Friday, June 24, 2011

On shutting Minnesota down

If I were to put together a bare bones resume that describes the jobs I've had, this is what it would look like:

Usher at Minnesota Orchestra:
Stuffed programs
Stood on feet
Put number and letter combinations together to find patron's assigned spot on grid
Dressed like your grandma does when hosting museum tours in blue polyester suit, nude stockings and flats
Got ass grabbed by famous visiting violinist.
Emitted odor from polyester suit

Clerk at gift store/tobacco shop:
Talked rich people into spending their money on stuff that will just need dusting later
Fielded off creeps who came in for cigarettes
Fielded off creep of a boss
Appeared on camera several times without knowledge
Kept hideous jewelry polished to look less hideous
Jumped on glass counter
Counted beans

Clerk at garden store:
Lifted heavy things for rich people
Killed plants

Clerk at bookstore:
Used alphabet
Used sarcasm
Cleaned poo off many types of surfaces
Counted beans
Drank free coffee
"Helped out" in stock room, back room or any other room where there weren't any customers asking SO MANY FUCKING QUESTIONS ALL THE TIME
Developed drinking habit

Current job 1:
Counts beans
Hides at desk
Developed Xanax habit

Current job 2:
Do stuff I like
Hang out with people I like
Promote art enrichment in community
Get paid for some reason

University of Minnesota - Music Major
Blew air into metal tube to emit sound
Made it to class sometimes
Drew pictures on notebook
Hung out with cool people

I'm sure there's stuff in there that I've missed. But you get the idea.

(Here is where I interject my own belief before going on that music and all forms of art are just as vital to the community as a working water supply. So I'd make the argument that there's some importance in that work which I'm involved in. But not really on my part so much as the part of those around me.)

In any case, not everyone's resume looks like mine. Some people's job descriptions contain details like "Stopped people with disabilities from getting evicted from their apartments", "Provided resources for families who haven't had a meal in a couple days", "Patrolled camp grounds making sure humans don't get stuck at bottom of food chain", "Prevented you from getting a ticket because you forgot to renew your tabs until just now" and so on and so forth. And in the state I live in, its very possible come a week from now that these people will be out of a job for a while because a few very wealthy people don't want their very wealthy friends to have to throw a little bit more pocket change into the tax bucket.

On July 1st, you'll still be able to go buy that vampire romance novel and $5 cup of coffee. (Assuming you don't work for the state and still have somewhat of an income). And more importantly, you'll still be able to buy basics like food and tampons and fireworks shaped like little chickens that lay exploding eggs for the upcoming July 4th holiday and this is all important because we *need* people to be employed selling these things for the economy to work. (Both the buying and the employment part). But if this state shutdown happens, there will be people who go without very basic needs for survival.

Included among the services that will not receive emergency funding are; county call centers (which often field emergency calls for assistance), mental health crisis management services, homeless shelters (!!) and emergency case management (social services). These four are particularly important because they are on the list of services considered critical to the health and safety of the population. And they won't be available to those who need them because once again, the very wealthy among us can't stand the thought of parting with a tiny fraction of their million dollar paychecks.

So I don't want to knock anyone's job or make it sound like what most of us do isn't important. But for me, the phone line I answer at work doesn't even compare to the one that connects a person to a counselor when they are at the end of their rope and need someone to help talk them to a safe place. And while it could be argued that the bookstore acted as a homeless shelter some days, it didn't provide resources to help people out of a dangerous situation or a place to sleep at night. These are places that quite literally mean the difference of life or death for some people. And once the phone lines to social workers, mental health specialists, drug counselors and domestic abuse helplines go dead, many many people will suffer. Real suffering, not the "oh shit I have a headache because I didn't get my 32 ounces of overpriced sugar and caffeine today" suffering.

Not only this but should this shutdown happen on July 1, the people who specialize in handling these situations-a highly skilled and educated portion of our working population-they'll all be in line at the unemployment office. And if you've ever received unemployment, you know it doesn't really do much. So they'll suffer too.

For a government elected to serve the people to put the health and safety of their citizens at risk in this way and for these reasons is unconscionable to say the least. And for the two percent of the population who would be affected *ever so slightly* by the tax increase proposed in this budget to ask that their leadership do this is one of the most unbelievably selfish things I've witnessed. It should also be mentioned here that our governor has said he will refuse pay if this happens but the rest of them? They will shirk all duties they'e been hired to do, put a bunch of already at risk people in danger and at the end of the week, they'll take home the same paycheck they would have anyway.

What this means is that right now, many people's lives and livelihood hinge on the mercy of a few elected officials who have no incentive to agree on this budget and have already shown they don't have the interest of the majority in mind. This is terrifying. I can only hope that their better minds kick in before next Friday so we can avoid this altogether. And then when the opportunity comes around again, I hope we all agree to make sure that this time, they're the ones who no longer have a job.

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