In which I lose a bunch of readers, but cannot find the will to care.

November 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

The other day I was sitting at home perusing Facebook in between job searches and I came across what at first looked like one of those 99% photos. Then I read it. It is a photo of someone who appears to be in the military holding a notebook with a handwritten message:

I have a steady job with a regular paycheck, great benefits, and lots of room for promotion. Next year, I will be paid to go to college and graduate with a guaranteed position making a decent salary. I am the 1% of the 99% that decided hard work and sacrifice were more important than complaining about how life is too hard and I’m not getting any free handouts.

When I first came across this picture, I became absolutely enraged. I had to wait a few days to write a post so I wouldn’t say something I would regret.

I first want to make it very clear: I don’t begrudge any of the benefits bestowed on the U.S. military. If anyone deserves free college and medical care, it’s soldiers. I could have had those benefits, but I chose a life as a civilian, and I’m not sorry for that. My problem is the implication that, because I’m in massive debt and unemployed and consider myself part of the 99%, I am inherently lazy.

Would you like to see 120 job applications I’ve sent out? I can make that happen. Also, let me give you the contact info for people I work with in my volunteer activities. Or let’s jump in my time machine and go back to law school where I worked two jobs, volunteered, and went to school full-time. Not enough? Let’s go back further. Let’s go back to college where I worked three jobs seven days a week just to pay rent. Not to pay tuition. Just to pay rent. Also, I went to school full-time. Still not enough for you? Let’s go back to high school where I went to school and had a job and spent my weekends at debate tournaments, despite my crippling fear of public speaking. I did it because I wanted to make myself better and because I would need those public speaking skills later in life. What? I’m still not working hard enough for you? OK, let’s go back to elementary school where I did homework from the time I came home to the time I went to bed. Is that enough?

I am well aware that I have lived a relatively sheltered life. I know that I’ve been extremely lucky to have a super supportive family who are there for me when I need them. And I know that on a global scale I have huge privileges that billions of people can’t comprehend. But that doesn’t make me lazy in my own life.

I’m sure the soldier in the photo has made sacrifices. I wasn’t willing to take a job where I am in constant danger. But, think about it. Should that be the standard we use to determine if people “deserve” social justice? Do we really want to require people to be willing to die if they want to earn enough money to live? That isn’t the world I want to live in.

I resent the implication that just because I didn’t make the same decision as you did, that I’m lazy. Like I haven’t done anything since high school except sit on my ass and watch TV. I feel like no one is calling this kind of thing out because they don’t want to look like they don’t support the troops. Well, fuck that. The soldier holding that note insults and denigrates everyone who played by the rules and have nothing to show for it. If that means I hate the troops, then I guess I do. But I prefer to think of it as hating pompous asshats who can’t see past their own experiences.

Soldier in the picture: I’m glad that your life is coming up roses. I really am. You’ve worked hard, and you deserve it. But there are millions of people around the country who have also worked hard and also deserve a modicum of success. Hard work and sacrifice takes many different forms, and not every person is suited for the same life path. And just because you remain relatively unaffected by the near collapse of the US economy, please don’t assume everyone who has been are indolent.

One last thing. As I said at the top, I found this photo on Facebook. I am extremely hurt to know what my friends actually think of me. It only adds to the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and uselessness I already feel. Thanks for that.

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