I love movies about WWII. I won’t even attempt to deny it, I just love them. When it comes down to it, I will watch a marathon of “Band of Brothers” over just about anything on TV, despite the fact that I have seen every episode of the series at least a half dozen times. The setting of these movies is perfect. It is a genuine battle of good versus evil and the ultimate result is that goodness and justice prevail. Naturally, these movies leave out all the injustice that occurred on the sides of the allies during the war, most noticeably the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States. But excluding the hardships faced by thousands of Nisei, the fact is that we Americans were on the right side of the fight and thus prevailed. And my favorite movie of the genre would have to be a recent one, the Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg masterpiece “Saving Private Ryan.” Although much of this movie is actually just a retread of the Lee Marvin classic “The Big Red One,” there is one particular section of this movie that really speaks to me, and it is upon this phrase that I wish to speak to you today.
After the assault on Normandy, and after Hanks gets his next orders (which are best described by the title of the movie), the squad of “lucky” soldiers is walking to the nearest location to which Private Ryan is supposed to be. During the walk, one of the soldiers begins to complain about the math of the mission; why would eight men be risked for the sake of one? Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, remarks that he will not tell his subordinate what he thinks is wrong with the mission. Miller explains, “I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up.” This, to me, is one of the most universally sound statements one can possibly make, and one to which more people should take heed. Gripes should only go up.
I will never EVER complain to a Somalian refugee about the quality of my life. At the very least, I know I will always be able to find clean water to drink and enough food to keep me alive. After all, I live in the richest country in the world.
That said, I NEVER want to hear some middle-aged middle-management type telling me about how difficult it is to deal with the ignorance and hypocrisy they face at their job. I don’t care what happens to your 401(K). I am not concerned with the state of your retirement account. These are problems with which I only wish I could be so lucky as to face. As a substitute teacher, I am for all intents and purposes, a day-laborer with a college education. I am highly qualified not only to teach, but to manage multi-million dollar portfolios of loans, or to run the most efficient of heavy manufacturing assembly lines. These things I have had the training to do, and have done in the past with exemplary success. I am underemployed not because of a lack of skills, training, or experience, or hard work, but strictly because of a lack of opportunity. My application history is littered with jobs that potential employers wish they had reviewed more thoroughly. I have been turned down for countless jobs in favor of people who I know for a fact are doing a much worse job than I have proven myself able to do. These people have been chosen in my stead not because of greater qualifications or proven effectiveness, but because they are the boss’s kid or because they happened to have a mutual friend with the person interviewing for the position. Because of my relationships with people at many of these companies, I know this to be a fact; I’m not simply bitching.
And I don’t bring this up for the sake of complaint. What every last one of us in this great land needs to realize is that mine is not an uncommon situation. There are literally millions of people in this nation who, like myself, have been told over and over again that they are not good enough by employers who never even took the time to find out if that were the case. How many of you have been turned down for a job you really wanted because you were “over qualified,” and the company was concerned that you would want too much money? They never seem to consider the fact that if the set pay schedule were insufficient, you never would have applied for the position in the first place. But I digress.
Even though there are millions of us who fit the above criteria, there are just as many who set their position a decade or more ago who would tell us that if we just worked harder, improved our resumes, and maybe added some additional training, we would be getting the jobs for which we apply. These people need to shut the hell up.
The truth of the matter is this. Unless you were trying to find work to support your family during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, or you come from an impoverished nation and you literally risked your life to seek greater opportunities in the United States, you have no room to say anything other than “yup, I feel for you, let me see if I can help” when someone in a job-seeking position like mine has a complaint about the state of our economy and our job market. As my grandmother was so fond of saying, “there but for the grace of God go I.” This applies to you, too. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who just don’t understand why it’s so hard for young people to find jobs now, when all they really need to do is make sure they wear a suit and tie and make sure their resume is in order. These people can go screw themselves. They obviously never tried to raise a family during a real recession (though what we have is actually a depression), and they clearly have no idea what it’s like to be thrown out of consideration for no valid reason. Let me just sate again for the record, these people need to shut their damn mouths.
There are literally millions of us in the United States trying as hard as possible to support young families and promote the economic future of this great land. We are looking not for a guaranteed job, but to just be considered based on things other than family ties and mutual relationships. We are the young, energetic, socially conscious leaders of the American future. We seek not free ride, just an opportunity. All we ask is that we get a chance to prove we are worth it.