The Last Beer
The cheapest draft beer you can buy in the working-class bar I frequent costs $2.50 for a 20-ounce mug. It's Pabst Blue Ribbon, though the owner of the bar, an ex-cop with an un-pretty sense of humor, advertises it as "Stimulus Brew," a joke most of the regulars stopped laughing at when even the construction guys failed to get a job on a stimulus-funded project.
It's always been the kind of place where working for the gas company makes you a success, but you don't have to apologize if you work for Wal-Mart, either.
If we speak a language other than English, it's not because we embrace diversity. It's because our parents couldn't speak English or because we weren't born in America.
We are great self-poisoners. Cigarettes. Liquor. Bacon cheeseburgers. We love our kids, though increasingly, we don't live with our kids. We will tell you, if you ask, that when we get divorced, the woman gets the kids. Always. We sometimes forget to mention that she had a good reason for leaving. Increasingly, we do not marry the mothers of our children, mostly because no one makes us, which is what feminism and the sexual revolution meant to us.
We continue to fall in love, both men and women, and that leads to great flowerings of trust that often must be paid for in betrayal. If there are purposeless men here, there are wasted, thrown-away women, too.
Of course, we sometimes (quite often) have a female boss or an African-American boss, but we figured out that bosses have their own gender and color and are nearly their own species. If you get in trouble with your African-American shift supervisor, your white manager will back him up. If we are African-American, we have figured out the same thing but in reverse.
We hate everybody on welfare. We think jails are "country clubs."
Just now, when someone tells us how crappy his or her job is, we say, "These days you're lucky if you got a job," and we hate ourselves for saying it.
We consider ourselves "conservative," but we mighta sold a little pot way back there in high school. We also easily forgive our pregnant out-of-wedlock daughters, even if they have to go on welfare for a little while. Our wives are more likely to go to junior college than we are. They learn how to be dental assistants. We tend to believe that "something will turn up," a position in one of the local abandoned factories, perhaps.
We will perform prodigies of ass-kissing to get a job as a school custodian. We are far more likely to become born again than richer people. We need the comfort more, and we're used to believing in things we never see. Our state representatives, for instance.
We have a kid in Afghanistan. Twice he's been there. His job is steadier than ours.
We're outnumbered, is the hell of it — or, if we're not outnumbered, we're at least unsure who is on our side.
We are touchingly embarrassed when we're out of work and mumble, "There's nothin' out there these days."
There are probably as many of us in Bible study groups as there are in bars (and many more of our women). The ones in the Bible study groups also know there's nothin' out there these days, but at least they're sure there's a better day coming.
The people who run the Republicans, the Democrats and the tea party all sound the same to us — they sound the way a boss sounds when he's trying to explain a pay cut, when he's letting you know he needs your "cooperation during this time of continued challenges."
You should see the hands on some of us, big strong hands with the wedding ring practically grown into the flesh. You should see the scars on some of us.
Obama? The guy's an empty pocket, and none of us ever made a nickel with him. We never made a nickel with Bush, either. We don't need leadership. We can make our own hope. We need work. And that Stimulus Brew? It's getting flat.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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