A man ventures off to work, on an otherwise non-distinct morning, to pursue his version of the “American Dream.” Regardless its many varied interpretations, the American Dream is simple enough-“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”…and going to work, earning a paycheck sufficient to meet your fiscal responsibilities, feeding your family, and putting enough aside for that inevitable “rainy day” are the cornerstones of such an endeavor.
A couple hours into the work day, he is taken into a conference room and told he’s been laid off: “we’re sorry to have to inform you that due to lagging revenues and shrinking profit margins and market share, we’re going to have to let you go.”
He signs the paperwork promising a nifty little severance package built from apology and patronization, is given basic information about how to file for food stamps and unemployment, and then is provided with a cardboard box for the few scant trappings he’s had on display to bring a little bit of his personal life inside the surgical environs of his cubicle. He is then, summarily, kicked to the curb… out the door and on his own left to fend for himself.
He tries in vain to find work in a pay range consistent with the one that just left him behind. After 2 months he lowers his standards…2 months more finds him lowering his standards further. Two months, and two months, and two months until he’s applying (unsuccessfully) for any job at any pay level in any field that is advertising for help. Along the way, his unemployment eligibility runs out, his food stamps run out, his credit rating plummets, and his debt skyrockets. He loses possession after possession after possession until he’s left with only the roof over his head and a meager day-labor income from an indentured servitude designed to keep him in his home.
Loans from family and friends for food and utilities, a cell phone gifted to him to offset the disconnected service in his home, a broken marriage and a deep depression and loss of all hope ensues, and he says goodbye to everything he thought was good and right in his life. He takes no solace nor comfort in the knowledge that he is not alone; knowing millions of his fellow Americans share his fate does nothing to help him suffer any less from it.
And then, by some implied ‘divine intervention’, a President is elected and a new Congress emplaced and he is assured his hopes will be renewed…”change he can believe in” is on the way.
By pure luck, or perhaps just because he happened to be in the right place at the right time, he is offered an opportunity to apply for a job Americans won’t do. It’s nights, it’s cleaning toilets and mopping floors. It’s emptying trash and sweeping porches and stocking shelves; it’s a job, and he’s on his knees thanking God for the chance to scratch his way back to a life of dignity, self-respect, and independence from living hat-in-hand begging for scraps from the Master’s table.
He works hard. He doesn’t call in sick. He works extra hours. He re-learns how to save money. He comes to realize, in starting over, that people put themselves in their own bad places by their bad choices and indecision and he vows to himself that he will never again be so callous and cavalier about life and money and responsibility and family and obligation. He comes to realize, with a ten dollar bill still in his wallet when he gets his next paycheck, that we are better when we strive to do more with less…that we are stronger, somehow, when we go without than when everything is handed to us. He reacquaints himself with pride and a sense of accomplishment…and that feeling of individual worth amongst his peers in society. He learns the valuable lessons of humility and sacrifice and personal responsibility.
And as he begins to unfold himself from the fetal position of shame and indigence and helplessness and poverty he looks at his country and his government and his elected officials and the general state of affairs in America.
He wonders how it is that American politicians can so shamelessly ask “we, the People” to suffer them and their selfishness, while not asking the same of themselves. Through their scratching and clawing and clamoring for laws and legislation and re-election campaigns driven solely by their own selfish self-interests, they have driven the country into the ground…the very same country they tell us they love and would do whatever we ask of them to make better. During the past 10 months of ‘hope and change’, American politicians have pushed America into the very same black hole he has JUST, by the Grace of God, begun to dig himself OUT of, and he wonders why they seem shocked at the claim that there are two Americas.
There is HIS America, fraught with loss and sacrifice and hopelessness and renewal…and there is THEIR America, drowning in a sea of theft and lies and fiscal irresponsibility and pompous self-aggrandizement, and he weeps. He weeps for his country and he weeps for those less fortunate than himself who are still trying to dig themselves out of their OWN black hole only made worse by those they trusted with their lives and their futures
He reflects on something Abraham Lincoln once said:
A house divided against itself cannot stand
and he determines that this is no less true today than it was in 1858, and he wonders what it is going to take to put this house back in order. He finds himself hoping things will change, knowing full well that neither of these things can ever come from Government.
Hope comes from God and Change comes from Man.
Accepting that these truths are self-evident, he gets dressed and goes to work and prays for himself and his country and those who have yet to receive God’s Grace…and he accepts that, in the end, we are each on our own to make things right with our bad choices and indecision, or continue suffering from them.
And he weeps.