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Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Will Save America

I live in an America outside the box of success. I am not uncontaminated by the contents of the box.  It spills over on us who are poor.  For 13 years I have worked as a parking attendant, outside the accepted definition of success in America. I harbored my faith in good, my love of books and arts, my dreams for the future, my past as a community organizer in my heart. My dreams, my past, my faith, the things I loved conflicted--stormy conflict sometimes.  And yet I remained of good cheer and equanimity.  My standard of living began to erode as the costs of my needs grew and when my hours were cut.  And then I lost my job.

For over a month I have been unemployed.  I am in greater fear now than before.  I am in a country that has forgotten her poor, her unemployed, those losing their houses, but has not forgotten those too big to fail.

When I first lost my job, after 13 years, I entered a dark hole.  In the dark hole I could not see America, I could only see fear.  Slowly I found my way out of the dark hole.  Now it is time to look at America and why this is happening.  I intend to be a voice from the margins telling honestly what I see. I have lost everything except my voice and my eyes.

When I rode the bus to work, as our economy began to disintegrate, and the price of gas rose, I saw how the buses became crowded, knees and elbows,  body parts eyes, ears, sounds, smells, dreams, hopes, fears, poverty and the not so poor cramming together, riding  crammed together for lack of alternative.

For years I had told everyone that there is no boom that cannot bust and that the housing market, when it fell at last, would take America spiraling downwards.  Few listened. An artificial prosperity grew up in the America of the first decade of our  new millennia.  Unemployment was higher than early in post World War II America.  The American Century was over.  Wages stagnated, the careers of the middle income stagnated.  The social safety net frayed and began to break. Homelessness grew.  But investors were on a spree.  Now they are on a spree again, but they are slow to bing us along even part way.

We have a new Congress.  A Congress whose priorities are getting the tax break for the wealthy, cutting government programs and repealing legislation.  They say this will help.  They believe that the cure for an America like that of the Great Depression is the free market of the 1920's that preceded.  Perhaps the economy will move on again and pick up some.  Or perhaps the monetary measures of the Fed will provide CPR to it.  If not, hello Grapes of Wrath, and hold on for the hard slide down the hill.

I spent years in my life trying to save an America that did not love her poor without the help of God.  My heart was dark and unhappy, but I refused to admit I was unhappy.  Now I am an aging old warrior who has found God, but is seeing sorrow and suffering spreading across his America.  I pray for help from Dorothy Day, Servant of God, a not yet fully canonized saint who in founding the Catholic Workers in the 1930's with Peter Maurin saw God in the face of the poor.  And she never forgot what she saw.  Look into the eyes of the poor America.  That, not the tax breaks for the wealthy is your salvation.


  1. Wow. Joseph, thank you for sharing your reflections. Peace.

  2. Hi Joe!

    I think your blog can spur new realizations for many and could also speak for many since unemployment is such a common experience today. And combining your own thoughts and experiences with some of Day's writings could be very powerful.

    Sherry Weddell

  3. Hi Joe:
    Thank you for putting so eloquently that which many of us feel.
    You are in my thoughts.


  4. Great writing.
    Please keep posting and speak to us, heart to heart.

  5. Love Dorothy Day. Bookmarking you, and praying for your employment situation.