It’s been about a week since Time Magazine named “the protester” 2011’s Person of the Year. I’ve been thinking about it since then but, since I have a job (or two) and three kids, I haven’t had time to put my thoughts in writing. Here goes.
My first problem with this designation is that it somehow equates the Occupy (insert name of hamlet here) protesters with people suffering from REAL human rights abuses in the Middle East. There can be a huge discussion and debate on whether the “Arab Spring” protesters brought about something better or worse (look at Egypt right now), but there is no question that these folks were risking so much more than their OWS counterparts – like their lives!
All over Twitter it was suggested that the members of Seal Team Six should have been named Person of the Year. Great as that suggestion is, I know a few people who would be great counter-points to “the protester.” Everyday people who take care of themselves and their families while dealing with the stuff that life hands out. Without complaining or whining or thinking it’s someone else’s fault – and with no government handouts!!
These people are my friends so I’m privy to many private details they wouldn’t want publicly shared, so I won’t divulge any identifying information here.
- Mom/Wife/Caregiver. Last Christmas was especially happy in her household because, after a year of dialysis, her husband had undergone a successful kidney transplant. This fall, they found out that the same kidney disease he initially had, had reappeared in the new kidney… and he will likely not be a good candidate for another transplant because of this. They’re still paying for the first transplant – out of pocket costs are huge even with insurance, and with generous friends and relatives donating – and hubby was let go from his job because of his initial surgery. He’s rebuilding his career as she takes care of two girls under age five, one of whom has digestive system issues. Her spare money is spent on antibacterial gel; her spare time is taken up taking care of the bodily functions of three other people. Despite this, she laughs and has fun. Often. Sure, some days she just needs to cry; if I’m available I grab the nearest chocolate and head over there. She realizes her daughters need as much normalcy as possible, especially since Daddy may not be around by the time they grow up. She takes all this responsibility, puts her head down and charges through.
- Cancer survivor. My best friend is much older than me and has had cancer three times. During her second bout with cancer she also worked full-time (to keep her health insurance) and took care of her terminally ill mother. She spent the last year out of work, recovering and re-building bone. Her outlook on life – 2012 is going to rock! Time for adventure and new things.
- Unemployed. A contractor friend of mine hasn’t had enough work to pay all the bills in about three years. He’s taken what work he can – any work, no matter how menial – and lived frugally to provide food and necessities for him and his wife. How frugal? Growing all their own vegetables. Growing extra vegetables to sell at Farmer’s Market. All of their clothing/home goods purchased at secondhand stores. Hunting deer and other animals to fill the freezer with meat. The only time they ate food they didn’t kill or grow was when they were invited somewhere for dinner.
I can’t picture any of these three people ever clutching their iPhones (none of them even own one) and demanding corporations give them more. And I especially don’t picture them dropping trou to crap on a police car in some kind of misguided “protest.”
THESE people are my People of the Year and I know there are thousands more just like them throughout America. THEY are what make America great. They embody the true spirit of the USA and are the people I point my boys to and say “Them. Be like them.”
Now if we can turn the discourse in this country to spotlight these kind of ordinary people — or better yet, be this kind of ordinary person — the next generation won’t believe they’re entitled to handouts.