My mouth felt much better when my wife woke me up after 8 a.m. that Friday, although some more sleep would have been nice.  But once I was awake, I was up for the day.

I had been waiting to put my last paycheck into the bank until the day I normally would have been paid, which was that day.  I dug up some more financial resources to use as a bit of a buffer, and off to the bank I went to make a deposit and try to make that money stretch as much as possible until unemployment deposits would start to be made.

It was a dreadful feeling.  How long would it all last?  How desperate would my family’s situation become?  How long would we have to go through this – the emotional ups and downs, cutting expenses wherever possible, watching every dime that gets spent, making sure we waste absolutely nothing in terms of food, electricity, gas for our vehicles … everything?  How long?  My family is now in survival mode.

I just kept praying that it wouldn’t be long.

It was when I got back home that I saw the video online from the Rachel Maddow Show of three people listening to what should have been one of the most important speeches to be heard in the House of Representatives that day.  My anger grew when I saw that, given the situation that my family was thrown into with so little warning.

When I saw all those empty seats in the House chamber as Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan gave a spot-on speech on the struggles of the middle class, and of the middle class manufacturing communities that are suffering through so much, I just had to wonder:  Does anyone care?  Does anyone give a damn?

If you missed it the first time around, on the day this blog launched last week, look at the video again.

This isn’t a political game, or at least it shouldn’t be.  These are people’s lives we’re talking about here.  We may be numbers to big corporations, we may be a way to make stockholders happier by cutting us/the budget.  But we’re still people.  And those investments we’re making ourselves for our retirement are being swallowed up whole when we lose our jobs and we need them to survive before we even reach retirement age.

I look in the faces of my wife and my children as we go through this, and I don’t see numbers on a ledger sheet.  I see human beings who have the very basic right and need to survive.  All we are pursuing is happiness.  At one time, I thought that was one of the rights this nation was built upon.  Now, we’re fighting amongst ourselves — left vs. right, government vs. anti-government, pro choice vs. no choice, upper class vs. diminishing middle class — while our nation’s leaders can’t see fit to sit through a speech on the floor of the U.S. House about our country’s overall well-being.

We’re fighting like mad to climb the ladder of success, but it doesn’t help when the rungs are greased and the people who are put in charge of finding a solution to that problem seem to be helping to slather it on more while they leave the seats of the U.S. House chamber mostly empty and point fingers at each other outside when the cameras are turned on them.

We’re drowning, and this nation’s leaders are throwing us a Life Savers breath mint instead of what we really need … solutions.

We’re decent people who try to do decent things on a daily basis.  We try very hard to contribute to society.  We want to pull our own weight.  We want to see people succeed through hard work, sweat, and blood from their labors.  We’re not slackers.  We’re not after handouts.  We’re after fairness.  We do our part as citizens of this nation to make a difference in our little corner of it all.  So why do we feel like we’re being drowned, more and more all the time?

Why?  Try doing a Google search on “Citizens United Supreme Court” for just a small taste of an explanation.

Allow me to close out the final installment of this eight-part series by reproducing a fantastical piece that I wrote as a Facebook note on January 22, 2010 – just after the Supreme Court’s ruling on “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”  With all due credit/apologies to the genius of Isaac Asimov, I called it “I, Voting Robot.”

**********

I was standing in a long line at my neighborhood polling place, waiting for a voting booth to open up. The issues in this election were hot, and so were the voters’ tempers.

As the people in front of me moved a couple of feet forward at a time, whenever the next available booth opened up, I noticed a large, well-built, well-groomed man standing in front of me. He wore a jacket covered with patches sewn into the fabric. The patches contained the names and logos of large corporations. I thought he must have been a NASCAR fan. Finally, I noticed that his movements were very stiff. He only looked straight ahead with an icy stare.

“I haven’t seen you around before,” I opened. “You must be a racing fan with all those logos all over you.”

“I do not know about this racing you speak of,” the man responded, the tone of his voice coming across as icy as his stare.

“Do you always talk like a robot?” I asked with a puzzled look on my face.

“I am a robot.”

“Say what?”

“I am programmed to represent the corporations on my garment in voting for the issues my sponsors have campaigned for.”

“A robot voting on behalf of corporations? How’s that?”

“Ask the United States Supreme Court. This is protection of free speech for corporations.”

“Wait a minute, how did I miss the news on this?”

“It occurred the same day that Sen. John Edwards admitted that he had fathered a child with a woman other than his wife.”

“Oh, so it was a tabloid news day otherwise. Kind of like that Balloon Boy story that ran for days,” I said as I shook my head. “I can see how I missed this one. But, wait a minute, the Supreme Court protected free speech for corporations? Corporations aren’t individual people, they’re an entity. And the people in those corporations can come from all around the world, not just the U.S. You telling me that business entities from around the world just all got together and decided to say … what happens in America?”

“With their checkbooks, that is correct. Their buying power in U.S. government is now unlimited.”

“They’re speaking through their checkbooks? Freedom of speech through unlimited bank accounts?”

“In the campaign and in their lobbying efforts, yes. I am here to represent the corporations in the form of a person to protect their freedom of speech at the voting booth. I am programmed to counteract every negative vote against the corporations with 10 votes for the corporations to protect their court-ordered freedom of speech based upon how much more money they have invested in the issues compared to other contributors.”

“Well, that’s not fair.”

“It is fair according to the Supreme Court.”

“Ya know what, R2D2? I’m gonna stop you! I’m not gonna let this stand!”

“I will crush you.”

“This is the United States of America, C3P-O! You’re goin’ DOWN!”

“You will be assimilated.”

“Oh yeah? Hey, look, what’s that over there? Isn’t that the saucy maid from The Jetsons?”

“Where?”

And with that little distraction, I reached inside his shirt and disconnected the bugger’s wires. He powered down much the same way Hymie did in the old “Get Smart” TV series.

… If only it were that easy. We’re not talking science fiction now, we’re talking reality.

Keep this in mind. Over $5 billion was spent on the last presidential campaign, an unprecedented amount. In 2009, some of the biggest financial institutions in the United States paid anywhere from 3-5 times that amount in executive bonuses alone. How much money do you think corporations have to invest in determining how America operates?

What hath the Supreme Court wrought?

John Paul Stevens, U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Image via Wikipedia

“At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”

— Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

God, help us all.

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