It’s not easy to make ends meet these days, especially if you are a returning veteran, forced to work for minimum wage pumping gas on the NJ Turnpike. Our elected representatives should open their eyes wide, listen to the distressed voices of people all over this country and the world (as the “Brexit” vote showed) and take heed – the political revolution has begun.
Part of TDV’s “Eyes Wide on the Streets” series
We stopped for gas and a cup of java, Mary and I, as we made our way to Brooklyn to visit with family including the newest addition, Little Rosemary, our 4-month old granddaughter.
The station attendant, a white male, perhaps 35 years old, in addition to pumping gas, washes our windshield. I tell him it has been a long time since anyone has done that, and I appreciate it.
It may be my purposely friendly demeanor or perhaps the Bernie Sanders sticker pasted to my back window. The attendant opens up as if we are old friends, telling me has served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As he talks he becomes increasingly animated. I can see the agitation welling up inside him. He looks me dead in the eye, as he gestures with his free arm, the one not holding the squeegee.
“I am voting for Trump”, he says. “The Russians are flying jets right over our carriers. We are the laughing stock of the world. Everyone is laughing at us.
“I have lived down there (the Southwest). I know what it’s like. I have seen it up close. We need a wall. We need a wall.”
I plead with him. “Please don’t vote for Trump. He is a flaming racist, an embarrassment, not fit to be dog catcher, let alone President of the United States.”
He is having none of it. I try to change the subject. It doesn’t work.
He repeats his mantra – “Everyone is laughing at us; we need a wall.”
It is time to leave, but he persists. I’m finding it difficult to break off the conversation. Eventually I do get in my car, breathing a sigh of relief.
Thankful for all that I have – A beautiful wife. A loving family. Economic security.
Sad that someone must struggle so mightily that it turns him against others facing similar challenges in their daily lives … concerned about what this implies for the future of our country.
But ultimately, selfishly perhaps, grateful that I have been fortunate enough not to have risked my life in unnecessary foreign wars, only to find myself on the New Jersey Turnpike working for minimum wage, barely able to feed myself, let alone a family, with little or no hope for the future.
It’s all too common, and nothing short of criminal.
To our elected representatives, TDV says – enough already. Raise the minimum wage, invest in people – in health care, job training and education; fix our crumbling roads and bridges, and stimulate the economy so it works for everyone, including returning veterans, not just the privileged few.
To those who say it can’t be done, Republicans and Democrats alike, who pompously pretend to represent the people, but who in fact spend most of their time and effort raising money and doing the bidding of wealthy donors, TDV offers this advice:
Open your eyes wide, look around you, and take action … the political revolution has begun.