No one can remember a time when we had the combination of a surplus of jobs and people not working that we have now. Or the surplus of goods and the lack of services to get the supplies to a very high demand.
The absolutists and simplifiers among us seek neat explanations for the causes. Politicians line up on the Right and the Left to place blame on their opponents. They did it, it’s their fault, so there.
My take is that it’s only natural for people to reassess their lives when they have been subjected to chaos of the scope of the past five years — longer if you want to pick at it.
In the midst of politics of absurd extremism, almost two years of pandemic subjected us to social isolation while being a captive audience to daily recitals of horrific tolls and tales of death and futility, and constantly changing messages. It can be expected that one might want to take some time to sort out what really matters; what’s important.
Self-examination is necessary when the alternative is trying to find any sense in the wider world. The gunning down of children in their schools was so horrific that it seemed inevitable that America would finally face facts and fix the failures of the system to protect us.
But nothing was fixed. It got worse. More kids shot in schools, to the point where it’s just another headline, not a national disgrace. Churchgoers slaughtered as they worship, dancers and concert attendees sprayed by sniper fire, grocery shoppers diving for cover in the aisles from bursts of ammunition designed to destroy human tissue, fired from weapons designed to mow down humans in battle — and fatten wallets selling toys to boys.
The justification for not fixing that problem would be funny if it wasn’t so macabre: People have the right to bear arms. Self-defense. Maybe raise a militia to overthrow a tyrant.
Many of the people who espouse that kind of thinking are the same ones who have been called “tourists” by obsequious politicians to excuse the events of Jan. 6, when members of the United States Congress hid under their seats while the Capitol was invaded by a violent mob. The politicians are in turn supported by a decayed electorate — with their votes, their silence, their vulgar signs — the closest thing to a tyrant America has suffered — so far.
No wonder people want a time out to rethink things. What rational person has not wondered on occasion, while parked on the Jones Falls or the west side of the Beltway in commuter traffic, what it would be like to do something else for a living?
What better time than now to push the pause button and do some navel-gazing?
And for those who worked three jobs to cover the bills, you can always go back to a minimum wage job somewhere. Minimum wage, all dressed up in a pretty party dress called free market economy, is good for the investors of America’s corporate wealth and they don’t really need counter service.
I get it. People want the dignity of meaningful — and ethical — work balanced with an investment of time and effort sufficient to pay the bills. As H.D. Thoreau said, living, and not just making a living.
Three months after getting married, and with my wife in her second year of college, I took my first job as a hometown paper reporter for less money than I was making as a clerk for an airline.
Six months later, the Baltimore Sunday Sun editor called with an offer — a rare shot at a job on a major metro paper — but I turned it down, because I thought I could learn more, doing all kinds of news, rather than rewriting press releases for a real estate section or whatever.
Nine years later, I was an editor with The News American. In between, there was three years as a Navy photojournalist, a civilian editor and manager, a family and house — and a lot of navel-gazing.
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Dean Minnich is a career journalist and served eight years as a county commissioner. He writes from Westminster.