I believe in what my senses tell me, and to some extent, in what I feel inside. I have long been convinced that there is too much misery in this world for me to believe in a higher power.

I feel as if I'm hanging from the edge of a cliff, my hands clinging to a rock wall so hard they bleed - sooner or later, I fear I'm going to slip and lose whatever measure of sanity and hope remains to me.

Forgive my venting, I'm sure many of you have lives that suck worse. There are people who are starving, who are without homes, without warmth, without love in their lives. I have a wonderful family and a place to live, for now at least, I'm safe in the knowledge that my parents will keep food on the table. At twenty-nine years of age though, I feel that I shouldn't have to rely on them for help. In a society that tends to judge a man by the strength of his ambition, by his work ethic, by his ability to take care of at least himself, I often feel a miserable failure.

There are things to be grateful for, all around me, but somehow, this does not lift the depression that seems to follow me around like a dark cloud.
Posted by davidthegnome | Tue Jan 14, 2014, 10:58 AM (43 replies)

Working Poor In Rural USA

When I wake up on mornings that I know I have to work, it can be overwhelmingly depressing. This isn't because I don't like working - on the contrary, I loved the jobs I had in my teens, or early twenties, when I was working for carpenters, doing yard work, doing various tasks for farmers and random odd jobs. The problem with that sort of work, is that it is sporadic at best, temporary - and often pays less than minimum wage as it tends to be "under the table". There were weeks when, earlier in my youth, I worked like a dog just to pay for gas and the occasional beer. I loved it though, because it was honest work - and because I've always enjoyed working with my hands. Until I nearly cut one of them off with a saw, anyway - but that's a different story.

Now I'm nearing thirty, with many jobs under my belt, with my grand GED education and a year of college. I live in a right to work state: Maine. What right to work really means, when it comes right down to it, is that you can be fired for looking at someone the wrong way, or for no reason at all. At will employment basically means that, provided there is no obvious discrimination or illegal action, you can be terminated just because your boss is having a bad day.

Standard pay is eight dollars an hour, which, while being slightly above minimum wage, requires you to either work full time to barely get by, or to work full time and get an additional part time job in order to avoid the necessity of state/federal aid. If you have children who depend on you, well... you're kind of screwed, without a degree or professional career.

Last weekend the manager of my workplace really let me have it. When I say I was yelled at - I mean, quite literally, that I was "yelled at", as if I were a child who had broken his Mother's favorite vase, pulled his sister's hair, and written all over the living room walls with crayon. The reason? Money. I'm "too nice", I try too hard to give people rates they can afford, I'm not strict enough with our rates - even though they are absurdly high - and I could not afford to stay at the hotel I work at for even one night. It's really ridiculous to get yelled at for selling a room for 89 dollars a night, in rural Maine, when you're supposed to charge 115. The owner wonders why business is poor....

I could do nothing but stand with my head down, nod along, and agree with my manager (all while apologizing profusely) as I was told that I was "giving away company money!". I had offered the corporate rate to a couple who's pipes had burst, even though they weren't there on business. Even though they couldn't afford 115 and it was ten below outside. Of course, in the Manager's defense, it was a rough night. A dishwasher hadn't shown up for work, or called in (we have a restaurant at the hotel) and the pipes in the fitness center had burst, making the ladies washroom facilities unavailable. I am sure that the owner yelled at the manager, who, in turn, yelled at everyone else.

The problem is that, living in a right to work state... you do not have the right to yell back. You do not have the right to speak honestly, you do not have the right to complain. Doing these things can very easily get you fired. You are expected to eat your lunch or dinner, at the desk, to abide by a "no breaks" policy, and to simply swallow it and keep quiet when your employer does something you know is wrong. You know, like making a co-worker work four months in a row without a day off.

I'm tired, all the time. Every time I make even a small mistake I need to hope I don't get fired for it. I have no health insurance, the idea of taking a vacation is laughable, as poor as I am... I live with my parents and I'm in student loan debt up to my eye balls.

I guess these are largely white people problems (complaining about conditions that those in truly desperate circumstances would envy) but... there are days when I really just want to run away somewhere, maybe another Country, maybe just go live out in the woods (too damn cold though) like a hermit. The longer I live as a member of the working poor class here in the land of the free... the more apathetic and depressed I become. One day I'll probably be forced to stop working, due to advanced age or illness - and when that happens, I'll probably join the ranks of the homeless and hungry - especially if we continue to elect republican governors and senators for our great state.

My situation is by no means the worst, but it sucks. I imagine there are people far more angry, or far more depressed than I am, who work more, who suffer more, and who are even more exhausted. It makes me wonder... when will the working poor have finally had enough? Is there a breaking point? Or will conditions continue to get worse as the price of living becomes completely unaffordable to all but the wealthy?

I am one of millions who cannot afford to live on their own, who cannot get health insurance, who would be up shit creek without a paddle if not for the generosity of family. It's not because I don't work. I'm not lazy, I'm not demanding something for nothing, I'm not trying to force rich people to buy me a house or a car. What I am... is getting angry. Not just on my own behalf, but on behalf of the millions like me. But if I try to form a union, I'll get fired and probably lynched by northern Maine conservatives.

Can't go back to school, can't find better work as there is simply none to be found here... and somehow, no matter how hard I work, I end up deeper in debt and more unhappy.

It's called the American dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it. Hard work does pay - just enough to survive. The people in this Country who work the hardest are usually the poorest, and it's damn exhausting.

Well, I guess I've ranted enough for one post. I thought maybe talking about all this would help me feel a little less stressed before work, but it actually made it worse to acknowledge how bad things suck and how I really have no other options. Boo hoo, right? I mean, I'm not starving or homeless, I have a computer and the internet. I shouldn't bitch so much. Ah well, thanks for reading.
Posted by davidthegnome | Thu Jan 9, 2014, 11:06 AM (58 replies)
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