Letter from the Editor

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Getting to know the middle class

Of course, in our heart of hearts, we know George W. and John W. have a desperate personal interest in the "middle class." We know that, because they each use the term several thousand times a day as if they are proud to have it in their Grey Poupon vocabularies.

I don't really mind watching two guys with family fortunes bigger than the gross national product of some third world nations shed crocodile tears over the health care and Social Security worries of the struggling middle class. Some of our most able social leaders through history have been had so many silver spoons in their mouths that they must have heard clanking sounds every time they used the restroom.

My concern is that they have not properly researched.

I would like to see George W. Bush being driven up in his limo to redeem a coupon for $1.39 ground beef in a tube, the kind that enables a single mom to stretch a box of mac and cheese over two days.

I would like to see John W. Kerry live on the fixed income of a retiree, and get the American right to choose - to buy their prescribed medication, or eat.

I'd like to see George in a humiliating line for unemployment, or John cuing up for food stamps while looking for a job.

The presidential candidates claim to feel the pain of the middle class, but I'm not so sure... did they have to worry about not being able to save enough for their kids' tuition to even a state college? Make a conscious choice not to see a doctor about a problem because the mortgage payment is overdue? Face not being able to support their own parents as they grow elderly? Endure having to tell a child they can't go out for an activity at school this season because there's nothing left in the household budget for the fee since Dad's overtime got eliminated?

Have their jobs recently been subject to being "downsized," "outsourced," "offshored" or other words that has seemed to spring up lately as a kind way of saying "shafted?"

I'm willing to accept that George and John both understand the issues of the middle class, and sincerely believe they can make life better for people of all economic classes.

But if they say they feel the pain, or know what people struggling to hang on are going through, they lie. For that matter, if they claim to have simple, easy answers for solving the economy overnight, they lie again. Both have been in leadership for some years now, if they had those easy answers, why haven't they used them?

Bush and Kerry have each had their personal successes and failures, but have known little but privilege and plenty, and neither has ever had to walk the family budget tight rope without a safety net.

If they really want to understand the middle class, they would have to do more than step out of their jet planes and chauffeured limos. Of course, one of them will soon discover unemployment...

Every night, I wonder who it was that put the extra sign on the highway signpost at the intersection of Flindt and Lakeshore. Whoever did it, did it right. It's exactly where my headlights catch it every single night, and it has survived wind and rain and storm for a couple of months, and reads just as brightly as ever.

It says simply, "Jesus Loves You."

Nothing to sell you. No political endorsement. No e-mail addy. Just "Jesus Loves You."

And late at night, even when you're thoroughly beat down by life, you have to smile.

Jesus doesn't love Republicans or Democrats, rich or poor, local or commuter, young or old, rap or rat pack, Nike or Reebok. According to the sign, he loves you.

I've been waiting a while to write this, for fear the sign police would immediately run out and rip it down. After all, Jesus isn't welcome in the schools, they want him out of the pledge, there surely has to be some law against him passing out kind messages from the roadside.

Then again, who has the kahones to want to rip down "Jesus Loves You?" Even the atheists aren't sure enough to be looking for that kind of bad mojo. And to the best of my knowledge, neither protestant or Catholic, follower of Buddha or Muhammad, has had a gripe. Everybody, my friends, can use a little love.

Goodness knows this town is full of signs. No parking. Pick up your dog poop. No kidding, a sign that says "No standing..."

As signs go, this is the one I think I'd miss if it were not there.

I may never know who put it there, why they chose that odd spot under the various highway directions (they must have had to dodge some traffic), or who all has looked the other way so that it could stay put this long.

But thanks. Some of us needed that.