This was said to me by the owner of an energy shipping company during an interview a few weeks ago. I was at the end of my rope with his question upon question as to what would make me suitable - or willing to stay - at his $9.50 an hour data entry job. He'd had me in his office for nearly an hour, pummeling me with questions that were more investigative than any I'd ever heard before in 20 years of interviews for much more promising and lucrative jobs.
"Why do you want this job and what should make me think you'll stay when you were making so much money before?" he finally asked outright.
I couldn't take it anymore. I broke. All professionalism flew out the window.
"Honestly? I just need a job. I need to work. And pay doesn't matter because I'm losing my home anyway, so the money makes no difference. I just want to get my mind off my own problems."
"Well," he replied, "trouble and suffering are relative. Compared to an Indian right now being chased by another Indian around his hut with a machete, losing a house in America is no big deal."
His words haunt me. Everyday, I pack a little more of ten years of life away, putting it wherever I can. Some of it sits in my parents carport. Another third of my life is in my biological father's storage space - one he is not certain he can continue to afford on SSI. Furniture is going into storage with a company, and if unemployment runs out before I can find a job where I'm headed, it will go to auction.
I pack a box and cry. Memories of my girls when they were young and we first moved here are being scattered to the four winds. Things are just things, yes, but the memories attached to them are priceless. The logistics of this entire process becomes too much for me. The neighbor who is buying my house at a ridiculously low price will wind-up with much more than he bargained for.
My dog is gone. Thankfully, I did not listen to all those "helpful" shelter people who said he was too old to adopt and that I should put him down. That would have been too much to bear. Fortunately, an Internet friend intervened and took him for a pet. Both are quite happy with one another, and I feel tremendously lucky just for that. But every day I wake and expect to see him outside my bedroom door, or greeting me when I come home.
We found a home for both our cats. Again, I feel lucky, but it is a bittersweet victory. Two more pieces of what made my life MINE disappear. Poof. I feel my world, even my soul, fragmenting.
My daughter says I cry too much. That this is not the end of the world. But she does not read the newspaper every day. She does not realize how many people are in the exact same shoes as we are, or worse. I cry because I cannot wrap my head around losing my entire adult life, casting it to the four winds, and going hundreds of miles away to start over in a place where the job outlook is just as bleak as it is here.
One in every ten households is behind on their mortgage. What of the countless others who have already lost their homes? We don't keep track of them, but they are not your typical homeless people. Most have simply lost their jobs and with it, their ability to continue to pay the mortgage. Some have valiantly struggled on, depleting their life savings only to still wind-up without a home. And what of those with no family to fall back on? What of the wonderful DKos poster who is chronicling his newly homeless status, trying desperately to get back on his feet?
The only laugh I've had in ages came with whizzing shoes attached. What is there to laugh about as many of us - educated, hardworking, previously independent - fall through the cracks of society? Heads of state be damned. Assault? Who cares. If I could get close enough, God only knows what I would throw at Bush.
I'll never see again the money lost on my house, the 20 percent put down and the other $10,000 paid over the years. But that worries me far less than the senses of security and safety, perhaps gone forever. A great deal of those senses left when watching what our government did during Katrina. I couldn't sleep for days knowing they did not care about us dying in the street. Just a few years later, I'm almost certain this is what they actively seek.
Remember the adage, "the dignity of poverty?" It's a lie. There is no dignity in poverty. It's wretched, frightening. It unravels your life faster than you could previously imagine possible. And it's going to happen to a lot more people before this is -- if this ever is -- over.
How do those in power silence our voices? By taking away our hopes and dreams through job loss. By convincing us that it's our own fault we suddenly find ourselves jobless and homeless. By telling us it's "no big deal" compared to what happens in other mythical countries with men carrying machetes.
But it is a big deal.
We're not statistics. We're not CNN's latest economic indicators. We are human beings watching our lives explode into so many little fragments it feels impossible to put them all back together again into a whole. And every single day, there are more of us.
Who will speak for us when we can no longer be seen or heard?