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Voices From These Times: ‘Do The Math’

Kenneth Hagans

In These Times has partnered with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) to amplify the stories and struggles of ordinary people, including workers in the United States. This piece, part of an ongoing biweekly series, originally appeared in the Journal of Ordinary Thought, published by NWA. Find more stories and voices at the NWA’s blog.

I never thought I’d be here.
The numbers don’t add up,
and I’m not sure if I can fix it.
Daily searching the ads for that 1 opening
in 5 or 6 that is a good match.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” they ask.
Hopefully employed instead of looking for a job, I think silently.
When I interview for a job, it’s generally
with a person that’s at least 10 years my junior.
I still have 20 years to work, but perhaps
only a couple more chances to get it right.
Every job seems to pay 30 percent below
the job I had 5 years ago.
I’m willing to drive 40 or 50 miles each way to
commute to a job that pays enough to support my family.
75 employment ads answered,
but not a hint of the robust economy to be seen.
I’m 99 percent pissed off about the lack of
real work opportunities in this country.

Having said all this, not a single other country,
I believe, offers the opportunities that the United States does.
Or have I been brainwashed to believe what the statistics tell me?
4 times the unemployment rate and 1/2 the ownership rate of caucasions doesn’t lie.
Somewhere lies the single road for this traveler.
I just hope it was built with union labor under an affirmative action consent decree.
Kenneth Hagans is formerly the business manager at Hales Franciscan High School, a parochial all boys school on the South Side of Chicago. Hagans, who completed his undergraduate studies at the Illinois Institute for Technology, writes to balance his analytical world of numbers and give voice to his life’s experiences. Currently unemployed, Hagans is active in several community groups including A Just Harvest, formally known as The Good News Community Kitchen.
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