Friday, November 28, 2008

Cycles of Time

I popped into the New York Times website this morning but the headlines were all so depressing, I just backed right out again. One good thing about getting older is that you're more philosophical about the cyclical nature of life. You've been through the peaks and valleys before and if you've learned anything at all, you know that the peaks hardly ever last and neither do the valleys.

It is terrible, of course, when you're one of the ones actually affected. The recession in which I personally suffered most occurred under President Reagan's watch. Jim and I were both laid off right before Thanksgiving; neither of us qualified for unemployment because we'd left Texas voluntarily (having no clue just how bad things were back home, although it wouldn't have mattered because the downturn hit Houston shortly after we left). The convenience store next to us had a job available and 50 people turned up to apply - for a minimum wage, part-time position as a cashier in a tiny town in rural Indiana. Thankfully, both sets of parents had resources enough to help us keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We never had to apply for food stamps or any other type of public assistance. We garaged one of our cars so we didn't have to plate or insure it and hunkered down to wait the recession out.

The first job I took during those times was as a blood-drawer at the lab in the hospital. I learned through that experience that some people simply can't do some things. I couldn't stick people with needles....period.....end of story. After a week, I resigned (after having spent more on uniforms than I would earn). We would have to live without that paycheck no matter how badly we needed the money. I quit, not so much for myself, as for the patients in the hospital. Who would want someone with shaking hands and throbbing head and clenching stomach to be poking them with sharp objects?

Next, I ended up in the print shop of Huntington College. The job started out under a cloud because I lied about being a smoker in order to get hired. I would normally never have been willing to sacrifice my principles (or theirs) but desperate times call for desperate measures. At lunch time, I'd run full-tilt to my car and as soon as I was off the campus, I'd light up, sucking in the precious nicotine like a Hoover.

I loved the students at HC although I thought they lived in a fairy tale world. They'd all attended Christian pre-schools and Christian elementary schools and Christian high schools and now they were at this devoutly Christian college. Their views of life and history were so divergent from reality, they amazed me with some of their ideas. I wonder sometimes if they managed to remain in their protective shell all their lives. I suppose many of them grew up and went to church every Sunday and voted for George W Bush and watched NASCAR races and spouted contradictory statements like "hate the sin and love the sinner" about gays and somehow found a way to believe Jesus would condone torturing terrorists.

Eventually, the recession ended and we were back working at decent jobs again and the memory receded about how tough those times were. We rocked along during the Senior Bush administration (a slight blip on the economic radar screen but nothing really serious) and then came Clinton and the good times rolled when everyone who wanted a job could get one and the stock market went up and up and the rich got richer and so did the poor.

Evidently though the rich didn't get rich enough because under Bush Junior because we had to drastically lower their taxes so that now, while the rich got richer, the poor got poorer. And we spent lots of that money that we didn't have going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq so when a hurricane took one of the crown jewels of American cities, there wasn't enough left to rebuild it. And we created a huge, new, unaccountable government agency called the Department of Homeland Security (which sounds more like what you'd call shadowy part of a communist or fascist regime than an agency of the American government). And not many jobs were created and before it was over, even those few and more were lost. And the Dow is even lower than it was when Bush began. And we're about to lose the American auto industry.

And many of my younger friends, politically liberal types, are beside themselves, believing that the country is just this far from being totally destroyed. But I take it all in stride because I've seen it before and I know that this too shall pass.