My Nominee For Citizen Of The Year: ME! (And Millions Of Others)

(This is a letter to a local Philly newspaper, unless they’ve shut down for lack of business, and made more citizens of the year. This is in response to a request for nominations for CITIZEN OF THE YEAR.)

I am my own nominee for Citizen Of The Year, as are millions of other Americans.

You may have heard of us. We are the 9.6% Unemployed.

We are called the citizens who don’t want to work.

We are the citizens who are the byproduct of outsourcing to other countries, which occurs while shouts of BUY AMERICAN ring out across the land.

We are the citizens who were seen by you in retail every day, talked with you on the phone, worked behind the scenes everyday to make a company’s product work for you.

We are the citizens who so sadly caused Sen. Jim Bunning to miss his dear University of Kentucky basketball game because we forced him to be the lone man so faithfully denying help for us. I do hope his grandchildren are so proud of him.

We are the citizens who also have family.

We are the citizens who vote.

We are the citizens who helped build businesses and helped them prosper.

We are the citizens who hurt as much as anyone else when the economy goes sour, and have been since Bush entered the White House in 2000, despite his fine work of fiction just published. I cannot wait to see it on the screen in 3D.

We are the citizens who become the convenient political football for Tea Party and GOP adherents. They  believe that helping themselves to tax breaks is all American, but helping fellow Americans who, until the last couple of years, were probably more productive that they ever could hope to be, is “socialism” or whatever word can be used to terrify the masses into hysteria.

We are the citizens who love to sit on couches for much less money that we would earn back at our old jobs, or even at a fair pay job.

We are the citizens who many on the GOP side believe should work at the magical McDonalds that they keep pointing us to, to work for a minimum wage which may be 70% more less than what we used to earn and what Unemployment Benefits are.

We are the ones who should work for so little pay and watch our bills go unpaid.

We are the citizens who are then expected to pay full going rate for health insurance for ourselves, because the GOP cannot be too compassionate about the COBRA subsidy.

We are the citizens who shop in line with you, drive next to you, send kids to the same schools (for now), and do everything that you can do, or at least we used to be.

We are NOT the citizens who would get a great tax break because we earn $250K a year or more, one that is not offset against the federal deficit because, somehow, the desire of the new GOP/Tea Party hybrid is exempt from the reality of blowing a massive hole in the deficit.

We are NOT the citizens, many who do NOT own small businesses, who would simply hold onto that money.

We are the citizens who are at the point that every penny that comes in goes right back into the economy, therefore stimulating retail and business and hopefully keeping other citizens in their jobs.

We are the dog to kick, we are the punching bag, we are the bargaining chip that is paid lip service by both sides while the GOP insists their mandate is to sooth the bank accounts of the Top 2%.

We are just laid-off. At 26 weeks. At the end of this tier of benefits and unable to move up because the Party of “One No” can say that” No” to millions of Americans. We are the 99er’s who have nowhere to turn, many of whom are at the age where the non-existent specter of age discrimination forgets that it is non-existent.

We are the citizens who battle other adversities, physical and locational, while looking for work that we excel at.

We are the citizens who love to celebrate the holidays, but probably cannot this year.

We are the citizens who will still wish you MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY THANKSGIVING, HAPPY HANNUKAH, and HAPPY NEW YEAR are strongly as ever because we genuinely want you to have a full and wondrous time of this season.

But we are the citizens who have no idea what comes after whatever.

We are everything about this country that is the best it offers. We are ready to get to work, and not just go “dig ditches” which feels suspiciously like “go to hell and stay there” from the GOP clueless who make that suggestion.

We are the citizens, and we are confused, scared, humbled, loving, loved, despised, and ready to show why the naysayers are all wrong.

The only thing that we, the unemployed citizens are not, is the version of YOU that Christine O’Donnell tried so unsuccessfully to be during the election. We are the YOU that aspires to greatness in this great city, state, and country. And we are fully capable of it.

For all those reasons and more, we are more than any one person or figurehead could be.

We are the citizens of the United States who do not give up, despite the ability of the opposition to make a “cliché” out of everything.

We are the citizens who are being forgotten by the politicians during Thanksgiving.

It would be interesting to hear Congress giving thanks this year to discover what they have to be thankful for, other than a masterful sleight of hand.

We, the 9.6% unemployed, are the Citizens Of The Year.

I am humbled to be one of their ranks, because they and we are genuine.

We are also the American People. The right has no monopoly on that.

Shirking at THE OFFICE. Not being OUTSOURCED.

For three years now, going onto four, I have had a virtual job (no pay, worse hours, great friends) working at a virtual branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. You are probably familiar with their Scranton sales office.

The site changes with the show themes, so this year, you will find myself and my co-workers at http://www.dundermifflin.sabre-corp.com . Look for the Allentown branch. We will be sleeping under our desks there.

I mention this because, until I overdiscovered Facebook and Twitter in the last year, the DunderMifflin site was the extent of my social experience on the web. I’ll post more about it later, as the revised site rolls out.

However, I am a huge fan of THE OFFICE for the usual reasons (funny, outrageous, at times touching) and the not-so-usual reasons, that there is a bit of truth under all the nonsense. No matter how ludicrous the character, you can always look inward or to a co-worker (if I had them anymore) and spot some trait that you share, good or bad. That makes it real, to a degree, and even a learning tool for your job performance.

So if course, I welcomed the return of the show, and it didn’t disappoint. Scranton is feeling the uncertainty of a new corporate owner, the story stayed in the office itself, which is the beauty of this show. While it will use outside settings at times, whole episodes can be contained in that office park and still be amazing and funny.

Jim and Pam may be heading for a little dust-up over how each approach practical jokes.  Dwight bought himself some power by buying the office complex. (I had a set of keys on one of those belt cords like Dwight’s. Plenty of keys with no identifiable purpose. I stopped when a kid came up to me, pulled down on the keys, snapped them back and they hit me square in the balls).

Ryan still is oblivious to real work and is always scheming. Scranton now has two HR execs, Toby and Gabe, and both form a barrier to Michael, who has been forced to fire his punk nephew, handling it Michael-style: by spanking him in front of everyone. Kelly did her exec training, but no clue as to what it has done for her. Everybody is hard at work.

The best was the cold open, started by Andy, of a LIP DUB, essentially a music video to a great garage-rock classic NOBODY BUT ME by THE HUMAN BEINZ. Shot in one take, it was a blast, and my favorite scenes were Gabe’s Charleston and Creed’s interrupted guitar solo.

The episode had the duty of trying to hint at or set up the storylines for the year, so it crammed a lot of items into a half-hour, possibly too many for some. I expect these to play out and resolve over the next few episodes.

This is an office, albeit an exaggerated one. Everyone working person can identify with someone there, some activity there.

That is why the follow-up from NBC, OUTSOURCED, didn’t work for me. Forget that the first episode obviously has to introduce a large number of characters, or that it resembles THE OFFICE in style, or that someone will bitch POLITICAL CORRECTNESS in the characters (That was not a problem for me).

The best joke, and maybe only I saw it, was that the boss drank PC Cola, (Politically Correct?).

However, talk about the wrong subject to joke about at the wrong time. OUTSOURCED begins with a scene of a once busy office that is now vacant because everyone was laid off and their jobs sent to India. As someone who has been looking for work for over a year after 27 years in the same business, along with millions of others looking for work, this really cannot be funny. This is just a reminder of tragic issues and is uncomfortable, at the very least.

Add in that outsourcing is soon to be the subject of a congressional bill to ban or limit it, and it becomes more distasteful. Outsourcing is done solely to cut costs for the company by allowing them to tap a much lower pay scale for call centers, production, etc.

Last night on ABC News, David Muir went back to his hometown, Syracuse NY. He visited the now shuttered SYRACUSE CHINA COMPANY, which is world renowned for quality plateware. The company is not out of business, it has moved all operations to China. That means more unemployment in Syracuse, and a product that is not made where its name implies.

That is the problem in laughing at OUTSOURCED. Forget the quality of the jokes, the easy target nature and the predictability of how the characters will triumph (Did anyone really think the quiet girl would NOT make the upsell?). The situation is not funny to millions right now. To some, it is devastating, and the fact that it mirrors the actions of so many companies today makes it more so.

I had problems watching UP IN THE AIR, a really good movie , because so many of the unemployed people hit so close to real life. OUTSOURCED doesn’t yet have that human element, and may never, at least not as I look for work, and probably after, as so many that I know look for work.

So, NBC, time to shelve OUTSOURCED as wrong place, wrong time. Trust me, the audience knows.