And The Memory Lingers…
In my book Rock and a Hard Place, A Lithuanian Love Story, there is a poignant conversation between Vytas, a Lithuanian immigrant and his American coworkers. Working at a railroad, they were laid off. Vytas immediately looked for work and was derided by the Americans who thought it was great that now the government would pay them for not working.
Vytas told them, “It is not the government’s job to take care of us. It is the government’s job to keep us safe so we can work. It was never the government’s job to take care of people.” When Vytas told me this during an interview for the book I could see he believes it as firmly at 80 as when he was 20.
He said to me, “If a government wants to take care of you, it means they want to control you. It’s bribery. And I can tell you how it ends. The people in this country haven’t seen it before. They want the government to do everything for them, give them everything they need. Take a look at how it worked out for other countries. Then get some backbone and work. Stop whining with your hands out.”
I could imagine my Grandad saying the same thing. “Get off your duff and get a job!”
I don’t have any particular ethnicity, and I’ve been a long time away from Michigan. So long that a Lithuanian over the weekend saw me staring at the song sheet written in her language and said, “My dear, I’d like to hear you say THAT with your Southern accent!” Well, maybe I’m a little bit ethnic after all. I’m Southern. But Frackville did call me back to Michigan for a day or two, to be with flag waving, hardworking laborers happy to work, pride in their heritage and happy to be in a democracy.