The United States of America is a country of consumerism. We aren’t producers. We are consumers. America sits at the top of the list of top consuming countries at 28% of the market. It’s no surprise. We’ve managed to put nearly 20% of our society in poverty by closing factories and shipping jobs overseas for cheap labor in the name of greed. Philadelphia has 430,000 people out of work due to this method. A state of so called brotherly love.
When I found out that KMart is going to open their doors at 6AM on Thanksgiving morning was no shocker. I was actually anticipating this. It was just a matter of time and the question of which retail chain would take the plunge and cancel Thanksgiving for their workers altogether. KMart is not alone. Walmart will also join them and Macy’s will break a longstanding 155 year tradition this year by opening their doors at 8PM. Best Buy will open their doors at 6 PM and Toys R Us will open at 5 PM. Despite 30,000 Walmart employees petitioning for no work on Turkey Day, 1 million others have stated that they are really excited to work on Thanksgiving. Absurd.
We can’t put all the blame on the corporations or the people who want to work Thanksgiving, though. That’s a little one-sided and unfair. The American culture is to spend, spend, spent. Buy, buy, buy. It’s how we’ve kept our economy going for so long. Go to work, get your paycheck and go spend it on stuff. Anything. The corporations are eager to take the money you’re so willing to part with.
My concern is that consumerism in America has been a run-away train for too long and I’m afraid it’s gotten to the point where it’s unstoppable. Where does it end? This year we have more retailers opening on Thanksgiving than ever before. There is no family time on our beloved Turkey day. It’s all about the best deal on a flat screen or a Playstation game console. We’ve put materialistic bullshit before our own children, relatives, friends and family members. Sure, employees get paid time and a half to come in and work a 10 hour shift but when will that end? When will working Thanksgiving become just another normal day where everyone is expected to work? When will the benefits of having to work Thanksgiving go away? And when will our insatiable hunger to consume start affecting other holidays like Christmas? Only time will tell.
I have to work Thanksgiving and although I’m not excited about it, I suppose it’s the culture I live in and maybe I should quit complaining about it and just accept how things are now. I don’t buy a lot of things and I do my best to save my money and stretch my dollar as far as I can. Call me cheap, call me frugal, call me whatever. I call it smart and thrifty.
Shop on Thanksgiving if you want to. Buy buyer beware. A lot of companies like Sears, Walmart and KMart manufacture cheap electronics and other crap specifically for this day. It’s not made to last or be efficient. It’s simply made to turn a profit.
It’s hard to put into words how I’m feeling right now. The last couple of days have been a little exhausting after hearing the news of a former Thunderbolt taking his own life. I’m sure it’s been much, much more exhausting for others who were much closer to Alex Shelton. The thing is… I think about my deployment to Iraq every day. Since I’ve been out of the service, not a day goes by that I don’t think about my battle buddies, Iraq or Army life in general. Hell, I survived ten years in the service. It’s a lot longer than I thought I’d go.
Iraq was a difficult deployment for me because it wasn’t some field exercise in Hohenfels, Germany or somewhere in the backwoods of Kansas where everyone gets to go back to the barracks after a long day of training. Soldiers were getting killed on the battle field. Soldiers weren’t coming back for chow or to sleep in their bunks after a long day of running around in sector. Soldiers who were my friends, people I knew.
I joined the Army in April of 2000 as a tank mechanic because there wasn’t shit else to do with my life at the time. Who knew I’d be in Iraq five years later. I got out of the Army in 2003 and quickly rejoined the ranks in 2004 when America sent it’s men and women across the pond to war. I wanted to be an MP. I begged the recruiter to sign me up as an MP. I was just a shitbird needs of the Army recruit. Back to turning wrenches, back to wherever the Army needed me. Fort Riley, Kansas.
The shit I deal with every day probably doesn’t even come close to the some of the things my fellow soldiers had to endure during their time in combat. I’m not even going to sit here and compare. For most of my tour I sat in radio rooms, turned wrenches in motor pools and pulled many hours of boring, uneventful guard duty. All the while, my fellow soldiers were driving around getting blown up by IEDs and ambushed by the enemy.
I snuck out as much as I could. I ran with the Estonian Army and the Scouts (when they’d let me). I wanted to do my part on the battle field and not feel so useless in the radio room. I got to sit in those plush chairs day in and day out while the Infantry, Scouts and Mortar platoons trudged in and out of the outpost we managed to take over. Tired and beat down, they went on mission after mission.
I don’t know what Shelton endured during this tour of duty. Obviously, he had been through enough that he was fed up. For the most part, I can say I understand the pain. I live with guilt that I didn’t/couldn’t do more in combat for my Brothers. I live with physical pain from ten years of physical exercise that has worn my body down to a nub. I live with never-ending night terrors that, on most occasions, keep me up for hours on end at night. I have crying fits, long bouts of deep depression, paranoia…as some of the doctors say, my “combat switch” is still on, years later. If this is anything what Shelton has been feeling since he was honorably discharged from service, its extremely difficult to live with.
Some soldiers cope with this better than others. It doesn’t make us weak or lesser of a person if we cry or can’t soldier on through the day. We are human and we have been through a lot. The most important thing is; we have each other. Despite political beliefs, religious beliefs, personal opinions, or whatever…we have each other. I think of every 2/70th Armor Brother I had the pleasure of serving with in combat every single day of my life. I enjoy your Facebook updates, (no matter how fucked up they are) I read them and think about you guys every day. I love you like no other.
For the rest of you guys, Hurricanes (1/63AR) and you crazy 116th INF and 4-1ARTY guys, we had some awesome times as well, and like I said, despite any differences, I love you guys all the same.
This weekend has been much of a blur. I worked some seriously ridiculous hours in two days and they weren’t those easy 9-5pm hours. They were graveyard shifts; two back-to-back and that plays hell on my body. I got home Monday morning after putting in an 9 hour day and literally crashed. I woke up Monday afternoon, groggy and still tired and I dinked around on the internet before I finally got a shower and something to eat and then that late afternoon sleepiness got to me again and before I knew it, I was crawling back into bed.
I finally was able to pull myself together, get some decent clothing on, paid my rent and checked the mail. To my surprise, I had a thick envelope from the IRS. As soon as I saw it was from them, I instantly cursed aloud. Nothing from the IRS is ever good. I got back to my apartment unit, cracked open all my mail (saving the IRS letter for last) and found out I actually saved a bunch of money on my motorcycle insurance by switching to Progressive. Thanks, Flo!
I hesitantly opened the IRS envelope and saw in large, bold print: Amount due: $3,357. I simply shook my head.
It turns out in 2011, I didn’t pay enough taxes. When I filed, I was supposed to add in my state unemployment numbers because unemployment is a form of income. Not only did I allow the state of Illinois to tax me at 10% instead of 3%, I didn’t see an opportunity to pay federal taxes on unemployment wages. If it were there, it either got missed (probably because I’m not a tax guru) or the unemployment office didn’t cover that.
2011 was a tough year for me. Not only was I living in my car, but jobs were scare and the hours at my current job (Sears, Loss Prevention) were like, little to nothing because Sears was into this whole cost-cutting trend. The pay sucked, finding another job to go along with another part-time job was literally impossible but somehow I made it work and I generally put in 50-60 hours a week, Anyway, I’m not writing this to whine about the past. Things have improved for the most part.
I decided to pay the IRS to shut them up. Or more importantly, do my part as an American and pay my fucking fair share of taxes, right? Since so many of our top executives at large corporations, oil companies and large banks don’t really think paying taxes is all that fun and something that’s important, I figured my measly $3,357 will help contribute. I’m also sending them a letter with my check and it goes a little something like this:
April 14th 2000, I wrote the United States of America a blank check when I joined the United States Army. I served ten great years for my country and I also served one combat tour in Iraq from 2005-2006. After I was honorably discharged from service, I started a new chapter in my life amongst the civilians of this country. I filed for disability/compensation with the VA and they deemed me 90% disabled through 24 months of a long deliberation process. I finally started receiving the benefits I served this great nation for.
When I got out of the service, life wasn’t easy. I applied for unemployment within the first year of being out because jobs were tough to come by and I couldn’t get anything that paid better than $10/hr. During the last three years of my life outside of the Army, I worked mostly two jobs trying to make ends meet (thank goodness I don’t have a family to support). Both jobs combined, I barely made over $20,000 a year. In the meantime, I was living out of my car and trying to improvise ways to make sure I got my showers (utilized a local gym) and on my days off from work (which didn’t come often) I would move into a Hotel 6 or another cheap outfit just so I could sleep in a bed and stretch out a bit for a day or two (living in a car started to get a little cramped).
Eventually, I was able to obtain a better paying job by continuing to fight for myself and what I believed to be a better life would eventually come along the way for me if I kept my work ethic to the grind stone. With my Army benefits and my new higher paying job, I no longer have to live in my car. I live in an apartment complex with a community of people who are probably in the same situation as me; just trying to survive. Now I have a new fight on my hands; trying to have a future for myself.
I’m not writing you today complaining that life sucks; it is what it is. The whole point of this letter is to inform whoever that America is struggling. Well, at least the majority of us. Thank goodness I’m good with my money and I’m not one of those typical, full-blooded Americans divulged in consumerism. The other point I’m trying to make is; you’re taxing the wrong person/people. You want to send me a bill for $3,357 after a year where I made a whole whopping $18,000 claiming I didn’t pay enough taxes? A year where I, an American Combat Veteran, was living out of his car making barely over minimum wage? A year where I had to utilize the local gym (which was $19 a month) to take a shower once a day and put in a 65-70 hour work week for what, $18,000 a year? You’re asking me to pay more taxes? Remember that blank check I wrote for the United States of America back in April of 2000? I guess you can just put this on my tab, right?
Let’s take a closer look at who is paying taxes in this country. Me, that’s obvious, because the IRS is sending me a bill for $3,357 in the mail. Maybe we should look a little closer at who isn’t paying taxes in this country. I suppose I could give you a laundry list of large corporations and names of CEO’s, CFO’s. Presidents and VP’s of companies that pay less tax percentages than I currently do. I currently pay 22% when I work straight time at work and it goes up to 60% when I clock overtime hours. Mitt Romney pays as little as 13% on capital gains on his investments.
You have a job to do and I’m not against paying taxes. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If I didn’t pay what I was supposed to pay, hold me accountable. You’ll find along with this letter a check for $3,357 and not a penny more (Mitt Romney quote). I hope you spend this money wisely. My time on this planet is very valuable and I don’t work for free.
Wayne Anthony Peck
United States Army Combat Veteran”
I don’t know what’s been happening with me lately. I feel secluded in my little word, all alone. I’ve have this growing disdain for human life in the recent months. Like, I’m just sick of people. I’m sick of hearing people whine and cry about shit. I’m sick of standing in line for coffee and listening to someone drone on about their petty, stupid problems.
I was at Barnes and Nobles tonight and I was trying to decipher and understand this woman’s conversation. It wasn’t like I was stalking her or trying to hear what she had to say. I just heard bits and pieces and I didn’t quite understand what she was going on about. Something about how she knew someone was lying and hiding something but then she said it was all speculation? How can you know if something is true and evident if it’s all speculation? I don’t know why I let that stuff bother me. It’s not like I’m trying to let it bother me. It just sticks in my head. I can’t shake it.
The selfishness of people really hurts me. I hate selfishness. People are inherently selfish by nature and it really makes me want to scream. I have no idea how other cultures are in this world but I feel Americans have this self-entitlement about them that just radiates selfish behavior. Me, me, me. Always. It drives me crazy. I even see it in military veterans (which literally breaks my heart) when they talk about their VA claims. “I had to wait one year to get my claim.” Whaa. Boo-fucking-hoo. Some veterans didn’t get shit and are standing on the exit ramps of freeways with signs asking for money. With nearly 900,000 open claims in the system, yeah, it takes a little time. Calm the fuck down.
I have totally changed my life around where I just living simple. Nothing fancy. I have my tv and my Xbox and my laptop and that’s all I need. I used to live in my car and I’m considering going back to that life. I don’t want to live in an apartment surrounded by white-trash degenerates. I don’t want to hear another complaint out of these selfish jack-asses who only care about themselves. I want to be left the fuck alone. I’m sick of having to remind these fucks from across the hallway to quit blowing cigarette smoke towards my apartment. Why won’t they stop? Because they don’t care about anything but themselves.
I’ve battled on in this world. I’ve fallen a few times and I’ve been kicked around, scraped up but I always got back up to continue fighting. When is it time to throw in the towel? When is it time to wave the white flag and surrender? What’s it worth to continue fighting? Fighting for what? Slave wages under a corporation that doesn’t give a shit about whether you come or go? When is enough simply enough? When can I take the gloves off and sit in the corner and let the referee count me out?
I would appreciate the referee to come to my corner and ask me politely if I give up, I will promptly look him in the eyes and nod my head.
But it’s just not so
I’ve still got your face
Painted on my heart
Scrawled upon my soul
Etched upon my memory, baby
I’ve got your kiss
Still burning on my lips
The touch of my fingertips
This love so deep inside of me, baby
Love has a funny way of being the way love is. What do we know about love? How do we know we are in love? How do we know who we love and if we really love those people? Society has deemed who we love. Our immediate family. And I think therein lies the problem. Love is engrained in our lives from an early stage. Can you honestly say you love your parents? Your brothers and sisters? It may be a crazy question, but really think about it.
I have not had a great relationship with my immediate family. We have not ever been strong from the start. Our bond has been weakened through life’s trials and tribulations. We have grown apart so much that I do not feel for them what I should be feeling. Love. I can honestly say that I do not love my parents or my siblings. We do not talk on a regular basis, we do not communicate, we do not see each other enough. There is no love there.
Love is thinking about that person each and every day. Having each others’ back through thick and thin and never giving up on each other.
With love comes loyalty, trust, and commitment. A lifetime of guarantee. You can not commit to those things, you do not love.
Anyone who is anyone at one point in their life has been subjected to a piss test. I served ten years in the Army and I got so good at piss tests, I could pee on command. I could pee into that tiny little bottle with my eyes closed. True story. That’s how often soldiers are tested for drugs. Generally, you could see a pee test coming miles away. We get tested for drugs after all major four-day weekends. We get tested after block leave (vacation). We get tested after holidays, birthdays, before, during and after deployments. We get tested in the field and when we return from the field. I’ve even been tested on a normal weekend where I was woken up by my company commander beating down my door.
Enter civilian world. Every job, (except my current employer) has given me a piss test. Most of these piss tests are scheduled within 72 hours of being hired. In order to get the job, you not only have to go within the allotted time, you also have to pass the test. And most of the time, the location of these places are way across town. It’s a real pain in the ass. For the record, I’ve never failed a drug test.
Now we have people on the welfare system. No one is subjected to a drug test who receives welfare benefits. No one does. Until Florida passed a bill allowing the state to drug test welfare recipients. There’s all kinds of stipulations that follow, as well. People wanting welfare have to pay for the drug test themselves and if they pass, they get reimbursement. If they fail, they have to enter a six week program to help them get off drugs. And during that six week time, they receive no benefits. Kansas also passed a similar bill but not as deep as Florida. It follows nearly all the same guidelines. I’m not going to go into specifics about each bill and what it does and what it doesn’t do. That’s for you to research.
Here’s the deal, though. There has been a public outcry about how unconstitutional this is. First of all, I hate it when people claim shit is unconstitutional. I promise you it isn’t unconstitutional to give someone a piss test to receive a job, or welfare benefits, or unemployment or whatever. To receive employment, you must show that you can be a responsible, clean and sober individual. That’s for a job. A place where someone goes for eight hours a day to earn a paycheck. I understand that someone can pass the initial test and then go smoke a joint because they know there won’t be another drug test in their immediate future. Unless, you’re hired onto a company that drug tests if an injury happens or an accident occurs on the clock (which most companies do drug test if that happens, and if you fail, you’re held liable and most likely terminated depending on the circumstances).
I’ve had to pass many drug tests just to serve my country. If anything is unconstitutional, that should be. Fortunately, the military doesn’t want drug users and abusers in the service. And for good reason. I sure don’t want any soldier of mine operating military equipment while high or under the influence of anything. Fuck that. Just because a person is on welfare and not actively participating in any job provided by society, doesn’t mean they’re any less out of the crosshairs of a drug test. You’d like to sit around and get high and live off government money? Do it on your own fucking dime. It’s not unconstitutional anything to be drug tested if you want to receive unemployment insurance or welfare.
Unfortunately, after all this civil unrest, I read an article from the New York Times that stated tax payers from Florida really didn’t save any money from drug testing those on welfare and they also didn’t see much of a decrease in numbers from those applying. You know what, though? It’s still a very good program because it shows the states are doing something that the people want.
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