Unemployment Week Three: The Numbers (November 4, 2010)

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I have been out of full-time work for 21 days now, and as I can’t sit here and ruminate over the mid-term elections anymore (no Sharon Angle!), I thought I’d compile and share my vital statistics to date.

Unemployment Insurance Dollars Received: 0

At first, due to my employer’s failure to report third quarter payroll to the State in a timely fashion, my claim was outright denied, the government believing as it did that I hadn’t worked part June 30. Once that little snafu was rectified, and I filed my first certification for benefits, I was again rejected. The reason? I had the nerve to have been laid off mid-week.

Per the Claimant Notice of Possible Ineligibility (sexy verbiage!): “You earned X dollars which is greater than your weekly benefit amount of X.” Ok sure, for that one week don’t send me any funds. But how about the second? This is a bi-weekly filing. I’ll be damned if I am going to that dimly lit, sad IDES office again. I am due to certify again this coming Monday, which means I might finally get my meager slice of government cheddar on Friday, November 12 – a month after my last day of work. Needless to say, without the support of my still employed husband, I’d already be up shit’s creek without well, unemployment wages aren’t really worth the label of “paddle.”

Resumes/Applications Submitted: 21
Interviews: 0

I have been a writer in some form or another (corporate, nonprofit, freelance, etc.) for over 10 years. In this particularly jobless recovery, I have discovered that at 32, I sit in that awesome sweet spot where employers feel I am too experienced to pay 25k a year without benefits, yet too young to have had the experience of the major media/ad agency heydey. Which basically means that I have an advanced degree and a solid work history that leaves me unemployable. The really sought after writing positions in Chicago have their pick of candidates with a list of bylines longer and more impressive than mine. The entry level positions in publishing, media and the like want hungry kids with no lives. I have no problem dismissing my vanity and letting HR people I fall into the latter category despite my age. I have no children to raise after all. If only I could get them to talk to me.

Bottles of Red Wine Consumed: 480 (give or take)

See above statistics and ample time on my hands to lament my own failure.

Wrestling Matches: 1

A great friend of mine, a trained military assassin and Jiu Jitsu black belt, offered to to school me in the ways of self-defense. This topic came up innocently enough over a delicious lunch of Subway sandwiches ($5 Footlongs y’all!) and degenerated into a sweaty afternoon of me sitting astride an attack dummy and practicing a variety of chokes. Truthfully, I never knew there were so many.

I am always game for novelty and a chance to better defend myself in these mean Chicago streets, but I became perversely afraid of my dark side when my friend ordered me to choke him to a level of unconsciousness in order to “become familiar with it” and I did. I was following orders. Yikes! Did I just say that?

I left for home that day with a mildly bruised trachea, and a newfound terror that I possessed the ability to disable grown men with one sleeper hold. Maybe I could find work as a body guard?

Exercise Related Injuries: 2

See above windpipe lacerations.

I am using as much of my free time as I can reasonably afford without feeling like a dilettante to get in better physical shape. Right now everything hurts, and I guess I kind of like it that way. Symbolic, tangible pain is easier to cope with than the inner tumult. I have been hitting the Russian kettlebells hardcore with my trainer Rob. In addition to a long running battle with right foot deep tissue tendonitis, and the throat crushing, I am now nursing a right bicep that needs to pop itself in a pretty loud yet satisfying way every couple of days. Does the WWE hire female wrestlers in their 30s?

Petitions Signed to Get Candidates on the Chicago Mayoral Ballot: 2

I know I said I’d leave politics alone, but the midterms are so earlier this week. The Windy City has already moved on. As a frequent rider of Chicago’s public transit system, it is now perfectly usual to be accosted by volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 80, asking me if I am a registered voter of the City. For the first time in over two decades, urban citizens get to be a part of a major regime change as King Richard Daley of the Treasure Looting gracefully makes his overdue exit. The City is atwitter over who will fill those big, Bridgeport steel shitkickers.

In addition to the star power of potential candidates like former Illinois Senator Carol Mosley Braun, it seems like every regular Tom, Dick and Harry wants to throw his or her hat in the ring. And why not? Chicago has a pool of 10% unemployed individuals to select from, and none of them could make worse decisions than Daley. I have received several requests to sign the Rahm Emanuel petition. During the first of these, the outgoing Obama Chief of Staff was actually present. May I say, though I never noticed on television before, Mr. Emanuel is quite sexy? I direly wished I had brushed my hair before venturing to the gym that morning.

But I digress. I have also signed a petition for Mitch Newman, a local builder who wants to focus on Chicago’s failing schools and gang plagued streets. I have seen several very low-budget television ads for a variety of other potential race runners. Beautiful! Democracy at it’s finest. Suck it Tea Party!

Maybe I will run. I’ve got nothing else to do.

Democrats Have to Hang Tough for the Future of Government and Our Children (October 3, 2013)

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The three most important children in my life are my 13 and six year-old nieces, and a four year-old step-granddaughter. Since President Obama’s election to the nation’s highest office in November of 2008, I have given a lot of thought to how I might try to explain the rapid disintegration of the nation’s political discourse. A good portion of the gridlock is certainly old-fashioned ideological difference, but it has been clear for years that other forces are at play. As these girls I love are of mixed race heritage, and all growing up in ethnically diverse households, tolerance is fortunately, their experiential norm.

So trying to account for the rancorous, divisive dogmatism and xenophobia (let us never forget that the Tea Party Nation was a key influence on the Birther movement) that has presently brought the daily functions of government to a screeching halt is somewhat challenging. It is incredibly disheartening and frustrating on a personal level, but I grew up in an era (the 1980s) where my conservative, immigrant grandparents comfortably trafficked in ethnic stereotypes and epithets, even as my kid sister and I cringed in embarrassment.

The next generation of our family is rather blissfully unaware that it was once considered socially acceptable to draw attention to, and pass judgment upon “otherness.” There will always be unfortunate exceptions, but by and large, day-to-day interactions in their world are characterized by public courtesy, regardless of privately held beliefs. The common American has taken a great public leap forward in this respect.

So how to clarify the feral, mean-spirited and utterly defeatist Republican goal of rendering the POTUS a one-term President? Just two days after the 2010 midterm elections, NBC News characterized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as offering “an aggressive assessment of the results, calling for votes to erode the reach of the health care law that was a signature of the Obama administration.”

The Birthers, Obamacare opponents and the Republican establishment which sought to unseat the President in 2012 with the boring, one percent loving candidacy of Mitt Romney, have all lost their causes. These issues have been dealt with at the ballot box, the Supreme Court and the court of public opinion, yet so great is the distaste for our African-American President with the Muslim name on the part of certain members of privileged white society, that here we are. The first large scale shutdown of government functionality since 1995. At that time the Republican-led House, under the stewardship of Speaker Newt Gingrich, paid dearly for its gamble in the 1996 elections, which saw Democrats pickup key seats.

There is little reason to expect a different long-term outcome this time, except several other variables stand to make the “temporary” pain of shutdown more keenly felt. Many families are still reeling from the Great Recession and its sustained impact on the job market. Government employment, devastated by cash strapped local budgets and the ill effects of 2013 sequestration “bargain,” already in record decline, is in full-on furlough mode. Hardworking families across the country have just lost their paychecks, however temporarily.

And for what? Because the racist, classist, elitist guardians of white privilege can’t stand to “give in” and fund the government for six more weeks with a continuing budget resolution? NEWS FLASH: the issue of Obamacare has been settled several times over. It’s done. And despite the sustained campaign of fear and misinformation waged by the G.O.P against the American people, my fellow citizens will quickly wonder what all the fuss was about. Those who can obtain low-cost coverage from which they were excluded before because of financial or pre-existing health conditions, the many who begin to understand that they’ll no longer be one accident/illness away from insolvency, and the majority who respect the integrity of the democratic process will recoil from this disingenuous, destructive, arbitrary gamesmanship. Give it time.

But for now, I don’t know how to account for what’s happening to the very people whose future and health (mental as well as physical) I worry about most. What can I tell my girls about people willing to sacrifice the nation for the regressive, immature attitudes of the few? As awful as the situation is, I am grateful that President Obama and most of his fellow Democrats have taken a stand against blackmail. They must. Republicans have to lose this one, and badly, or what type of government paradigm are we bequeathing to our youngest?  Hatred and sour grapes resulting in scorched earth tactics cannot be tolerated a day longer. For better or worse, this is a defining moment in our nation’s history, when we decide what kind of country we want to be for the rest of the 21st Century and beyond. For the sake of our children, let this pain and shame result in a better, more constructive, more tolerant future.