While Life’s Grown Soft, I’ve Grown Hard

Liberty Street across from Ground Zero

 

I made a point to take my two young daughters to NYC shortly after 911. Even though they missed the ascent to the top of the Statue of Liberty for security reasons, they were able to ascend to the top of the Empire State Building.

“Today The World Trade Center is again the tallest building in New York one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden and more than 10 years after the attacks that brought them down. It is still a work in progress: The hulking steel structure known as the Freedom Tower is still 500 feet shorter than it will be when complete. But it is already a tribute to American resilience, a reminder that whatever devastation we face, we can still come back bigger and better than before.” – Aaron Vaughan

 

I can understand where the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is coming from. I was young once upon a time. I took sociology in college and a course called American Ghetto Environment, if you can imagine how “not PC” that course name would be today. I wanted to help people who had a hard time helping themselves.

A Nelson DeMille character in the General’s Daughter reflected, while “Life’s Grown Soft, I’ve Grown Hard,” reflecting on growing up in a post WWII era. Life was hard. Today life is soft by comparison. There are plenty of folks out there that deserve help. I say “help” because I detest the word “entitled.” To me the word entitlement defines a benefit given someone in need, not in want. Our so called entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, other mandatory spending programs were programs designed for hard working people who need and whenever possible contributed to their own welfare.

 

A lifetime of work experience allows me to say there are people who believe everyone regardless of work ethic and moral fiber are entitled to the American Dream and those who believe the American Dream is earned through a good work ethic and morals.

I am from a middle class family. I was the second child of six. I was always wanting but never needing. If I wanted something I would find a way to get it. Ok, I could pout with the best of ‘em for a nickel package of bubble gum and baseball cards. Mostly I learned to earn what I wanted. Since the age of 11-12, I always had an after school job, be it paper route, bagger or stock boy at a local grocer. In high school I washed pots and pans in the cafeteria on my lunch hour. Later, I was promoted to making and serving milk shakes and sandwiches to my fellow students. If you have ever worked in a school cafeteria at age 16, worn a hair net, while serving sandwiches to your fellow students, in particular, the girl you had a huge crush on, you would understand the price you pay to earn a few extra dollars.

 

During college, I worked for a janitorial service from 4 – 7 AM daily at a local hotel to help supplement my $15 per week expense allowance. Summers I worked on a crew with 3 occupational day laborers, landscaping and mowing lawns. My boss was a machine operator and had a landscaping business on the side.

He made me, the college kid, the crew chief. I made less than my crew, but I wanted a job. My crew was ages 18, 30-something and 40-something. 18 had a wife and a new baby. He showed up for work every day. If he didn’t want to work, he’d sit in the shade and smoke. He outweighed me times-two and that was just his arms. If I pressed him to pick up his shovel, he wanted to arm wrestle or place a lit cigarette between our forceps to see who would pull away first.

30 and 40-something worked 4 days a week. My boss paid them on Friday. They got drunk on weekends, nursed a hangover on Monday’s, then dragged their sorry asses back to work on Tuesday. Mind you, if anything went wrong, my boss blamed me and took any losses out of my paycheck.

 

The summer break next year, I went to work for the local school district doing the same thing. At the school district, I worked with 3 other guys, as well. One was a friend and fellow college student. We worked our butts off. The other two guys complained and cajoled us to slow down and slack off. The experience wasn’t much different than the summer before. To me acting busy was harder than being busy, but in the end there are no great gigs in the lawn care and landscaping business. Did I mention the mosquitoes were nasty?

Life is so much softer now, but we all have a responsibility to pull our own weight. We have a/c, cell phones, flat screen TVs and cold beer on every street corner. So what’s the big deal? Go to work. Get a job. If you can’t get the job of your dreams you can still go out and earn a living. If you want something more, go out and earn it. I know some retired guys who worked hard all their lives. Now that they aren’t working, they are willing to live (want) with less. It’s habit forming, but we can’t all be retired. So if you need something, go to work. Work can be habit forming, too. My experience wearing a hairnet left me wanting more.

Coming into this election, there’s an underlying current of ill will. Call it hate, dividing Americans. I have never before experienced such divisiveness before between conservatives and liberals, in my youthful 60 years of age.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous quote, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

 

This quote should serve as a warning to all of us, especially this President, Congress and influential leaders. We are at risk of a great divorce, with all the ingredients including hate, resentment and financial ruin. Worst is how it will affect the children, many who call themselves Occupy Wall Street (OWS) the citizens of this great nation. It’s always the children who get hurt the most.


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