I hardly need to inform any readers that we are in the midst of a deep recession. Nationwide unemployment stands at 9.6 percent during the month of August. California seems to be feasting on its own particular bed of fiscal crisis, with professors in the CSU and UC systems facing furloughs and entire campuses, such as San Jose State, putting a lid on enrollment due to a lack of funds. These are fairly dark times.
On Friday, September 3, 2010, that became very clear in my personal world. My train from Jack London Square in Oakland, California to King Street Station in Seattle, Washington was delayed for nearly four hours after a man had decided to end his life by stepping out in front of the train on its journey northward. In the process of giving a dramatic and theatric climax to his personal turmoil, the man had scrambled the lives of people from Oakland to Portland to Seattle. The Amtrak staff were on edge, shouting at customers and frantically trying to avert further disaster.
While waiting for the train, a girl friend called and I was very tense as I spoke with her. On the ride northward, I met a Western Washington University student who had had to tell her parents of her late arrival, and remarked that “the world is scary.”
Whatever we may think of the Tea Partiers, they do illustrate that grassroots efforts can gain mainstream recognition. If that can work in the mold of a political campaign, why can’t we also do that in our daily behavior? It is very easy to hate and being horrible to one another, but if we all take an extra effort to be decent to one another, the kindness could have a Domino effect.
I am the curator and co-founder of a website called Voice of the Migrant (www.voiceofthemigrant.com), founded in order to defend the freedom to migrate and to curb back the rising tide of nativism and cultural insularity in the United States. One of my fellow bloggers at the website, Jose J. Castillo, posted a story of DaveZillion.com, a website that connects city-dwellers and urbanites seeking to furnish their homes and complete projects but who require the help of others. With money strained in a rough economy, the website allows users to pool their resources and work collectively. The story of this project made it to the front page of the Huffington Post.
California news is littered these days with people facing a dreary, dark world. Home values are dropping in the region. Oakland childhood development centers are threatened with closure. While the most vulnerable appear to be at their wit’s end, Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina are waging one of the most expensive Senate races in the country.
Instead of becoming reclusive and depressed about the state of California, the country and the world, however, it would be more prudent to go the way of the handymen in the story Jose Castillo sent me and work on ways to get people together and working cooperatively. If we all stop battling each other for once, maybe we could make something of our backyards.
Michael Orion Powell is the co-founder of the website Voice of the Migrant and is a student at California State University – East Bay.
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