I was like most in my thinking, why should I care what goes on in Washington D.C. I would think to myself, “Things will never change,” and “Why do I care if it doesn’t affect me?”. Politicians will always argue back and forth that they need to lower taxes on businesses to grow the economy and create jobs, yet I still hear the term “trickledown economics” thrown around like it's the holy grail to solve all the country's woes. Despite politicians’ claims that spending more money on social programs will sure up the social safety net and lift people from poverty, what they say is fantasy at best. I am not afraid to say that politics and what goes on in Washington does in fact affect my life.
I am an 18-year-old college student from a middle class family in New Hampshire. I would have to say I have had it pretty good so far. We have had our problems just like any other family, but nothing life altering. I did not spend any of my time thinking about what socioeconomic class I fit into. I never experienced a major financial struggle until now and was about to get a harsh dose of reality. Being stripped of my middle-class status was not something I was expecting to take. One summer afternoon in August, I found out my dad was in a psychiatric hospital and had likely lost his job of 13 years. My dad was promoted about a year and a half ago to Service Manager and was putting in some very long days and working many weekends. My dad was proud of his achievements at work but also struggled with the company owner when trying to make needed policy changes. My dad recently had been struggling with mental illness, aggravated by the stress of his job. My dad would always tell me about his struggles at work, and how he felt they were related to today's political climate. I have never been a fan of Donald Trump and admittedly have been a vocal critic. I’ve attended political protests. I even organized a road trip to Washington D.C. to attend the March for Science back in April.
I have concluded we are currently ruled by tyrants. People who do not care about the average American, people who can easily be placed into the top 1% of the income earners. I will soon find out in a painful way, all politics are local, how today's political climate can embolden people to make your life a living hell. I also will soon find out this is perfectly legal. My dad felt his company was taking advantage of its salaried employees based on the number of hours they were forced to work. He would talk about trying to make changes that hopefully would reduce some of the workload placed on the technicians he managed. My dad would repeatedly request meetings with his boss, but they would go unanswered for months. When a meeting was finally put in place, my dad was told his ideas would be implemented over time, but was never given the ability to make any changes on his own. When he would ask again about changes, he was told slow progress was caused by his insufficient management experience. While he was left to feel small, he worked for 55 to 60 hours a week uncompensated, supporting and training the other technicians. My dad always said these long hours were to ensure my mom and me had a secure future. He tried to seek help with his mental struggles and suggested a leave of absence for treatment, but the owner told my dad he would work with him. His boss even said he cared for my dad. He claimed a Human Resources consultant would help solve their issues. It was presented to improve communication between my dad and his boss; my dad trusted his boss because he thought maybe it could help. When my father sat down in his boss's office with the HR consultant, he was handed a contract requesting that he will be subordinate to his boss, he would listen without a second thought, not speak up, and be a perfect worker. In retrospect, he was presented a loyalty pledge. He was told either sign the paper or give his resignation. My father technically chose neither. His mind was not in a good place, so he took his things, called my mom for a ride home, and left. My dad was distraught, contemplating suicide, and talking to himself, so my mom had no choice but to drive him to the emergency room. The psych ward had to admit him for his own safety. A few days later we received a letter from his boss thanking him for his resignation and reminding him his health insurance would end on August 31st. Nothing was signed; there wasn’t a resignation letter written. My father still in a psych ward for extreme anxiety and depressive disorder and was inpatient for six days. The week we brought him home, I moved into college. It was overwhelming enough to become acclimated to college. I didn’t know how I was supposed to act as if nothing was wrong.
My father's company claimed he resigned from his position, which prevented him from collecting unemployment. Despite being in the hospital due to the stress of his work, he was told he would not be eligible for health insurance or disability because he was no longer employed. He found himself without any income, as well as not being well enough to work. When I was done classes for the day, we visited a lawyer who was no help to my dad. She treated him as if he was at fault for the loss of his job, even though he was going through a mental crisis. Sitting in that meeting we are finding that everything my dad’s boss did may have been perfectly legal. Why? Because he was the boss. There were no written contracts that made any of this wrong. Her advice to my dad: “You should have signed the paper.” Once we were in the car, he couldn’t get over the fact that the lawyer was so quick to judge the situation before fully understanding it. “She just doesn't want to do the work,” my father shouted. My dad claimed his boss always operated in the gray areas of the law, he never liked anything in writing, he would never make claims with an audience who could dispute anything, and said that it would always be his word against yours because he is the boss. With no one to turn to, we had no income, no insurance, and no help. This one man turned our lives upside down without a second thought. My dad was let go as if those thirteen years had not even existed. We contemplated selling our home and moving because we didn’t know how we were supposed to pay for our house. But where do we go if we can't pay a mortgage or rent? The best option seemed to be moving to a different state with cheaper housing, a better chance at a job for my dad, and laws which protect the working class. Even if this is a better option, how can we leave the state we’ve called home almost our entire lives?
This is what happens when people turn a blind eye to politics, especially the dangerous Trump administration. We are now forced to put our trust into those who know nothing about the middle-class, who have lived their whole lives in luxury. They create laws which favor themselves and take out small businesses as conglomerates grow bigger and bigger. They make sure college students from out of state and the elderly with no means to drive don’t vote by probing voter integrity. All of this is legal because of them. How do these people stay in power? The answer is Facebook memes with snippets of “facts”. Yes, it is fake news which allows ignorance to spread like virtual wildfire.
Back in September, I protested Trump’s election integrity commission at NHIOP. The commission was led by Kris Kobach, who insists on voter fraudulence by college students and the elderly. I myself felt ignorant. I knew what the protest was about, but did not know the names and their roles. My father, who keeps himself educated on politics, asked a reporter to clarify the role of Facebook on voter results. The reporter, with microphone and cell phone in hand, refused to answer because that was not what she was there for. When she saw me with a Kobach poster made by other protesters, she asked me what I thought of the situation. Seeing my stunned look, she asked me whether I knew who Kobach was. Although I said no, she continued to talk to me. I was bewildered that she cared about my insignificant and vague input, but ignored my father. That is the problem. We ignore those who challenge us and refuse to change.