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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Change

Today in America

Even with all of the things that are so awful, if you walk into your yard and stay there for five minutes, you will be stunned by how marvelous life is and how incredibly lucky we are to have it.”
Alice Walker

As the sun rises today, we have a new America. An unknown. This is how democracy works—the majority of people finally have their say. In this case, the people who are mostly overlooked, unappreciated and often ignored completely. The people referred to as “uneducated,” and “blue collar,” and other designations that mean “unimportant” have risen up in sufficient numbers to force change. As someone who grew up in a family that fits that series of descriptors, I get it. People have had enough of not being able to find jobs that pay a living wage, and watching their personal economy, which used to be at least reliable, turn into dust and ashes. They've watched the industries in which three generations of their family worked, the very ones that they thought would always be there for them, erode, and slowly but surely leave empty factories and warehouses that mar the landscape.

The first time I passed through Birmingham in 1977, a cloud of black, industrial smoke lay over the city like a blanket. The air literally stung the eyes and made it hard to breathe. Three years later, when we moved here, that was gone. The steel industry had fallen to China's cheap prices. When U.S. Steel reopened one plant, it was completely automated and required only skilled labor to keep all the machines running. Four generations of steel workers, who had made a good wage, were out of jobs with a skill-set that fit no other labor. The same has been true for furniture, textiles, garments, mining, and even small mom 'n pop industries. My cousin, Anne, and her husband had a small brush-making industry that evaporated before their very eyes because they could be made for less in Mexico.

When the people complained, they were thrown a bone of “retraining,” but even retrained, there weren't enough jobs for all to work. One entire generation, who graduated from college at the peak of the recession has been stranded in never-land—they'll never have jobs for which they were educated, and they will likely never be able to accumulate much in the way of wealth because of it. And yet, they have enormous college loans to pay off that are inescapable.

Those are the people who have spoken in America. The ones who have been relegated to the wood pile of the economy. The ones who have been treading water, while waiting for someone in Washington to notice. And no one did. Because Washington was too busy making deals, and waging wars, and raising campaign contributions to think about the “blue-collars” who were out there sucking wind, working three minimum-wage jobs, losing their homes and knowing that their children were looking at the very same road. All those “rural” people decided to make so much noise that it would reverberate around the marble halls of the U.S. capital.

I am deeply sad today. Personally, I don't think Donald Trump is the answer to the problem, but enough others do that we're going to give it a shot. I am disappointed that we are not yet ready to put a woman in the White House, but we aren't. Our democracy worked—the majority won. I hoped that we are all prepared for what comes next. If you're a praying person, this would be a good time to get on your knees.

                                                             In the Spirit,

                                                                 Jane

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