I know that the majority of you are good, honest, hard working, God fearing people who live in small towns, go to work and to church on Sundays, want nothing more than to have a little slice of the American dream, own a home, have a job that pays enough to afford it, and a car in the driveway. You want your kids to be able to attend good schools and go on to better things than you have right now. You want to be able to come home from work at night and to be able to sit down with your family to a good meal and then do whatever it is you do in the evenings, watch TV, do homework, go to Johnny’s soccer match or Suzy’s ballet performance. You don’t ask for much, just a bit of the good life and peace of mind, that’s all.
Surely, you don’t ask for much. You’re not looking for pie-in-the-sky – OK, maybe you are, when you go down to the local convenience store or the gas station and buy a few lottery tickets – but for the most part, you’re a realist. You know that the chances of the big payola from a winning lottery ticket are about as slim as the chances of being hit by lightning. Oh, sure, once in a while, you pick up your local paper that is delivered to your front porch every morning before sunrise by your local paperboy, and see the headlines of someone in your hometown who hit it big in the lottery, and you feel that little twinge of envy, wondering what Joe Lunchbucket’s going to do with all that cash, now that he’s a multi-millionaire. Will he go down to the car dealership and buy a Lexus SUV and roar around town like some high and mighty person that you’re going to hate just seeing every day on that same road you drive to work?
You don’t much like super-rich people who live in those exclusive gated communities and drive their Lexus and BMW’s and Mercedes Benz’s. The nerve of them, thinking that they need to escape the common rabble, that being people like you, and live in some exclusive enclave like Royalty, guarded by the Palace Guard as if they should never have to see the lowly commoners like you – oh, how that would offend their sensibilities! You know deep down in your heart that they don’t pay taxes to support your schools and libraries, and it makes you darned mad that they don’t share their wealth for the common good, but rather, hoard it like some kind of greedy animal who wants the prey he killed all to himself rather than share it with the rest of his kind for survival’s sake.
Of late, you’ve felt squeezed between a rock and a hard place. You’re paying sky high prices to gas up your car so that you can go to your job that hasn’t been able to afford to give you a raise in you don’t remember how long, so you’re not even treading water anymore financially. Rather, you are sinking, as bills pile up and the cash to pay them isn’t there anymore. You’re facing record high heat bills this winter and you wonder who’s going to pay them, since you’re already scrambling to pay rapidly escalating health care costs on top of everything else. You wonder whether or not you’re even going to get to retire, because you’re also fretting over your aging parents who are themselves struggling to pay high medical and prescription drug bills, in addition to all of your other woes. You wonder, should the time come, if you can afford to place them in an assisted living facility if they are in need of such a thing someday.
In short, you’re a part of what used to be known as the “middle class”, but which is now rapidly becoming extinct. You don’t consider yourself to be a part of that group, because you don’t think you even make enough money anymore to qualify. Your real earning power has drastically shrunk, your bills have piled up and you’re going gray just wondering how you’re going to get through each day anymore. You wonder what happened to all those dreams and hopes for a better future that your parents generation raised you with – get a good education, find a job, and it’s yours for life, with a fat retirement pension at the end to support you in your old age. You know that these promises no longer hold true anymore, and it pains you to wonder how and why they all fell through and disappeared. You feel helpless to do anything to change it all but wring your hands and complain to friends and co-workers over coffee.
But, America, I also know that when you’ve had enough, you are willing to do something about it. Sure, you’ve got three more years of this obviously incompetent administration that has managed to dig us into a very deep hole, but I am seeing signs, America, that you have indeed had more than enough, and you want change. It’s a shame that it took a year for you to see who you voted into office (OK, those of us from Ohio know darn well that our elections were stolen in order to deliver the Presidency to Bush for another four years, but that’s another story for another time!), but you can change things now. Your displeasure is showing itself in recent polls, which give the approval rating for Bush at a meager 37%.
Some of us tried to warn you, America, what you’d be getting yourself in for when and if you voted for Bush, but it’s taken over 2,000 deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, PlameGate, the DeLay scandals, the torture issue and a host of other ills plaguing this administration’s second term to make you see what we were trying to warn you about. But it’s not too late to atone for your mistakes. Midterm elections are coming up next year, and you have a chance to deliver the Senate back into the hands of the Democratic Party. This time, America, I urge you to get it right. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Sally Burnell is on the Steering Committee of the Social Justice Committee at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, Ohio. She can be contacted at email@example.com.