Ousted as a rabble-rouser for all the world to see

Yesterday was a national day of action for supporters of 2012 federal unemployment insurance extensions with demonstrations across the country from 2-3 p.m.  I told my husband that I planned to lend to the numbers in a demonstration outside our local state representative’s office, but that I was not bringing a protest sign.  That was not a problem because the organization We Are The People had a sign for me and all of the other demonstrators.  Within minutes of meeting a few of my compatriots one of the organizers asked me if I would be willing to say something to the crowd because they did not have an unemployed woman on their speaker schedule.  “Just 2 to 3 minutes”, he said.  All of a sudden I faced backing up my values with action that could result in publicity.  One of my former coworkers had already driven by, so I knew the rumor mill would be spinning within the hour, but risking publicity is daunting when I am hoping someone will hire me.  The work world is a precarious and intimidating place with people becoming uber-compliant in hopes of keeping their pay.  Being unemployed has made me careful, too (note the abbreviation of this blog’s author’s name).  However when put to the test I will do what is “right”, to the frustration of many past acquaintances and sometimes to my detriment.    Anyone who knows me would tell you that if you ask for my opinion I will offer it up 99% of the time, often ad nauseam because I deeply desire people to understand what I say.  What began as 2 to 3 minutes speaking to my fellow demonstrators segued into a request from the Grand Rapids Press to print my name along with the picture on this post (we are praying), an interview request from a local labor paper, and another for an on camera interview with a reporter from a local news station.  To say I was uncomfortable and nervous is like saying blue flames are hot.  My only regret is that I had not prepared a statement, something I will be sure to think about PRIOR to attending future demonstrations.  No matter how prepared  though, I would never have anticipated a reporter asking me if in lieu of finding a job as an administrative professional a.k.a. secretary, I would consider becoming an apprentice plumber.  I am sad when I hear remarks like, “if they spent more time looking for a job rather than protesting…” and “they should be willing to take work outside their field for less pay”.  First of all, the slim number of jobs to apply for leaves me with some spare time. Secondly, every business needs secretarial work completed just as much as they need the toilets and faucets to not leak.  Almost as much, anyway.

Happy New Year?

I received a notification informing us that donations to Michigan food banks will no longer be tax-deductible after December 31, 2011, which coincides with the expiration of federal extended unemployment insurance programs.  The expiration of federal extensions will immediately drop 2 million unemployed from the rolls and millions more will follow as state benefits expire in 2012.  Also heralding in the New Year, Michigan will reduce unemployment compensation to a maximum of 20 weeks from 26, the standard of all states for more than 50 years.  Because unemployment compensation is designed only to cover living expenses, it is commonly accepted that all of these monies are promptly dumped back into our lagging economy.  A doom and gloom outlook for the unemployed and needy has been the forecast for a few years now, but the perfect storm of 2012 will add to poverty statistics at a head-spinning rate.  My inclination to seek out positive and humorous perspectives about any given situation has become more challenging, but I think I can do it for the remainder of 2011.

With the holiday season approaching my thoughts predictably turn to what I am thankful for and what Jesus gifted me with on the day he was born.  If there were ever a time to relish the present, it is now.  I plan to savor Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts with my family members who are currently healthy, fed, housed, and humorous.  My focus is on blessings that money cannot buy nor replace, such as loving and supportive friendships and a stable marriage.  We will give what we can, not for the benefit of a tax deduction, but because we appreciate the need to share our bounty now more than ever.  People are pulling together, one of the few upsides to our economic climate, and I believe we will experience more brotherhood in the coming year.  While Christmas commercials and electronic ads are inundating a broke America in a futile effort to pry money from near empty wallets, we will buy gifts from local crafters, small businesses, wineries, and breweries.  2012 promises to be a challenging year, but I plan to have a rocking good time during what remains of 2011 and adopt a Scarlett O’Hara attitude of not thinking about it today.  Helping me to delay thoughts of next year is The Michigan Beer Cellar, the only micro-brewery in Michigan that is also a winery and artisan distillery,  conveniently located only a few blocks away.