There was a time when I would have groaned with disgust at the coverage of the tumultuous Moral Monday protests. As a conservative activist and blogger (and registered Republican), my feet remain firmly planted on the right, but I have become surprisingly sympathetic to the passionate protesters who gather every week in Raleigh.
What changed? Last October I lost my job of 19 years and officially became a deadbeat. Now, Gov. Pat McCrory has never used that word officially to my knowledge, but he did remark, while campaigning in 2012, that filing for unemployment is too easy.
As to the curtailment of unemployment benefits, I understand that money cannot be doled out indefinitely. My problem is the timing until the recovery really kicks in, there simply are not enough jobs to go around. What are people going to do. no, what am I going to do in the meantime? No one asks. Economic reality has indeed intruded on my tidy little belief system.
As I tell everyone, Ill get by somehow. Nineteen years in a telephone supply warehouse have given me a wide array of experiences and an impressive resume. But while each day brings new opportunity, the realities of starting anew at age 49 cause many a sleepless night about which our elected officials do not seem to care.
Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie County) said in late June, referring to the end of the federal extension of unemployment benefits, that the cuts would push people to find work faster. It may not be the job that you want or your career for the rest of your life. But to take a job, get back into the job market.
At this point, the job I want is any job I can get. I cant speak for all the unemployed, but the ones I know are struggling just to hold on to what they have, in my case a tiny house and a 2001 Saturn with two windows that wont roll down. The job I want? Puh-leez. I gave up on that years ago before I became old, jaded and obsolete.
At some point, it hits you: Im running on a treadmill. I am truly getting nowhere. You spend hours applying for jobs online before realizing that your expertly detailed work history will not likely be read by a human but rather scanned electronically and ultimately sucked into a cyber-waste bin (while your email inbox overflows with ads for online classes, life insurance policies and Ponzi schemes). But, hey, I can take consolation in knowing that no one rejected me personally!
To my Republican brethren, take what I say as constructive criticism. I still adhere to our principles of smaller, leaner government. But we, the poor and unemployed, need hope and to be reminded, as Ronald Reagan did in 1980, that this economic malaise is not the result of our bad choices.
I want the governor to pull me back into the flock, to talk to me and not about me. I truly do not want to be defined, either by the left or the right, by my employment status. Usually in politics, we go with the side we feel has got our back, and, at the moment, I identity with those Moral Monday-ers carrying signs reading I am Not a Deadbeat. My heart truly aches for them.
I soldier on, reminding myself not to wallow in victimhood it only feeds on itself. Furthermore, no government entity will ever care for me like I care for myself, so keep your federal extensions, Ill get by.
But I must remind state Republicans that the challenge of life is not just survival, it is dealing with medical emergencies after your insurance has run out. It is praying for a miracle to avoid raiding your retirement account. If state Republicans dont think they can or should cover those burdens, then maybe their best and brightest minds should tell the poor and unemployed how to cope and where to turn.
And a little compassion wouldnt hurt. After all, its not what you say that matters; its what I hear. And I hear Deadbeat.
David Bozeman lives in Fayetteville.