“30 more days.” Each month upon paying our rent, that’s what I say to myself, “30 more days.” Beyond that, the 31st day is uncertain. So let’s get straight to the point since I may not have the luxury of sitting in my apartment, at my computer, with an internet connection in 30 days.
With all the “sudden interest” in the un- and/or underemployed, I’m reminded of an interview I happened to catch on TV several years ago. It was The Larry King Show and his featured guest that particular day was Bill Cosby. After some polite banter, Mr. King asked Mr. Cosby the question that every white entertainment host asks every successful black celebrity, “What was it like being a poor black kid?” I’m paraphrasing, but we all know that white celebrities are never asked the same question.
Mr. Cosby articulated very eloquently his younger years spent in poverty, stating that his family received government assistance. He added that in those days, it was not referred to as “welfare” but was called “relief.” Upon hearing Mr. Cosby’s explanation, I stopped what I was doing at the time and listened intently to the remainder of the interview. Perhaps, intuitively I knew that I would soon be in need of some “relief”.
|"Relief" recipient, Bill Cosby|
The point Mr. Cosby made was that financial assistance from the government provided relief for needy families, and relief was accepted in hopes that the family’s situation would improve. We know Mr. Cosby’s situation improved exponentially and we can reasonably assume that his tax burden for many decades has been substantial. We know this scenario applies to professional athletes, public and private sector leaders, and other tax-payers who benefited from food stamps and government assistance in their time of need. Actor Craig T. Nelson confirmed this in his statement, "I was on food stamps and welfare - no one helped me out." But, most notably, at the top of that list is our current POTUS!
Since being un- or underemployed, I never EVER considered myself a “freeloader” or thought for a second that I was somehow not being “responsible” by collecting unemployment compensation. Further, I never EVER felt that I was “owed” anything by our government. That’s not how I was raised. Remember, my Dad was born in 1930 in a railroad town south of Chicago, the youngest of 5 hungry redheads; Mom was born in Samoa where food literally fell to the ground. Mom didn't know money was printed until she was nearly 20 years old!
But here’s the thing. I just don't understand the reasoning behind calling our unemployed lazy and shiftless. Does it really compute that the very Americans that have worked steadily and continuously for 25+ years would 1) Suddenly PREFER to make a fraction of their last salary; 2) Suddenly PREFER a lifestyle driven by stress and struggle; 3) Suddenly PREFER to stay home day and night in order to save a few dollars in order to keep that home; 4) Suddenly PREFER to get food for the kids – ONLY; 5) Suddenly PREFER to live one day at a time unable to make basic plans; 6) Suddenly PREFER to avoid longtime friends only because they have jobs; 7) Suddenly PREFER to write a blog in hopes that it’ll go viral and generate income??!!
|What a bunch of FREELOADERS!!|
|Poor people having more kids? No PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!!|
A few years ago, I was driving my son and his teammates to football practice and was pulled over by a police officer. My vehicle tags were expired because I was unable to afford auto insurance, or the registration renewal. Of course, I was in violation of the law, but I still had an obligation to get my players to practice every day. I was naturally prepared to accept the consequences of my choice to continue to operate my vehicle.
As the officer was writing out my ticket, he asked me where I worked. I answered that I had been unable to find any work for two years. He dropped his pen and pad, laughed, and in front of my son and his teammates he asked, “Aren’t you tired of staying home?!” Up to that point, I thought I had developed a resistance to people passing judgments associated with my unemployment. Apparently, I was not that evolved.
In truth, at the time this police officer tried to humiliate me, I was diligently looking for work,pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities, attending school - full time, volunteering with several community organizations to improve my skill set, actively developing a network that would improve my chances for employment, delivering newspapers at 3:30 a.m. every day of the week to make ends meet, and obviously providing transportation for a carload of young football players every day. Issuing a ticket was part of his function, humiliating me was personal.
Please follow this blog. All comments are invited. Mahalo!