— article also posted at medium.com
Hi, picture of me in February of 2009.
With everything that has changed in six years, you and I still run behind schedule. The future version of you was meaning to write an end-of-the-year piece for 2014, but didn’t get around to it. So this letter to old you is my backup idea for compiling a column of thoughts.
I can place this picture easily. We are in Steamboat celebrating Mom’s birthday. This was February 1st, 2009.
The day before, it was working the part-time job selling tickets at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. After the shift ended, it was checking e-mail on their computer, hoping that a potential work opportunity would be sitting in the inbox.
Nope. Such was 2009. Sorry to be a party-pooper, 2009 Me, but many more empty in-boxes are in your future.
After checking e-mail, you headed up the mountain. Good weekend. With all of the stress of the Great Recession, family and the fun mood relaxed you. You took January off from drinking and — even with the aggravation of clients not paying you — you felt great.
Six years later, a lot comes to mind from looking at this photo. Roughly ten days before, Barack Obama got sworn in as our 44th President. You were hoping that the stability of a presidency would get the economy going and stem the job losses.
Since we’re speaking of our President, let’s go back to an incident from late summer, 2008. After getting off work at the marina (another recession-era part-time job), having a beer poolside sounded good. Doc was by the pool. Doc was a nice old fella, always cheerful.
So, this day, we start talking about the upcoming Fall 2008 election. That’s when Kindly Doc transformed, remember? His voice got creepy as he said that Al Qaeda sent Barack Obama’s father to the U.S. in the early 1960’s. Barack Obama, Sr., according to Doc, was ordered to “impregnate a white woman”, so the “secret Muslim” male offspring would eventually run for President of the United States.
Remember how freaked out you were then, dude?
Here’s the thing: Doc’s “theory” ranks about middle-of-the-pack. In the coming years, you will hear metric tons of crazy about America’s first black president.
Though Doc served a good heads-up for what was on the way.
There will be this group, called the Tea Party. And they will be just one camp. Get ready to get flabbergasted — by both public figures and people you know.
At a point in time after talking with Doc, you’ll be off work from another part-time job and standing in line at a liquor store (more about the booze subject in a bit). There will be a white guy in front of you, about 15 years older. He will start screaming that you look like an Obama voter. Because of you, he has to “drink cheap now”. It will get close to fighting.
But when it comes to the negativity you will experience, eventually you’ll see that the situation has gotten worse for people of color since Barack Obama was elected.
In the next few years, white America will get shockingly ugly towards other American citizens. Come to think of it: white male America will increase their ugliness towards white women as well, especially single moms. Old me, you think that progress has been happening for many years. It hasn’t. A report will come out in 2012, showing that 95% of the post-Recession gains went to the 1%. Reports like that will get your mind wondering, thinking that maybe this was all part of some plan.
A statistic — that America has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population — will reinforce this thought.
Beyond what American citizens of color lost economically, they will be on the receiving end of additional racial hatred — disgusting energy, generated by people who you will start noticing more in the coming months. The way these people say “President Hussein”, this will creep you out.
These Americans in the coming years will cross-pollinate feelings about our President with other negative racial feelings. Get ready to hear more about discrimination against Muslim Americans and police violence against African-American men, among other types of incidents.
Six years after this picture was taken, you don’t believe in America like you once did.
Actually, the guy writing this is writing from a period in history that he calls The Great Parenting.
The Great Parenting began in November of 2012, after America re-elected Barack Obama as our President.
After the people voted, the Job Creators (oh: another term you haven’t heard yet) decided to teach the rest of us a lesson.
They forgave our Obama vote in 2008. The Job Creators understood our childlike desire to do something novel, like elect a black man as our president. But, the repeat win in 2012 was a sign that the children needed some tough love.
Before the 2012 Election, bosses threatened employees, saying that a vote for Obama would lead to firings. You believe that?
Election night 2012, you worked the polling station in Montbello and saw firsthand how GOP “pollsters” patrolled voting lines. The actions in 2012 were minor, but the agenda of limiting others’ voting rights is real.
So after the 2012 election, the Job Creators decided it was time to “parent” the rest of us.
The Great Parenting.
Whatever you’re feeling, 2009 me, this will continue.
In response to the feelings our president created within them, the 1% (dangit, I keep using terms you haven’t heard yet) are buying the Government.
Last week, the Koch brothers pledged to spend $900 million on the 2016 Election.
Oh, me in 2009, your nutty world is going to get nuttier.
You still think that the entire nation is collectively hurting from the economic pummeling. The guy in this picture believes that the U.S. collectively lived beyond its means for too long, and larger forces were correcting us.
You saw that chaos as, yes, beautiful. No: you thought the larger forces sent humanity a message, and you, personally, received that message loud and clear.
You thought the world was figuring out new ways to exist. We would bounce back from the economic shellacking by learning how not to repeat the same behavior down the road. That’s what you were thinking was happening.
Six years later, you do live much more simply. You could do better, but you took lessons from the Great Recession to heart.
That’s the thing: you thought that the rest of America was also doing this. And many folks were. They had no choice. Mortgages, college plans, retirement — all of these life plans have gone haywire.
But while many of us were going through all of this stress, the rich were using the market downturn to go on the biggest stock-purchasing run in history.
The stress you’re experiencing in 2009? None of it is being felt by the folks on stock-buying sprees.
Also: in 2009 you are thinking that at least a few Wall Streeters will go to jail for their part in crashing the economy. Logical, right? Wrong.
Actually, these same people will pen legislation that will be passed into law in late 2014. The taxpayer is once again on the hook if that type of meltdown happens.
Citibank will literally write the legislation themselves, then hand their document off to an elected official, who will put their words into our nation’s laws.
As the figures from the recession start to take shape, you are going to get angry.
In August of 2011, Standard & Poors will downgrade the credit of the United States. This will be the final sign you need to understand that an agenda will damage our country to hurt our president. If S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating during the Bush presidency — after the Iraq War truly dented the financial picture — Dick Cheney would have personally eaten the hearts of Mr. Standard and Mr. Poors on FOX News.
The special would have been called, “Nobody Downgrades ‘Merica!!!”
But with Obama, anything that damages him is fair game.
As much as you are thinking that the Recession was some type of overarching correction for all of us, it was actually a power-grab for the rich.
They are using their hysteria over our president to justify what they are doing.
Beyond the power grab, many are hiding money in offshore accounts to dodge taxes. Degenerate gamblers call themselves financiers in 2015.
In the beginning of 2009, you are feeling like 2008 tested your stress levels.
It hasn’t even begun yet.
All that you have experienced so far, that world is going to be mutated by a mix of racial hatred and out-of-control profiteering and all I can say is, get ready.
But enough about rich folks carving up our country.
On the positive side, all of this craziness will drive you to write and self-publish two books and write more things. The first book idea will start with scribblings in your journal over lots of beer and wine (yes, we’ll get to the booze thing). But you’ll decide this is going to be your self-publishing venture when you figure out that “fearkiller” is positive. This idea takes two tired words and combines them into an empowering new word: fearkiller. When you figure that out, you continue with this adventure.
That’s the part you don’t understand yet, old me. You are going to thank this Great Recession thingie for kicking you in the face.
No. Here’s a way to look at it. Your firing from Corporate America was like a sucker punch. Underhanded and chickenshit. The Great Recession, if you’re going to use violence as the analogy, was a full-on ass-kicking.
The six guys who beat you up when you were thirteen, the Great Recession was a professional version of this.
You’ll get this analogy in your head one day when things do stabilize, about three years from this point.
Sorry, man. Lots of stress ahead.
So… you in the picture. You have been booze-free for a month. You’re going to enjoy a drink or two this weekend, in February of 2009.
Then, you’ll get back to (attempting to find) work.
One client — the giant pile of family money — guess what?
They are going to suck worse and worse. Getting them to pay will become difficult, too. Other clients will also start delaying payment. You’re going to use alcohol to deal with hearing from scared employees telling you that your payment is late. A few of them will assuage their guilt by giving you a speech that since you’re on your own, you have to expect these things. They will also tell you that they themselves are thankful to have a job.
The family money: you two will part ways in mid-2010. As of this writing, their money is sitting offshore because they shut down the company. They decided that the United States of America doesn’t deserve their investment capital because our rich-folk butt-smooching abilities have dropped off. You’ll see one of the family members occasionally. It will be empowering not being polite to the guy. $100-millon pieces of trash need to learn how to pay on time.
The feeling that will create more anger than anything during these coming years will be when you have done your part — earning the money — and the other side doesn’t do their part. Namely, pay you on time.
You’ll also learn a lesson: never tell an employed person fearing a layoff that you are cash-strapped because you can’t get paid. Your situation of having late money will get re-told to other people, only the details will change to say that you are destitute. It will be a funny joke that people who fear losing their day jobs will tell each other behind your back.
When they actually tell these jokes to your face, you’ll notice a classism in some people that you didn’t see before. The way that seemingly-liberal people call you “poor”, there will be a hate in their voice as they say this word. People who have been to countless hippie shows will begin to sound like Marie Antoinette telling the peasants “let them eat cake.”
The feeling you feel from them, you’ll come to learn, is developed when people live in fear. In the next few years, you’ll think about how living in fear transforms people. You will look at the ways it changed you, then compare this with others.
On the positive side, you will have no problem quitting knowing these people after you walk out of the doors of Denver Health hospital on December 8, 2010.
Here’s where you are still a dumb-ass.
You are going to use the stress of everything as the world’s most pathetic excuse to lose control.
In the face of all the craziness ahead, yup, you are going to consciously choose to do the worst thing possible for yourself: drink.
— To be continued.