My family hales from the banks of the Mississippi where cornstalks and church attendance are high and the land is low. The Quad Cities make up a blue-collar, urban oasis amid miles and miles of cornfields and the kind of Nowherevilles that everybody’s great-great something comes from. My mom and dad both grew up here and I consider it a part of my history, too.
My mom worked on an assembly line piecing together parts for International Harvester until the company shut down the QC location and put some 26,000 people out of work. She eventually got a degree in nursing and has been fortunate enough to always find work since. My dad joined the Marines straight out of high school, the only way he could put himself through college. He got a job as an auditor in Chicago and dose pretty well for himself.
We try to stay close to our roots. We go and visit family in the QCs all the time, though not nearly enough. My dad still goes hunting with his buddies from the boonies and my mom’s best friend, Kim Miller, is still down there. We try to visit every chance we get.
Kim’s husband, Don, had fallen on hard times at work, a job he works thirteen hours a day. The blow came at the worst time because Don’s mother had just been diagnosed with cancer; he was trying his best to help pay her bills. They really couldn’t afford it, but tradition was tradition, so both families of five hopped in our minivans and headed out for Harris Pizza.
After dinner, my dad and Mr. Miller both reached for their wallets. Don fumbled through coupon after coupon; a pained look came across his face. My dad called the waitress and insisted on paying. Don put up a fight out of pride, which he politely lost. As we walked out the front door, Don looked my dad in the eyes and thanked him, then sheepishly averted his eyes.
It was just by some small chance that my dad ended up any different than Don. It doesn’t make sense to me how men like Don can work so hard, just as hard as their white-collar counterparts, and still come up short. A man like Don shouldn’t have to kill himself trying to pay for health care, food, and the mortgage. I don’t understand how it’s acceptable to have billionaires living in excess while there are so many hurting.
I believe in universal health care; people deserve treatment no matter how poor they are, health isn’t just for the rich. I believe in workers’ rights; no one should have to spend his whole day laboring just to make ends meet. I believe that a man shouldn’t have to enlist, risk death and injury, for a chance at a life others are born into. I believe in the welfare state. I believe in a society in which people take care of one another. All this I believe.
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