(A letter written to a neighbor from childhood who demanded on Facebook that anyone who supported the Occupy movement defriend him. I did. But since then, it has bothered me. This is my reply.)
We are no longer friends.
We stopped being friends when you said you wanted anyone who supported the Occupy movement to defriend you. I said “As you like” and did as you requested. But ever since then, it has being weighing on me and I would like to tell you why.
You didn’t bother to ask why I support the Occupy movement, so I’ll let you know now.
In June, I was laid off from a job I had held for nearly eight years. The company decided it couldn’t afford to keep me and 699 other people. Three months later, the CEO of that company retired with a $37 million golden parachute, his going away present for presiding over the company while its share prices plummeted from $60 to less than $10 per share. Not coincidentally, that $37 million divided by 700 equals roughly $50,000, almost exactly my former annual salary. For running a company into the ground, he was rewarded with millions. As a reward for working for him, my life and the lives of 699 other people were upended.
That is just my story. I know there are many worse off than I. I am appalled that we are the only industrialized nation that hasn’t found a way to ensure that everyone has access to health care without running the risk of going bankrupt. I am disgusted that many in office are doing their best to reduce food assistance to people at the very point in our lifetimes when more people are scrambling to feed their families than ever before.
I see the gulf between the $37 millionaires and the rest of us ever widening, and I know it can lead to nothing good. A knowledge of history tells me that when the middle class is squeezed to the breaking point, revolution happens. My knowledge of sociology tells me that when incomes are at great disparity, crime increases. We are setting ourselves up for disaster.
I’m not sure what you’ve been told that led you to think I was so terrible that you needed to end contact with me, though I’ve heard lots of strange things out there.
Perhaps you’ve been told I’m a parasite. I am not. Even though I have not found another job yet, I am still active in our community. I volunteer up to 25 hours a week by providing free counseling to people who would have no access to therapy otherwise. I do this at a church and a crisis intervention center. I do this at hospitals where I support women who come in following sexual assault. One doesn’t need a job to be a productive member of society.
Perhaps you have been told I hate free enterprise. While I think that some aspects of capitalism have been allowed to run amok in our country, that is not true. In fact, I look forward to becoming an entrepreneur, and have plans to start my own private practice in the coming months. I am proud that I will be providing low-cost counseling to people who have no insurance and who cannot qualify for government-provided help; in other words, the people who have fallen through the numerous cracks fracturing our society.
Perhaps you’ve been told I resent anyone who is rich. I don’t. I have enormous respect for people who work hard, create something good and enjoy the fruits of their labor. But I do resent people who come by their wealth by exploiting those they have power over, such as my former CEO. It’s those who do a shoddy job and live a life of luxury while making others pay for their excess who I do resent.
On the other hand, I have heard some pretty strange things myself.
I recall hearing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor decry the Occupy movement because it “pitted Americans against Americans.” Yet it is you, XXXX, who decided that I was so terrible a person that I shouldn’t be allowed to dirty up your friends list.
I am not a parasite. I am not out to take your stuff away from you. I am, quite literally, your neighbor. We grew up houses apart and you seemed genuinely happy that we reconnected over the summer. A few months ago, it was the history we had in common that brought us together. This week, it was our opinions that led you to separate us once again. I think it’s a damned shame that you would let propaganda come between neighbors.
You asked me to remove myself from your life and I have done so. I am not asking you to invite me back. I just felt it necessary to let you know how disappointed I was by your action.