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Some words seem to hold a power greater than their vowels and consonants alone. They hold the ability to injure, like a punch in the stomach, obscuring their real meaning with a stronger and more hateful submerged meaning. These words are often thrown around as mass generalizations and usually accompanied by other generalizations. 

How convenient, bricked up in an ivory tower of generalizations, never to be scorched by the hot sun of truth or the cold wind of reality, protected from the hard rain falling all around. Deadbeat is one of those words, anyone unable to pay their bills are called deadbeats. Guilty without trial or without even investigation because if you can't pay your bills, you're a deadbeat.

I first met Marta in Minneapolis; she was a Haitian woman who'd come to this country when she was twelve years old. She worked through high school and worked through college to earn her degree. She saved her money and bought a twelve unit apartment building, living in one unit herself, while working a full- time job. After five years, she bought herself a small house, the way deadbeats often do. When the Depression began back in 2008, half of Marta's tenants could no longer pay their rent. Marta struggled to pay her own mortgage as well as the mortgage on the apartment building. Within a year, her savings exhausted; she lost her house and the apartment building. She was so busy being a deadbeat; she also lost her job and began living in a homeless shelter.

Ken was a painter, a printer and a jack of all trades; I met at the library in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Like me, Ken was in his fifties. He had two strikes against him, before becoming a deadbeat. While in his early twenties, he had been caught photo coping dollars bills and was convicted of felony forgery. Thirty years later, he still wears a ball and chain on employment applications. Because of this, he began working as a house painter. He worked buying the tools and a van and eventually began to do commercial painting jobs.

Before he chucked it all to become a deadbeat, he had three vans and a dozen employees. When the Depression began, like Marta and me, Ken lost everything and when I knew him, lived under a bridge and washed his clothes in a creek. It's not as easy as it looks; being a deadbeat, there is a fear that takes over your life. A paralyzing fear, of a deer in the headlights as you've never been a deadbeat before.

Anne had worked in the legal profession, paid her bills and worked hard for over two decades, raising her children alone. A job layoff pushed her into the temp field, first working four days a week then three, with each job paying less than the job before. Under financial pressure, she took out a payday loan for $300 paying back $900 and still owing more; she gave up and became a deadbeat. Still searching for work, she applied at a local convenience store as a cashier. Apologetic the store couldn't hire her because of her bad debts, they just couldn't justify hiring a deadbeat.


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I who am I? Born at the pinnacle of American prosperity to parents raised during the last great depression. I was the youngest child of the youngest children born almost between the generations and that in fact clouds and obscures who it is that (more...)

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