I’m incredibly lucky, and I know it. I’ve got a job, and a good one. I’m going back to school in August and will receive a more than reasonable stipend. I’m now married, and to someone that has a very stable job with a salary that we could both easily live on as long as we were a bit austere in our spending.
But you know, I see shit like this1:
ANGLE: Well, I said that it had spoiled our citizenry. That’s a little different. They’re not spoiled. What has happened is this system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job.
And it momentarily robs me of my ability to speak coherent English. After some jumping up and down and arm waving and gurgling shrieks of rage, I’m able to once again communicate like a semi-literate human being.
So here goes.
Dear Sharron Angle:
Fuck you. And I say this in all seriousness, knowing that I have made a conscious effort to tone down my normally salty language for this blog and I’ve now officially blown it in this post. Fuck you. Your original quote was insulting. Your pathetic attempt to wiggle out of it during this interview has crossed the line into the willful degradation of millions of Americans. So yes, fuck you.
Your response shows that you have never faced unemployment. It reeks of the lazy entitlement of someone who has never lived in fear of what will happen when the benefit checks stop coming in the mail. It stinks of privilege, of the sure, arrogant knowledge that, well, I’m okay, screw everyone else.
You know what’s sad? I actually used to buy into that disgusting lie. I used to cuddle with my privilege at night and tell myself that people who depended on the social safety net were just lazy, they obviously didn’t want to work as hard (HAHAHA) as me, so screw ’em. And this, despite the fact that my father was a union steward when I was little, and I can even remember a little bit about what it was like to be on strike.
You know what changed that? I got laid off. And then when I got another job, I got fired. And then suddenly there was nothing between me and losing my house except for my unemployment check and a rapidly draining savings account.
So let me tell you what it’s like. It’s been five years since that time, and it’s still all very vivid in my mind.
Being unemployed is carefully calculating the exact amount of money you’ll need to pay your mortgage and all your bills, then adding in the bare minimum of calories you’ll need to survive – in the form of ramen noodles, most likely – and then dividing that out into precisely how much of an hourly wage you need, so you know what jobs you can actually afford to apply for.
Being unemployed is realizing that the jobs for those wages are too infrequent, and trying to figure out where you can shave off more money. Well, it’s almost summer so I can just not turn on the air conditioning. I’ll survive. I won’t turn on lights to save on my electricity bill. I’ll stop driving my car so I can probably get away without insurance.
Being unemployed is applying for job after job after job and being confronted with a deafening silence on the other end. No one bothers to tell you any more if you didn’t get the job. They just bin your resume and you have to assume you’ve been rejected, without even the closure of a recorded phone call or a form letter. It’s being rejected, every day, constantly, and never even being told why.
Being unemployed is calculating the cost difference between birth control pills and just having to buy more feminine hygiene products, because it’s a way to save a few bucks a month.
Being unemployed is lying on your resume to make yourself look less experienced, so maybe you’ll have a better chance of landing an entry level job.
Being unemployed is assuring your mom that no, it’s okay, I’ve still got plenty of money left in my savings account, don’t worry about it. Because your parents have already supported your far too much since you moved out, and you feel horrible even thinking about asking them for money and hope that it won’t come to that – or that it won’t get worse and come to you having to move back in with them. It’s feeling so grateful that you want to cry when your mom insists on paying for your health insurance, because you were just planning to let it lapse and keep your fingers crossed about not getting sick.
Being unemployed is walking everywhere or begging for rides from your friends, because you want to save your gas budget for the week just in case you actually get an interview and you can’t afford bus fare either.
Being unemployed is spending hours on hold with the unemployment office, because their website is down and you have still have to go through the humiliating process of proving that you’ve been looking for a job if you want your next check.
Being unemployed is feeling guilty when a friend buys you dinner because you can’t afford it, even after you’ve bought that friend dinner dozens of other times when you were making good money. Because you feel like no one should be spending money on you.
Being unemployed means that when you do spend money on yourself, because you’re so fucking depressed about the constant rejection that you just can’t handle it any more, and a flavored tea from Starbucks is so cheap and so nice on a hot day, that when you’re done drinking your treat you realize what you’ve done, and you shouldn’t have spent that money, and then you throw your treat up because you’re so upset with yourself.
Being unemployed is being asked by some entitled asshole why you aren’t working for McDonald’s, they’re always hiring2, because it apparently just doesn’t matter if you want to be able to pay your mortgage. And it’s also wondering if maybe they’re right, if maybe it’s somehow your fault or your bad planning for buying a house and then (five years later) getting laid off.
Being unemployed is slowly losing your respect for yourself, one day at a time, because you’ve known all your life that you should be working to earn your keep, and no one will give you a job.
And you know what? I was lucky. I had an understanding roommate who was helping me pay my mortgage at the time. I had an amazing, supportive family and a lot of amazing, supportive friends. I had a lot of warning that I was going to get laid off, almost six months when my department at AT&T barely made its quota of people taking voluntary retirement, so I saved a lot of money. And maybe some of that stress and fear I felt was my own damn fault, because right at the start of my unemployment I sucked most of the life out of my savings account flying to England twice to see Mike – which I can’t honestly say I regret, since that probably directly lead to us getting married this last year.
But none of that changes certain things. None of that changes the constant, crushing depression of getting rejected for jobs, day after day. It doesn’t change the fact that people treat you as if you’re unemployed because you just don’t want it enough or because you’re lazy – because after a while you start believing those things and your self-worth goes even more down the shitter. It doesn’t change the utter guilt you feel every time you cash one of those unemployment checks, guilt that makes it impossible to feel relief that you’ll be able to keep your house for another month, because everyone’s told you that you didn’t earn that money, despite the fact that you’ve been paying in to unemployment insurance every working day of your life.
So fuck you, Sharron Angle. I invite you to find out what it’s like to be unemployed with a mortgage, or unemployed with debt, or unemployed with a family to support – or just plain unemployed with no one to care for but yourself. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It’s hard enough without people like you looking down your noses. It must be nice to pander to the privileged, who have convinced themselves that they’ll never be unemployed, that they’ll never need the safety net. It’s all a lie. It could happen to anyone.
Maybe it should happen to some people.
1 – Actually I watched the entire interview because I was curious. I link to the Huffington Post piece because they have a convenient transcript, not because I’m taking their word for it.
2 – Particularly today, this ignores the fact that there are more people that need jobs than there are jobs. But I guess you just must not want it hard enough if you’re not willing to hunt down the other applicants and, I don’t know, kill them.