Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Letter to the Nation Concerning Belonging

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this will be my third letter having to do with my unemployment. What can I say? It’s on my mind. If it’s any consolation, I’m trying to keep it varied within the subject.

Dear America,

It’s been a while since I’ve considered myself to be a patriotic American. We’ll ignore, for the time being, the reasons for this that include my heritage. Let’s just say that as bloodlines go, I’ve got enough in me to be pissed that this country both marched my people off their land into Oklahoma, and, declared its independence from the empire. Add to that being raised in Louisiana, a state so rich with customs and traditions wholly separate from any other passed down and celebrated in the other 49 states, it still wouldn’t be that weird if we seceded. I tried to include those things in more detail into an early draft, and it just took over the letter.

So, I’m just going to focus on the political reasons I don’t considered myself patriotic.

For the last, oh I don’t know, eight years, I’ve tried to shy away from attaching blind allegiance to any group that has the possibility of labeling me with descriptors that I don’t think apply to me. Descriptors like hate or greed or ignorance. I’ve tried to itemize my politics as much as possible so if and when someone asks me if I’m pro or anti-American, I can throw a list of yay or nays back at them without ever actually answering the initial question. Douse their accusatory flame, if you will.

I was comfortable with that responsibility. The responsibility of educating myself on the important issues and how my views differ from the decisions of my government. It was the only logical course of action to take in anticipation of having to defend myself against a generalizing international community. I needed arrows so I became a fletcher.

So, I separated myself, mentally, from the club house of the Americas and instead decided that I was a “citizen of the world” who happened to have a blue passport and paid taxed to the United States. Technicalities that I couldn’t overcome due to certain legal obligations outside of my control.

And then something happened. I got fired. Not exactly an Earth shattering shock to anyone familiar with my previous place of employment and my disdain for everything that they encompassed, but, still something bad at the worst possible time for something bad to happen. Anyway, I was laid off, but that’s not what got me thinking about America. It’s what happened after I got laid off: absolutely nothing.

I still haven’t found a job. I look every day. I apply every day. I seek out a new role in my community every day, and still, I am unemployed. I am unemployed.

Well, I don’t need to explain what an American thing that is becoming. And I think it’s me being unemployed that has gotten me thinking about America again. I think it’s what’s gotten me feeling better about being an American again.

I don’t mean to make a ridiculous statement like Americans are the first ever to be unemployed, or that we’re the first ever to have a large number of our citizens be unemployed. What I mean is that this is the first time our, my, your generation of Americans has experienced a drop in our worth as a nation to this extent.

The unemployed American population is a group that has collectively, and metaphorically, been kicked in the balls and is now rolling around on the ground waiting for the stars in their vision to go away. And it’s a group I am now a part of.

The President, our President, whom I voted for, has a way with words. He has a calming and informed manner of speaking that before, for me, always felt relevant, but now feels critical. He’s the man that is going to make the decisions that determine maybe not how easy it is to get my next job, but how easy it will be to get a better one after that. The real one. He’s the one that is going to be the face of the push to help me run again after I’ve pulled myself back onto my feet.

So, how does that translate into me suddenly feeling that unmistakable, and previously avoided, feeling of pride swell ever so slightly in my chest?

Well, I’ll tell you.

The reason I chose to think of myself as a citizen of the world, as I stated before, was one of protection. I was protecting myself from the association with our nation and its attitudes and policies. Because they were not my attitudes and policies. They weren’t a lot of people’s. The government in the recent years has been the obnoxious drunken uncle at the wedding, toasting these “done up sumbitches” on this, their special day. And I, we, are the red faced nephews slouching in our chairs wishing we could will ourselves invisible.

But unemployment is different. The economy is different. It’s not a brown bearded foe we can attempt to bomb back into the stone age or a tiny slant-eye we can tariff into poverty. It’s not something we can drill into at the cost of our Mother Gaia or a phone conversation we can subpoena at the cost of our humanity. It’s a situation where the problem makes us suffer and the solution allows us to use our minds creatively, instead of our government creatively coming up with ways to make us suffer due to a problem situation.

It’s a problem America is going to have to think her way through. Oh, I get chills just typing it. A puzzle to solve. Imagine that. We are the midnight IT man whose computer has gotten a virus. We are the mechanic whose truck has broken down. We are the Iron Chef whose secret ingredient is chocolate.

We are all in an amazing position to finally kick ass in the most internationally accepted way possible. We get to figure our way out of a problem that we are supposed to be the experts on.

You know who figures their way out of problems? Macguyver does. You know the one thing that MacGuyver never felt like to me? An insufferable fucktard.

Lame? Maybe. Hokey? Sure. Cheesy? Absolutely. Complete, foaming at the mouth, guns-blazing, beer guzzling ass hat? No, never.

And that’s why I’m feeling this little bit of pride. We might actually solve a problem here, ladies and gentlemen. And we actually might do it without coming off like complete ass hats. Two firsts at once after almost a decade of neither. It’s like there’s electricity in the air.

And for right now, ring side to the big event, for as long as I can afford it, an unemployed American is something I’ll wear as proud as I used to wear the American Flag on my Boy Scout uniform, before I started making a list of yays and nays, and before I decided that America was something to be denounced as quickly as possible, before I could be counted among them.

I am a cynic, and I am a realist, and I always plan for rain on a sunny day. But for right now, now in this time when the statistics on CNN directly include me and my family and my friends, let me hang on to this small glimmer of hope and pride for the government that is in charge of the land I have come to love and belong to. Let my pride in becoming one of the millions of Americans that are being threatened by a national problem make sense. Let me hold on to the hope that being born an American citizen when I was just means that I had an opportunity to be onboard at the ground floor for this nation’s next rise to greatness through intelligent and peaceful socioeconomic success.

Let me quietly consider having an American flag hanging off of my home for the first time in 12 years, if only because I’m going through the worst low I’ve ever gone through, professionally, in my young adult life. Because it feels like the most appropriate time to feel good about your country is when it’s in the toilet.

Thanks for indulging the soapbox,
Chiggie Von Richthofen
Canada's still up there, don't fuck this up

No comments: