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What is a Nation?
“Seth, how are yah?” Don asked, shaking my hand in the usual way.
As I spoke of how I was, I knew I had to hold back, but I could not remember why. Again and again, I asked myself what was appropriate to say and was not so appropriate. Did Amos Gracia try to protect him from me or did he really have this appointment regarding a credit card? Or was it Don that requested not see me and the sweet little lady out front was not privy to this at all? Perhaps, I was indeed just paranoid at the ramifications of not having a job any longer, but that whatever I turned in to him would be the makings of my job for a while: one that may not pay much if anything. I was willing to take that chance, I guess, but how would it effect me in the short-term, and who would Don tell? Would he tell? So far, I was able to trust him, but I was also able to trust the others.
I thought about so many spy movies on my way to his office - Cruise, DeNiro, Costner in his early days. I thought about my feet which had not walked so much on campus since I was a student. And now, as a staff person, a former staff person depending on who you asked, I was filing a complaint. An official complaint against my boss. I felt strong, and courageous, but also weak and vulnerable.
“Follow your heart.” Said one attendant when I first visited this out-of-the-way place just days before. She was referring to my telling her that I could not trust the man that filed past her door. Quickly, she shut the door. I felt better. And weirdly enough, so did she.
Quiet. Calm. Enron. Blinking just so, I could see the connection of things. I had not considered that the people I was talking to all along helped to get me fired. Their job descriptions, I had not yet considered. They were to advise me as a former employee, but they also advised those that complaints were filed against. A tough job I'd say.
I had been fired. It was my first time. It was like a deep wound, not hurting right away, but eventually rising to a pain beyond other pains I had experienced. Only this was emotional, and especially draining since I had no idea why I had been treated so inhumanly, not even being asked to resign or even warned. Innocent? I was a marked man until I could prove, through the grace of time and incredible forgetfulness on the part of those that witnessed it that I did my job to the best of my ability.
NBA. Coaches. Stock trading. These had in common the likelihood of the here today, gone tomorrow effect. I sympathized in a way with the Robert Horrys of the world who are constantly being traded, but then Horry was never really fired. Just traded to other teams with a handful of championship rings to show for his troubles. Then, there are the coaches who are fired mid-season sometimes. I can identify with them because, yes, they are indeed fired on the basis of mostly “job performance”. Where I draw the line is that their contracts save them the discomfort of having to look for a job for a couple of years. Here is where my pity fades to those poor stocks that are dumped, picked up and dumped again in a centuries old phenomenon called buying and selling on the market. These poor creatures are sometimes kept for one day or less, before being booted to some other god-forsaken destiny. My only hang up is that stocks don't tend to have feelings, a need to pay a mortgage or even children that might be effected by the fallout of “being sold”.
So, I stand in a place where the twin towers used to be and think to myself, which direction is Lady Liberty from here with her torch. I could sure use a bit of heat from the lit flame in the cold society we call America . Maybe, I could travel by train, a night train to Philidephia where by golly a little bit of brotherly love would afford me an opportunity to ring that bell right in the middle of Independence Square .
Single mothers. Drugs. Crime. Imagine freedom without these things, and you might not have much of a picture at all. My first check from the Workforce Commission came in with a note that said “Three contacts a week.” Pulling on my jacket for another cold night in the city, I had enough money now for a bite to eat, newspapers to stuff my clothing and possibly enough left over to call back home to tell the family this black man is trying. I got the first two items done quickly in this city that never sleeps. Tears, and a heavy heart prevent me from calling tonight. The girls can always tell when there is something wrong with daddy. Karina was the baby girl at 5 years of age, but she was more intuitive than Ilene, her older sibling by two years.
I closed my eyes before I went to sleep and prayed that God will take care of them…Because I could not. I prayed too, for the hungry kids in Africa like Addis Ababa , Ethopia, Zimbawe and Tanzania . Then, I thought of the starving children of central America, their families. My heart went out to the Russian youths I saw way back when I was up late one night. They had it pretty tough I supposed.
A mighty wind blew in from the north. I pulled another newspaper from my plastic sack as I lay three blocks east of where the towers used to be. The headline read, “What is a Nation?” by Forest Guy. I calmly placed this portion over my head to keep my ears warm, and went peacefully to sleep.
By Seth Batiste