Monday, August 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Lives

Yesterday I got together with a friend of mine from high school. It had been about 18 years since we'd last gotten together. It was great to reconnect. I'd always liked and admired J, but never so much as I did after yesterday.

Our lives have taken drastically different paths over the last 20 years. Hers has been marked by tragedy - multiple miscarriages, the loss one of her children in infancy, and most recently, long-term unemployment. Her husband's, that is. A skilled pipefitter, his employment went the way of the Dodo when demand for this type of manufacturing work dissapeared in the wake of the seemingly-endless recession.

Despite extended unemployment, her work doing medical transcription, and some overnight work he has managed to pick up, the current economic conditions have left their life in question. Savings depleted. 401ks raided. And now, they just don't know what comes next. All of this to very nice people who have never lived beyond their means. Never been to a Caribbean Island. No giant McMansion, just a patio, an inflatable pool and a grill in the backyard.

Our conversation left me wondering when they were going to get a break. Because I think they've had enough, quite frankly.

But it also made me realize how close we were. As much as we want it to work out, in our current home, 1 income won't cut it forever. Sure, we can go a long time, but eventually our financial trajectory is the same as theirs. It may take far longer - years maybe - , and hopefully by the time we get to that point the problem will have been solved, but there it is.

So far apart, so much the same.

I listen to the political harping of Democrat to Republican and I think - these people can't solve this. There's no will to solve problems in Congress now, everyone is too busy playing the get re-elected game, and pandering to whatever they think likely voters want to hear.

Big business is too busy sitting on piles of cash, something that the titans of Wall Street applaud them for (think about that the next time you laud what Warren Buffett has to say, mmkay?) instead of hiring people and creating jobs. Banks aren't lending. States and towns are broke.

It makes my head hurt. It really does. Because people like J - hardworking, gentle people - are getting screwed. Really, really screwed. Because everyone who has the power to make changes is working very hard to ensure the status quo doesn't get disrupted.

I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would have thought, were he to see what has happened.

I have hope for our economy, for J's husband and mine, for some recovery. What I've lost hope about is that the people who have paid the price for this economic disaster will ever recover fully. I think they'll never see the world with the hope and optimism they did before, and will always have a fear of loss. It happened once. It can again.

I'd like to get that hope back for J and I.

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