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Tough(er) Times in Today's Recession

Salon.com is running a new series called “Pinched: Tales from an Economic Downturn.”

In the second installment, Heather Ryan describes the circumstances that prompted her, and her three children, to obtain meals from a soup kitchen:

I could segue into some political rant here, a slick dismissal of the Bush administration, perhaps, or a paragraph declaring my support for Barack Obama. But the moment I walked into the soup kitchen—the moment I acknowledged, publicly, that I could not provide food for myself or my children (which is why the soup kitchen is so much more difficult than the food bank)—is the moment that my ability to believe in the politics of this country was forever altered.

I know why poor people have historically low voter-turnout rates. If you vote, you acknowledge that you believe in the system. And to believe in the system when you’re at the very bottom, when you’ve watched the chrome and ink-black SUVs drive by while you’re packing your own beater with dried beans and lentils, to believe at that point is fucking painful. You either say the system works and you’ve earned your place, or you concede that there is something wrong and there might not be any way to fix it.

The entire summer of 2007, as I struggled to keep us fed, I hated thinking of politics, an unusual characteristic for me. It hurt to listen to any presidential candidate talk about the working poor, and not because they weren’t genuine, but because all their talk was just that—talk. It was like listening to my former self, the one who didn’t know how bad things could get.

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