inessential by Brent Simmons


Sheila: "They could have named me Leaf Erickson."

The national news is giving me a sense of deja vu -- here we have an economic downturn and guy named Bush as president.

Last time this happened was the early '90s. I was fresh out of college and couldn't get a job much better than minimum wage. Sometimes I couldn't get a job at all. I was poor. The nation was in a recession. The president appeared to be utterly ineffective at dealing with it.

When I say I was poor, I'm not kidding. Sheila and I struggled monthly to put the rent together for our studio apartment -- at just $315, you'd think we wouldn't have had to struggle. There were times when we ate generic macaroni and cheese because Kraft macaroni and cheese was too expensive.

For a while I was afraid of the draft -- I was the perfect age to be cannon fodder in the Gulf War. I still thank providence that this didn't come to pass.

And at the time memories of Iran/Contra were still fresh. I couldn't understand why these men weren't fully prosecuted for failing to uphold their oaths to defend the Constitution. I questioned, and still do question, the patriotism of some of the people involved. Which is utterly harsh, I know. I was taught, and still believe, that patriotism is not just a high virtue but a required attribute of our leaders.

These were rough times. Not as bad as the Depression, not as bad as World War II or Vietnam, no way. Not nearly that bad, not even close. But bad enough for my life to have been permanently marked in some ways.

It's not like Bush was Hoover and Clinton was Roosevelt. No. Except it was like that, to me, because I was there, I lived it that way.