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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Who are we? (an open letter to my cousins and critics)

I woke up this morning thinking about who we are as a nation and as a species. Speaking as a citizen of the United States, I have come to realize that who we are as a nation and as a species has fundamentally changed.

Historically, we have been warriors, explorers and innovators. Today, we are cowards and leaches. Mind you, I am not condemning humanity, but trying to get everyone to think about what is happening to us.

Take my cousins for example. They condemn me because I am an SSI recipient. I have worked for many years with a bad back and other health issues, but I worked none-the-less. For the past ten years, I have not been able to. My health issues overcame me, but I am in the process of retooling, preparing once again to enter the workforce, albeit in a radically different occupation than I have performed in the past. What they condemn me for is the fact that, as I have been undergoing this process of retooling, I have received poverty-level assistance from the U.S. government.

My cousins, on the other hand, work in the agricultural industry for companies that report high profits almost every year and who, should those profits fall below a certain point, file for bankruptcy protections while they accept government subsidies to retool their corporations (money that more often than not ends up in the pockets of the top ten company executives instead). These companies receive tax incentives from the local communities for locating their operating facilities in those communities, preferential tax treatment from the states for maintaining their in-state operations, and even more money from the federal government on the basis that we "have" to support critical infrastructure such as food production.

I, by the way, have never filed bankruptcy nor have I taken more money from the government than I absolutely need for basic necessities. At the moment, I am technically "without fixed address", using the community recreation centers for showering, living off of the cheapest (and generally least healthy) foods, and riding the public buses to get anywhere I need to go. Unlike the accusations from my cousins, I am not sitting on my "fat a**" watching porn videos to pass my days.

What I am is a man. A man who six months ago completed his Bachelor's degree (finally) with a 3.96 GPA and started his Master's degree course work four months ago (currently with a 4.0 GPA). I am working on numerous manuscripts on topics ranging from experimental mythology to space advocacy that I hope to have ready for market soon. I am also a graphic artist, website administrator and political activist seeking to use my skills to create a new source of self-sufficiency. I am not a sponge on society, but doing what I can to improve both society and myself.

While having lunch with my mother yesterday, I came to learn that I will be the first in my family (on either side) to hold a Master's degree. I am also a man who no longer cares what my cousins think. While I am comfortable with who I am and who I am becoming, I am not so comfortable about who we are as a nation and as a species.

We are a species that considers itself enlightened, but we are also a species of paradox. We put a man on the moon (several of them, actually) and sent robotic explorers out into the cosmos. But we are also a species who batters and abuses our fellow human beings. We are a species who has overcome numerous diseases, but cannot overcome our propensity towards hating those who are different. We are a species who idolizes our athletes and celebrities who entertain us, but demonizes our scientists and intellectuals who try to protect us from developing threats to our survival. We are the creators of divine, inspiring art, but also of the atom bomb and toxic chemicals.

We have great hope as a species, but also live under self-imposed dangers. While human civilization is at a perceived all-time high, there is still much work to be done to ensure our survival. I am retooling myself to be a part of that struggle, cousins. What are you doing?