In the news yesterday was a shooting at the Southern California Edison office in Irwindale; a long-term employee went back to the office after lunch (supposedly after finding out that there would be no bonuses this year, that there were going to be big layoffs and he himself was going to be laid off) and he shot several managers – and then killed himself.
You may tell yourself (once again) that this guy was just a crackpot, a loner with mental problems and all the other comforting pap we feed ourselves when the bad news comes too close to home…but I think you’d be wrong.
We see this type of incident in the news almost every day now; I can remember at least one other recent incident right here in Southern California of an employee going to his office and shooting everyone in sight – because he was going to lose his job. There are stories of men killing their families and then killing themselves in the news every other day.
And, now, because ’tis the season, the desperation of these people is being ratcheted up by the unceasingly manic and frantic exhortations of the retailers who have been bombarding us 24/7 since Halloween: BUY BUY BUY for Christmas! Door-buster sales! Your kid has to have the latest and greatest toy – or you’re a lousy parent and your kid will be scarred for life! Your tree must be the biggest! Your house must drip with twinkling lights hung from every corner! You must have the best parties, at which you must serve the best drinks, the best food, and the best liquor! You must have a brand-spanking-new Lexus with a big red bow parked in the driveway on Christmas morning and your wife must open that pretty box from Zales or Kay or Jerrod with the sparkly bauble inside – or else….you fail. You fail…miserably.
And because a huge number of Americans are already hopeless, possibly soon to be homeless, and increasingly desperate, the idea of killing their children to save them from what they see as inevitable – a life on the street, trudging from shelter to shelter to welfare office to humiliating visits to charities, to that final indignity of the street corner or freeway on/off-ramp and that crumpled cardboard sign scrawled with a Sharpie, “Hungry – please help” …it has become a reality here in America that the idea of killing your children to save them from that awfulness, once absolutely unthinkable, somehow has managed to morph from the impossible into the possible.
And, unfortunately, I suspect that the number of these incidents is only going to go up, especially if the Richpublicans keep turning the screws on the unemployed by cutting their unemployment benefits and continuing to heap abuse, degradation and humiliation on their heads, not only by publicly and loudly calling them names “moochers,” “freeloaders,” and “lazy slobs” who “should take a bath” – but now, by forcing them to pee in a cup (and pay for the drug test, too, thank you very much!), by which they imply that because you got laid off, well, you must be a drug addict and/or forcing them to pay fees to the banks to get their money (which is barely enough to get by anyway, and in lots of cases, isn’t even enough to get by).
The Richpublicans, so smug and secure in their thousand-dollar suits and their government jobs, calling their fellow Americans who have fallen on very hard times moochers, lazy, dirty, spoiled and telling them to take a bath and get up off their lazy butts and find a job are adding insult to injury on a daily – and even hourly – basis.
Say there is a man in his 50’s, who has no college degree but who has gotten to where he is, a management position, by dint of hard work and diligence, who has a mortgage, a car payment and a kid or two in college who has lost his job because of downsizing, or jobs being sent overseas. This man is now pounding the pavement every day looking for work, but he’s in his 50’s, has no degree, and yet, he is looking for a salary commensurate with what he was making before. Maybe he has a few interviews and feels positive about them, but then, either time passes with no call, or he gets the “thank you very much, but we’ve hired someone else” call or email.
This is incredibly discouraging.
I know; I’ve experienced it myself. I was laid off in 2009, and I have yet to recoup my losses or even get back to where I was before I was laid off. Although I’m fortunate to be employed full time, I took approximately a 20% pay cut just to have this job. I’ve been looking now for another job for around 6 months, and I’ve been shocked at how the salaries for what I do have fallen – and how the requirements for those jobs, such as requiring a Bachelor’s – or even a Master’s – degree, have risen.
In the early 1990’s, I tried to make a go of an acting career. I did not have a regular full-time job; instead, I temped. Because my skills were so good, I could work as much as I wanted to, and I’d go out at the rate of $15-16 per hour. This was in 1991, 1992 – and now, ten years later, the salaries for the jobs I see on Monster are very nearly the same as they were in 1991. My rent in 1991 was $495 a month. My rent now? Nearly double that. But yet, the salaries offered for positions I could fill are ranging from the mid $30’s to around $45K, unbelievably – the same as they were in 1991.
I’m in my 50’s – and having difficulty finding another job; I’ve got great skills, and yet, I’ve been searching now for about 6 months, and the jobs are few and far between – unless I want to make even less than I do now, of course. I’ve had a dozen calls from prospective employers who would love to hire me for $10-15k *less* than even what I’m making now. I know how difficult and disheartening this can be. I had an interview for a job last week which paid modestly better than I’m making now, I had a great interview (the fourth or so of these), and once again, I didn’t get the job.
You get your hopes up…and once again, the big disappointment. It’s difficult to keep at it. Job hunting is the last thing I want to do right now – filling out form after form after the same form over and over again…it’s mind-numbing. It’s terribly disheartening and it does things to your self-esteem; the phrase that has been running through my mind lately is “not good enough.” Not good enough.
So yeah, I’m having a tough time, but I can’t even begin to imagine how desperate someone who has been doing this for over 2 YEARS must feel – especially in light of the fact that the Richpublicans insult and denigrate them as moochers – all the while spouting heartless and cruel Ayn Randian crap and trying very hard to cut their lifelines off completely.
Now, I’m not saying I’m going to grab a gun and go shoot someone; first of all, I wouldn’t have a gun in the house, and secondly, I don’t deal with my problems that way.
I seem to be made of sterner stuff; after all, I survived my childhood and I will survive this. (I hope.)
But, honestly? I worry terribly about the people out there who have it much worse than I; how can we allow our fellow citizens to suffer so? How is it that the Republicans have been allowed to shift the blame for our country’s woes onto the poor and the needy, when the rich get more bloatedly rich every single year? How is it that those who claim the mantle of Christianity and the Jesus Stamp of Approval™ are the ones calling for cutting off the poor in this country from their vitally necessary lifelines – food stamps, Medicare, unemployment – even a heating oil subsidy for the poor in the brutally cold northeast.
I am upfront about being an atheist, for which I have been insulted endlessly by those alleged Christians – the same “Christians” who advocate taking food out of the mouths of poor children, allowing senior citizens to face the prospect of a snowy winter without being able to heat their homes, who insult and denigrate the unemployed and desperate Americans who have only the most fragile of lifelines to cling to as moochers – and push to cut that lifeline in order to give more money to the richest of the rich.