Friday, April 29, 2011

My own 'libertarian moment'

I understand sometimes one can inject too much of him- or herself into a body of writings. Sometimes, however, finding a way to help some readers relate to one's principles trumps the natural human desire to not run afoul of those in one’s social or community sphere.

With that, I offer the following thought despite its mild redundancy to the opening paragraph.

It is one thing to observe the multifarious orders of business which constitute government – relying heavily on standard and online media for information as well as other opinion analysis – and then publish a semi-disconnected perspective on it all.

It is quite another to experience something in life which is tremendously analogous to a topic of particular ire to libertarians and other small-government proponents: handouts and public entitlements.

While it has taken me a couple of months to finally get around to this topic, and it goes hand-in-hand well with a previous blog entry, this is a personal experience which reinforces a core libertarian principle that freebies in life almost invariably bring with them a dehumanizing effect on their beneficiaries.

Two months ago I became a former employee of YMCA. I started off at the South Oakland Family YMCA in Royal Oak, Michigan, in 2003 and then was hired at the Lima Family YMCA in 2007. In the nearly 7 1/2 years I was a part of YMCA I have enjoyed the opportunity to see the good things the organization does for the communities its branches serve. Even after parting ways, I will continue to be a proponent of it.

As any YMCA employee can verify for you, one of the more popular benefits of working there is the free membership. Last June, when I was called back to work at Honda's engine plant in Anna, my supervisor – who oversees the Lima Y's fitness center – said he would be willing to keep me on payroll as a substitute so I could continue to enjoy a membership there at no cost.

In case you are one of the few readers who is not aware, I was the Libertarian Party's candidate in Ohio's 4th congressional district race for 2010. Also, my now-former Y supervisor is an ardent Progressive Liberal.

I'm also a weight-lifting junkie.

Well, as the months progressed after my return to (and then second layoff in September from) Honda and as the campaign entered the homestretch toward the November 2 election, he began pestering me more and more often about subbing at the fitness desk. He became especially persistent in October, roughly three week before the election.

On one occasion he called me on the road while I was out campaigning in Wapakoneta and left a voicemail message to call him back. Since I was on the campaign trail and preparing to participate in a meet-the-candidates event hosted by the Auglaize County Patriots, I made the executive decision to wait until the morning to return his call.

The next day, I awoke extra early and decided to head to the Y for a good hard workout. That evening was the first public debate with Representative Jim Jordan and I wanted to enjoy a healthy surge of endorphins before campaigning some more and preparing one last time for the debate.

When I arrived, there was the Fitness Supervisor covering for the early-morning staffer. Since I had not returned his call as promptly as he felt I should have he opted to confront and lecture me on the subject in front of several members. The fact I was out campaigning and was not in a position to call back until rather late in the evening mattered none in the conversation.

I ended-up leaving the gym even more stressed-out than I already was.

Adding to the bizarreness of the day, while I was at the auditorium on the OSU-Lima campus waiting for the debate to commence, I got a call. It was a local number but one I didn't recognize. Thinking it might be election related I decided to answer: and it was one of my coworkers asking me to sub for her the very next morning as our supervisor had suggested she call me first.

With the debate about to start in six minutes and out of the shear surprise of being hit with this at that particular moment, I quickly made another executive decision: I said, "No."

While I did come in and sub on one Saturday during that time span to keep the hounds at bay and there are even more details of this story with which to bore readers, cutting to the chase the nagging and pestering curiously came to an end on November 3.

In late October I had returned to work at Honda yet again and I did sub for a coworker a couple of times during the annual Christmas shutdown at the plant in order to maintain my employment status and enjoy the free gym access. But, in late February I received one more call from that supervisor. He simply phoned to say since I had not "subbed in a really long time" I was being taken off the payroll the next day.

If you've stuck with this treatise this far, I’m sure the obvious question would be, "Why didn’t you quit after the first time he gave you grief?"

You wouldn’t be the first person to ask me that. My answer consistently has been, "I wanted to keep the free membership."

During the stretches I was laid-off I could not afford a gym membership. Heck, there were stretches of time while I was working when I couldn't afford a gym membership.

But, after that last phone call, I made one more executive decision and checked-out Westwood Tennis & Fitness Center. I knew the first day into my one week trial access I was going to join there. After signing-up and making the first membership payment, it was during my second workout when my libertarian epiphany occurred to me.

All those months I was willing to tolerate unprofessional behavior, mild yet tempered hostility, condescension, an occasional hateful look, and the general indignity of the situation… And for what?

Simply put, I had gotten used to enjoying what amounted to a handout.

By that point, during that second paid-for workout at Westwood, I realized what it was beyond being in a superior facility that made working-out there so enjoyable. I could be there without having to wonder if I was going to be questioned about the frequency of my visits. I could go there without anyone really caring who I was or why I was there. And, I could go there because I had paid for my access to it just like everyone else in there.

And you know what: that last one just felt so good.

So, if you're a Libertarian like me and you're dealing with someone who rolls their eyes at you when you discuss how government assistance leaves recipients trapped in their situation and forced to accept the inevitable indignity of it, tell them to talk to someone who – in a roundabout sense – knows what you’re trying to convey.

In my own strange and peculiar way, I've been there.

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