Thursday, 15 May 2014


The Hat
I’ve just worked out that all these conversations have been prompted by questions about my hat! Champlain Housing Trust very kindly gave me a hard hat after my visit to them, as a ‘present’…which I have grudgingly carted around ever since, with it regularly getting in the way in cramped lifts, crowded buses, restrooms; but then I probably wouldn’t have had these conversations…

“I live in a trailer home about 9 miles out of town, and I’ve been doing this job, since I left the service six years ago. I was in the 82nd Airborne…a volunteer paratrooper. I seen some action in a lot ‘o places you’ll have read about.

But this is the best I can do right now. It’s quite different from when my pa came home after the Korean War. He could get a decent job, with enough pay to buy hi’self a house, pay for things for me and my sister, and such. Not now. I know a lot of normal folks like me, families too, who are just getting by, or, well they need stuff like food stamps, but often they won’t go for them. They’re too ashamed.

This ain’t the country I was brought up in, and I jus’ don’t like what’s happening to my country. This town used to be so busy with the tobacco factories. You’d smell tobacco everywhere in town. But that’s all gone, mostly abroad, like most of our manufacturing industries. They just went and nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong. Now, them factories are condos, artists’ studios, fancy restaurants, offices. They sure look nice, but…

Downtown is getting a lot of money, mostly for the good, but there aren’t jobs for ordinary folks like me. I only stay close as my old folks need someone nearby, but when they’re gone, what’s to keep me here. Being rootless in your own country is a mighty strange feeling.

It’s all about capitalism, of course. Now I wouldn’t want you to think that I don’t think capitalism is a good thing. It is. It’s been responsible for some important changes, but…well…there’s a very fine line between capitalism and greed. Isn’t that right?

Those executives of big companies have a fine opinion of themselves, and what they are worth, and the politicians seem to share that fine opinion. But they don’t seem much interested in investing in their own country. They looking after themselves OK, but the rest of us don’t matter much. When ordinary Americans start to think that, that’s a sad business.

As I said, I don’t like what’s happening to my country…to my life.”

Stephen Hill May 8th on the airport shuttle at 4.30am from Durham to Raleigh Airport, North Carolina