Wages for not dying

For some reason a “living wage,” or the idea of implementing one, is horrifying to about half of the population of our country. If we called them ‘wages so people don’t die’ or ‘wages so people have a roof’ would that make $15 an hour more palatable to these people? In my town, the price for a one bedroom apartment is about $1210 a month. When my dad married my mom in June of 1966 he made $100 a week working as a carpenter and his rent was $100 a month for their apartment on Long Beach Island. My dad was 24 and my mom was 22 and one week of my dad’s pay was their rent for the month. My mom had a job too. They were a two income household and only one paycheck, of the eight that came in each month, was needed for the rent. By this math, a 24 year old man getting married in June to his 22 year old girlfriend would have to make $30.50 an hour for one of his paychecks a month to be their rent right here right now in south Jersey. Do you know any local young carpenters making $30.50 an hour? I don’t.

Why was it “okay” for a 24 year old to make a paycheck in 1966 that was in keeping with the expenses of living, but now in 2021 it is not okay for a 24 year old to make a paycheck that is in keeping with the expenses of living?? My nephew just turned 24. My dad had turned 24 in February and married my mom that June. My nephew works at a local apartment complex and has a good job doing appliance repair and property maintenance. He works for a well respected company and even with having a great employer and even making at present well over the current minimum wage, he would need TWO and a Half Paychecks to pay one month of rent if he chose to rent one of the apartments in which he works! I am not an economist and I don’t study labor or income statistics, but what I do know is the math of my life…why was it “fair” that in the time of my mom and dad’s start of life together one week of pay paid for one month of rent for a young couple starting out and for some reason, it now is “outrageous” to some that one month of rent would be paid by one week’s pay for a young couple starting out now???? WHERE did it go wrong?? WHEN did it change?? WHY is it some sort of flighty fantasy that wages should grow with expenses in a civil and just society??

When I have tried to talk to some people about why I think a minimum wage of $15 an hour is reasonable in this time, I have been told “it’s ridiculous that somebody working at Burger King would make $15 an hour.” When I then ask why, I never get an answer. Someone has to make the food and serve the food…someone has to scan the celery at Aldi, someone has to sweep the floor at the mall, there are jobs that are done every single day in every single town by people who never miss a day of work and those very same people can’t live where they work and can’t have the kind of life my mom and dad were able to have…If a person has a full time job at Burger King, or Aldi, or the mall, where should that person live? Where could that person live? If they were a 24 year old recently married man, if he lived in my town, two full weeks of pay would still not be enough to pay for one month of rent of his apartment. When my mom and dad got married they had a car, car insurance, fuel for the car, food, electricity, and money enough left over every month to start making a life together, and money enough left over each month to start SAVING MONEY TO BUY A HOUSE. If you have to use two full paychecks to make your rent, then that leaves less than two full paychecks for car insurance, fuel for the car, food, electricity, and THERE IS NEVER ANY MONEY LEFT OVER TO START SAVING FOR ANYTHING…well, you see where I am going with this…why do people think it was fine for young couples to make a living wage in 1966, by this I mean, wages were such that they were in keeping with the expenses of life, so that a young couple in their twenties could get married, afford their rent, afford to then buy a house, and then afford to have babies, and then keep on moving “up in the world” but that young couples today should not make wages that would afford them those same life experiences and opportunities?? To be able to live in this world now, and have money left over each month to save to keep moving up in the world, should not be seen as extreme. There is nothing “fair” about an entire generation that has to work just as hard as their grandparents but can never, and will never, be able to afford the kind of life their grandparents did.

I think it is fantastic that Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, his company literally has changed all of our lives for the better, but what good is it to be the richest man in the world if the people who pack orders in your warehouses can’t afford to live in the town where they work?? There is an Amazon fulfillment center out near Trenton and a one bedroom apartment is about $1600 a month there, so you can work there in Florence, NJ but can you really live there if you work in a warehouse for Amazon? Why is it perfectly acceptable for Jeff Bezos to make $33,000 a week, but not okay for Jim Smith or Jane Jones to make at least $600?? I don’t see how we the people are ever going to be less divided if the gap between the haves and the have nots does not narrow some.

I took enough classes in college in economics, statistics, history, criminal justice, feminist theory, and accounting, to understand that there will always be poor people and always be rich people and that there will always be a huge gap between the richest and the poorest but what is wrong with the middle, the in-between, the regular people, being able to earn a wage that makes a life that is livable? Should a person have to spend their whole adult life struggling even when they work full time?? Should hard working people have to worry every single month of their entire adult lives that they will have enough money to pay all of their expenses every month, month after month until they die??? That is what it’s like living paycheck to paycheck…some months taking from your right hand to pay your left hand, AND for many millions of adults RIGHT NOW IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD ON YOUR OWN STREET, people who have never been out of work are out of work…people who have never been to a food pantry or collected unemployment are getting food from local food pantries and collecting unemployment. Now is not a time for greed, now is a time for humanity, civility, and a desire to see hard working people thriving in this country and not suffering. I am making a sweeping generalization here, but I think that there is no thriving to be had when one is worried every single day about living. If one works full time and still does not earn or have enough money to live, I imagine there is little to look forward to, when it is so glaringly obvious that life can’t seem to get better, when it appears that there is not any way to ever get ahead, life is terrifying. Where is there any joy to grow as a person when there is fear and worry day in and day out???

Should the man who helps to bathe your father in the hospital, or the woman who helps get him to his lung scan in the radiology department have to work all day and then go work at a night job just to afford rent and a car and basic items for living?? It seems cruel, for someone to work so hard and have no way whatsoever to get ahead. In New Jersey right now a certified nurse assistant makes an average of $29,700 a year and by that math three paychecks a month are needed to pay one month of rent. This is not a person sitting around the house all day watching crap television or playing video games…this is a person who went to school for training for a job to work in a hospital and care for our sick and dying family and neighbors and working in that hospital full time does not even afford her the opportunity to go home after work to get a shower and rest her feet and maybe share a meal or laugh with her kids…I don’t know how to change the world and I don’t know how to make the world better but I believe in my heart that a person who works full time should not have to be terrified of homelessness.

I well understand that in a society there will always been wealthy people and there will always be poor people. There will always be drug addicts sleeping under overpasses, and there will always be mentally disturbed people who are homeless, and there will always be criminals in and out of the prison system. I am well aware that there are always going to be folks on the fringe of society, but what is a society when the hard working people who make up more than half of it work and work and work and never get ahead??? I am more than willing to pay $0.50 cents more for a gallon of Tide if it meant that the person stocking the shelf at Target did not have to work two full time jobs just to afford his rent. I am more than willing to pay $1.00 a month more in car insurance so that person doing the data entry work at Allstate doesn’t have to then go to her night job at Wawa just to afford her rent. I am more than willing to pay another $0.10 cents a cup for coffee if it means that the person making the coffee can work full time at her job and have a stable home. These are very small changes in a society, in an economy, that benefit everybody. Wouldn’t you feel better at night knowing that most of your neighbors were okay?? Wouldn’t you feel better at night knowing that the bank teller who does your deposit on Friday and the young man pumping your gas on Saturday are thriving in the community in which you all live??

I don’t write any of this because I have any answers at all, but I do write this because we as a society need answers, and we as a society should care, a lot about the people in our neighborhoods, and I truly believe that if at least we ask the questions we can discuss options, and find ways to make a place that is more fair for all. There has to be a way for the majority to thrive and prosper, and if we have to pay a little bit more for Tide and car insurance, bread and Netflix, then so be it. SOMEWHERE there has to be a kink in the chain that we can smooth out, so that 30 year olds don’t have to live in the basement of their childhood home, and so that families can eat dinner together and not have one or both parents working two full time jobs just to keep a roof over them all. I do not have a magic wand to fix what I think needs fixing, but I think that if qualified and capable people put their heads together, in an effort to make life better for the bulk of the people, all of us people will benefit. Failure to thrive doesn’t do any good to anybody.

Purple People

It is only right that purple is my favorite color. It is the mix of red and blue, hot and cold, fire and rain. I am a blue woman from a red family who lives in a red town in a red county in a blue state, purple is me. Long before the orange one, as I will forever now call him, I wrote and said that it is very hard being a liberal when you grow up in a conservative family and community. My ideas and concerns were often mocked, and I was teased at times that I was a “pinko commie” and while it was sometimes funny, it was most of the time not funny at all, because my ideas and concerns did not feel, or seem radical in any way whatsoever. My ideas and concerns seemed to always come from a deep well of kindness to others and an empathy for those who did not have what I had.

We all, well 81,283,485 of us, are in agreement that wanting justice for all, and quality affordable healthcare for all, and equal opportunities for all, and not to want to be an embarrassment to the rest of the modern world is not radical, it is human, it is decent. We all, well 81,283,485 of us, are in agreement that empathy and compassion for those less fortunate, or for those who did not have the same opportunities we did, and a desire to help them in basic, civil, humanitarian ways is not radical, it is human. We all, well 81,283,485 of us, think that “people are people” and that lying to them day after day, and convincing them to believe provably false information does not a lick of good for any of us or any of them.

I had the television on at the house where I was working last week, so I listened in real time as the son of the orange one tried to get an angry crowd angrier. He told many lies in a revved up way and even through a television screen, 200 miles away, I could feel the tension growing…then later I watched and listened to the orange one tell lots of angry people more lies to make them more angry, and then he told them to fight…if you tell a person a lie, over and over and over, and they begin to believe the lie, it is my opinion that they will do anything to continue to believe it, even when there is plenty of evidence to prove it untrue.

It is sort of like a bad husband; if he cheats on his wife, over and over and over, but swears that he didn’t, and brings her flowers and keeps her in a nice house and tells her she is imagining things, and that he loves her and would never hurt her, she will allow herself to believe that even when her AT&T text log on her bill shows her otherwise…she wants to believe that he loves her and is true to her. It is exactly this, in my opinion, that has happened to 74,223,744 registered voters in the United States…They were told that brown people were taking their jobs and raping their daughters and were criminals costing them money, and they were told that black people were ruining their neighborhoods and bringing down their real estate appraisals, and they were told that he was great, and was going to make the country great and that he had tremendous ideas because he was a tremendous business man and was going to make them all winners…AND SO EVEN WHEN THEIR OWN EYES AND OWN EARS SHOWED THEM EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, THEY BELIEVED HIM.

I have felt, over these last four years, that “it” could not get much worse, and then, sometimes daily it felt exactly that; worse than the day before. I have felt, over these last four years, that people I deeply cared about and liked very much, neighbors, friends, and family, would read what I read, heard what I heard, and saw what I saw and realize that they were being bamboozled…but that is not what happened. Every day to and from work I saw more bumper stickers and flags and signs in my red town in my red county in my blue state, telling me that these neighbors, friends, and family were not reading what I was reading nor hearing what I was hearing and definitely were not seeing what I was seeing…how could they?? If they were, they could not possibly still be thinking that the orange one was great, or that he was doing a tremendous job, or that he cared at all about them in any way whatsoever. To write that I have felt sad these last years is terribly understated. It is totally fine to live in a family where I like mint chocolate chip and everybody else likes vanilla, or I like bar-b-q pork and they all only like chicken…those are differences that don’t matter in the scheme of things, but when your ideas and beliefs are in such total opposition really, it means that you don’t talk about current events together, you don’t laugh about a news story together, you don’t discuss policy or laws or court cases together, and as a purple person for whom these things matter, this has been very sad to me.

Today starts the last weekend of the administration of the orange one and I believe in my heart and soul that all of the world will be better off without the full-of-himself liar in the white house. I believe in my heart and soul that all of the world will be better off with the husband of a bright and smart and educated woman, who seems to be genuinely happy and in love with her and their family. I believe in my heart and soul that the world will be better off with a man who truly seems to have empathy for people less fortunate or who have suffered loss or hardships, and who can articulate a clear plan for a path forward out of the mess that has been these last four years. These are character traits one would look for in a mate. Would YOU WANT a husband who is a known cheater, liar, and bankrupted multiple times?? Would you want a husband who thinks that white supremacy isn’t a problem?? Would you want a husband who makes fun of a disabled reporter and who has had multiple charges or sexual misconduct spoken against him?? Call me too picky, but I would not want that man as my husband and I absolutely would not want him as my president…yet many people did…so what does that say about people?? I will move forward the only way I know how…I will know in my heart that my assessment of this person was spot on from the beginning, and I will hope that the next four years are bright and healthy for us all, and I will forgive those who were so misguided and duped because people are people and we all have flaws and I will simply hope that they choose better next time…purple people are like that…we want a mix of blue and red that makes the world more beautiful.

People are people, so why should it be, You and I should get along so awfully? So we’re different colours and we’re different creeds, And different people have different needs. It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong & I’ve never even met you, so what could I have done? I can’t understand
What makes a man Hate another man Help me understand…And now you’re punching and you’re kicking and you’re shouting at me, I’m relying on your common decency, So far, it hasn’t surfaced but I’m sure it exists, It just take a while to travel from your head to your fist…People are people, so why should it be You and I should get along so awfully?

” Nous sommes nos cicatrices ” We are our scars…

“I’d never want to fully erase what makes me me.”  I read this sentence recently and realized the writer truly expressed, albeit briefly, what I have been blogging about for the last 13 years…I neither speak French nor read it, but she shared this phrase that spoke to me and I love the truth of it, …Nous sommes nos cicatricesI have many scars, countless really if you added them all up as I am now a 53 year old woman.  Many scars, most probably, are because of terrible decision making on my part, several are indeed from unfortunate events, a few, thank goodness,  from the hand of another…  2020 seems to have scarred many people in many different ways and some of those scars are so deep they will become wounds that never heal…regardless of the scar; emotional, financial, physical, we own them forever and it sometimes can take more than our lifetime allows to heal them, but we all still try, don’t we?  To heal…

I know many scarred people.  I know many scarred people who have deeper scars than I do.  The depth of their wounds does not diminish the pain of mine, and the lightness of mine does not make theirs any worse, we can’t compare pain and suffering really, it’s too subjective.  What hurts my boyfriend is not what hurts me.  What hurts my mother or my sister or my daughter is not necessarily what hurts me, but all of our scars and pain are valid and they shape, like it or not, the person we ARE, and too often, the person we spend our life trying to get away from or not to be.  Some people wear masks and costumes to hide them…the flawless diamond wedding band and the big house with the wrap around porch and the shiny Jaguar in the driveway and the Louboutin heels in the walk-in-closet can be good cover for a crappy marriage to a cheating husband who is a jerk and a liar …the jacked up truck loaded with flags and bumper stickers, oh “don’t tread on me” can be a cover up for feelings leftover from a verbally abusive and emasculating father…masks come in many forms.   “Masks” are like a band-aid, & the wound is still there and the scar will never go away…but people still try.

I feel like in this new year ahead, knowing full well that so many people are suffering, it is as good a time as any to give our own selves a break.  It feels awful to think this, “well look at his life, gosh mine doesn’t seem so bad now”  however, when it is time to go easy on yourself, sometimes that sort of compare and contrast is needed.  Come to terms with the scars we have, accept that everybody we know has them too, and be okay with all of them.  They have formed us over time to be THE PEOPLE WE NOW ARE.  If you are happy with yourself, your choices, your behaviors, your beliefs and ideologies by all means, keep doing what you are doing, but if like many of us, there are things you do not like about your self, your person, or your life, well, what better time than a new year to make the changes that you wish to make. 

There are children suffering so terribly right now that I can’t even think too hard about it without crying…there are families terrified right this second that because they have not been able to pay their rent for months on end they are about to be planning to live in their car, and there are families right now who have been fighting and arguing over money every day for nine months now that their kids can’t remember the last time anybody laughed or smiled…there is so much that is amiss in the country around us that if you have the good fortune to be employed, housed, fed, and secure in your life, you should not be thinking about any of your scars right now at all…you should be just feeling lucky and happy and try as hard as you can to spread those positive feelings because I swear there is somebody who needs them desperately.  Yes, we are our scars, but we are also our healing, and if you are not suffering right now I beg of you to spread some joy and some light and some peace, in any way that you can, because it spreads and it grows and there are people all around whose scars are making their lives so terribly dark, your little ray of light might truly make a difference, how ever so small, and help them to heal…