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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

With hope and virtue

job hunt, Obama inauguration

I thought I'd be writing more about the job hunt, telling amusing stories and being cheerful and upbeat.

But I haven't because it has been a thin and sobering experience. The job disappeared in August, a month 84,000 other Americans lost their jobs. That month, USA Today said 2 million jobs had been lost in the previous year. The math is stark: 1 million fewer jobs in 2008 than in 2007, and 1 million more people competing for the jobs that exist. And that's just the jobs and people on the official rolls.

The hunt started strong, and I was one of three finalists for a dream job in Madison. But not the one chosen. Months went by before I even landed another interview. I had three job-balls in the air in December. The last one fell on New Year's Eve when I called the prospective employer, who had difficulty tell me I was out of the running. These bad news things are like euthenasia, I wanted to tell her: put us out of our miserable little hopes fast.

Monday, I got turned down for a small, part-time, minimum wage job that I'd applied for to keep my sanity and dignity. If you haven't been in this boat, you may not be able to imagine the humiliation. Logic doesn't help: knowing that there were many interested parties who probably were not at the same time looking for full-time work doesn't make rejection easier. You feel worthless, unwanted, discarded. And the mantra "despair is not an option" collapses under the weight of despair itself.

Tuesday morning, it was hard getting out of bed. But I did. I made my list of tasks, a pot of coffee, and decided not to go to the Marcus Center to watch the presidential inauguration. The festivities were on the radio in the background, and soon the excitement drew me in. I turned on the TV.

You'll hear as many different accounts of the event as people you ask or read. I was transfixed by the entire, pitch-perfect event. Even the irony of the president being tripped up a bit by the Supreme Court chief justice added the necessary touch of imperfection to a thing of beauty. I'm glad I didn't go to the Marcus Center, where reports say the response was partisan, cheering Democrats and booing Republicans. That wasn't in the spirit of the occasion.

The new president spoke: "That we are in the midst of a crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. . .These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across the land . . . "

Strange that such a somber account would lift my spirits. But that's exactly what it did. From "sapping of confidence" on to the challenging way out, Barack Obama was speaking to me, to my experience.

What was it about a speech declared underwhelming by many that stirred people as diverse as me and Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, I wondered. Daughter Liz said "it's all out on the table now." Yes: exactly. What a relief to be permitted, finally, to speak the truth.

That, and the call to step up to the plate. We've been waiting for that call since September 11, 2001.

In closing, the words of first president George Washington: "Let it be told to the future world. . . that  in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive. . . that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)." Then the words of 44th president Barack Obama: "With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end. . ."

For awhile, virtue was all I had left. And a fat lot of good that is if you can't apply it to something. But now, for me, hope is back. Not hope just for a job but to be a part of the great rebuilding that is coming. That gives direction and goals to the hunt for employment.

The work is there. We're here, willing and able. The trick will be jobs that pay those of us who need to earn a living while we do it.

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