Politics & Media
Feb 22, 2024, 06:28AM

America’s Great Divide

My wife becomes a citizen at time when people have two or three jobs to stave off inflation.

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“It’ll probably end up being the only nice encounter you’ll ever have with the federal government.” That’s how the conversation ended with my wife last night, seven hours before she became a U.S. citizen after an 11-year waiting period. It cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal and application fees. An ungodly amount of hours proving her worth, and a mountain of paperwork. Eleven years of arbitrary decisions—making the bureaucrats who comprise the American embodiment of Kafka’s bureaucratic nightmare.

Dark humor’s gotten our marriage through a lot (deaths of my parents, custody battles, job losses, large moves, empty nesting) so this was just one more in a long line of ups and downs. At least we can cross this one off the list. The naturalization ceremony consisted of just 61 people, a fraction of the thousands of undocumented, mostly adult males walking through our border every week unimpeded, like they have a fast pass to an amusement park called America. “Probably would’ve been easier if you walked across the border,” was the joke among friends and strangers alike that we heard for years.

The mainstream media has recently been covering it with regularity and even using the word “crisis,” which it undoubtedly is. Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to fix it. They don’t care about the impact on our country because it has no impact on their lives personally or in the short term. This is also true of most countries in Europe, including the one where my wife used to swear her allegiance.

There used to be a rationale that immigrants do the jobs other Americans won’t, and for the military service members who got sworn in today, that’s especially poignant. But it’s also largely a bygone rationale that no longer holds true in 2024.

Remember how we were initially told that the Covid vaccine and subsequent boosters were supposed to prevent Covid but then the messaging shifted to you’ll get Covid after all because (all together, now) that’s how vaccines work? The majority of Americans are experiencing an economic equivalent. People are now double- and triple-employed in a desperate effort to stave off the contagion called inflation but they’re feeling the symptoms, anyway. Job numbers aside, no amount of punditry can wave reality away.

I have friends who are working three jobs after exhausting half their 401K savings. I’ve been working two jobs while also starting an advertising agency—a risky endeavor even during good economic times. Most people I know are working 60 hours or more to keep up. If you’re an American with a mortgage, school loans, dependents or any combination of the above and you aren’t independently wealthy, you’re getting to the point where there are few jobs you wouldn’t consider.

This is the America my wife is now officially a part of. One where the two-tiered justice system is more obvious with each passing day, where the great divide is widening, and low-key anxiety is a way of life. Her vote will count now, at least. How much it counts for in this iteration of America remains to be seen.


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