Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An "Imbalanced" System

I have added a new reading to my daily list, The Writer's Almanac. Every day, there is a poem and acknowledgements about various artists on their birthdays. It is becoming one of my favorite stops for the day. On Sunday, the featured poem was Guys Like That by Joyce Sutphen. Here is an excerpt:

Guys Like That
Drive very nice cars...
Guys who look like that —
so clean and cool — are quietly moving
money across the border, cooking books,

making deals that leave some people
rich and some people poorer
than they were before guys like that
robbed them at the pump and on

their electricity bills, and even
now, guys like that are planning how
to divide up that little farm they just
passed, the one you used to call home.

There is this notion in some circles that all bosses are bad, and anybody who has anything must have gotten it by taking it away from someone else. I know this concept well because I was raised by people who taught it to me every day by the way they talked about their bosses and the way they interacted with the world.

My father was a Union man, a carpenter, and he believed in the Union way. Beyond that, "you can't trust nobody." He had little regard for his Local's BA--he was sure the man was only out for his own piece of the pie and was granting favors for his buddies. In my father's mind, that's how the whole world operated, and if a neighbor got a new car or moved to a nicer neighborhood, then he must have committed some low-down, no good, back stabbing deal to get it, the dirty skunk. He never had a good word for my mother's boss, a man who paid me 25 cents to run a check signing machine on days when I had no school. One day when my mother was too sick for work, I picked up the phone to call her office to tell them she wouldn't be in. My father was so disturbed by that, as if I were giving in to some kind of imbalanced system, and he wanted me to just let them figure it out. I called anyway.

I know for a fact that quite often, people who have "things," people who have more than their neighbors, got those "things" and drive "very nice cars" because they put in long, honest, hard hours of work to get them. And they treat their employees with kindness and generosity. And they pay their fair share of taxes. And just because they have a position of authority over other humans does not make them someone to mistrust, and the worst should not be assumed of their character and actions.

Sometimes "guys like that" are good guys.

I would like Joyce Sutphen to write a poem about the good guys in very nice cars, and I would like her write a poem about the lazy employees they sometimes hire who wouldn't know an honest day's work without complaint if it bit them in the ass.

Ahh, I feel better now. I get so dad-blamed* tired of assumptions and criticisms based on what people drive and what they do for a living.

* One of my father's favorite exclamations.


Ms Mac said...

I get tired of people who exclaim "you lucky thing!" when they hear about a friend who has booked a lovely beachside holiday or has been able to buy him/herself something nice but expensive. It's rarely a matter of "luck" but like you say, honest and hard work.

Yeah, why are there not more poems about people who have worked hard to get where they are and to have what they have?

Ms Mac said...

Oh and Happy new Year, Robyn!

Sassy Sundry said...

Ah yes. I'm afraid I'm being lazy by commenting here.


dive said...

Hi, Robyn.
I'm just back from work and daren't even look at my comments list (curretnyl standing at 44 - Yikes) so I'm coming over here for something nice to read with my glass of de-stressing wine.

I'm so glad you like the Almanack, and also that you like "Guys Like That" (however unfair it may be).
I usually pick around one poem a fortnight from their selection as a keeper and I had chosen that one, too.
Today's (After Dinner, by Philip Levine) is another good one; it reminds me of Maryanne … seems the kind of thing she would do.

Hope the back is on the mend.

dive said...

"curretnyl" ?
Another new word from typo hell …

Robyn said...

Ms Mac: Happy New Year! and welcome back. The word "lucky" is grossly misused--you're right, luck has nothing to do with it.

Sassy: you are far too conscientious to be lazy. Did I spell that right, because I must have tried half a dozen times.

Dive: I don't think I like the poem, actually. The woman has a chip on her shoulder. But I do like the "After Dinner" poem a lot. Thanks for pointing me to the site.

Oh, and the back is about the same as it was on Sunday. I am treating it gingerly and trying not to freeze into a pretzel shape.

dive said...

Sorry for laughing at the "pretzel shape".
Just remember that every day you endure it is a day closer to getting better.

Sassy Sundry said...

Robyn, I'm a lazy-bones at work. I'm being lazy now.

I meant to add, way to go with the Writer's Almanac. I love that little program.

Robyn said...

My sister read this post and e-mailed with the following line:

"It’s a wonder we are not all just warped beyond comprehension"

I laughed a knowing laugh at that one, just thought I'd include it here.

Sassy, as much as I love Garrison Keillor, it's odd that I haven't found this site before. It's a great daily reading. (I don't use the word "read" as a noun, as in "it's a great read" because that makes me want to slap somebody)

Sassy Sundry said...

It's even better to hear him read it on NPR.

RICH said...

Wow, nice post Robyn. so good to read you telling it like it is and like it was for you.
It's a blessing for you that even though you were raised in world where negativity seemd normal, you can now see outside of that world.

I came from a place much like you. Sometimes we have to work hard inside of our own heads to stay out of that place they call "stinkin thinkin"