Friday, December 12, 2008

You’re Right – It Is Personal

This whole auto industry failure; union busting; kill the economy; families starving thing, does hit home, and I cannot separate my personal feelings from my intellectual opposition to what the GOP is doing. I feel it now the same way that I felt it as a little girl – and it frightens me.

Click "read more" to find out why.

My dad is from Tennessee. He grew up extremely poor, his family was basically “share croppers” – they never owned a thing. They lived in a shack on the land that they took care of. My dad quit school in the 6th grade so that he could go to work in the tobacco fields and help to take care of his family.

The army saved his life. He gained 40 pounds in his three months of basic. He said that it was the first time that he got good meals and good sleep. He had worked so hard for so many years that basic friggin’ training was a reprieve. The army also brought him west. The Army took him out of Tennessee and away from that life of share cropping; it also brought him to a union state with union jobs.

Dad worked for a Chevy dealership as a mechanic for 40 years, (except for a couple of years in the late 1970’s.) Dad had worked his way up to Service Manager. (I remember what a big deal that it was for my daddy to go to work wearing a tie. I recall looking in the closet at his was so extraordinary. Dad also no longer came home covered in grease.)

In the late 1970’s dad’s dealership went non-union. I will never forget what it was like, walking the picket lines with my family. The talks broke down, the union dissolved, my dad was fired.

He worked for a couple of different independent mechanic shops – but he could not make enough money, nor did he have any benefits. About this time mom, who had also worked for some auto dealerships and done miscellaneous odd jobs to help us survive over the years, started working nights as a custodian for the school district. She had to do this, the job offered benefits which my dad no longer had.

Dad was eventually hired back, at the same dealership, on the bench. On the bench means that he was once again an auto mechanic. No more ties, no more clean fingernails.

For the next 20 years dad worked as a mechanic. He finally retired, at age 65, one of the longest working employees at the dealership. He outworked the original owner’s son, who took over and retired while dad bent over cars and dolly’d under cars and had fucking computerized vehicles overtake auto mechanics (the technology changed so dramatically that the older mechanics just could not do it anymore – btw, when dad started working at the dealership, the owner’s son was still in High School.)

Meanwhile, mom worked her way up at the school district and eventually became a crew chief of a unit that went from school to school resurfacing the hardwood floors. She also worked on the board of her union, serving various volunteer positions.

After 20 years the district killed her position, dissolved her crew, and she had to take a seniority cut and go back to work in one of the schools. She worked nights for close to 30 years and put up with crap from students that no one should ever have to put up with. She was union – that is the only reason that her job was saved at all. She was union and had to put up with the crap that she did, but at least she had a job and she had benefits.

So, this whole anti-union, anti-American auto industry, Tennessee union-busting Senator, kill-the-American-dream-and-make-families-starve Bullshit really hits home. These bastards who sit in their offices making decisions that affect millions of people need to realize that these people are not numbers, they are not statistics, they are real people who are just trying to eat and take care of their families. They are trying to save their homes and be able to turn on the heat in the winter.

I remember when money was scarce and I remember not being able to turn on the heat. Luckily, for my family, we raised our own beef, had chickens for eggs, went hunting for venison in the fall, went fishing in the spring and had an enormous garden where we grew our own vegetables and had fruit trees out back. Our cellar and freezer were full – we were spoiled in that way and grateful for the plentiful food that we had…but we were always a paycheck away from losing it all. I never understood as a kid what a difference that growing and raising our food meant; not until adulthood brought grocery bills and an understanding of what my parents did.

Ya, you’re right, it is personal - I wish that it were personal for the Senators in DC.


iamcoyote said...

Gosh, Anjha, I had no idea. What a great story! Oddly, it never occurred to me until now that my dad is a retired Chrysler mechanical engineer. Is his pension in danger? Shit. And he's republican, too. I should call him.

Seven of Six said...

That's one gritty story of family survival Anjha. "Good sleep" in the military... hell, I've never known a good night sleep since.

Funny how roles can be reversed.

But I understand, my Dad grew up during the depression in Oklahoma. Went into WWII and thought the "3 hots and a cot" was great, the war... not so much.

Coyote, your Dad's pension could be affected. Was he Union? Even if Chrysler and GM go under, pensions should be insured up to 1/3 their value. One-third ain't that great... while these politicians get full bennies!!

Judith said...

Anjha, a very touching story which speaks volumes about the strength of your family and their ability to survive.

Seven of Six, my Dad was from Perry, Oklahoma.

I thought that with the election of Obama we had finally survived the nightmare of the past eight years, and were moving towards the rebuilding, figuratively and literal, of this Country. However, evidently I was wrong. The nightmare continues. The Republican Party needs to be destroyed.

Anjha said...

Gosh, Anjha, I had no idea.

I really didn't either.

It wasn't until I started trying to figure out why Corker was pissing me off so much and then I started writing that it all came together why it was so personal.

I do more "journaling" here on this blog than I ever thought that I would...I try to keep personal to myself (heh) - but, sometimes, it is cathartic.