2010 A Tough Year, For Many Reasons
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
Finally, I have a few words about the year that was. It's funny how much can change in a year and how little. In this country, when we started the year, the unemployment rate was just under 10 percent and it still is. But in that time, tens of thousands of people lost jobs they liked, or loved, or could just barely tolerate and tens of thousands of people became so discouraged they gave up looking for work. Tens of thousands more managed to find work too but that wasn't enough to bring the overall unemployment rate down.
Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, but their loss was somebody else's gain. In some places, the foreclosed properties became the subject of bidding wars. And it turns out that rents are rising again in some areas like Washington, D.C. because so many people cannot or will not buy.
Babies are still being born in this country every day, of course. But in a surprising twist, some 800,000 people, some one-time immigrants, are believed to have left the U.S. either because their work dried up or because they feel they are no longer welcomed here.
The point is, if something can look the same over time, a statistic, a neighborhood, a human being, and yet be very different than it was before. I know this because this is true of me. I look in the mirror and the person I see looks the same as a year ago, plus or minus a gray hair or two, but I'm not the same.
Over the course of the year, I lost a nephew in Afghanistan, my brother, to his own hand, and my uncle to sudden illness. All of that resulted in a cascading effect of other changes that we don't need to go into. And I'm still walking around. Still going to work. Still eating a couple of meals a day and running around with the kids. But I know I'm different. And I also know that millions of people are like me. They've gone through something profound and they wonder whether it shows and they can't decide if it would be better if it did or not.
Can I just tell you? It makes me wonder how all of us have changed in this country after what so many have been through and continue to go through.
I have a relative who was unemployed for months, and while he has been gainfully and happily employed for some time now, he told me recently the experience of unemployment is never far away. And I think of a young man I know, a boy when we met, who was as a child, evicted from his home twice because his mother could not keep up with the rent, even though she worked every day. And he still remembers the action figures and comic books he'd carefully collected all disappeared in the chaos, and I wonder how he has been marked by this?
Is that why he doesn't put up pictures at his job? Why he moves every couple of years? Why he hasnt found a partner or started a family? Everybody's different but I wonder how will we all of us be different when this is all over - this down economy, these wars, whenever that will be? Will we be more cautious, more worried about whether we'll lose what we have? Meaner? Or will it be the other way? All of our losses making us more aware of what it is to lose something dear, more grateful for what we do have, more willing to share it.
I've heard that grief makes you more of what you already are. In this country, I wonder what that will make us. We like to think of ourselves as a generous bighearted people and we are that. But we can also be closed off, small minded and so focused on the now that we forget about the future and the world and each other.
So I wonder, who are we now, and what are we to become?
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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. Youve been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.
Lets talk more tomorrow.
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