Thursday, August 26, 2010

Through My Eyes

As a young man working his way through school by alternately washing dishes in the student cafeteria, scraping paint for the local public works department, wiring outdoor signs as an apprentice electrician, heaving forty-pound boxes of fine china around for Marshall Fields and writing for the school newspaper, I had a vision.

A constant in my life that lent meaning to even the most menial labor.

I knew that if I diligently and relentlessly applied myself in my studies, I could conceivably one day become (drum roll, please) a supermarket cashier. Not a full-time cashier mind you, for that is a position both beyond and unworthy of my station. But a minimum wage, union-dues-paying, part-time cashier.

This was something that could happen.

Which isn't to say I have anything against supermarkets. Or cashiering. Or even unions—at least what’s left of them. But it’s not what I busted my ass getting a college degree for.

A year and-a-half into my job search, is this really all I have to show for it? Two part-time jobs which will barely slow my descent into financial oblivion?

I like to think that somewhere down the line, my do-what-you-gotta-do grit would impress an employer. But in our over-evolved society, being a supermarket cashier is viewed as an unfortunate detour from the pristine career trajectories employers now prefer in their candidates.

Yeah, I’m bitter. Wouldn’t you be?

I live in a world where radio talk show hosts must relinquish their jobs for saying the n-word. Where funding for the most profound breakthrough in the history of medicine is put on hold over a notion that it is injurious to embryos. And in which judges wring their hands out of slavish concern that felons aren’t made too uncomfortable by their surroundings.

Yet I belong to a group of people publicly and repeatedly demonized by the representation entrusted to look out for it.

I belong to a group of people employers resolutely refuse to hire. One Republicans maintain is a drain on America’s economy, and for whom all public funding must be stopped lest we drag the country further into the death spiral of deficit spending.

This as they fight tooth and nail to preserve tax breaks for the wealthiest one-percent of the population.

Somehow, treating the unemployed as if they're carriers of the plague is OK.

It is difficult—if not impossible—to avoid seeing the world through your own eyes. And this is the world through mine.