Daily Prompt: Flip Flop
I’ve had a good life with a few hard times along the way. I had a good job and a good marriage. My husband died. I married again. Then I lost my job and second husband to death in the same year. My financial situation is not likely to return to pre-unemployment levels. I’m learning to accept my situation. I’m starting to understand it and know difficult times are ahead for me. But they have always been there for others. The people I never really thought about. I never looked down on them though. That’s easy to do when we don’t have to live the lives of those less fortunate.
I attended a city council meeting a few nights ago. The usual Concerned Citizens (hereafter referred to as CCs) congregated to air their grievances against the council and mayor for their poor financial planning. Our city is not unique. I could move to another city and see the same issues – expensive (and failed) redevelopment deals and too generous labor agreements for City employees that are no longer affordable. The CCs take up much of the meeting complaining but not offering solutions – their way to vent against the people who thought it was alright to keep making financial deals and continue to pay for the deals from the wallets of residents by raising property taxes. But we have no more money to give to the city. We are low income retirees or unemployed and underemployed citizens. Many residents are losing their homes in foreclosure. The only way to reduce the budget is to fire employees and cut services. If we fire employees, we have to provide unemployment compensation for them and their houses will also go into foreclosure when they can’t find a job to replace their incomes.
I sit quietly at these meetings and listen and watch the CCs as they rail against every expense in the budget prior to and during the meeting. I don’t speak in front of the council as I don’t have any solutions so I’m not going to make a nuisance of myself to them. We have a group dedicated to annoying the council and I don’t want to belong to that club – not yet.
On this evening, I watched and listened to CCs 1-3 attempting to proselytize new members of the audience to their cause just before the meeting started. They were wasting their time though when they approached Ms. Priss. Ms. Priss is a 30-something school teacher who is the sister of one of the councilmen. She dresses stylishly and looks down her nose at the unwashed masses – i.e. the CC of our city. I listened carefully to the conversation between Ms. Priss and the CCs. Ms. Priss told the CCs that she doesn’t speak out on an issue without looking at both sides of the story and first doing research on it. I thought her approach to dealing with difficult issues was level-headed and intelligent. But she dropped a few points in my estimation when she told CCs 1-3 that she didn’t like whiners and she did what was necessary to make ends meet. She also reminded them that her grandfather didn’t have the right to vote (I still don’t understand how this had anything to do with our situation) and that everyone has “to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Ms. Priss is a tenured teacher whose job is supported by city property taxes so her situation was probably not as dire as those of CCs 1-3 who are unemployed former professionals and retirees on fixed incomes. Ms. Priss’ bitterness over past racial injustice to her ancestors and her belief in total self-sufficiency gave her the authority to be condescending to her less fortunate neighbors. I wonder if her views on “how the world is supposed to work” will change when and if she loses her job and can’t pay her bills.
For the first half of my life, I thought I knew how I was supposed to live to achieve the American Dream and perfect life. Reality has changed my opinion on many issues and I’m not too upset that the foundations of my former belief systems have been shaken.