Stop in the Name of Dorthea Lang

Some of you may know this already, but the “Sparrow’s Dive” of my comic strip is really my hometown of Rockford, IL. Yes, this is the same Rockford IL made famous for its persistent double-digit unemployment in the New York Times article “Portraits from a Job-Starved City”. How did I feel about the article? Relieved, even hopeful. Why? Because when the media tackles the issue of unemployment and underemployment in a community, that community receives government help. Public works programs blossom, and people feel useful again instead of desperate. At least, that’s happened during the First Great Depression when Dorthea Lang and Margaret Bourke-White told the whole truth aboutĀ  the Dust Bowl region. It hasn’t happened here in Rockford, possibly because of the misplaced optimism and pride of a man named Pablo Korona.

Like some local readers, Korona was ashamed of the Times’ representation of our city. It wasn’t a healthy shame either, because it came from a misplaced pride in this dull, desperate place. Instead of admitting we need help, Korona took his video camera to the good side of town and shot footage of the few people in Rockford who are happy with their jobs. Just last week, he posted a beautiful little blurb about who’s been workin’ on the Mars rover entitled “Our Curiosity”. Now I ask, what good does that do? What does it show those who wanted to help us after reading the Times article? That we’re not that bad off after all, and they should take their jobs and aid somewhere else! We have several people working on the Mars rover, and that gives us a sense of fulfillment, right? Think about that for a minute. Double digit unemployment. People with jobs unable to get on their financial feet. People with sub-vocational educations unable to receive government funding to go back to school. We’re helping the government throw money at an uninhabitable ball of gas, and we’re PROUD of it? I just can’t get my head around that one no matter how you explain it.

“Calm down.” you say, “I’m sure this Korona guy had good intentions.” Yes, he does. Probably the best intentions in town – I’ll give him that much. But you know what they say about good intentions.

By way of a disclaimer, I have a job. I love my job. I could be happier with the salary, but I love the job. Know something else about this job I love? It’s not in Rockford.

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